Signalling at Gilling

The signals on the RSME railway at Gilling are accurately modelled on the practice of the full-sized 19th/20th century North Eastern Railway. Their scale is 1/8th (1.5″ to the foot) to be easily seen and fit comfortably into the landscape with the overscale drivers. They are not for decoration and must be fully complied with. The signalling system is interlocked with the track circuits and points and is essential protection against derailments and collisions. If you intend to run a locomotive at the RSME track you must have a working knowledge of what follows. The amount of signalling in use will vary according to the type of event, so when there are only a couple of locos running around then no signals will be out, just keep an eye out for the correct lay of the points and each other. Public running will have enough signals out to give safe rides to the public, rallies and similar events will have everything out to provide safe operation for a lot of trains.

North Eastern Signals

The North Eastern Railway adopted the ‘Lower Quadrant’ slotted post semaphore signal.
Other companies (Not the GWR!!) and other parts of the LNER used the Upper Quadrant type. In both cases, when the semaphore arm is horizontal, the signal indicates ‘Danger’ ‘Stop’.
The below shows the difference between Lower and Upper Quadrant signals.

There are many arrangements of signal arms on posts, and those used at Gilling will be described in the sections below.

Note that the length of the arm indicates its importance, ie shorter arms are shunting signals.

Facing and Reverse Sides of Signals

An important principle in looking at the forest of signals facing you in some places is to recognise those which only apply to you and those which don’t. Only those facing the direction of travel must be obeyed. the others apply to trains going elsewhere. Also, as a working guide, signal arms always point left, so you should expect signals that apply to your train to be found on the left-hand side next to the track you are on, but this does not apply in every case; you must know just where this does not apply. This is called learning the road.

The above shows the back of a signal post where the arms present a white arm with black bands mimicking the coloured front side. Any signals showing a white arm with black band do not apply to you.

Stop and Distant Signals

The above picture shows the use of stop and distant signals. The yellow distant arm with the fishtail indicates the state of the next stop signal. On the left the signal is saying stop, the middle one is saying go (clear) but the next signal is saying stop (on). On the right, both arms are down saying go (clear) and that the next signal is also saying go (clear).
The distant signals allow the driver to proceed knowing that the next signal is showing clear.
The diamond symbol on a signal post indicates that it is on a track circuit so therefore an automatic or semi-automatic signal.

Bracket Signals

Where there is a set of facing points a bracket signal is provided.
Obviously, if the right signal is showing clear then the route is laid to the right and conversely if the left hand signal is showing clear then the left hand route is set.

The taller of the two indicates it is the main line route, the lower one indicates it is a subsidiary route which usually means there is a speed restriction. There are other bracket signals with equal heights and short arm lengths, these are for shunting moves.

Shunt Signals

At both Gilling and Erimus there are signals that have short arms. These are for shunting moves and can be on bracket signals as well as single posts.

Another confusing thing that you will come across is a signal with several arms on one post. Here you have to remember that starting with the top arm means you will take the left route. Erimus 22 signal is a good example.

Here the middle arm is showing clear, which indicates that you will be going into the middle of the three routes that are available, in this case number 2 loop.

The top arm will take you the yard and the bottom arm to number 1 loop which is on the right.

Here are Gilling signals 12 and 18. Both are shunt arms 18 on the left will take you on to the Up Line and 12 on the right will take you on the Down Line to the next shunt signal for either the Down Line platform 2 or the Bay Platform.

Signal Box Areas

At Gilling there are two signal boxes, Gilling and Erimus. Gilling being a station, the area controlled is called station limits, Erimus not having a station is called Box Limits.

Both boxes control a certain number of signals on the main lines. Entering any signalbox area the first signal is an Outer Home followed by a Home signal which will bring you opposite the signalbox, then there is a Starter Signal and finally an Outer Starter.

The Home Signal (No 29) at Gilling is a bracket signal due to there being a set of points after it, and another complication is that to enable extra moves within the station there are smaller arms below the main arms. In this case these are Calling On arms.

These, when showing clear, enable a train to proceed at caution into the section ahead and being prepared to stop short of any obstruction or other train.

There is another similar Calling On arm on No 7 signal on the Up Line at Gilling.

Banner Repeaters

In two places at Gilling, a signal may be liable to be hidden by a curve and the hidden signal might be at danger. The solution is a Banner Repeater some distance before, which moves in coordination with the signal that may be hidden. Gilling has one on each Main Line in the station area.

The signal seen here, is on the Up Line approaching the platform, this carries the Banner Repeater for the Up Main ‘Starter’ signal Number 8 which is hidden around the corner by the Village Hall building.

The Banner Repeater is the white disc in a black circle with a movable black bar. In this position it shows that the starter signal number 8 is showing clear. If Number 8 is at danger the black bar would be horizontal, drivers thus know the state of the associated signal ahead.

