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Section 25: Miscellaneous Signs and Indicators

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Since 1838, Post Office mail apparatus had been erected at the lineside at certain locations to enable mail bags to be both picked up and dropped off by non-stopping trains. Post Office staff on board these "Travelling Post Office" (TPO) trains relied on a recognisable landmark such as a specific bridge to know when to prepare for a mail exchange. In the absence of any suitable landmark, a large white rectangular board [25.19] was fixed on the skew at the lineside. Where the apparatus was located between two lines, however, a long white board was placed a few feet above rail level instead.

As a consequence of wider locomotive cabs, a number of enginemen had been struck and injured or killed by lineside mail bag apparatus. This led to the provision in 1938 of warning signs at about 20 yards (18 metres) on the approach side of the apparatus. The design of these signs, which had a yellow and black chequered pattern [25.20], was decided upon at a meeting between the railway companies and the Post Office. The signs were illuminated at night when pouches were swung towards the line. A narrower and taller version of the sign [25.21] was used where clearances were restricted.

[25.19] Mail Bag Exchange Board.
Area: All Areas   Usage: Medium   Status: Historical
[25.20] Mail Bag Apparatus Warning Sign.
Area: All Areas   Usage: Medium   Status: Historical
[25.21] Mail Bag Apparatus Warning Sign for use in areas of restricted clearance.
Area: All Areas   Usage: Medium   Status: Historical

Coasting boards may be provided at the lineside to assist with energy conservation. There have been various different designs [25.22 - 25.25]. A coasting board marks the point where, under normal running conditions, a driver may shut off power and coast towards a stopping point (typically a station) or a significant speed reduction. Coasting boards are more usually, although not exclusively, associated with electrified railways.

[25.22] Coasting Board.
Area: Watford New Line   Usage: Medium   Status: Historical
[25.23] Coasting Board.
Area: Scottish Region   Usage: Medium   Status: Current
[25.24] Coasting Board.
Area: Predominantly Southern Region   Usage: High   Status: Current
[25.25] Coasting Board.
Area: London Midland Region   Usage: High   Status: Obsolescent

Both lines through Woodhead Tunnel on the Manchester - Sheffield - Wath line were equipped with signalling to facilitate single line working by the Electric Token Block system. This included colour light signals applicable to wrong-direction movements, which were normally unlit. When single line working was in operation, the normally unlit signals were illuminated, and an indicator adjacent to each colour light signal on the lines approaching the tunnel displayed an illuminated indication "SLW" [25.26]. The indicators were taken out of use in July 1969 when the single line working facilities were withdrawn.

[25.26] Single Line Working Indicator.
Area: Woodhead / Dunford West   Usage: Medium   Status: Historical

At some major stations, signalling facilities were provided to allow a long train to stand out ahead of a platform starting signal. The signal in this instance controls the starting of the train. Between March 1966 and February 1970, standing-out facilities were temporarily available beyond Platforms 7, 12 or 13 at London Euston while platform lengthening work was carried out. For the duration of the work on a particular platform, a marker in the form of a blue diamond [25.27] was provided beyond the platform starting signal to indicate the limit at which a train may stand out. After backing onto a train in an occupied platform, a driver was required to advise the signalman if the engine stood out beyond the marker.

[25.27] Limit of Standing Out Marker.
Area: London Euston   Usage: Low   Status: Historical

A brake test indicator could be provided at a location where brake vans or locomotives are regularly attached to trains but traincrews may have difficulty observing handsignals, for example because of platform crowding. When operated, the indicator displays an illuminated indication "BT", "test" or "T" [25.28] to inform the driver or shunter that the guard or person in charge is ready to carry out the brake continuity test.

[25.28] Brake Test Indicator.
Area: Various   Usage: Medium   Status: Uncertain

In January 1974, a marker board in the form of a white diamond with a black border [25.29] was installed on the Up Main line at Draycott (London Midland Region), positioned 300 yards (274 metres) beyond a trailing crossover. When the front of a train reached this marker board after having passed through the crossover, the driver was informed that its rear end was clear of the points.

