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Bell Codes

One of the "Sounds" of the railways of yesteryear (and still some today, in a few instances) was the ringing of bells. Bells were a very important form of communication and were used extensively for the Signalman to communicate quickly and efficiently with both his fellow Signalmen and, if sited at a station, the Platform Staff.

Probably the most frequent to be heard by passengers on a station were the Platform Bells. By this means the Signalman can inform the Station Staff of various matters they need to know. In a couple of seconds he can send his message which will be heard by all those on the Station, saving the need for someone to answer a telephone and pass the message on. The type of message sent this way will be to inform that an expected Train has entered the Block Section, later that its arrival is imminent and, where appropriate, which Platform it will arrive in. A further use of the Platform Bell is to quickly summon someone to attend the Signalbox, should that be necessary.

 
Example Platform Bell Signals (these will vary from station to station according to need)
Next up train left adjacent down station: 3-1
Next down train left adjacent up station: 1-3
Train approaching
 Platform 1: 1
 Platform 2: 2
Attend at Signalbox: 6
 
The main use of the bells however is for box to box communication to assist in the passage of trains from one block post to the next. Note that in the codes shown below the hyphen indicates a pause, i.e. 3 - 1 is three rings, pause, then one ring of the bell. Where a train was to run down a branch line Branch Train Entering Section had to be given by the second Signalbox in rear of a junction with Branch Is Line Clear and Branch Train Entering Section being given by the first Signalbox in rear of a Junction. The Branch Line Bell Codes were not used for Trains running on the Branch Line.
The Bell Codes used on the Southern Railway, as at 1st August 1931, were as follows:-
 
Double Lines
DESCRIPTION OF SIGNALHOW TO
BE GIVEN
CALL ATTENTION SIGNAL 1
IS LINE CLEAR FOR Passenger Train or Breakdown Van Train not going to clear the Line Main Line
Branch
3 - 1
1 - 3
Breakdown Van Train going to clear the Line, or Light Engine going to assist disabled Train Main Line
Branch
2 - 2
4 - 4
Fish, Meat, Fruit, Horse, cattle, Milk or Perishable Train composed of coaching stock Main Line
Branch
4 - 2 - 2
2 - 2 - 4
Empty Train Main Line
Branch
2 - 2 - 1
1 - 2 - 2
Goods or Through Ballast Train or Engines and Brakes Main Line
Branch
3 - 2
2 - 3
Light Engine or Light Engines coupled together Main Line
Branch
4 - 1
1 - 4
IS LINE CLEAR FOR Ballast Train requiring to stop in Section or Goods Train Working at Intermediate Sidings 5 consecutively
IS LINE CLEAR FOR Trolley requiring to pass through Tunnel 2 - 2 - 2
IS LINE CLEAR FOR Power-worked Inspection Car or mechanically or power-worked Trolley Through
Required to stop in Section
1 - 2 - 1
1 - 3 - 1
TRAIN ENTERING SECTION Main Line
Branch
2 consecutively
4 consecutively
SECTION CLEAR BUT STATION OR JUNCTION BLOCKED 3 - 5 - 5
BANK ENGINE IN REAR OF TRAIN 1 - 4 - 1
TRAIN OUT OF SECTION OR OBSTRUCTION REMOVED 2 - 1
ENGINE ARRIVED 2 - 1 - 3
TRAIN DRAWN BACK CLEAR OF SECTION 3 - 2 - 3
OBSTRUCTION DANGER 6 consecutively
BLOCKING BACK Inside Home Signal 2 - 4
Outside Home Signal 3 - 3
STOP AND EXAMINE TRAIN   7 consecutively
CANCELLING "IS LINE CLEAR" OR "TRAIN ENTERING SECTION" SIGNAL 3 - 5
LAST TRAIN SIGNALLED INCORRECTLY DESCRIBED 5 - 3
TRAIN PASSED WITHOUT TAIL LAMP To Box in Advance 9 consecutively
To Box in Rear 4 - 5
TRAIN DIVIDED   5 - 5
SHUNT TRAIN FOR FOLLOWING TRAIN TO PASS 1 - 5 - 5
VEHICLES RUNNING AWAY ON WRONG LINE 2 - 5 - 5
VEHICLES RUNNING AWAY ON RIGHT LINE 4 - 5 - 5
OPENING OF SIGNALBOX 5 - 5 - 5
CLOSING OF SIGNALBOX 7 - 5 - 5
TESTING BLOCK INDICATORS AND BELLS 16 consecutively
SHUNTING BETWEEN SIGNALBOXES WITHIN STATION LIMITS IN RIGHT DIRECTION Is Line Clear for Shunt Movement on Down Line? 4 - 2
Is Line Clear for Shunt Movement on Up Line? 4 - 3
Shunt Movement Entering Section 2 consecutively
Shunt Movement out of Section 2 - 1
Release Slot for Shunting 2 - 1 - 2
Cancelling "Is Line Clear for Shunt Movement?" or "Shunt Movement Entering Section" Signal 3 - 5 - 1
SHUNTING BETWEEN SIGNALBOXES WITHIN STATION LIMITS IN WRONG DIRECTION May Shunt Movement be made on Wrong Line 1 - 2
Wrong Line Shunt Movement clear of Section at Box in rear 2 - 3 - 2
Wrong Line Shunt Movement clear of Section at Box in advance 2 - 1
 
