The Bat Out of Hell Takes Out Three Train Lines

Can you believe the lack of luck? Yesterday morning the train signalling system died just down from the junction of three of Melbourne busiest train lines. Actually this is a reasonably common occurrence; a small inconvenience that takes a few hours to fix and it’s fine by the following peak.

Golden crowned fruit bat

Due to the unfortunate state of the bat when found in the burnt out signal box, it is unknown whether or not it had a golden crown in happier times.

Not this time. Trips that took 2 to 3 times the usual were frustrating commuters all over Melbourne’s east so far for two days! Why? This was not a normal signal failure due to poorly maintained equipment, this was caused by a cute and not-so-innocent little fruit bat flying into the power supply lines of the system, shorting out and blowing up a control box. The bat did not survive. Obviously.
So what are their contingency plans? Let the trains go through all the red lights, of course! But carefully.

With all the control equipment and cabling fried to a crisp, the signals can’t communicate with each other so they default to red and their emergency brake tripping gear is activated, stopping any train that attempts to pass.

There are two type of signals in Melbourne (and Victoria, but these are different to other states on the same landmass because some short-sighted bureaucrat 150 years ago made that stupid decision, nearly as bad as having different gauge tracks, but I digress.).

Automatic Signal

Automatic Signal with staggered lights.

Automatic Signals – Will be red if the next section contains a train. When another train approaches a red auto signal it must stop for one minute and if still red after 1 minute it may proceed at no more than 25 km/h provided it can stop within half its seeing distance. The red signal’s brake trip will stop the train after which it may proceed at slow speed. Repeat for next signal. If it sees the train ahead, obviously don’t ram the back of it. Wait patiently.

Home Signal

Home Signal with vertically aligned lights.

Home signals – Thou shalt not proceed through a red home signal under any circumstances or driver shall search for another job. Unless he received permission from signalman then it’s okay. Signalman at this end must talk to signalman at the other end to ensure line is clear before handing out permission to run the red or signalman shall search for another job.

It’s a long slow process getting everyone to work by say 10 or 11 AM. Today they even disabled the brake tripping and ran trains Home to Home one at a time at 25 km/h for the evening peak. Not sure how that went because I caught a tram. Still ended up on my usually train for the last half of the journey. 2, 3, 3, 2.5 hour trips since yesterday morning. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow has to offer.

6 thoughts on “The Bat Out of Hell Takes Out Three Train Lines

  1. Joe Owens

    So Richard does this long ride allow you time to craft more blog posts? If so, maybe not so terrible. I find it humorous and troubling just how easily technology can be foiled. One little fruit bat stops trains full of passengers! This reminds me of the issues with birds flying into jet engines. I mean can they not just put a mesh screen over the intake to block the birds. But, here I am digressing!

    I live in America, in the state of Virginia. I have always found Australia to be a fascinating country. The sydney Opera House is, of course, the most landmark we see in America. I hope some day to get the opportunity to travel to Australia for a visit. I plan to search your blog for information about your beautiful country.

    1. Richard Leonard Post author

      Hey Joe! Thanks for dropping by. I could spend that time writing posts or anything else but the train trip is my reading time. Plus when there’s dramas like that going on it pays to have an ear on what’s happening. Sometimes I decide it’s better to walk 5 kms around the problem if the trains are running on the other side.
      Actually I heard today that part of the reason there was so much damage is that the equipment wasn’t earthed properly because of recent thefts of copper wire (yes, that’s another problem we have here).
      I’m glad you recognise that we have a fascinating country, however unless you’re satisfied with Danish architecture (Opera House) and that monstrous coat hanger, I’d recommend getting out of the cities. After you’ve visited them and spent all your money, of course! Plenty of remote places to see that are absolutely breathtaking.

  2. jumbledwriter

    Hopefully tomorrow goes more smoothly. But perhaps the train could help with things like catching up on sleep or daydreams? Both are important for writers. Or, as Joe says, more time for plotting.

  3. Rita Azar

    I dislike bats… They come around my neighbour’s peach tree at night time… How annoying! At least it gave you some inspiration to write this post and maybe more!

    1. Richard Leonard Post author

      They can be very destructive (and I’m not talking about signals any more! Moving on…) They were a problem in the Botanical Gardens a few years ago and the council were talking about culling them. Not sure if they’re still a problem there and we just don’t hear about it any more or what. Near my parents place in Gippsland they’re a menace too, stripping tree bare, ruining crops etc. Not good.


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