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Peculiarities & Oddities

Here I list the things I like best on German Signalling - the odd and strange things.

Hp 00 The Hp 00 aspect

That there are two aspects for 'Stop' pertains to the fact that in older rule books (Signalbuch) the signal Hp 0 (a single red light) meant 'stop for train movements', but shunting movements were to completely ignore this signal. So a new aspect Hp 00 (two reds) was introduced, meaning 'stop for train and shunting movements' while Hp 0 (a single red light) meant 'stop for train movements, shunting movements ignore this signal'.

Later, it was felt that a red light should be a red light, i.e. red should equal stop always.
(Note this is opposed to the U.S. practice of "If it's not all red, it's not red at all", see page "do American signals make sense?")
So the meaning was changed according to this: A red light (Hp 0) was stop for everyone. Hp 0+Sh 1 (red + two whites) was used to say "stop, shunting permitted". As you might expect, the second red lamp was obolete by now. As you might also expect, one could simply remove that bulb. But alas! The signals are wired such that the failure of a lamp is detected (which does make me feel much safer riding trains!), so you would have to re-wire the security equipment at the signal boxes. Since that would have become too expensive it was considered covering the second light with adhesive tape (no kidding!). But, as smart as we Germans are, we found a way much better:
The signal book states that the signal aspect Hp 0 (stop) is "one red light or two red lights arranged horizontally".

How to Light your Loco

In the 2008 edition of the Signal Book, there is a very special paragraph about the headlights of a train (Zg 1):

Signals on Trains (Zg)
[...]
2 Signal Zg 1 - Head Signal
(1)    marking of head of train
(2)    Day Aspect: No special signal
         Night Aspect: [description...follow link to Zg 1]
        [...]
        (4)    The night aspects must also be used during daytime

Now, comparing sentence (2) and (4), we find that:
    (2) at day, use no special signal,
    and
    (4) use lights at daytime....

The German Question

(This expression was used before 1990 in Germany for the political questions regarding the Division of the country.) As with railways, until 2008 (i.e. for about 18 years) there still existed two Signalbücher (Rule Books). Since some things have really developed differently, that is understandable, but the are some other things that are so different that you wouldn't imagine, so I shall present a few quotes here. The left column is DB (West) and the right column the corresponding DR (East) text, the differences are enhanced.

Note that with the 2008 edition of the signal book these differences have gone away - eighteen years after the Reunification...

Description of semaphore aspect Hp 0 (stop)

A signal arm - on two-armed signals the upper arm - points horizontally to the right. The signal arm - on two-armed signals the upper arm - points horizontally to the right.
Description of semaphore aspect Vr 2 (expect clear)
The round disc lies horizontally [i.e. is flipped edge-on].
Where a wing is present, it points straightly downwards. 
The round disc lies horizontally [i.e. is flipped edge-on].
The wing points straightly downwards. 
Description of speed reduction signal board Zs 3
A white digit on a black triangular board with a white border. A white number on a black triangular board with a white border.
Description of Lf 3 board (end of speed restriction)
A rectangular white board showing a black "E" standing on the shorter edge. A rectangular white board showing a black "E".
[note: this one also stands on the shorter edge...]

To Reflect Or Not To Reflect

Do you care whether a signal board is retro-reflective, lit (from outside), transparently illuminated, or neither? Originally I didn't. But Deutsche Bahn made me change my way of thinking, and I'll spend the rest of my life to figure out whether there's a sense behind, or if it's just secret messages from The Conspiracy...

Don't Drive Electric

A track's end, i.e. a buffer, is always marked with an Sh 0 board (stop). If there is an overhead wire that ends as well, and is also properly marked with an El 6 board.You may perceive this El 6 as "end of catenary" announcer, but its exact meaning is "Stop for verhicles with raised pantographs". However it is a rumour that, after lowering your panto, you may then proceed...