Single Lines
DESCRIPTION OF SIGNAL HOW TO
BE GIVEN
CALL ATTENTION SIGNAL 1
IS LINE CLEAR FOR Passenger Train or Breakdown Van Train not going to clear the Line Main Line
Branch
3 - 1
1 - 3
Breakdown Van Train going to clear the Line, or Light Engine going to assist disabled Train Main Line
Branch
2 - 2
4 - 4
Fish, Meat, Fruit, Horse, cattle, Milk or Perishable Train composed of coaching stock Main Line
Branch
4 - 2 - 2
2 - 2 - 4
Empty Train Main Line
Branch
2 - 2 - 1
1 - 2 - 2
Goods or Through Ballast Train or Engines and Brakes Main Line
Branch
3 - 2
2 - 3
Light Engine or Light Engines coupled together Main Line
Branch
4 - 1
1 - 4
IS LINE CLEAR FOR Ballast Train requiring to stop in Section or Goods Train Working at Intermediate Sidings 5 consecutively
IS LINE CLEAR FOR Trolley requiring to pass through Tunnel 2 - 2 - 2
IS LINE CLEAR FOR Power-worked Inspection Car or mechanically or power-worked Trolley Through
Required to stop in Section
1 - 2 - 1
1 - 3 - 1
TRAIN ENTERING SECTION Main Line
Branch
2 consecutively
4 consecutively
SECTION CLEAR BUT STATION OR JUNCTION BLOCKED 3 - 5 - 5
BANK ENGINE IN REAR OF TRAIN 1 - 4 - 1
TRAIN OUT OF SECTION OR OBSTRUCTION REMOVED 2 - 1
OBSTRUCTION DANGER 6 consecutively
RELEASE TABLET OR STAFF FOR SHUNTING 5 - 2
SHUNTING COMPLETED - TABLET OR STAFF REPLACED 2 - 5
BLOCKING BACK Inside Home Signal 2 - 4
Outside Home Signal 3 - 3
STOP AND EXAMINE TRAIN   7 consecutively
CANCELLING "IS LINE CLEAR" OR "TRAIN ENTERING SECTION" SIGNAL 3 - 5
LAST TRAIN SIGNALLED INCORRECTLY DESCRIBED 5 - 3
TRAIN PASSED WITHOUT TAIL LAMP To Box in Advance 9 consecutively
To Box in Rear 4 - 5
TRAIN DIVIDED   5 - 5
SHUNT TRAIN FOR FOLLOWING TRAIN TO PASS 1 - 5 - 5
VEHICLES RUNNING AWAY 2 - 5 - 5
OPENING OF SIGNALBOX 5 - 5 - 5
CLOSING OF SIGNALBOX 7 - 5 - 5
TESTING BLOCK INDICATORS AND BELLS 16 consecutively
TRANSFERENCE OF TABLETS OR STAFFS BY LINEMAN 4 - 4 - 4 - 4

This page was created 1 December 2003

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