German driver happy to answer questions you may have on rail operation

Discussion in 'International Transport' started by BR111, 29 May 2019.

  1. Fireless

    Fireless Member

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    Both are possible options.

    DB Netz has 2641 "Stellwerke" (both traditional signal boxes and IECC controlled installations).
    The "traditional" signal boxes (mechanical and electromechanical) are manned and operate the equipment in the direct vicinity.

    The power signal boxes can control equipment up to a couple of kilometres away are either controlled locally or remotely from a more central location.

    The 375 ESTW ("Elektronisches STellWerk" = electronic signal box) are usually controlled from the "Betriebszentrale" (similar to the regional operations centre) with some installations being controlled locally (in some cases a portacabin next to the actual ESTW as a "temporary measure").

    (Numbers are sourced from "Deutsche Bahn AG, Daten&Fakten 2018" and are not up-to-date)
     
  2. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I've unwittingly done exactly that on a Meridian FLIRT, the driver got out of the cab, walked back, moaned at me for it, then used a small switch in the door cavity to close the door.
     
  3. TheEdge

    TheEdge Established Member

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    Triggered by a photo I saw a few days ago of a BR182 on a rake of Doppelstock with an old DR coach in DB Red in there I wondered is there much true DR stock still around? Obviously the family and rebuilds based on the 243/143 locos are still common and the Ludmilla but beyond those?

    And is there much difference of the infrastructure or network when in what was East Germany?
     
  4. BRX

    BRX Established Member

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    I spent a short time living in Germany about 20 years ago so got to know the rail system fairly well. I was impressed with how well organised, integrated and reliable it was, and for some years it was my opinion that Germany had the best rail network in Europe.

    Since then though (based only on sporadic visits) my feeling has been that it's gone downhill a bit - trains commonly late for example, and the once easy-to-understand and consistent system now slowly fragmenting with competing operators.

    Does that seem like a fair comment... or is it just that my memories of DB in the 1990s are a bit unreliable?
     
  5. BRX

    BRX Established Member

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  6. duesselmartin

    duesselmartin Member

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    Reliablity hast gone down. Partially due to under investestment, partially capacity issues.
    Cologne is a classical bottleneck.
    The fare structure has changed but most operators are integrated in the Verbund system.
    Exceptions are the few long distance open access operators such aus Flix Train.
     
  7. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    There are probably ex-DR coaches left in IC formations, as some were converted. They look like the DB slamdoor coaches but have slightly wider doors and square roof ends rather than them being curved down to the gangway.

    There were similarly ex-DR "Silberling" like coaches around, may still be, they can be identified in the same way, but also by having one fewer bay in the centre section and so being rather more comfortable! By contrast, the ex-DR DoSto vehicles had a far more curved-in top deck and so were nasty in the extreme.
     
  8. BR111

    BR111 Member

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    There's not really a rule on that, but we are trained to brake with as few adjustments as possible, which is the most comfortable for the passengers. Freight trains have a few rules regarding how to brake but for the most part, you do it by 'feeling'. Before any journey the braking potential is calculated and this gives you an idea on how strong the train brakes, but when it's an EMU/DMU then it's pretty much always the same. The braking potential figure is mainly there so that we can determine our maximum speed, however. Constantly stopping with full service is never a good idea though - it's always good to have more braking power in case you suddenly need it rather than rely on you getting it right every time - just a bit of unexpected skidding can completely ruin your stop then.

    I'm not too sure, but I believe it would have been in the late 90s - Br 642 and Br 423 are the eldest MU's I'm aware of that use TAV. However, the requirements for TAV are continually becoming more strict - if tried to get the Br 642 newly approved for service today, there's no way it would be accepted as a TAV train.

    Yes, people standing in the way is a problem but a lot of people are used to it. A quick announcement that people should stand clear of the light barriers indicated by the yellow stripe on the floor does the trick about 95% of the time. For that other 5% you just have to get out and sort it. It's not a particularly common problem though, and it is usually tourists that don't understand German that cause this. Again, we do have the possibility to override the light barrier, but that then requires a visual check of the doors.

