Why were headcode boxes discontinued?

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AndrewE

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Don't Pendolinos and Voyagers show a train number in the info panel by the doors? I am sure that one of the main line pocket timetables I have used recently had train numbers at the head of the columns too.
 

Muzer

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Don't Pendolinos and Voyagers show a train number in the info panel by the doors? I am sure that one of the main line pocket timetables I have used recently had train numbers at the head of the columns too.
These are the numbers used by the reservation system. Sadly therefore not all trains have them.
 

swt_passenger

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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?
Because they started putting the full text “Victoria” or “Holborn” etc on the front of the newer trains?
 

30907

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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).
Headcodes only differentiated crudely between stopping patterns. To take the Orpington-Victoria example: at various times to my knowledge trains carrying 70 have been booked to omit permutations of all stations except Petts Wood, Bromley S, and Beckenham Jn. So 70 alone didn't help, you needed the departure indicator or at least the time as well
 

PudseyBearHST

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Don't Pendolinos and Voyagers show a train number in the info panel by the doors? I am sure that one of the main line pocket timetables I have used recently had train numbers at the head of the columns too.
These are the numbers used by the reservation system. Sadly therefore not all trains have them.
Class 390s show the headcode when the cab is activated by the driver.
Class 221s don’t show the headcode at all although I’m not sure about that set with the new display system.
 

ComUtoR

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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!
Trains tend to be limited to stations rather than specific platforms. A train arriving at Charing Cross will have 6 platforms to choose from and because of the changeable nature of the railway, its booked platform is subject to change, often at a moments notice. Having a booked platform listed in the timetable may lead to more problems than it solves.
 

Saperstein

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I see LNER are using them on Twitter:

Facilities on the 1D23 17:03 #KingsCross to #Leeds due 19:17. There are no reservations on this service.

We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.
https://twitter.com/lner/status/1238152540002430978?s=21

Personally I think it’s a good idea. The other day Greater Anglia tweeted about a cancelled London Liverpool Street to Norwich service, there were two trains leaving L’pool St within the space of a few minutes, they said one was cancelled and one was running but they got it the wrong way round.
 

30907

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I see LNER are using them on Twitter:



https://twitter.com/lner/status/1238152540002430978?s=21

Personally I think it’s a good idea. The other day Greater Anglia tweeted about a cancelled London Liverpool Street to Norwich service, there were two trains leaving L’pool St within the space of a few minutes, they said one was cancelled and one was running but they got it the wrong way round.
LNER and their predecessors have always used 4-digit codes in temporary timetables - I guess it simplifies communicating with staff and pax at once.
 

dk1

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Ask any member of the public what three letters they might use as shorthand for Birmingham New St and that will be the most likely answer.

It is a perfectly good initialism, nobody is claiming it is anything official.
Yes but it's even more annoying when enthusiasts do it too.
 

LAX54

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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?
But the SR Codes were more like route numbers/ bus route numbers, 40 Victoria to Bognor, 20 Victoria to Portsmouth and vice versa, they repeated each hour and had no resemblance to the 'headcode' of the train.
Headcodes are still the main source of train signalling, not so much regulation of trains, as the 'call' comes from Control now, and a Class 1 service, can be slower than a Class 2 !
Plus back in the 60's and into the 70's A 'fast' passenger train was a simple '4' on the bell, the train passing the signalbox showing 1P15 on the loco, would confirm which train it was :) Now it is mostly TD berths ,and in PSB's and IECC's, where you may not see the train pass, another reason not needed on the front.
 

edwin_m

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I was always a bit doubtful about the usefulness of headcodes to signalmen, when they were displayed on the front of trains, simply because the signalman would usually need to set the appropriate route before the train was close enough to read the headcode. I guess if there was some doubt they could keep the signals at danger until the headcode was visible, but there would be other options in that situation such as ringing control to find out if trains were running in timetable order. Were there places where the previous box would read the headcode and use a special routeing bell code to let a junction box know which way the train should be sent?
 

Deepgreen

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Two character route codes used to be a very good way of conveying to passengers a lot of information very quickly as trains arrived. People knew their numerical codes (e.g. embarking at Wimbledon for Kingston could be 21 or 24). It was extremely rare for these codes to be wrong. On 4SUBs the driver had to open his front cab window, lean out and drop the stencils in to the frame. In order to avoid having to carry more than necessary, SWD route codes had no repeat numbers - i.e. 22, 33 etc.

Today, when the provision of this information should, and could, be as good or better, it is not, because; 1) the destination indicators are very often almost useless on the trains (700,707, etc), 2) the detailed routeing information that used to contained in a numerical code has been lost when spelling out a destination alone, 3) the platform indicators are hugely better today, BUT are far too often wrong or badly-sited (Clapham Junction p15 is staggeringly poor, for example).

Some units still do occasionally display two, or even four-character codes when certain drivers programme them accordingly. SWR 455s have (or had until recently) blinds showing destination and code, but the numbers are so small as to be almost useless. See attached shots (the 1L98 'Desiro' one was on a Portsmouth-bound train at Woking!):


32849932811_59848b39b5_o1200.jpg 49235167781_bbce5a4dfc_o.jpg 16084913931_175cb02d77_o1200.jpg
 
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Grumbler

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Travellers need to know the departure time for their destination and the platform number. Google Maps can tell you this well before departure boards at stations like Paddington do.
 

30907

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Were there places where the previous box would read the headcode and use a special routeing bell code to let a junction box know which way the train should be sent?
Yes, common practice. Train describers were a more sophisticated method before the days of power boxes.
 

edwin_m

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Yes, common practice. Train describers were a more sophisticated method before the days of power boxes.
Specifically with reading the headcode rather than confirming the train by other means? It was only about 5 years between completion of the last loco with a headcode box (Class 20 in 1968 I think) and abandoning the idea altogether. And even during that period there were plenty of older locos with just discs. So I'm a bit doubtful the headcode on the front of the train was actually used by anybody at all.
 

30907

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Specifically with reading the headcode rather than confirming the train by other means? It was only about 5 years between completion of the last loco with a headcode box (Class 20 in 1968 I think) and abandoning the idea altogether. And even during that period there were plenty of older locos with just discs. So I'm a bit doubtful the headcode on the front of the train was actually used by anybody at all.
Sorry, not 4-character codes specifically. Bell codes would be (box specific) main or branch, or similar. Though on the Southern (and GE), discs/lamps were route codes anyway from way back....
 

edwin_m

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Sorry, not 4-character codes specifically. Bell codes would be (box specific) main or branch, or similar. Though on the Southern (and GE), discs/lamps were route codes anyway from way back....
Yes, that was my view. There were also historically whistle codes for drivers to signal their route when approaching a junction.
 

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