"Southern" EMU and DMU Headcodes

Train headsignals 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 see in use today. The early headcodes used on EMU stock (not the LBSC overhead electrics) were one character alpha based but using only a few of those available in the English alphabet. As you can imagine the system required far more letters than were available so a complicated set of dots and bars over the characters, with some characters inverted, evolved.
The early headcodes were displayed using a metal fret which was placed on the outside of the driving cab (the driver's front window opening outwards to facilitate changing the headcode) and backlit.
In May 1929 the Southern Railway introduced a far more logical set of two character numeric headcodes (as had been used by the LBSC ac EMUs) which is, basically, that which is still used by today's TOCs on the older rolling stock. Along the way the metal frets became roller blinds (and a red blank in the roller blind subsequently replaced the traditional tail lamp), the system was applied to DEMUs from 1957 and alpha codes returned to supplement the numeric ones.
These codes were adjusted from time to time as timetables changed and routes fell into disuse but were basically much the same and are still in use today on the older DEMU and EMU units still operating.
Of necessity, some codes are used more than once, though not normally where the routes conflict.

In the following pages are be set out "snapshots" of the headcodes in use at varying times from the early LBSC ac EMUs through to the MkI derived EMU and DEMU stock used today.
Access the headcodes by clicking the relevant link below:


LBSC AC Electrics

SR Alpha Codes
South Western Section Central Section South Eastern Section

SR Numeric 1939
South Western Section Central Section South Eastern Section

BR(S) 1961, 1971 and 1981
South Western Section Central Section South Eastern Section

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This page was last updated 31 January 2020

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