OSShD Signals

General Information

Apart from some variations, the same colour light signals are being used throughout the 25 member states of the OSShD. The semaphores can vary somewhat, examples are Polish semaphore signals which strongly resemble their German counterparts enhanced with e.g. the French style carré violet shunting signals, or the Chinese semaphores which resemble British style semaphores.

The signals were modelled after the colour light signal aspects that were in use in the Soviet Union. The Soviet main signals consist of two heads, while distants have only one (you can think of the lower head being omitted for distants):

The upper head serves as distant signal and thus indicates the aspect to expect at the next signal, by showing one light which may be green or amber, steady or flashing, which makes four aspects (expect clear, expect fast, expect slow, expect stop). Some railways use slow and fast flashing to display even more aspects.

The lower head serves as main signal and indicates the speed in the next block. This head carries a red and an amber lantern, there are three aspects that can be displayed: red (stop), amber (slow), and off (clear). If you wonder about the fact that no light indicates clear, remember that on the upper head there is always one light, so the signal is never completely dark.

The resulting aspects are used in all OSShD railways, even though they may use individual styles of signal heads: Some countries use two heads while others use one head which carries all necessary lanterns. The aspects and their meanings are usually all similar.

Later several countries added features to give more detailed information about speeds: Czech & Slovak Republics, Hungary and Romania use fast and slow flashing at the upper light to give more distant indications, and most countries added amber and/or green bars below the lower head to give more speed indications at the main signal.


One red light: stop
One green or amber light which may be steady or flashing: this is a distant signal or a main signal at clear, the only light indicates the aspect to expect at the next signal. (See aspects)
Two lights: same as above with an amber light below: -upper light same as above (i.e. the upper light serves as 'distant signal')
-maximum speed from here on is limited.
additional bar(s) may further specify the limited speed. two green or one green bar(s): fast (but slower than clear)
one green or one amber bar: medium
no bar(s) at all: slow

The exact meanings of 'clear with maximum speed', 'fast', 'medium', 'slow' differ among the countries, see below.

For an overview see my page about East German Hl signals.

Signal Heads

The OSShD member states are using a variety of signal heads, although the aspects are (almost) the same. For displaying an aspect, it is irrelevant whether the signal has one or two heads and where an individual lantern is located. See also examples below. Contrary to North American signals, one head may be completely dark. The white light(s) are used as substitution signal (to allow to pass a failed signal at danger) or as shunting signal.

Russia and other former SU members Romania China, Bulgaria Hungary Poland Czech and Slovak Rep. East Germany
RŽD (Russia) CFR (Romania) CR, BDZ (China, Bulgaria) MÁV (Hungary) PKP (Poland) DC, SZ (Czech and Slovak Republics) DB, DR (East Germany)


The aspects, as said above, consist of one or two lights, which may be supplemented by one or two bars. The upper light serves as distant signal indicating the aspect the driver will meet at the next main signal. So there are the following "distant signal aspects":

country Grün Grün blinkend Gelb blinkend Gelb
Bulgaria, China1 expect clear - expect 40 km/h expect stop
Germany, Poland expect clear expect 100 km/h expect 40 or 60 km/h expect stop
Romania expect clear expect 90 km/h expect 30 / 60 km/h2 expect stop
Czech and Slovak Republics expect clear expect 80 / 100 km/h2 expect 40 / 60 km/h2 expect stop
Hungary expect clear expect 80 / 120 km/h2 expect 40 km/h expect stop
Russia expect clear expect 80 / 120 km/h expect 50 km/h expect stop

The lower light can be thought of as "main signal aspect", as with being dark for clear remember what is said above.

If there is one light, the current speed is clear, if are two lights, the lower light (always amber) is steady on. Depending on the country there may be no, one or two green or amber bars, indicating slow, medium, or fast speed:


dunkel Gelb + 2 grüne Balken Gelb + 1 grüner Balken Gelb + 1 gelber Balken Gelb Rot
Bulgaria, China1 clear - - - 40 km/h stop
Germany, Poland clear - 100 km/h 60 km/h 40 km/h stop
Romania clear - 90 km/h 60 km/h 30 km/h stop
Czech and Slovak Republics3 clear 100 km/h 80 km/h 60 km/h 40 km/h stop
Hungary clear 120 km/h 80 km/h - 40 km/h stop
Russia clear 120 km/h 80 km/h - 50 km/h stop


aspect Grün langsam blinkend, Gelb + 2 grüne Balken Gelb blinkend, Gelb + 1 grüner Balken Gelb schnell blinkend Grün blinkend, Gelb + 1 gelber Balken
"distant" aspect slow flashing green: expect 80 flashing amber: expect 50 fast flashing amber: expect 60 flashing green: expect 100
"main" aspect amber + 2 green bars: 120 amber + 1 green bar: 80 off: clear amber + amber bar: 60
indication clear with 120, expect 80 km/h clear with 80, expect 50 km/h clear, expect 60 km/h slow 60, expect 100 km/h


  1. On Chinese railways these aspects apply to entry signals only (block signals use different aspects), and strictly speaking Chinese signals do not convey speed information (i.e. slow vs. clear) but route information (i.e. diverging vs. straight entry).
  2. Some railways, as CD, ŽSR, and CFR use slow and fast flashing for amber or both colours. In this case, fast flashing means the faster of the two given speeds, and slow flashing means the lower of the two given speeds.
  3. CD and ŽSR use bars but also use numeric indicators for other speeds (e.g. "5" for 50 km/h)