    Not particularly, especially if you look at the coaches. I know there's a fair bit of DR coaches running from Berlin to Stralsund and Rostock, but I'm not too familiar to be honest. I'm in the west and have only been in the east very few times on holiday.

    As far as infrastructure, yes, in fact there are signals that to a degree have a different meaning in what was east Germany and what was West Germany. There are also Signals in East Germany still in use that aren't used in the west. In our Signal book, signals that are specific to West Germany are marked as DS 301, and signals specific to East Germany are marked as DV 301 (what DS and DV means I don't actually know, but 301 is the name of the signal book). There are some that make a huge difference, such as the Hl Signals that are only in East Germany. A West German driver without Signal knowledge of East Germany would be very confused. However, some are only very subtle differences (for example the Signal Ra 11 - in the west there is only a yellow version, in the east you can have a white or yellow version with different meanings), and some look identical but mean something different (hand junction 'weights', which is basically the lever to change the junction that is painted in a certain way which gives you information about the specific junction). If you are only in the east or in the west, then you only learn the corresponding side, but training for the other side doesn't take long, as most procedures are identical - it's really just a case of learning the new/different signals. So it's not a big barrier for someone who decides to move across the country, or if you join a more central Fernverkehr or Cargo depot where you will drive in east and west.

    Fair and is definitely the majority opinion of most rail employees here, and probably the general public too. I'd still say that it is probably one of the best european systems in terms of safety and operation. It's bound to be one of, if not the most complex.
     
  9. hexagon789

    hexagon789 Established Member

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    Thank you for the explanation.

    Very much like the reasoning here these days as well then.
     
  10. JonathanP

    JonathanP Member

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    Thanks for doing this!

    I would be really interested to hear how being a driver works career-wise in Germant. You've surely seen from the careers section of this forum that there is an huge interest in becoming a train driver, and the number of applicants hoping even to be placed into a queue from which they might eventually be offered a job is enormous.
    However, I keep hearing that there are big shortages of drivers in Germany, and reading that recruitment is difficult. Just about every train company seems to be constantly recruiting drivers. Is this really true or is down to poor personnel planning, high turnover and an unwillingness to pay for training? Is it highly competitive to get a job as a train driver in Germany?

    These days in the UK it's pretty common to start with a Train Operating Company 'at the bottom' as a station attendant, then progress to guard and then driver, and younger people often go this route because it's much easier than trying to get a job as a driver as an external candidate. Is it common to do that in Germany too, or do people typically just do their Ausbildung in a particular area and then stick with that career for the rest of their life?
     
  11. Spoorslag '70

    Spoorslag '70 Member

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    1. It's a mixture of various factors: relatively low pay, poor planning, poor conditions (some companies changed their shift planning and now give their drivers quite awful shifts) but some people also blame it on a lack of security, i.e. that there is no gurantee that the next operator will take you - some new franchies now include such conditions.

    2. As it's all different companies, I think it's unlikely that many newcomers work there way up. DB recently ditched the requirement for a cover letter for all "Ausbildungen" and they do always look for drivers - anyone on here?
     
  12. Fireless

    Fireless Member

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    Germany has the problem that the many children of the Wirtschaftswunder (1950s/1960s) are nearing their retirement and those people make up a rather large part of the railway workforce.
    Education standards were also significantly altered with far more people finishing school with the "Abitur" and prefer to pursue an academic career instead of an "Ausbildung" (apprenticeship). Amongst the people without Abitur or prefering to do an Ausbildung, working on the railway is certainly not everybody's cup of tea, especially with plenty of "more attractive" (as in Mo-Fr from nine to five with less requirements, no work holidays etc) options than becoming a driver, especially with the rather bad image the DB has and politicians and managers dreaming about driverless trains.
    Anyone willing to become a driver has to survive the usual procedures (assessments, interview, medical and psycological examinations), which also filters out quite a few people (For signallers, a trustworthy source told me that about half of them fail the medical and/or psycological examinations. I imagine it is a quite similar affair for drivers).

