Steam Era Headcodes, Headboards and Headsignals

Variously called Headcodes, Headboards or Headsignals, train headcodes were originally established by the Railway Clearing House and were based on the position of lamps on the front of trains, usually denoting class of train but also used to denote route, especially so by the southern companies. Over the years local variations were introduced by the individual railways which evolved into those we saw in use until the demise of slam-door rolling stock. The codes depicted on these pages, used by the Southern Railway and its constituents, were displayed by discs during daylight hours and lamps during darkness. In modern times the lamps are white but other colours were used during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Further details on this is supplied on the appropriate page.

In the following pages are set out "snapshots" of the headsignals in use at varying times (at present only those for the LB&SCR, LC&DR, L&SWR, SECR, SER and SR are shown).


photograph by Colin Duff

The classic 15 inch diameter Southern disc used to represent the daytime headcodes. This one was photographed on 30777 Sir Lamiel whilst at the York Railfest 2004.

Access the headcodes by clicking the relevant link below:

LB&SCR, from 1881
LB&SCR, 1910 to 1917
LB&SCR, 1917 to 1922
LB&SCR, from 1922
L&SWR from 1905
L&SWR from 1921
SER from 1894
LC&DR from 1896
LC&DR from 1898
SE&CR from 1917
Southern Rly from 1934
Southern Rly from 1936
Southern Rly from 1944

Please note the discs and lamps shown are indicative and not meant to represent fully the actual ones used, nor their size.

Return to Headcodes index page.

This page was last updated 1 August 2020

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