Signalman (rail)

Signalman (rail)

A signalman or signaller is an employee of a railway transport network who operates the points and signals from a signal box in order to control the movement of trains.


The first signalmen, originally police officers (leading to the nickname of 'bobby' for signalmen), were employed in the early 1800s and used flags to communicate with each other and train drivers.

Additional duties

It was a signalman's duty to check each train that passed his signal box, looking for the red taillight hung on the final vehicle that confirmed that the train was still complete.

Each train movement was logged, by hand, in a register, and it was normal practice to provide a special desk to support this sizeable book.

North of Sydney, Australia, there lies a steep section of line known as Cowan Bank. In the days of steam trains and in the early days of subsequent electric haulage, this required the assistance of a bank-engine to assist trains up the 1 in 40 grade. The Signalmen at each end had to control the movement of the trains themselves, as well as the return of the assistant engines to the bottom of the grade ["Operation of Cowan and Hawkesbury River Signal Boxes" Patterson, Brian D. Australian Railway History, June, 2008 pp197-208] .


See also

*Railway signalling
*The Signal-Man, a short story written by Charles Dickens in 1866.

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