Railway signals in Austria

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ÖBB light signals (exit signals K103 and K105, Hadersdorf am Kamp)

The railway signals in Austria are determined by the signal book of the ÖBB . They are approved by the Federal Ministry of Transport .


The first Austrian railway with pure light signals was the Vienna Steam City Railway, opened in 1898 , on which these could be found on the tunnel sections from the very beginning. The state railway, however, used only form signals on its own routes until after the First World War, which, however, did not additionally signal the permitted speed, but the direction (route signaling) when traveling freely. The number of wings indicated whether the journey continued over the main track or into a diversion. The wings of the main signals were rectangular without a round disc, the distant signals had a green rectangular hinged disc. These shape signals already had additional light signals for the night: red for “stop”, white for “free”. The distant signals used green for “caution, slow” and white for “main signal clear”. While in 1910 the signal order in Germany was changed from the old color system red-green-white (Halt-Slow-Frei) to the current red-yellow-green, Austria stayed with the old colors. Only the Wiener Elektro Stadtbahn used the new colors from 1925.

1926: The first light signals on the state railway

time Caution
(distant signal)
Home signal free
(distant signal)
Stop journey Drive into the
Drive into the
further distraction
Shape signals
from 1926
AT VS 1 0.svg
AT VS 1 1st svg
AT HS 1 0.svg
AT HS 1 1st svg
AT HS 1 2nd svg
AT HS 1 3rd svg
Form signals ÖBB 1877.jpg
from 1934
AT VS 2 0.svg
AT VS 2 1st svg
AT HS 1 0.svg
AT HS 2 1st svg
AT HS 2 2nd svg
AT HS 2 3rd svg
Form signals ÖBB 1934.jpg

In 1926 the first light signals with these colors were introduced. An attempt was made to minimize the risk of confusion with lamps in the vicinity by using white flashing lights. A characteristic feature of the main signals was the semicircular screen at the top, the distant signal was straight at the top and pointed at the bottom. In the end it was decided to introduce yellow light. As a test route, the Salzkammergutbahn Stainach-Irdning - Attnang-Puchheim was converted to red-yellow-green in 1931, and the rest of the network in just four days in 1934. At the distant signal, yellow instead of green light was used for the term “expect stop”, and the color of the disc of the pre-signals was also yellow.

Main signals indicating stop were (until 1980) of no significance for shunting trips. There was a strict separation between signals for train runs (main signals) and signals for shunting runs (shunting signals).

1938–1945: Connection also in signaling

After the annexation of Austria , the Deutsche Reichsbahn began to adapt the signaling to German regulations. On the one hand, existing signals were changed, on the other hand, there were many new security systems built due to the expansion of routes that were important for the war effort.

The most significant change was the switch from route signaling to speed signaling. This had already been planned by the BBÖ and prepared from 1937. The previous term driving into the distraction now got the meaning of slow travel , which allowed travel at 40 km / h on standard-gauge railways (on narrow-gauge railways at 20 km / h). At the same time, a start was also made on setting up the German three-aspect form pre-signals, in which the third term slow travel was identified by an additional wing at an angle and which were equipped with two lights. Light signals did not yet play a major role at the Deutsche Reichsbahn, and their signal book from 1935 does not contain any images of light signals. However, as an experiment, the Reichsbahn set up light signals in at least two Austrian train stations, namely in Ederbauer and Langen am Arlberg.

1945–1980: the fourth term

After the war, the second light points and the additional wings were removed from the distant signals. The round distant signal discs and the new signal wings for the main signals were retained.

In 1949 the light shift signal with four white light points, which is still in use today, was created, which subsequently replaced all other shift signals. A new light blocking signal was also created (today's protective signal).

During the reconstruction after the war, switches with a 500 m radius were often installed, which allowed 60 km / h in the deflection (compared to 40 km / h with a 190 m radius). This higher speed could not be signaled with the previous signal terms. So it was decided to expand the three-aspect signal system to include a further term “drive at 60 km / h”. The green-green lamp combination was intended for the new term, which previously stood for “driving at 40 km / h”. Therefore, the lower green color filter had to be replaced by a yellow one for all main signals, which was done on a single day - July 12, 1954. At the same time, new, four-aspect pre-signals based on the Swiss model were introduced. Two-winged form signals could display the new term (instead of driving at 40 km / h) via the additional board “60”.