    Working ones way up was the traditional way but recruitment is mostly done "from the street" nowadays in order not to drain the human ressources in other areas of the railway.
    TOCs not looking for qualified drivers are offering training for people with a completed Ausbildung and some (e.g. DB Cargo) also offer a full Ausbildung called "Eisenbahner im Betriebsdienst, Fachrichtung Lokführer and Transport" (operational railway staff, specialisation driver and transport) theoretically open for anyone with decent school education.
     
  13. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Quite different from the UK there, where pay is up there with quite a lot of professional jobs and there is (barring things like DOO causing mass guard redundancies) basically a job for life because you will get TUPEd from TOC to TOC as necessary.

    (I guess Germany doesn't have a TUPE equivalent, i.e. protection of jobs when a contract transfers from one organisation to another? Surprising given how well-protected German workers' rights typically are)
     
  14. TheEdge

    TheEdge Established Member

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    I found this when I was looking. I went through quite a horrible period a few years ago and considered making a new start overseas. I looked into moving to Germany and trying to get a job with DB, then did some digging into pay, conditions and the like then immediately crossed the option off the list. I was shocked at how relatively poorly paid and treated DB drivers seem to be, at least compared to the UK.
     
  15. BR111

    BR111 Member

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    A big filter of applicants is the medical and psychological tests that everyone has to go through. I think this might be identical to the UK tests, as we both end up with EU licenses (before a brexit at least) - would be great if someone could shed more light on the matter. And you're right - you can more or less choose where you want to work because everyone is searching with very very few exceptions. The reasons for this have been answered by others quite well. It's a mixture of relatively little pay (I believe we are the worst paid drivers in Europe, a close 2nd being Italy), working conditions and that a huge percentage of the current work force is about to retire. Pay rises are very frequent now though and conditions are improving - I think it's finally caught on that it has to be more attractive to get more applicants. As this info is available to anyone from the GDL (one of the German rail staff unions), I can disclose that at DB as of 1st June 2019, starting salary before things like shift work, overtime, night hours etc. is €2960 a month, plus a 13th month for a christmas bonus - after tax, health ensurance etc being deducted and all bonuses/extras being added on, this will be about 2 - 2,300€ paid into your account for a single adult, which is approxmiately 1770 - 2040 GBP. Rather little compared to the UK from what I gather.

    From a recruitment stand point, internal training is also done but there is a hell of a lot of external training going on, and this is definitely the more dominant source. There are 2 main ways (as someone else briefly touched on) - if you have finished school and have a "Mittlere Reife" (GCSE's), you can apply for an apprenticeship called Eisenbahner in Betriebsdienst Fachrichtung Lokführer/Transport. This takes 3 years, but can be cut down to 2.5 years if you're above average. This also involves visiting a vocational school, and insights into the railway on things that don't directly affect you as a driver where you will later be working. An example would be that for DB Regio, you would also learn the job of a conductor, spend a few months in various signal boxes, and learn about freight train safety - things that aren't necessary when you've finished but required for the whole training process to qualify as an apprenticeship. This is how I became a driver, although I did actually have A-levels done at the time of applying.

    The 2nd route is only viable if you have already completed an apprenticeship or have studied - this one is approximately 9-11 months long, and you only learn things relevant to the job and the area you will work in. I'd assume this to be the same with the UK

    This definitely, 100% exists in Germany. If a new company takes over, they must take over the work force already there (should these workers accept) before hiring new staff.

    I would say things have improved since you last looked, but if you compare conditions and pay to other countries, I don't think we come out high at all.
     
    Last edited: 3 Jun 2019
  16. dutchflyer

    dutchflyer Member

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    Just one short note re pay and what it allows you to:
    Prices in general in Germany are also quite a bit lower as in the UK, in fact 1€ will often buy more as 1 GBP (worth €1,11 today) for the normal everyday needs. Staff-shortages are the normal daily routine also about anywhere in Germany, not just for train (or bus) drivers. Still I wonder why not more of the eastern neighbours, who had an enormous big trainstaff before, many of whom spoke german quite well, come to DB or any of the many others for work, the equivalent of the Polish bricklayer/plumber. OFten it seems to me that nearly all german buses of today, local and FLIX, are run by drivers from there, so why not the trains?
    Deutsche Bundesbahn in the days of BRD/DDR was a real official ''beamtenbahn'' (official government workers with special status), does this negative image still hold on today?
     
