Railway Signalling

Signalling is vital for the safe operation of the railway – and if correctly modelled it can help emphasise the period, region and realism of a model railway, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES describes.

At the dawn of the railway age there was no need for signalling. Trains drawn by horses plodded along at slow speed and could be stopped before a collision. However, when trains needed to go opposite ways on single-track sections there could be conflicts, often descending into disagreements and fist fights on those pioneering railways.

Steam locomotives with higher speeds changed all that and soon it became necessary to introduce some sort of system for controlling traffic on the growing railway network. The Liverpool & Manchester Railway is reckoned to have been one of the first to employ railway policemen for this function. Officers were positioned approximately a mile apart and would indicate by hand signal whether the track ahead was clear or not.

An unidentified LNWR Claughton 4-6-0 leaves Rugby with an up express as a GCR B3 4-60 passes over the birdcage bridge. Photo Rail Archive Stephenson

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