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A website explaining the signs and signals relevant to train drivers on Britain’s national rail network, past and present.

Main Sections:

Section 1: Early Signals
Section 2: Main Signals
Section 3: Shunting Signals
Section 4: Subsidiary Signals
Section 5: Limit of Shunt Indicators
Section 6: Junction Signals and Route Indicators
Section 7: Co-acting Signals and Repeater Signals
Section 8: Overrun Prevention and Mitigation
Section 9: Signal Post Signs and Signals for Degraded Working
Section 10: Special Shunting Signals and Indicators
Section 11: Indicators and Signs associated with Points
Section 12: Signs for Train Protection Systems and Cab Signalling
Section 13: Permanent Speed Restriction Signs
Section 14: Temporary Speed Restriction Signs
Section 15: Whistle Boards
Section 16: Signs at Level Crossings
Section 17: Signs at Bridges and Tunnels
Section 18: Signs in Electrified Areas
Section 19: Communications Signs
Section 20: Indicators for Train Dispatch
Section 21: Stopping Markers
Section 22: Buffer Stops
Section 23: Signs concerning Natural Hazards
Section 24: Gradient Signs
Section 25: Miscellaneous Signs and Indicators
Section 26: Notice Boards
Section 27: Supplementary Arrow Signs
Section 28: Distance Markers
Section 29: Signs for Engineering Trains and Test Trains
Section 30: Signs for Engineering Possessions

Other Pages:

British Signalling Overseas
Supplementary Information
Frequently Asked Questions
What's New?
Links to Other Relevant Sites

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Welcome to "Railway Signs and Signals of Great Britain", where you can learn about the many different signs and signals that appear by the side of Britain's mainline railways for the purpose of conveying information or instructions to train drivers. The object of this website is to illustrate, and explain the meaning of, every signal indication or lineside sign that exists today or has existed in the past. Never before has all this information, which includes historical details as well as modern regional variations and 'one offs', been brought together and made available from a single point of reference.

Semaphore signal Colour light signal

This site's contents are organised into convenient sections relating to distinct categories of signs and signals. Most of these sections comprise more than one page. Within each section, new or altered signs and indications are arranged in chronological order according to their earliest usage. Where known, the year of introduction is recorded along with any explanatory information. Experimental signs or signals are included, provided they have been exhibited alongside a railway open to normal traffic.

Disc signal Position light signal

The illustrations on this site deliberately omit any visible detail that has no influence on a sign or signal's meaning (e.g. holes or slots provided in early signals to reduce wind resistance). Variations in a sign's shape or colour are recorded, but variations in size are not. Signals and signs are generally depicted with simple straight posts supporting them, but it is emphasised that the method of mounting or the position or absence of a post carries no relevance to drivers. Similarly, while aspects displayed by colour light signals etc. are shown inside a typical signal head, the position of the aspect within the head or the shape of the surrounding backboard can vary without altering the meaning conveyed to drivers.

Permanent speed restriction sign Permanent speed restriction sign

Signalling and signage through the Channel Tunnel and in the vicinity of the Cheriton terminal follows SNCF (French National Railways) practice and is therefore outside the scope of this website. This site does, however, include information relating to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (or 'High Speed 1').

Gradient post Milepost

Each item illustrated within the main sections of the website is accompanied by key details summarised under the following three headings:

This refers to the location, route or geographical area in which the sign or signal was used or, alternatively, the relevant company.

This provides an indicative guide to the level of usage the sign or signal has seen, according to the total number of individual examples that exist or have existed, and split roughly as follows:

  • High - More than 200 examples.
  • Medium - Between 10 and 200 examples.
  • Low - Fewer than ten examples.
  • Nil - No usage on a railway open to normal traffic.

This describes the present status of the sign or signal, as follows:

  • Current - Within current practice, but this does not necessarily imply that any examples exist at the present time.
  • Obsolescent - No longer within current practice, but examples remain in use. Further provision has ceased, except where there is a need to maintain consistency at a given locality.
  • Historical - No longer present on the national network (but may exist on heritage railways).
  • On Trial - Presently exists for trial purposes only.
  • Uncertain - Generally relates to a 'one off' sign or signal that is extant but of unclear status.

Clicking on this symbol takes you to a photograph of the relevant item, on a different page.

More detailed information on a range of related topics can be found in the 'Supplementary Information' section.

I welcome your comments and queries about this website. If you can contribute some new information or if you find an error, please let me know. I can be emailed at this address:
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© SDL 2005–2024. This is not an official rail industry website.