[25.29] 'Rear Clear' Marker.
Area: Draycott   Usage: Low   Status: Historical

The Northern City Line in London (between Finsbury Park and Moorgate) was transferred from London Underground ownership to British Rail in 1975, services resuming in August 1976. Special working instructions apply on the underground section between Drayton Park and Moorgate. If a station has to be closed for any reason, station staff will open an indicator on each platform, exhibiting the words "station closed" in red on a yellow background and incorporating a flashing white light in one corner [25.30]. When this indicator is displayed, trains must continue to the next station if possible, but if the train has to stop because the signal is at 'danger', the train doors must not be released. If the "station closed" indicator is displayed at the Moorgate terminus, the driver must move to the other end of the train without releasing the train doors, and continue to the next station when the signal clears.

Markers showing "3" and "6" [25.31] are fixed at appropriate distances beyond each station on the underground section. In the event of the passenger alarm being operated on board a departing train, the driver should continue to the next station if past the marker that corresponds to the train's length, because the rear of the train is beyond the end of the previous platform.

[25.30] "Station Closed" Indicator.
Area: Northern City Line   Usage: Low   Status: Current
[25.31] Station Limit Marker (e.g. 6 cars).
Area: Northern City Line   Usage: Medium   Status: Current

In the 1980s, certain signals at Crewe (London Midland Region) were provided with a 'guard joined train' indicator for use when traincrews were being relieved. If the guard was not travelling on the locomotive or in the front portion of a passenger train, the guard being relieved operated a plunger located some distance in rear of the signal. This caused the indicator to display an illuminated indication "GRD" [25.32] to inform the driver that the guard has joined the train.

[25.32] 'Guard Joined Train' Indicator.
Area: Crewe   Usage: Low   Status: Uncertain

The 'station limit - loop clear' marker board first appeared in 1984, being introduced exclusively for use on lines worked by the Radio Electronic Token Block (RETB) system. Despite its name, this board is installed at every location designated as a token exchange point, irrespective of whether a crossing loop is present. A 'loop clear' marker is provided on each running line leading away from the token exchange point. When a train passes the 'loop clear' marker, the driver must verbally inform the signalman using the radio. When shunting is taking place at a token exchange point, the 'station limit - loop clear' markers define the limits of movement authority given by the relevant 'shunt token'.

The original form of 'loop clear' marker, as used on the Scottish Region, was a blue and white diagonally striped reflectorised board [25.33]. This board was actually a blue and white derivative of the red and white striped sign formerly used to mark the limits of an open level crossing (see [16.28]).

Because the limits of an 'engineering token' are defined by the 'loop clear' markers at adjacent token exchange points, an additional board (with its stripes sloped the opposite way) [25.34] is placed back-to-back with the main board.

[25.33] 'Station Limit - Loop Clear' Marker Board (front). Click Here for Photo
Area: Scottish Region   Usage: Medium   Status: Current
[25.34] 'Station Limit - Loop Clear' Marker Board (rear).
Area: Scottish Region   Usage: Medium   Status: Current

When RETB signalling spread to other parts of Great Britain (i.e. the East Suffolk and Cambrian lines), it was implemented in a slightly different way from the Scottish schemes. The 'station limit - loop clear' markers were of a more elongated shape [25.35] and only faced in one direction, so as to be visible to drivers of trains leaving a token exchange point. Boards facing in the opposite direction were not needed, because an 'engineering token' on these schemes only allowed the line to be occupied between the distant boards (see [2.140]) approaching adjacent token exchange points. Subsequently, an 'engineer's full token' was introduced on the Cambrian Lines, which allowed the line to be occupied between the 'station limit' marker board at one token exchange point and the stop board at the next token exchange point. This necessitated the provision of 'engineering limit' boards on the rear side of the 'station limit' boards, the former having red stripes on a blue background [25.36] to distinguish them more clearly.

[25.35] 'Station Limit - Loop Clear' Marker Board.
Area: Various   Usage: Medium   Status: Current
[25.36] Engineering Limit Board. Click Here for Photo
Area: Cambrian Lines   Usage: Medium   Status: Historical

In October 1989, emergency stop indicators were provided about four coach lengths beyond each platform at Dartford station, in both directions. They were applicable to drivers of empty 'slam door' trains worked under Driver Only Operation conditions. The indicators were normally blank, but when operated by station staff, the word "stop" was displayed in red letters [25.37]. Those at the west end of the station were removed in May 1999.

[25.37] Emergency Stop Indicator.
Area: Dartford   Usage: Low   Status: Historical