  17. BR111

    BR111 Member

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    In a nutshell, that's pretty much all the areas that can be affected. Safety systems such as the PZB and SiFa (UK AWS/TPWS and DSD I believe) can fail, the horn, any kind of lights, including headlights or the lightbulbs for failure lamps in themselves could also stop working, or the various monitors could also stop working, as well as the train bus in itself if the computer fails. There might be physical damage to the train in case of a collision, with say a deer, which could bend or break some parts, including bending a 'sand tube' so that it no longer faces the track.

    How they are detected is very specific to the train, but ultimately it will be a notification of some kind either through a monitor or a designated light and/or sound, or maybe you simply notice that something is wrong (train maintains its speed unusually badly or accelerates poorly can be indicators of traction or brake failure). There are a lot of circuit breakers that you can use to reset computers, and various tips and tricks you learn when in training for that specific bit of traction on how you can get past or rectify errors, but mostly if something stops working, you turn it off if a reset or 2 don't work, although this can have other implications (a disabled brake could involve a lower maximum speed - additional difficulties if it is the first or last vehicle due to the way the air brakes work, headlights might have an impact on night or fog driving, a horn can also impact maximum speed and mean you follow other procedures when on level crossings, doors can impact escape routes in case of an emergency, etc.

    Essentially, if it exists, it can fail, but you've definitely outlined the key areas.

    True, Germany is cheaper and so it isn't fair to simply compare the net outcome of England and Germany, but I wouldn't say the difference is all that big. I live in pretty much the most expensive part of Germany, and I can still get by without worry on my pay - it's just obviously not a particularly lavish lifestyle, but I can even put money aside and still not worry too much about running out.
     
  18. CC 72100

    CC 72100 Established Member

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    BR111 - still appreciating all the insight you are able to offer on here, all very interesting!
     
  19. MfS

    MfS On Moderation

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    Servus,

    I too have found your postings to be most interesting reading, comparing operating practices in DE / UK.

    I am from Brandenburg / Berlin originally but lived and worked for one of the privatized railway companies in England for a few years until recently.

    From what you have wrote above I guess you are also in Bayern or Baden-Württemberg?

    Do you happen to know if there is an upper age limit for the DB Eisenbahner in Betriebsdienst?

    Danke.
     
  20. BR111

    BR111 Member

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    You're very welcome!

    As far as I'm aware there isn't an upper age limit for Eisenbahner in Betriebsdienst, but know that most people will be young.16 - 19 seem to be the most common ages to start, although in my year there were two people in their early thirties. If you're asking this because you're considering being a driver in Germany, given that you have had experience in England, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have to do it and you could jump into the Funktionsausbildung which is the 9 - 11 month version. The Funktionsausbildung also has people from many age groups, and you get paid nearly the full starting wage straight away - someone who is doing an Eisenbahner in Betriebsdienst Ausbildung doesn't actually get a wage, only a Ausbildungsvergütung (common practice for any apprenticeship in Germany), which is between a quarter and a third of the starting wage (I'm not entirely sure if I'm allowed to disclose numbers here, but to be honest I don't have any handy anyway)
     
  21. YorkshireBear

    YorkshireBear Established Member

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    Excellent thread. I first visited Germany 3 years ago, which was Munich, and caught a bit of a bug for the country. Have now visited a further 6 times with two more trips coming up this year. Love exploring the rail network (as I do in any country) but the beer and food also attract me. Now learning German too to make me more proficient when visiting.

    Finding detailed information on their rail network with my limited German is actually quite difficult so this thread is answering a lot of my questions. Keep up the good work!
     
