Index to pages

  1. Deutsche Bundesbahn
    1. Sportfield (Frankfurt on Main)
    2. Wref (Würzburg)
    3. Signals at Hanau

German semaphore signalling consisted of arms mounted to the right of the signal posts - a principle hard to grasp for those familiar with British signalling. The arms generally had a circular "blob" or disc at the end. Interestingly, though, they were two-position and upper quadrant, although at junctions the lower arm would raise to vertical (in line with the post) when signals were cleared for the main route.

Signalling was generally worked from double-wire frames, mostly manufactured by Siemens & Halske. The Versschlußregister (interlocking) was behind the levers. Wiechenhebel (points levers) were coloured blue, whilst signalhebel (signal levers) were always red. Levers for Sperrsignale (shunting signals) were also coloured blue and numbered by the Roman system, e.g. Hs IV. Levers for Vorsignale (distant signals) were also red, and lettered V along with the identification of the signal to which they led - e.g Va is the Distant signal for Stop signal A. Unlike British practiice, every stop signal has its own distant signal.

The southern companies in Germany, which always had a regional leaning towards the Prussian-dominated Deutsche Reichs/Bundesbahn, had some older frames that drove the points by mechanical rodding. These dated from around the first world war, and were built by makers such as Jüdel and Bruchsal spring to mind. These points were operated by the typical "turnover" levers, but were equipped with a vertical rack-and-pinion transmission. The use of rodding for point operation has subsequently been abandoned and replaced by double-wire operation.

The Hauptsignal (Main Signal) acts as a stop signal, admitting trains to stations and allowing departure, or permitting the passing of a block station.

The method of working would be to set the points and point locks as required, then pull or push the Fahrstraßenhebel (route lever - a small 7" lever in front of the Blockuntersatz coloured green). If the route is set correctly, the route lever can be moved to its fullest extent to lock the points lever handle in position. The Blockuntersatz (interlocking box) can then be operated by pressing a plunger; this electrically locks the route lever and in turn releases the signal levers. This locks the route lever and releases the signal concerned. After the train passed a rail contact or track circuit the electrical route locking will reset by the train, the signalman then can reverse the route lever and all levers. There is also a emergency plunger that can be used to unlock the route in times of failure or abnormal operation.

The German principles of signalling were also adopted by several other European countries, including France (Alsace-Lorriane), Luxemburg, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Roumania.

Additional notes by Frank Müller, Simon Lowe, Robert Neuhoff and Michiel Rademakers