During my second week in South Africa the rain ruled. At first I stubbornly maintained my ground on the high veldt. Then I eventually wised up and ventured to lower elevations such as Sadwana Bay and Nelspruit where the sun was indeed shining.
However, prior to visiting the lower veldt I decided to check out the Ermelo CTC center.
Dear reader, I did not casually walk in. Firstly, the entrance gate guard will get rather excited if you just walk past. Secondly, the front door is electrically locked. So please ask the guard at the entrance gate to have you taken to the inside office where you may sign in and request a visit.
The Centralized Traffic Control system at Ermelo has been upgraded with the CS90 system to allow for common keyboards and computer monitors to replace the wall mounted track layouts. Much more functionality to the CS90 than that overly simplistic statement, but that shall suffice for this web page.
The wall mounted track layout is functioning but it is no longer a critical component to train operations.
While taking my photographs I did not have a continuous light source other than the overhead fluorescent lamps which added glare to the monitor screens. I tried various levels of camera flash and timed exposure. My overall intent was to take photographs and not to interrupt the staff. Perhaps next time I can choose a quiet moment on the Coal Line and really get into photography. But when is a quiet moment on the Coal Line?!
The facility is divided into two control groups. North of Ermelo, and south of Ermelo. The entire coal line is not controlled from Ermelo. There are other CTC centers for the Coal Line.
A major advantage to using the computer & monitor arrangement is should an issue arise which would hinder this facility from functioning, then the program of the track layouts and the addresses of the points machines and signal relay codes can be set-up at another location and the railway would continue to function normally. In all reality, all of the CTC centers can cover the other CTC centers in case of such issues.
The bottom line is flexibility and functionality. Gone are the days of dedicated signal cabins and hard wiring!