Why did BR start/stop displaying headcodes?

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birchesgreen

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In the 1960s locomotives and multiple units (apart from Southern Region) started to display 4 character train headcodes on their fronts. This continued until the 1970s when the decision was made to stop doing this and eventually the boxes were plated over. What I've never been able to find out is why BR changed it's mind on displaying these codes on trains (and indeed why they started doing it in the first place). Can anyone explain?
 
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Peter C

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I always thought it was to do with signallers along the line. Closure of signalboxes along routes meant there was no need to show what the train was as it went along.
Wikipedia has this to say:
By 1976, the replacement of the huge number of manual signal boxes with centralised power-signalling coupled with computer-based train control and more modern telecommunications systems meant that it was no longer necessary to display headcodes throughout the railway network. Outside the Southern Region blinds were set to 00 or 0000, and discs/lamps to the former express passenger code. Roller blinds were later blanked or plated over to show two dots and new trains introduced for service outside the Southern Region after this time usually had no train reporting number display equipment.

-Peter :)
 

Bigman

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I always wondered that. Was it because of the gradual removal of manual signal boxes, so there was less need for signalman sat in power boxes not needing to actual see the train? I cannot however imagine what an HST would have looked like with a big box with 1A12 in it.
 

simonw

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In the 1960s locomotives and multiple units (apart from Southern Region) started to display 4 character train headcodes on their fronts. This continued until the 1970s when the decision was made to stop doing this and eventually the boxes were plated over. What I've never been able to find out is why BR changed it's mind on displaying these codes on trains (and indeed why they started doing it in the first place). Can anyone explain?
Wiki gives some background

 

Whistler40145

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I always assumed that with a mixture of Semaphore and Colour Light Signals throughout the BR network that not every line was fitted with Track Circuits, therefore the only means of displaying the headcode of each train was on the front
 

Snow1964

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Although 4 digit headcodes were introduced in 1960s, there were some 3 digit versions in 1960s

Particularly used on West of England trains in 1950s (where there could be lots of summer Saturday extras).

Wasn’t just for signallers, Headcodes were also for station staff in the days when they used manual finger boards and called out (or if fitted, used PA system) the destination of the train.

Didn’t really matter where trains were infrequent (or carriages carried destination boards), but where trains could be every few minutes and possibly running out of sequence (if delayed) needed to be able to identify them
 

birchesgreen

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Thanks guys some interesting replies, I hadn't considered its use with signalling I'd always assumed their primary use was with identification at stations and depots.
 

gg1

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I always wondered that. Was it because of the gradual removal of manual signal boxes, so there was less need for signalman sat in power boxes not needing to actual see the train? I cannot however imagine what an HST would have looked like with a big box with 1A12 in it.

I've often wondered if that was the original purpose of the lower of the 2 windows on the prototype HST power cars, with a visible headcode being part of the initial design brief but the decision to scrap them being made at an early point in the construction process.
 

Cowley

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I've often wondered if that was the original purpose of the lower of the 2 windows on the prototype HST power cars, with a visible headcode being part of the initial design brief but the decision to scrap them being made at an early point in the construction process.

That’s a very interesting thought. Perhaps @43096 would know?
 

Revaulx

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One of the most oft-repeated (and even more oft-ignored :rolleyes:) fundamentals for a successful transition from a manual to a computerised system is “get the manual data to be in a fully tested computer-friendly format BEFORE you start uploading it”. So it made perfect sense to get Train Reporting Numbers fully in use prior to the big switch over. The “wasted” expenditure on headcode boxes that were only in use for a decade or so was probably a price worth paying for a smooth transition.
 

43096

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That’s a very interesting thought. Perhaps @43096 would know?
There were various early designs of HSDT front end that I think had headcode boxes, but can’t lay my hands on them at the moment. Whether the actual prototype had provision I don’t know. Probably a question for Sir Kenneth Grange - he would know!
 

notabasher

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There were various early designs of HSDT front end that I think had headcode boxes, but can’t lay my hands on them at the moment. Whether the actual prototype had provision I don’t know. Probably a question for Sir Kenneth Grange - he would know!
There is picture of a very early (1969) wooden model of the HST power car with such a set-up on page 12 of "HST Silver Jubilee" by Colin J Marsden.
 

Taunton

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The large 3-digit plates on the Western Region came from GWR days. Steam locomotives had a frame added to the smokebox door when required, but the pioneer diesels had a permanent frame on the nose. With the Warships the changeover came in production at D812. The train numbers were actually shown in the Ian Allan spotters books for the Western Region at the time. You could normally find spare frames plus a few odd number plates against the back wall of any major WR loco shed! There seemed some attempt to synchronise the two systems - the westbound Cornish Riviera had been 130, became 1C30. The frames continued for quite some time into the 4-character era, especially on steam locos, so diesels would show 1V25 while steam locos had express lamps and V25 in the frame. The alpha plates were all new, letters had not been used before. Here (second photo down) is a pioneer Warship, with discs for Class 1 express and A38 for service 1A38 :


Extreme novice trainspotters wrote down A38 in their notebooks!
 

XAM2175

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I've often wondered if that was the original purpose of the lower of the 2 windows on the prototype HST power cars, with a visible headcode being part of the initial design brief but the decision to scrap them being made at an early point in the construction process.
Totally uninformed speculation on my part, but having just looked at recent photos of 41001 it does appear quite possible that the empty spaces above the marker lights could have been intended for headcode rollers.
 

43096

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Totally uninformed speculation on my part, but having just looked at recent photos of 41001 it does appear quite possible that the empty spaces above the marker lights could have been intended for headcode rollers.
The empty space above the headlight isn’t empty - that’s where the tail light is.
 

Ken H

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They were properly called reporting number. Signallers at reporting boxes would tell control when trains passed, by reporting number. Once train descriptions were reliably passed from box to box, the signallers knew the reporting number without looking at the train. I assume station staff had a display showing the descriptions.
Thats what I understood. May be wrong....
 
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