One month later (August 9, 1954) trial operation began with four-aspect light signals on the Western Railway , and four-aspect signaling was generally introduced from September 15, 1956.

1980: Signal regulation V2

On June 1, 1980, the most extensive change in operating regulations since World War II came into effect. In addition to the newly issued signal regulation V2, numerous other regulations have also been changed or completely redesigned. The timetable aids (book timetables, picture timetables) have also been changed, as have numerous service aids and instructions. The most important changes in signal regulation V2 were:

  • The “stop” concept of the main signal now also applies to shunting trips (in West Germany this step was only taken in 2006). In the case of shunting signals at the location of a main signal, the lamps for the term “shunting ban” were switched off and removed over time. With the new standard signal, the shift signal was then integrated into the signal screen.
  • For each distant signal at least one distance board is now required.

This signal regulation, with changes, is still valid throughout Austria today.

Driving signals

Main signals

Combined signal with the term "Halt".
The distant signal is switched to dark.
Combined signal with the term "free".
The distant signal indicates "caution".

Main signals indicate whether the adjoining track section may be used. They can also indicate the permitted speed in the area of ​​the points. A speed signaled on the main signal must always be observed in the entire turnout area. If the speed changes in the turnout area, this is indicated by a speed indicator. Reduced speeds are announced on the main signal by a speed indicator.

They generally apply to train journeys. They only apply to shunting trips (maneuvering trips) when the vehicle is stopped. Invalid main signals are crossed out and switched off.

The main signals are entry, exit, intermediate, block and cover signals.

  • Entry signals are used to cover the stations and to regulate the entry of trains.
  • Exit signals regulate the exit of the trains.
  • Intermediate signals, which are only available in the train stations, divide the main tracks into sections of the route and serve to secure points and track crossings that are not dependent on entry and exit signals.
  • Block signals are used on the free line. They divide the route into block sections.
  • Cover signals are used to secure danger spots on the open road.

Main signals are usually on the right or above the tracks. Entry, block and cover signals are always outside next to or above the tracks on double-track lines.

If a main signal is valid for several tracks, it is used as a group signal. However, the operational provisions of such signals do not apply if it is supplemented with protective signals.

The standard main signal from 1980 has a uniform appearance, regardless of its function. It has the shift signal integrated, but its lamps are smaller. In practice, lamps that are not required are left out.

left side right side
white (replacement)
or red (caution)
white (shift)

red (stop)
AT HS A.svg
green (free)
white (displacement)
green (departure)
yellow (free at 40 km / h)
green (free at 60 km / h)

All main and protective signals have a reflective, white-red-white mast label, the so-called "identification" signal. If the red light fails, the mast sign says "Stop". For signals on signal bridges and for dwarf signals, the mast sign used to be attached directly to the signal screen between the two rows of lamps. Today it is attached to the side of the signal screen in order to create space for the white vertical stripe in the middle of protective signals.

Signal aspects

Four lamps with three colors are used for the main signal images: red, yellow, and green. The four smaller lamps are used to display the other integrated signals (these can be a protection signal, displacement signal, substitute signal, caution signal or departure signal, as required).

Signal aspect Signal aspect Light signal Shape signal Signal aspect Signal aspect Light signal Shape signal
Stop a red light;
a horizontal (and a vertical) signal wing for the shape signal.
AT HS A 0.svg
Hp0 Form.svg
Free a green light;
with the form signal a diagonal signal wing to the top right.
AT HS A 1.svg
Hp1 Form.svg
Free at
60 km / h
a green light, including a green light.
AT HS A 2.svg
Free at
40 km / h
a green light, including a yellow light;
with the form signal two diagonal signal wings one below the other to the top right.
AT HS A 3.svg
Hp2 Form.svg

A main signal can also indicate a different speed, which is then indicated by a speed indicator on the signal.

Compact arrangement of single-column main and distant signals on platform 1 of Graz main train station


Light pre-signals announce the signal pattern that is to be expected with the associated main signal. However, if the distant signal is at a main or protective signal and this does not indicate an exemption, the distant signal is switched off.

