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Midland Railway home signalBritish signalling follows well established principles that were not echoed to any significant extent in other European countries. Perhaps this is because the Board of Trade created tight standards from an early date, an expensive option that most railways would have preferred to avoid. However, British-style signalling could (and often still can) be found in various parts of the former British Commonwealth and also South America.

Although the individual railways in Britain intially developed their own ideas, harmonisation of signalling principles soon took place, and semaphore signalling as we know it today was well established by the 1880s. Power operation of points and signals had arrived by the turn of the century, although initially only for small signalling schemes. It wasn't until the 1950s that large-scale power signalling came along. The earliest applications of power signalling simply saw motorisation of existing types of semaphore signal, but it wasn't long before colour-light signals appeared.

Although colour-light signalling covers most British main lines today, there are still many pockets of semaphore signalling to be found. At present, colour light signalling is not covered in detail on this site, but this will be added when time permits.

The number of animations per page has been kept to a minimum, but please be patient while each page loads. Browsers can be configured to not show animations, and for some curious reason many network supervisors configure their networked computers this way. If your signals don't go up and down, it isn't my fault!

Principles - drawings and descriptions

  1. The Basics
  2. Stop and Distant Signals
  3. Subsidiary Signals
  4. Shunting Signals
  5. Combined Home and Distant Signals
  6. Junction Signals
  7. Shunting Signals for multiple routes
  8. Improving the view
  9. Regional variety
  1. LMS 1932 Speed Signalling

In the flesh - photographs

  1. Crossbar and board signals
  2. Points indicator signals
  3. Caledonian
  4. Cheshire Lines Committee
  5. Furness
  6. Great Central
  7. Great Eastern
  8. Great Northern
  9. Great Western
  10. Highland
  11. London, Brighton & South Coast
  12. London, Midland & Scottish
  13. London & North Eastern
  14. London & South Western
  15. Midland
  16. North British
  17. North Eastern
  18. Southern
  19. Banner signals
  20. Three-position signals
  21. 1932 LMS Speed Signalling

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