  22. TurboFintan

    TurboFintan Member

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    Fascinating thread, I have a big interest in German/Deutsche railways and always love visiting there. My last visit there was Berlin a few years ago and was lucky to get 143s with rather ancient stock before they were replaced by the Talent 2s.

    I have a question regarding stopping positions at stations, seems rather complex to me. The only thing I can identify is a 'H' stopboard sign but even then I've seen stations without them present or trains stop short of them (especially if the stopboard is right at the platform end). I know some of the S-Bahn networks use these signs (along with being labelled 'Vollzug', 'Kurzug' etc.) for trains of varying length to stop at. Others at larger stations have the distance in metres labelled on them*.
    Is it up to the driver on the stopping position where appropriate if at a local station?

    *Bonus question - how does the driver determine the length of his/her train?
     
  23. AlexNL

    AlexNL Established Member

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    I once saw this on a German station, indicating where a 4-car train (formed of two LINT trains) should stop... :D

    5b57071035a2.jpeg
     
  24. Fireless

    Fireless Member

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    The basic requirement for a passenger train stopping at a station is to have all doors at the platform either stopping with the front of the train at the end of the platform or "out of experience" (e.g. with the front of the train next to the bin), so it is up to the driver without an H-board.
    When a H-Board is provided, the front of the train should stop at the one for at least the appropriate train length.

    The driver knows the length of the train in meters as it is stated in the necessary paperwork like the "Bremszettel" (a form about the brake characteristics of the train), the "Wagenliste" (a form about the train formation) and the internal timetable (the signallers are rather keen on knowning if they can fit a train into a loop).
     
  25. BR111

    BR111 Member

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    Pretty much as @Fireless has said. A "H-Tafel" aka Ne 5,is where the front of the train must stop according to its length - failure to do so is technically disobeying a signal, although repurcussions for missing by a few meters are rather small. These H-Tafel are sometimes set up in questionable places, e.g. the exit is at the back of the platform but a H-Tafel is at the front of the platform. This is to do with the rail safety, but should this be unaffected, then they are set up so that the train stops where most customers will be standing because of where the exits are. What I mean by train safety is, for example, if a level crossing guarded by a main signal is just behind a platform, then a train should stop at the end of the platform, because if the train did start against a red light without permission, the PZB would stop it almost instantly. However, if the train was further back, it would have gained more momentum which means it might hit the level crossing because of the speed it has gained (despite the 500 Hz restriction) rather than it being stopped within the first roughly 10 meters say of it accelerating. That is why you may find them in odd places that don't make sense at a first glance, and why they count as a signal and not information (signals must be obeyed, information should be used but isn't an instruction, i.e. the Orientierungszeichen which I will brief on just below). The S-Bahn has an exception in that instead of meter lengths, it uses Kurz, Voll and Langzug (short, 'full' and long train), as you rightly pointed out. But this is only used on platforms where only the S-Bahn stops. Shared platforms will use meter lengths.

    In addition, we have something called "Orientierungszeichen" which are orientation boards, they are basic boards with x meters written on them (not in conjunction with a H-Tafel!) - these are purely to help the driver orientate himself as to where he might stop as opposed to having to guess, and are not required to be stopped in front of. Here, the basic requirement of all doors at the platform is in effect. On stations with no information, you use route knowledge as you will have learned reference points. If in doubt, you can of course always go further than you'd think necessary - even to the end of the platform - so that there is no risk of doors not being at the platform. Generally the crowd stands where the train usually stops, but of course this shouldn't be used as actual orientation!

    The rulebook states that if a train is longer than the platform it is scheduled to stop at, it may stop there if the operating company has ensured that the rail staff can guarantee that the doors are not in service at those stations. A conductor can lock or stand by a door to ensure nobody uses it, but some trains can actually remotely lock doors from the cab. I know some platforms, including the ones I frequent, are being used that way, but I've never heard of a stop where more than one door doesn't fit on a scheduled train, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist somewhere.

