Rail signals are visual or audible communication tools used in the railway industry to convey information to train drivers. They are typically placed along railway tracks and convey information about speed limits, route changes, and any potential hazards on the track ahead. The use of rail signals is critical to ensure the safe and efficient operation of trains.
There are several types of rail signals used in the railway industry, including:
Semaphore signals – Semaphore signals are mechanical signals that use arms to indicate the position of the track. These signals were widely used in the past, but have largely been replaced by more advanced electronic signals.
Colour light signals – Colour light signals use lights of different colours (typically red, yellow, and green) to convey information to train drivers. These signals are easier to read than semaphore signals and can be operated remotely.
Fixed signals – Fixed signals are signals that are permanently fixed in place and display a constant signal to train drivers. These signals are typically used to indicate the position of a junction or station.
Route indicators – Route indicators are signals that indicate the direction a train should take at a junction. These signals are typically used in conjunction with fixed signals to guide trains through complex junctions.
Warning signals – Warning signals are signals that indicate a potential hazard on the track ahead, such as a speed restriction or temporary speed limit.
The use of rail signals is governed by strict rules and regulations to ensure the safety of train operations. Train drivers must be trained to read and interpret rail signals correctly, and signalling systems must be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure they are functioning correctly. In recent years, advances in technology have led to the development of more sophisticated signalling systems, such as the European Train Control System (ETCS), which uses a combination of GPS and wireless communication to provide real-time information to train drivers.