Deutsche Bundesbahn

by John Hinson

Signals at Hanau
Photograph by Janet Cottrell, 1992

This example of a typical German semaphore signal was taken by Janet Cottrell in 1992. It is at Hanau, which is near Frankfurt.

Animation of signal operationTo understand the functions of these signals, it is necessary to discard any understanding of British signalling.

Hauptsignale (Stop Signals)

  1. The upper arm, when horizontal, indicates stop. The lower arm is vertical, flush with the post.
  2. The upper arm, when inclined at 45º, indicates clear.
  3. If the lower arm is also inclined at 45º, the signal indicates clear for a slow speed route - with a speed restriction of 40 km/h across the connections.

Vorsignale (Distant Signals)

The yellow-coloured signal in the photograph is a distant signal.

  1. The disc, when visible to the driver, or two amber lights by night, indicates caution.
  2. If the disc is pivoted to be flat and not visible to the driver, or two green lights by night, the signal indicated clear.
  3. The yellow arm, if pivoted to 45º (with the disc remaining face-on to drivers), indicates clear for a low-speed route. The night indication is amber (left) and green (right).

The principles of German signalling were adopted by many other European countries.

Additional notes by Simon Lowe and Robert Neuhoff

This photograph formed part of the July 2002 Quiz.

Comments about this article should be addressed to John Hinson