Note that both Banner Repeater signals happen to be attached to bracket signals which are facing the wrong way for the lines they are beside. This is merely convenience because the bracket signals happen to be in the right place to mount the Banner Repeaters. There is no significance other than the signal arms of both these bracket signals being white with black bands do not apply to a train moving in the direction that the Banner Repeaters are for.


The Main Lines at Gilling have a low electrical voltage present in them and each section of line between signals is isolated from the others, these are called Track Circuits. When a vehicle is on a section of track the voltage is shorted out and a relay will put the signal behind the vehicle to danger. Off the Main Lines with no track circuits, signals are under the direct control of the signalman.
Both signal boxes have a 30-lever frame with mechanical interlocking of the levers, which means signals cannot be cleared or points moved by the signalman if this would create a conflicting move. Also, all the Main Line points have detection built in that prevents a signal from clearing if the point blade has not fully gone into the position for the intended route.
It is still possible to make mistakes. The drivers can drive through a signal set at danger; a case of a SPAD – ‘Signal Passed at Danger’. The signals after all do not stop the trains, the drivers do. On the real railway you might be prosecuted or suspended. At Gilling you will get shouted at!!! Collisions or derailments are expensive with valuable locos and stock. As for the Signalman, he can also make mistakes; he can alter the signals and pull the points under a train. All signalmen are trained and passed out for operation of either or both signal boxes. In short, signals and interlocking do not prevent all mistakes. You must remain sharp.

Signals in Goods Yards

The signal boxes do not control the points in the goods yards. (There are three yards at Gilling). They control entry to each of the yards but the points within the yards are operated by yard staff via foot levers. But the signals at entry and exit to and from the yards are controlled by the signal boxes.

Some of the signals differ a bit from what has been described so far:

Here we have Erimus number 26 signal. The taller and larger of these is the Home signal for Erimus which refers to the Main Line and is showing clear. The smaller arms are shunt signals, again the top one means the left rule applies!!

Here the top shunt signal shows clear which indicates the train will be going into loop 2.

Gantry Signals

There are two gantry signals at Gilling, one in Erimus controlling exit from both loops or the yard. The other gantry signal is on the Down main line at Gilling, this is Gilling’s outer starter and also controls the exit from the Down Yard.

This is Erimus gantry. There are three posts (dolls) on this gantry. The very left controls number one loop, the main arm allows exit to the Up Main Line, the lower shunt signal to the head shunt or the bunker. The middle post controls number two loop, the main arm allows exit to the Up Main Line, the lower shunt signal to the head shunt or the bunker. Finally, the right-hand post controls the exit from the yard, the main arm allows exit to the Up Main Line, the lower shunt signal to the head shunt or the bunker.

This shunt signal is peculiar in that the other side, instead of being white with a black band, is yellow with a black band. When this signal is showing clear it means that shunting moves can be made in both directions without reference to the signalman and assuming nothing is moving in or out of the loops is usually left in the clear position.

The above is the gantry signal at Gilling. The right-hand post is the outer starter and is semi-automatic. The left-hand post controls exit from the Down Yard.

There is a catch point on the line from the Down yard so if you pass this signal at danger, you will find yourself heading down the embankment to the left!! They are mounted high purely to provide safe clearance when public passenger hauling, thus it can be seen from afar even though a Banner Repeater is provided as Down Yard staff can obscure the view at times.

Bi-Directional Working (wrong line moves)

In Gilling station both Down and Up Lines can have trains moving in either direction. On the Down Line these are all shunting moves but on the Up Line trains passing through and overtaking a train will go wrong line through the station. As a reminder to trains moving in the wrong direction there are Limit of Shunt Boards which indicate the limit of a wrong line move

Signal number 20 shows clear when trains passing wrong line through Gilling will be routed back onto the Down Line. The small arm on the right is a shunt signal which when clear allows trains to go into the Up Yard.

Route Knowledge

Finally, it is important to realise that just by following the principles set out above you cannot be certain to understand all the signals either at Gilling or on a real N.E. railway. This is because the positioning and meaning of signals in connection with a local track layout varies from place to place. Signals might be on the left of the track, over it or even on the right-hand side.
Here on the right we have the starter signal number 28 for Gilling Station and on the left signal number 15 for exit from the Bay platform or Down Yard.
As per the norm number 28 is on your left but number 15 will be on your right. When stood in the Bay or Down Yard at these signals it will be easy to mistake signal 28 for your signal.

Some signals you will have a challenging time to guess the significance of; you may have to pick out your signals from a thicket of signal posts. In short you need actual route knowledge. No actual railway driver would be allowed to drive a route without completely learning the route first under supervision and remembering by heart where each signal is and what exactly it means in detail. The same is true at Gilling. If you understand what is set out above, you will be 2/3rds of the way to understanding the signals at Gilling.
To understand them all you must walk the track with someone from Gilling who knows the whole thing by heart and who can point out where all the signals are and exactly what they mean.