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Section 11: Indicators and Signs associated with Points

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By 1958, a new form of catch points sign had been introduced on the London Midland Region, comprising a hollow triangle at the top of a post, visible from both directions [11.28].

Some catch points were fitted with facing point locks to enable them to be locked in the closed position during periods of pre-planned single line working. This avoided the need for facing movements over the points to be restricted to 10 m.p.h. and did not require a handsignalman to be provided. One set of catch points near Lancaster where this applied was identified in 1971 by a square green board or a green lamp attached to the post of the catch points sign, facing to wrong direction movements [11.29]. In 1972, the same was done at other catch points between Lancaster and Carlisle.

British Rail later introduced a standard design of catch points sign comprising a letter "S" (for 'spring') on a solid white triangle [11.30]. These signs are normally double-sided and are positioned either on the approach to the points in the facing direction or at the toe of the points.

[11.28] Catch Points Sign.
Area: London Midland Region   Usage: High   Status: Obsolescent
[11.29] Catch Points Sign.
Area: Lancaster - Carlisle   Usage: Medium   Status: Historical
[11.30] Catch Points Sign. Click Here for Photo
Area: All Areas except Scottish Region   Usage: High   Status: Obsolescent

The development of innovative low-cost signalling systems in the 1980s, employing simplified infrastructure and train-operated (hydro-pneumatic) points, brought about a new requirement to install points indicators on running lines. In April 1984, the crossing loops at Garve and Arisaig on the Scottish Region were provided with simplified infrastructure in preparation for the eventual introduction of Radio Electronic Token Block (RETB) over the routes concerned. The points at each end of the loops became train-operated and points indicators were provided, applicable to facing moves over those points. Each indicator comprised a yellow light and a plate with the words "points set". When the points are set correctly, the yellow light is illuminated [11.31]. If the light is out, the driver must stop and not pass over the points until they have been secured.

[11.31] 'Points Set' Indicator - Points set correctly.
Area: Scottish Region   Usage: Medium   Status: Current

Motivated by a desire for cheapness and simplicity, the British Railways Board in London had proposed that the standard form of points indicator for future works should be mechanically operated. The face of the indicator was a white square with a single black stripe between opposite corners. Normally the black stripe was inclined diagonally [11.32], indicating that the points to which the indicator applied were set correctly. When the face of the indicator was rotated such that the black stripe was horizontal [11.33], it indicated that the points were not correctly set. An indicator of this type had been installed at Bedford St. Johns (London Midland Region) before being transferred to the west end of the loop at Strathcarron in June 1984. Since it could not be made to work properly, electrical indicators normally displaying a yellow light were installed (see [11.31]). Given that power supplies already existed for platform lighting and points heating, it was decided that electrical indicators would be provided as standard in future.

[11.32] Mechanical 'Points Set' Indicator ('off').
Area: All Areas   Usage: Low   Status: Historical
[11.33] Mechanical 'Points Set' Indicator ('on').
Area: All Areas   Usage: Low   Status: Historical

Another low-cost signalling system that was developed around the same time as RETB, and which also featured simplified infrastructure and train-operated points, is known as "No-Signalman Token Remote" (NSTR). Prior to this system being introduced on the Whitby line (Eastern Region), train-operated points were installed at Nunthorpe and Glaisdale in 1986. Points indicators showing a yellow light were provided, similar to those in Scotland (see [11.31]), but their plates were worded "points indicator" [11.34]. Unlike RETB, the NSTR system has no way of confirming that a train has departed a crossing loop before a following train is allowed to approach the same loop. The driver of a train arriving at a crossing loop must therefore be prepared to stop short of another train still occupying that loop. Accordingly, the points indicators installed on NSTR lines on the Western Region (from 1986) displayed a position light 'proceed' aspect (two white lights at 45°) [11.35] instead of a yellow light, to indicate the permissive nature of the movement into the loop ahead.

[11.34] Points Indicator - Points set correctly.
Area: Eastern Region (subsequently All Areas)   Usage: Medium   Status: Current
[11.35] Points Indicator - Points set correctly.
Area: Western Region   Usage: Medium   Status: Obsolescent

In 1987 and 1988, the train-operated points at seven locations on the Scottish Region were altered to normally lie the opposite way. This was done to ease shunting at those places but had the side effect of imposing right-hand running through the crossing loops. The ground frame operated siding connections, which had hitherto trailed into the loops, became facing connections as a result. To remind drivers that the train-operated points lie normally to the right, a supplementary arrow sign was added to the associated 'points set' indicator [11.36].

[11.36] 'Points Set' Indicator with supplementary arrow sign. Click Here for Photo
Area: Scottish Region   Usage: Medium   Status: Current

The points indicators introduced in 1988 under the Cambrian Lines RETB scheme (London Midland Region) comprised a large white board, divided into two parts by a black horizontal line. The upper part incorporated the yellow light, whilst the lower part contained the words "points indicator" [11.37].

[11.37] Points Indicator - Points set correctly. Click Here for Photo
Area: Cambrian Lines   Usage: Medium   Status: Historical

In 1987, fouling point markers were provided at crossing loops on the West Highland Lines (Scottish Region) pending the introduction of RETB. These comprised an orange cylindrical marker with a white stripe [11.38] installed at ground level between the loop lines at each end of a crossing loop. These were provided to allow trainmen to determine whether their train was within the fouling point. These markers were also installed on the lines north of Inverness. In 1994, tall posts coloured with orange and white markings [11.39] were provided to denote the fouling points between certain sidings within Inverness Traction & Rolling Stock Depot, to assist drivers with checking that their train is in clear.

[11.38] Fouling Point Marker.
Area: Scottish Region   Usage: Medium   Status: Obsolescent
[11.39] Fouling Point Marker.
Area: Inverness   Usage: Low   Status: Uncertain

The 'remote ground frame marker' was introduced in 1996 as part of a proposal aimed at warning drivers in the event of detection being lost at ground frame operated points in remote areas. The marker, which bears a downward pointing black chevron on a square white background [11.40], was positioned on the approach side of the points, in the facing direction. A colour light distant signal would be provided at braking distance on the approach side of the marker. If detection of the points was lost, the distant signal would display a yellow aspect (see [2.97]) and trains would then require to stop at the marker board. Similar looking signs may be seen at facing points on French railways but they serve a different purpose. Provision of the remote ground frame marker board was discontinued from 1999.

[11.40] Remote Ground Frame Marker. Click Here for Photo
Area: All Areas   Usage: Low   Status: Obsolescent