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Section 27: Supplementary Arrow Signs

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A sign or a signal may be supplemented by a sign showing an arrow. Principally, this serves one of two purposes. The first is to indicate that the signal or sign applies to a specific line, especially one that is situated between two parallel tracks where confusion might arise. The second is to denote that the sign only applies to trains travelling in the indicated direction at a divergence ahead; these signs do not apply to trains proceeding in a direction for which no arrow is exhibited. Arrows associated with permanent or temporary speed restriction signs mostly fall into the second category and are covered in Section 13 and Section 14, respectively. See Section 11 for arrow signs fitted to points indicators.


Shunting signals (see Section 3) frequently have signs fixed to them to show which line they apply to. In earlier times, a directing hand [27.1] was often used in preference to the simple arrow invariably seen in later usage [27.2]. Identification plates (see Section 9) for position light shunting signals often incorporate an arrow as standard [27.3]. In the unusual event that a signal is applicable to the tracks on either side of it, arrows may point both ways [27.4].

[27.1] Directing hand on face of shunting signal (e.g. LB&SCR type; applies to the line on the right).
Area: Various   Usage: High   Status: Historical
[27.2] Arrow sign fitted to shunting signal (e.g. disc type; applies to the line on the left). Click Here for Photo
Area: All Areas   Usage: High   Status: Current
[27.3] Arrow sign on a position light shunting signal (e.g. applies to the line on the right).
Area: All Areas   Usage: High   Status: Current
[27.4] Arrow signs on a position light shunting signal applicable to the lines on either side.
Area: All Areas   Usage: Low   Status: Current

Normally when an arrow sign is fitted to a sign (not a signal) it means that it only applies to trains travelling in the direction indicated at a divergence. Examples are shown in [27.5] and [27.6].

[27.5] Notice board indicating that Token Working applies ahead on the line diverging to the left.
Area: All Areas   Usage: High   Status: Current
[27.6] Radio channel indicator applicable to trains taking the left-hand divergence.
Area: All Areas   Usage: High   Status: Current

When Birmingham New Street station was resignalled in 1966, restricted clearances at the platform ends required the provision of a number of unusual combined pairs of colour light signals. The main and shunting signal aspects for the lines on either side were combined into a single head. Both signals were able to share a common route indicator (see Section 6) and "R" indication (see [20.12]) since the track layout dictated that only one signal in each pair could display a 'proceed' aspect at a time. To minimise any risk of misreading, illuminated arrows were provided alongside each main aspect, one being illuminated when the associated signal (either main or shunting) displayed a 'proceed' aspect [27.7]. For consistency, all the 'single' signals at the station had illuminated arrows as well as the combined examples. The illuminated arrows were removed from most of the combined signals in 1972, concurrent with the provision of separate route indicators and "right away" indicators for each signal in the pair.

[27.7] Illuminated Arrow (e.g. left-hand signal cleared).
Area: Birmingham New Street   Usage: Medium   Status: Historical

On some other European railways, it is common practice where a main signal is not positioned on the usual side of the line, to place a supplementary arrow sign on its post. The arrow points towards the line to which the signal applies. In a similar fashion, the two signals at the west end of the international platforms at Ashford (AD672 & AD674), being on the right-hand side of drivers, were fitted with arrows [27.8]. When (by 2001) signal AD674 was repositioned on the left side of the line, the arrow sign was retained but obviously it pointed the opposite way. Similar arrow signs have subsequently been fitted to some additional signals at Ashford and also at various other locations.

[27.8] Supplementary Arrow Sign fitted to signal. Click Here for Photo
Area: Various   Usage: Medium   Status: Current

When Glasgow Queen Street station was resignalled in 1998, the new signals at the end of Platforms 5 and 6 had limited clearance on either side. The two signals, numbered CQ62 and CQ64, were mounted on a common 'T' bracket structure and their associated position light shunting signals were, unusually, ground mounted. The two signal identification plates were fitted to the post, one above the other, and incorporated vertical double-headed arrows to indicate which one belonged to which signal [27.9]. Subsequently, the position light signals were removed and the lower halves of the arrows were obliterated. The main signals were removed in 2016.

[27.9] Signal Identification Plates with vertical arrows. Click Here for Photo
Area: Glasgow Queen Street   Usage: Low   Status: Historical

A position light shunting signal at Wimbledon, number W1124, was fitted with an enhanced identification plate incorporating an arrow [27.10] to increase its conspicuity. This signal was moved to the left-hand side of the line in September 2000.

[27.10] Enhanced Identification Plate.
Area: Wimbledon   Usage: Low   Status: Historical

In a few places where a ground position light shunting signal is situated on the right-hand side of the line, a sign has been positioned opposite the signal, on the left-hand side, bearing the signal number and an arrow pointing right [27.11].

[27.11] Line Identification Arrow.
Area: Various   Usage: Medium   Status: Current

From October 2001, a number of main signals in the Scotland Zone were fitted with a supplementary arrow sign [27.12] to indicate to which line the signal applies. Most of the affected signals were located on the left of drivers but the presence of another track immediately to the left of the signal was a potential source of confusion.

[27.12] Supplementary Arrow Sign fitted to signal. Click Here for Photo
Area: Scotland Zone   Usage: Medium   Status: Current

A main signal or a banner repeater may have an arrow incorporated on its identification plate [27.13], especially if it is located on the right-hand side of drivers. Exceptionally, a double-headed arrow may be provided if the signal applies to two converging lines [27.14].

[27.13] Signal Identification Plate with Arrow. Click Here for Photo
Area: Various   Usage: Medium   Status: Uncertain
[27.14] Signal Identification Plate with Double-Headed Arrow.
Area: Various   Usage: Low   Status: Uncertain

In June 2002, signal N270 at Severn Tunnel Junction was fitted with a line identification sign bearing the letters "UT" and a left-hand arrow [27.15]. The signal was situated on the right-hand side of the Up Tunnel Line, to which it applies, but there was a risk that drivers could be misled into thinking that the signal applied to the Goods Loop to the right of the signal.

[27.15] Line Identification Sign with Arrow.
Area: Severn Tunnel Junction   Usage: Low   Status: Historical

New platform starting signals were provided at London St. Pancras in August 2002. Two signals that were located on the right-hand side of the line were each fitted with a supplementary arrow sign with a red border [27.16].

[27.16] Supplementary Arrow Sign fitted to signal.
Area: London St. Pancras   Usage: Low   Status: Historical

Signal L460 at Blackheath Junction applies to the Up Line but is mounted to the right of the Down Line on a gantry, to improve its sighting through Kidbrooke Tunnel. To signify that the signal applies to the Up Line, a sign was fitted to the gantry in October 2002 [27.17].

[27.17] Line Identification Sign with Arrow.
Area: Blackheath Junction   Usage: Low   Status: Uncertain

A number of signals situated on the right-hand side of drivers have been fitted with supplementary arrow signs of different designs [27.18 - 27.20].

[27.18] Supplementary Arrow Sign fitted to signal.
Area: Various   Usage: Low   Status: Uncertain
[27.19] Supplementary Arrow Sign fitted to signal.
Area: Various   Usage: Low   Status: Uncertain
[27.20] Supplementary Arrow Sign fitted to signal.
Area: Various   Usage: Low   Status: Uncertain