THE SIGNAL BOX

BLOCK SYSTEM

BELL SIGNALS

Bell signals in use in 1960

On this page:
[ Universal | Southern Region | London Midland Region ]


Universal bell signals

These are the standard set of bell signals applicable on British Railways in 1960. The Western Region had a few variations, which are noted in the table. The Southern Region had some more drastic differences, these are listed separately. Additionally, the London Midland and Southern Regions defined a range of routing Is Line Clear? bell signals, which are also listed in a separate table.

§—not applicable on Southern Region

Beats on bell Meaning
1 Call attention,
also:
line occupied acceptance. Western Region only.
1-1-3 Is line clear for engine with not more than two brake vans? §
1-2 Is line clear for branch freight train? Where authorised.
1-2-1 Train approaching Where authorised
1-2-2 Is line clear for express freight, livestock, perishable or ballast train, partly fitted, with the not less than four braked vehicles next to the engine and connected by the automatic brake pipe, or express freight, livestock, perishable or ballast train, with a limited load of vehicles not fitted with the automatic brake? §
or:
Weed killing train when both running and spraying, or Matisa track recording car when not recording? Western Region only.
1-2-3 Blocking back outside home signal for train already in section. Western Region only.
1-2-6 Opposite line, or an adjoining line used in the same direction, to be blocked for passage of train conveying out-of-gauge load.
1-3 Is line clear for branch passenger train? Where authorised.
1-3-1 Is line clear for parcels, fish, fruit, horse, livestock, meat ,milk, pigeon or perishable train composed entirely of vehicles conforming to coaching stock requirements? §
1-4 Is line clear for through freight or ballast train not running under class "C", "D", "E" or "F" headcode? §
or:
Lennox-Lomax earth auger machine, Matisa or Plasser automatic tamping machine not stopping in section, or Matisa or Elliott track recording car when recording? Western Region only.
1-5-5 Shunt train for following train to pass.
2 Train entering section. §
2-1 Train out of section, or obstruction removed.
2-2 Engine assisting in rear of train. §
2-1-2 Is line clear for trolley requiring to go into or pass through tunnel? §
2-1-3 Engine arrived.
2-2-1 Is line clear for empty coaching stock train (not specially authorised to carry "A" headcode)? §
2-2-1-2 Is line clear for electric empty coaching stock train? §
2-2-2 Line clear to clearing point only. Western Region only.
2-2-3 Is line clear for freight, ballast or officer's special train, requiring to stop in section? §
or:
Lennox-Lomax earth auger machine, Matisa or Plasser automatic tamping machine, requiring to stop in section? Western Region only.
2-3 Is line clear for light engine or light engines coupled? §
2-3-1 Engine with one or two brake vans assisting in rear of train. §
2-3-3 Working in wrong direction.
2-4 Blocking back inside home signal
2-4-2 Line occupied acceptance. Not applicable on Western Region.
2-5 Train withdrawn.
2-5-5 Train or vehicles running away in wrong direction.
2-6-1 Is line clear for train which can pass an out-of-gauge or exceptional load similarly signalled on the opposite or adjoining line?
2-6-2 Is line clear for train which cannot be allowed to pass an out-of-gauge of any description on the opposite or adjoining line?
2-6-3 Is line clear for train which requires the opposite or an adjoining line to be blocked between specified points.
2-8 Home signal defective.
3 Is line clear for freight, mineral or ballast train, stopping at intermediate stations? §
3-1 Is line clear for ordinary passenger train, mixed train, or breakdown van train not going to clear the line? §
3-1-1 Is line clear for express freight, livestock, perishable or ballast train, pipe-fitted throughout with the automatic brake operative on not less than half of the vehicles? §
3-1-2 Is line clear for electric ordinary passenger train? §
3-1-3 Is line clear for diesel railbus?
3-2 Is line clear for express freight, livestock, perishable or ballast train, not fitted with the automatic brake? §
3-2-3 Train drawn back clear of section.
3-3 Blocking back outside home signal.
3-3-2 Shunting into forward section.
3-3-4 Train or vehicles at a stand.
3-3-5 Line now clear in accordance with Regulation 4 for train to approach.
3-5 Cancelling
3-5-5 Warning acceptance
4 Is line clear for express passenger trains, newspaper train, breakdown van train or snow plough going to clear the line, light engine going to assist disabled train or officer's special train not requiring to stop in section? §
or:
Ordinary passenger train of a local character running under semi-fast or express conditions? Western Region only.
4-1 Is line clear for mineral or empty wagon train? §
4-2 Is line clear for electric express passenger train? §
4-3 Line clear to home signal.
4-4-4-4 Transference of tokens.
4-5 Train passed without tail lamp, to box in rear.
4-5-5 Train running away in right direction.
5 Is line clear for express freight, livestock, perishable or ballast train, partly fitted, with the automatic brake operative on not less than one third of the vehicles? §
or:
Elliot Track Recorder when not recording? Western Region only.
5-2 Train clear of section.
5-3 Last train incorrectly described.
5-5 Train divided
5-5-5 Opening of signal box.
5-5-7 Closing of signal box where section signal is locked by the block.
6 Obstruction danger.
6-2 Train an unusually long time in section.
7 Stop and examine train
7-5-5 Closing of signal box.
8 Shunt withdrawn.
8-2 Distant signal defective.
9 Train passed without tail lamp, to box in advance.
16 Testing block indicators and bells.
A number of beats in rapid succession Emergency call attention. Western Region only.