Formal pre-signals only indicate whether the associated main signal is showing a halt or a free term.

Advance signals always have a fixed braking distance to the main signal on the route. They are either on the prescribed side, where the main signal is, or above the track. In train stations, distant signals are set up on the right or above the track. Distant signals that are set up together with a main signal are usually located below this, on a signal bridge to the right or left of it. Compact arrangements are also used for reasons of space (e.g. in the station area under a platform roof).

Advance signals for exit and intermediate signals can also show the term caution in order to announce a stop signaling as well as a reduction in speed. If the associated main signal of such a distant signal allows a speed of more than 40 km / h, the distant signal is marked by a white bordered sign.

The design of the light signals was adopted by Switzerland when the fourth term was introduced in 1954, but without the fifth lamp, which is necessary in Switzerland for two other terms. The warning sign that is common in Germany has not existed since 1980.

Signal aspects

Signal aspect Signal aspect Light signal Shape signal Signal aspect Signal aspect Light signal Shape signal
Attention Two yellow lights side by side;
A reflective round yellow disc with a black and white edge for the shape signal.
AT VS A 0.svg
AT VS F 0 Fig.svg
Home signal free Two diagonal green lights;
For the shape signal a reflecting green rectangle with 2 white corners.
The yellow circular disc is folded back.
AT VS A 1.svg
AT VS F 1 Fig.svg
Main signal free at 60 km / h Two diagonal green lights, a yellow light in the upper left.
AT VS A 2.svg
Main signal free at 40 km / h Two yellow lights next to each other, a green light at the bottom left;
Form signal in the case of a planned drive to the distraction in the "main signal free" position, in the event of an unscheduled drive in the distraction in the "caution" position.
AT VS A 3.svg
AT VS F 1 Fig.svg

Not according to plan:
AT VS F 0 Fig.svg

Light pre-signals can also announce a different speed. This is indicated by a speed indicator on the signal.

Substitute and caution signal

If the main signal is unsuitable due to a technical fault or during construction work , the substitute signal or the caution signal is used. If you are allowed to drive by, you can drive at a maximum of 40 km / h. A maximum of 20 km / h is allowed on narrow-gauge railways.

The warning signal has almost the same meaning as the substitute signal, but here the track into which the train is entering may be occupied. Therefore, the caution signal asks the driver to drive on sight.

Signal aspect Signal aspect Light signal Signal aspect Signal aspect Light signal
Substitute signal a white flashing light
AT HS A 4.svg
Caution signal a red flashing light
AT HS A 5.svg

The substitute or caution signal is located on the signal label of the main or protection signal. In the case of form signals, the substitute signal is mounted on the mast. If there is a local obstruction of view , substitute signals can be announced by signal imitators .

In the case of form signals, the “Passing allowed” signal can also be given by moving a signal flag vertically up and down during the day. At night, a white lamp is moved vertically up and down. The signal must be given until the leading motor vehicle has passed the signal transmitter. The same maximum speeds apply here as for the substitute and caution signals.

Signal imitators

If the prescribed visibility to the main signal is not sufficient, signal imitators are set up so that the driver is informed of the main signal's signal aspect.

Signal aspect Signal aspect Light signal Signal aspect Signal aspect Light signal
Main signal shows stop A straight white line on a vertical line.
AT SN 0.svg
Main signal shows free A diagonal line to the top right on a vertical line.
AT SN 1.svg
Main signal shows free
with speed limit
A diagonal line to the bottom right on a vertical line.
AT SN 2.svg
Main signal shows substitute signal Like signal image stop. In addition, a white flashing light below.
AT SN E.svg

In addition, the signal mimic can indicate that the main signal has a substitute signal. To do this, it shows the light signal "Halt". A white light flashes at the bottom right. If a signal copier is equipped with a 1000 Hz magnet, the light points light up yellow and the signal label is outlined in yellow.

Protection signals

Pure protection signal with the term "driving ban lifted"

Protection signals are installed to indicate whether the adjoining track section may be used. you will be

  • to subdivide the main tracks into track sections,
  • to supplement main group signals and
  • used to mark the end of a track.