    Also as @Fireless said, we have documentation that tells us the train length - all the relevant information is written on the side of every vehicle permitted to run in Germany (should it be missing, the vehicle is not allowed to be moved), so you would walk along the train, write down what you need and then calculate everything at the end in the cab, or your Zugführer (Guard) does it for you. On most MU's this will also be displayed somewhere, but of course these numbers quickly stick in your head, so you don't really refer to them often. Every MU and pretty much every loco hauled train that runs regularly has also moved on to something called a Dauerbremszettel (constant brake sheet) which saves you having to fill out this document before every journey. How this works and why it is allowed is rather hard to explain without showing an example of one (it is very easy, just hard to describe). So you only really find yourself filling out these forms if you got really unlucky with brake faults.

    What he got slightly wrong, however, was that the timetable tells you the train length. This is incorrect, as the timetable only tells you how long your train is permitted to be - if it exceeds that, you need to inform the Betriebszentrale (although it is usually reasonably accurate).
     
  26. TurboFintan

    TurboFintan Member

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    Many thanks Fireless and BR111.

    Another question is regarding signalling with a speed restriction displayed. Does this restriction apply until 'completing' a junction or a crossover or until the next signal?
    For example, the track you are on is 120 km/h and the signal displays a 60 as you will be crossing over to an adjacent track (linespeed also 120 km/h), can you exceed 60 km/h once all your train has crossed over to the adjacent track or you strictly adhere to the 60 until the next signal. I appreciate it might be more complicated than this.
     
  27. BR111

    BR111 Member

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    I've already tried to explain this earlier in the thread. However, I am home now and could make a video about this topic if the demand is there. But in a nutshell: It depends what kind of main Signal is attached to the speed restriction. If it's an entry or 'in-bewteen' signal, then the speed is valid until the next main signal (if your train is scheduled to stop before this main signal, the speed limit is lifted once you have reached this stop. If it is an unscheduled stop, then the next main signal is still where the speed must be held). If it's a block or exit signal, then it is valid until the last junction belonging to that signal.
     
  28. axlecounter

    axlecounter Member

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    I still don’t get the scheduled stop thing.
    I mean, I understand what you mean and “see” where the speed limits end in the two cases, but fail to see in which cases such a situation could happen/would be useful or especially how could the Stellwerk secure the differents situations (with and without scheduled stop). Or is this some special situation?

    R. driver in Switzerland
     
  29. BR111

    BR111 Member

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    Scheduled stop is me trying to translate planmäßiger Halt. As far as I know that's also the biggest difference between the Austrian and German railway in that regard - the austrians don't use it either, so it might not exist for you. It basically means if the train has a scheduled stop, i.e. at a platform, then when it has reached this stop then the Anschließender Weichenbereich is ended. You can then immediately drive with the speed the next main signal is showing you. The only exception to this is if you had a "Fahrt auf besonderem Auftrag" which encases a Befehl and Zs 1/7/8. Then the planmäßiger Halt clause is made void. It's useful because you can leave stations faster if you get Hp 1 but say had a 60 km/h entry.

    However, if e.g. a cargo train stops because the signal is red, and was allowed to enter with 40 km/h, but the next signal is Hp 1 (so line speed permitted), the train would have to completely pass the main signal with maximum 40 km/h before it can go at line speed.

    I'm not trying to bash your english skills, but if you want I can explain it to you in German. It might make more sense, because of a lot of terms I'm using in english I'm just kind of translating to what I think fits the most - in German I can use the actual terms which might be easier to understand.
     
  30. axlecounter

    axlecounter Member

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    Thank you. Don’t bother with german as that isn’t my first language either :lol: It’s quite clear what you say and knowing the german words I can always see what you translated into what, that’s not a problem.

    Did I get it correctly that the train has to pass the next signal, train end (Zugschluss) included, at the speed signalled by the previous signal? That to be sure the last point (Weiche) of the previous section has passed, I guess?

    So, if that is correct, the above mentioned rule about the scheduled stop is just another way of saying that if a train stops at the platform it surely means that it is short enough to have left the previous Weichenbereich ? Is it?
     

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