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KMRC Skrifa – The Standard Steam and early Diesel Locomotive Headcodes

In the steam and early diesel era a system of head codes were used to denote the trains make up and purpose using either discs or lamps, except on the Southern Railway / Region where the discs and lamps were officially known as Engine Headsignals and denoted the route of the train.

The Southern Headsignal codes are detailed in our Skrifa post here>>> 

All engines, unless otherwise specified in the relevant Sectional Appendix, must carry discs (daytime only) or head lamps (lit at at night) as shown below depending on the classification of the train. Trains will be signalled and take precedence in accordance with the headcode.It was the responsibility of the Driver to ensure the proper head code is shown, the Guard will also instruct the engine driver to alter the discs or headlamps when any change in classification of the train is necessary. If a train is worked by two engines attached at the front, the second engine (inside engine), must not carry and discs or lamps. 

Head codes D, E and F are for 'partially fitted' or 'unfitted' trains.  Fitted refers to the wagons or stock having brakes under the control of the driver.

All trains should show a red lamp at the rear of the last vehicle.

Steam locomotive Lamps are avialable from a number of suppliers, such as Bachmann here or Springside here. 

Head Code
Lamps or Discs
(click image for larger version)


Train Description  

Loco Headcodes Pilot / Shunt

(white lamp bottom left, red lamp bottom right)
Yard or station Pilot, lamp arrangement to be shown at both ends of loco. 
Loco Headcodes Class A

(lamp bottom right & bottom left)

Express passenger train, newspaper train or breakdown van train or snow plough going to clear the line or light engine going to assist disabled train.

Officers' Special train not requiring to stop in section.

(Also used by Southern Railway / Region inter-regional passenger services) 

Loco Headcodes Class B

(lamp top center)
Ordinary passenger train, mixed train, or breakdown van train Not going to clear the line.

Branch passenger train.

Loco Headcodes
Class C

(lamp bottom left & bottom center)

Parcels, fish, fruit, horse, livestock, meat, milk, pigeon or perishable train composed entirely of vehicles conforming to coaching stock requirements.

Express freight, livestock, perishable or ballast train piped fitted throughout with the automatic brake operative on not less than half of the vehicles.

Empty coaching stock train (not specially authorised to carry "A" head code).
Loco Headcodes Class D

(lamp bottom left & top centre)
Express freight, livestock, perishable or ballast train partly fitted with the automatic brake operative on not less than one third of the vehicles.
Loco Headcodes Class E

(lamp bottom centre & bottom right)
Express freight, livestock, perishable or ballast train partly fitted, with not less than four braked vehicles next to the engine and connected by the automatic brake pipe.

Express freight, livestock, perishable or ballast train with a limited load of vehicles not fitted with the automatic brake.
Loco Headcodes Class F

(lamp top centre & bottom right)
Express freight, livestock, perishable or ballast train not fitted with the automatic brake.
Loco Headcodes Class G

(lamp bottom centre)
Light engine or light engines coupled.

Engine with not more than two brake vans.
Loco Headcodes Class H

(lamp top centre & bottom centre)
Through freight or ballast train not running under class C, D, E or F head code.
Loco Headcodes Class J

(lamp bottom left)
Mineral or empty wagon train.
Loco Headcodes Class K 

(lamp bottom right)
Freight, mineral or ballast train stopping at intermediate stations.
Branch freight train.

Freight, ballast or Officers' Special train requiring to stop in section.
Loco Headcodes Royal Train 

(All four lamps)
The Royal Train - Two red lamps at rear

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