The protection signals are always located to the right of or above the associated track. They have a white border and an identifier with "Sch".

When a train is running, the signal means that the following section of the route may be entered at the speed that was previously displayed on the main signal or speed indicator. If there is a speed indicator near the protection signal, the speed displayed applies.

In the case of shunting trips, the signal without the vertical white stripe in the middle means that approval for the shunting trip has been given. With the strips, the consent to the shunting is given with the signal "Shunting ban lifted".

All protection signals also have a white, red and white mast shield. If the red light fails, the mast sign, as with the main signal, commands “stop”.

Signal aspects

Old-style protective signal (without vertical white stripes):

Signal aspect Signal aspect Light signal Signal aspect Signal aspect Light signal
Driving ban A red light. AT SS A A0.png Driving ban lifted Two white lights on top of each other. AT SS A A1.png

New design protection signal (with vertical white stripe):

Signal aspect Signal aspect Light signal Signal aspect Signal aspect Light signal Signal aspect Signal aspect Light signal
Driving ban A red light. AT SS A N0.png Driving ban lifted Two white lights on top of each other.
Only applies to train journeys.
AT SS A N1.png Prohibition of movement lifted Two white lights ascending to the right.
Only applies to shunting trips.
AT SS NA 3.png

Shift signals

Shift signals are required to give travel signals for shift travel. Until 1980 the main signals did not apply to shunting trips at all, so separate signals were always required for shunting. Since 1980, the “stop” of the main signal has been in effect for all journeys, and an additional ban on shunting is no longer necessary. The “ban on moving” that became necessary instead was integrated into the standard signal. Stand-alone displacement signals are usually built as dwarf signals without a mast and in a low design.

Signal aspects

Two white lamps are used as signal lamps. Since no speeds or directions are signaled, two terms are sufficient.

The signal shows Signal aspect Light signal Main signal The signal shows Signal aspect Light signal Main signal
Prohibition of movement Two white lights horizontally.
A red light on the main signal.
AT VeS 0.svg
AT HS A 0.svg
Prohibition of movement
Two white lights ascending to the right.
AT VeS 1.svg
AT HS A 7.svg
AT VeS 2.svg

Before a shift signal that is valid for several tracks, shunting trips must in any case wait for an additional order to continue. Such displacement signals are marked with the displacement signal suffix, a reflective white triangle in the lower right corner.

There are also two fixed signals for the shunting service:

Shunting board
Halt Verschub.svg
Shunting trips may not leave the station area. The shunting boards indicate the limit up to which shunting trips are permitted.
Waiting signal
Waiting signal.svg
Shifting trips must wait for an order to continue. This can be done by hand signals, verbally, by radio or by the signal shift prohibition canceled .

Locking signals

Lock signals are needed to

  • To display dead ends and gates,
  • to indicate the position of a locking shoe or
  • to indicate the drivability of track bridge scales, turntables and transfer platforms.

The signal is always on the right or in the middle of the track at stump ends. Otherwise the signal is located at the respective facility that requires the signal.

meaning Signal aspect Shape signal meaning Signal aspect Shape signal
Proceeding prohibited A white reflective circular ring on a black background.
AT blocking 0.svg
Continuation allowed A white reflective rectangle on a black background.
AT blocking 1.svg

Additional signals for the main, pre- and protection signals

The additional signals are intended to supplement the meanings of the main, pre- and protection signals and indicate their location. In addition, certain additional signals can allow driving to a stop or a disturbed main or protection signal.

Speed ​​indicator

Speed ​​indicators are used

  • to supplement a main signal (if speeds other than 40 or 60 km / h are to be signaled),
  • to add a protection signal (which cannot signal speed itself),
  • as a single signal to signal a speed change in the turnout area or
  • for displaying a short entry ( dead end ) (speed indicator 40 km / h on braking distance).

The speed indicators show a number that corresponds to one tenth of the permitted speed in km / h, e.g. B. 12 for 120 km / h or 3.5 for 35 km / h. If a speed indicator is in the location of a main or protection signal, it is installed above the signal screen. With older signals, they were also placed under the signal screen. Otherwise the speed indicators are always to the right of the relevant track.