Bell signals used only on the Southern Region

The Southern Region used a completely different set of Is Line Clear bell signals. There was less variation between classes of trains, but a duplicate set of bell codes was provided for use at diverging junctions to identify the train's routing.

Beats on bell Meaning
Through Branch

1-3-1

Is line clear for power-worked inspection car or power-worked trolley, required to stop in section?
1-4-1 Engine assisting in rear of train.
1-5-1 Engine with one or two brake vans assisting in rear of train.
2 4 Train entering section.
2-2 4-4 Is line clear for breakdown van train or snow plough going to clear the line, or light engine going to assist a disabled train?
2-2-1 1-2-2 Is line clear for empty train?
2-2-2 Trolley requiring to go into or pass through tunnel?
2-3-2 Is line clear for power-worked inspection car or power-worked trolley, not required to stop in section?
3-1 1-3 Is line clear for passenger train, breakdown van train or snow plough going to clear the line?
3-1 2-3 Is line clear for freight or through ballast train?
3-1-1 1-1-3 Is line clear for engine with not more than two brake vans?
4-1 1-4 Is line clear for light engine, or light engines coupled?
4-2-2 2-2-4 Is line clear for fish, meat, fruit, horse, cattle, milk or perishable train composed of coaching stock?
5 Is line clear for freight, ballast or officer's special train requiring to stop in section?

London Midland Region special routing bell signals

The London Midland Region issued a standard set of Is Line Clear? bell signals for use in identifying the route of the trains. These were only allowed to be used where specially authorised.

Standard code A1 codes B1 codes C1 codes
4 4-4 4-2-1 4-3-4
4-2 4-4-1 4-4-2 4-3-3
3-1 3-1-3-2 3-1-3 3-1-3-4
3-1-2 3-1-3-3 3-4-2 3-1-3-5
1-3-1 1-3-1-2 1-3-1-3 1-3-1-4
2-2-1 2-2-1-5 2-2-1-3 2-2-1-4
2-2-1-2 2-4-3 2-4-4 2-4-5
  A2 codes B2 codes C2 codes
3-1-1 3-1-1-2 3-1-1-3 3-1-1-4
5 5-1-2 5-1-3 5-4
1-2-2 1-2-2-2 1-2-2-3 1-2-2-4
3-2 3-2-2-2 3-2-2-1 3-2-4
2-3 2-3-2-2 2-3-2-1 2-3-4
1-1-3 1-1-3-2 1-1-3-3 1-1-3-4
1-4 1-4-2 1-4-3 1-4-4
4-1 4-1-2 4-1-4 4-1-5
3 1-3-2 1-2-4 1-3-4

Special Train Entering Section (commonly 2-2-2, 2-2-4, 2-4-3) and Train Approaching (commonly 1-1-2, 1-1-4 and 1-1-5) bell codes were also used, but these were defined locally and did not consistently relate to a specific set of codes as listed above.

Southern Region special routing bell signals

The Southern Region issued a standard set of Is Line Clear? bell signals for use in identifying the route of the trains. These were only allowed to be used where specially authorised.

The list shown here was issued in 1972 after the SR codes were harmonised with the rest of British Railways. It is likely that a similar range of codes were in use at 1960

Standard code Code No1 Code No2 Code No2
4 4-4 4-4-2 4-4-3
3-1 1-3 3-1-2 3-1-3
1-3-1 1-3-1-1 1-3-1-2 1-3-1-3
3-2-5 3-2-5-1 3-2-5-2 3-2-5-3
3-1-1 3-1-1-1 3-1-1-2 3-1-1-3
2-2-1 2-2-1-1 2-2-1-2 2-2-1-3
5 5-1-1 5-1-2 5-1-3
4-1 4-1-1 4-1-2 4-1-3
1-2-2 1-2-2-1 1-2-2-2 1-2-2-3
3-2 3-2-2-1 3-2-2-2 3-2-2-3
1-4 1-4-1 1-4-2 1-4-3
2-2-3 2-2-3-1 2-2-3-2 2-2-3-3
2-3 2-3-2-1 2-3-2-2 2-3-2-3
1-1-3 1-1-3-1 1-1-3-2 1-1-3-3
Train entering section      
2 1-2 3 1-5

Additional notes by Nick Wellington

Comments about this article should be addressed to John Hinson