Why were headcode boxes discontinued?

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dk1

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In the old days, trains used to display these codes at the front. They seem to have disappeared now, or have I been looking in the wrong place?
There has been no need for decades now with more modern signalling. Obviously they are used and very important indeed.
 

samuelmorris

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There has been no need for decades now with more modern signalling. Obviously they are used and very important indeed.
Class 345 units display them on the side of the train, but as far as I'm aware that's the only case of them being publicly displayed in modern times. I wonder if 720s also will?
 

Shunter_69

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The Public don’t need to know them but can easily look them up if they really want to.

The same head code can be on many different trains nationally so could confuse people.
 

TheEdge

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So used within the railway industry, but not divulged to the public.
Whats more useful to the public, "1P03 is running 5 late" or "the 0530 to Liverpool Street is 5 minutes late"?

There seems to be this odd concern about headcodes in that they are somehow secretive and hold magical information. Nope, just an alphanumeric identity to avoid misunderstanding in safety critical comms.
 

RailWonderer

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Headcodes are rather useful. The 5:30 to LST from where? At Colchester, Stowmarket? A head code designates the working, whereas a the time is relative to the station you are catching the train.
Just an example, 1P03, I have just seen, is a Norwich IC working.
 
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samuelmorris

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The railway runs on headcodes. Yes, they are on RTT too. They get grumpy on here if you just quote headcodes or shortened station codes for some reason.
It's a somewhat understandable response for normal conversation as if it's not a station code known to the person they're talking to, then it's causing them to have to look it up - not difficult I know, but it's seen as impolite.

If someone's going to have to look something up regardless, however, I see it as less of an issue, but try and use the full info regardless, just to be considerate.
 

dk1

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It's a somewhat understandable response for normal conversation as if it's not a station code known to the person they're talking to, then it's causing them to have to look it up - not difficult I know, but it's seen as impolite.

If someone's going to have to look something up regardless, however, I see it as less of an issue, but try and use the full info regardless, just to be considerate.
Or you end up with people using BNS for New Street <(
 

Abbo

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Class 345 units display them on the side of the train, but as far as I'm aware that's the only case of them being publicly displayed in modern times. I wonder if 720s also will?
So do Eurostars , or at least the original units did and they are displayed on station electronic displays too.
 

Speed43125

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Grumbler

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The Public don’t need to know them but can easily look them up if they really want to.

The same head code can be on many different trains nationally so could confuse people.
Where are they to be found? Including them in the public timetable would perhaps be a start.
 

dk1

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Where are they to be found? Including them in the public timetable would perhaps be a start.
Why would they need to be in the public timetable? There are also numerous trains with the same headcode in differing parts of the country. It means nothing to the average punter and spotters can find out for themselves.
 

Grumbler

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Why would they need to be in the public timetable? There are also numerous trains with the same headcode in differing parts of the country. It means nothing to the average punter and spotters can find out for themselves.
They are useful to the public. When I commuted from south London the punters all knew that even headcodes were for Victoria, odd numbers for Holborn Viaduct (yes, it was that long ago), useful when other methods of announcing trains failed (which was fairly often). Why was the practice discontinued?
 

twpsaesneg

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They are useful to the public. When I commuted from south London the punters all knew that even headcodes were for Victoria, odd numbers for Holborn Viaduct (yes, it was that long ago), useful when other methods of announcing trains failed (which was fairly often). Why was the practice discontinued?
The practice outside of the Southern was discontinued at the end of the 1970s.
The widespread roll out of train describers negated the need to display them on the front of trains for signaller and other operating staff to see, they weren't ever intended for passenger use really.
The route codes used on the Southern Region units were retained until slam door stock went, although I believe some Networker stock might show the numbers on their displays?
Roller blinds were and are a pain in the backside to maintain compared with a pair of marker lights plus it was another job for the crew to do that could be omitted.
I don't think it's any sort of misguided secrecy on anyone's part.
 

crosscity

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The practice outside of the Southern was discontinued at the end of the 1970s.
Actually from the beginning of 1976. The headcode boxes then displayed 0000 or sometimes an indication of the loco's number until the boxes were removed, or, in the case of the 'Westerns', withdrawn.

Oddly, for those locos that didn't have headcode boxes but disks quite a few continued to show the correct pattern.
 

Muzer

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Actually from the beginning of 1976. The headcode boxes then displayed 0000 or sometimes an indication of the loco's number until the boxes were removed, or, in the case of the 'Westerns', withdrawn.

Oddly, for those locos that didn't have headcode boxes but disks quite a few continued to show the correct pattern.
Presumably 1976 was when most (all?) locations around the country got a train describer so signallers in smaller boxes no longer needed to physically see the train to know what it was?
 

bb21

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They are useful to the public. When I commuted from south London the punters all knew that even headcodes were for Victoria, odd numbers for Holborn Viaduct (yes, it was that long ago), useful when other methods of announcing trains failed (which was fairly often). Why was the practice discontinued?
Nowadays destinations are displayed at the front of the train so no need for route codes any more. (They are not headcodes.)

Commuters know their trains anyway and leisure passengers generally don't care or need to care. They look at the departure screens which have far more information than a route code.

As also mentioned above, enthusiasts have plenty of resources these days to find out headcodes for passenger workings, or can use the working timetables published by Network Rail.

Threads asking for headcodes and route codes to be displayed on trains are a particular obsession on this forum and pop up every so often. The topic has been done to death. If you are interested in all the arguments that have been presented before please do a search for older threads.
 

Puppetfinger

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I've used headcode and station three letter abbreviation when asking questions of TOC's on Twitter etc, if nothing else I hope it makes the duty Twitter person's job a bit easier!
 

Aictos

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Whats more useful to the public, "1P03 is running 5 late" or "the 0530 to Liverpool Street is 5 minutes late"?

There seems to be this odd concern about headcodes in that they are somehow secretive and hold magical information. Nope, just an alphanumeric identity to avoid misunderstanding in safety critical comms.
Apologies if it's rather OCD but its better in my opinion and feel free to disagree but I feel its better to say the 05:30 Norwich to London Liverpool Street is delayed 35 minutes, this is due to a operational incident then as is the case with JourneyCheck list the stations with booked times and the revised times.
 

furnessvale

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Headcode boxes were a comparatively recent phenomenon. In the days of steam, (most) railways did not display headcodes, except on specials. People who needed to know, knew.

I can't see how useful displayed headcodes would be to signalmen between Preston and Carlisle these days.
 

Snow1964

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Headcode boxes were a comparatively recent phenomenon. In the days of steam, (most) railways did not display headcodes, except on specials. People who needed to know, knew.

I can't see how useful displayed headcodes would be to signalmen between Preston and Carlisle these days.
In earlier days, services were less frequent and staff worked their way up so were expected to know what train was due from memory.

Some of the earliest were backlit obscured glass plates that stencils were placed in front of. The LSWR used these for its electric trains, initially a single capital letter (there is a famous photo of 5 trains lined up at Waterloo displaying HOVIS), later changed to 2 digit number on Southern. The secondman window could be opened outwards to lean out and change the stencil.

3 digit numbers were common on Steam trains to West Country in 1950s, especially on Summer weekends when many extras ran. Helped staff identify what trains were (especially as the extras might not have had any mixed traffic or freight loco so visually identifying by rolling stock type was hard)

I think Southern region continued the 2 digit codes until early 1990s as there was still some stations using finger boards for passengers to identify trains (wooden destination boards, taken from rack by member of platform staff and inserted in a slot about 2m up). Essential to visually check in peaks when there had been disruption and trains were sometimes running out of sequence. Once destination boards became automated the platform staff didn't need these.
 

pdeaves

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there is a famous photo of 5 trains lined up at Waterloo displaying HOVIS
Were those 'headcodes' (a precursor to the 1A23 format used today), or were they 'route codes' (for the passenger to identify their trains)? I think there may be some confusion as to which (head or route codes) people are thinking of when discussing them.
 

Muzer

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Nowadays destinations are displayed at the front of the train so no need for route codes any more. (They are not headcodes.)

Commuters know their trains anyway and leisure passengers generally don't care or need to care. They look at the departure screens which have far more information than a route code.

As also mentioned above, enthusiasts have plenty of resources these days to find out headcodes for passenger workings, or can use the working timetables published by Network Rail.

Threads asking for headcodes and route codes to be displayed on trains are a particular obsession on this forum and pop up every so often. The topic has been done to death. If you are interested in all the arguments that have been presented before please do a search for older threads.
The two-digit mostly-Southern ones ARE headcodes. The four-character alphanumeric codes are NOT officially headcodes; they are reporting numbers. However, the term "headcode" is so widely used at least among enthusiasts that you'd have to be being willingly obtuse to misunderstand. Ultimately they are both codes that are or were displayed at the head of the train so the term "headcode" is reasonable for both. But as far as I can tell this terminology (headcode for Southern, reporting number for 1X23 type codes) is used consistently within industry documents (eg RAIB reports and working timetables).
 

Grumbler

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Some quick method of identifying which train is at the platform would be useful (the ultimate destination is insufficient, as trains have different stopping patterns). It would also help those with seat reservations. The identification doesn't need to be on the trains themseves, as long as they are clearly shown on the departure indicators. The information should also be shown on the public timetable - airlines and bus operators have been doing this for ages!
 

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