Speed ​​indicators are announced by speed indicators when the speed is reduced by more than 10 km / h. If necessary, speed indicators can also be announced that enhance a main signal, i.e. allow a higher speed limit. For this purpose, speed indicators are used on the distant signal.

designation Signal aspect Light signal Shape signal
Speed ​​indicator A black square board with a white glowing number.
Form signal: A square black board with a white border and a white number.
Speed ​​L.svg
Speed ​​indicator a square black plaque with a glowing yellow number.
Form signal: A triangular black board with a yellow border and a number.
GeschwV L.svg

Speed ​​board and slow speed signals

Speed ​​board

Speed ​​boards indicate the locally permitted speed with a number that corresponds to one tenth of the permitted speed in km / h, e.g. B. 12 for 120 km / h or 3.5 for 35 km / h. Up to 95 km / h can be graduated in steps of five. Speed ​​boards are available from 5 to 160 km / h, above which the speed is displayed and monitored by the train protection system LZB . The board is always to the right of the track, on double-track lines it is on the outside next to the signals. The board can also be attached over the tracks. Notice boards are only set up if there is a reduction in speed of at least 20%. Basically, the notice board is 700 m away from the speed board, with locally permitted speeds of 100 km / h or more it is 1000 meters.

Slow speed signals

Announcement signal

Slow speed signals are required to identify slow speed areas.

Speed ​​limits are through

  • Announcement signals,
  • Initial signals and
  • Marked end signals.

If the speed is not more than 100 km / h, the announcement signal is usually set up 700 meters before the start signal. At more than 100 km / h, the signal is set up 1000 meters before the start signal. If the distance between the announcement and the start signal deviates, this is indicated by the written command.

If several speed limits follow one another and therefore a further announcement signal would have to be set up between the announcement and the start signal, it is placed below the first announcement signal.

The slow speed signals are usually to the right of the track. In the case of double-track lines, the signals are on the outside next to the tracks. However, the end signal is usually on the left if it is a single-track line, a temporary single-track operation or a station track. If, as an exception, slow-speed signals are set up on the wrong side, this must be indicated by the written order.

Two different speeds can be set for a speed limit. Which of the two speeds applies is determined for each vehicle type. In this case, the lower speed is displayed on the notification signal.

The black number indicates the permitted speed in a tenth of its value.

Contact line signals

Contact line signals require action or provide information in connection with the contact line systems. They are square tablets that stand on the top. They are outlined in black and white and have a blue background with white characters. They are always on the right side of the associated track. If there is a double-track route, they are outside next to the tracks. However, the signals may also be placed above the track to be driven on. The signal "Stop for vehicles with raised pantographs" can also be on the left side if it was attached to a switch signal body. Switching and pantograph signals must always be set up for both directions of travel.

Switching signals

Behrenshagen separation point, where there is a protective section. The signal "Main switch on" can be seen in the background

Switching signals are set up to mark protective routes. Exactly the same signals are used that are also used on the German railways.

designation Signal aspect Shape signal
Announcement main switch off Two white rectangles next to each other.
Switching 0.svg
Main switch off A broken white U.
Switching 1.svg
Mainswitch on A white U.
Switching 2.svg

The switch-off signal is placed 30 meters in front of the protective route and the switch-on signal 30 meters behind.

Pantograph signal

Pantograph signals are set up to mark areas that may only be entered with lowered pantographs.

designation Signal aspect Shape signal
Announcement pantograph deep Two horizontal white stripes offset from one another.
Switch 3.svg
Pantograph deep A horizontal white stripe.
Switching 4.svg
Pantograph high A vertical white stripe.
Switch 5.svg
Stop for vehicles with raised pantograph white square on top with white frame
Switch 6.svg

Other signals

designation description Signal aspect
Signal: "Exit allowed" A flashing green light.
The departure signal is usually combined with a protection signal or a main signal.
Combinations with other signals are also possible, as are stand-alone shutdown signals.
AT HS A 8.svg

The departure signal can also be given as follows:

  • Hand signal "Done" (swiveling a round white disc with a blue border or a blue lamp at night)
  • Oral / telephone order "Done!"

Literature, sources

Web links

Commons : Railway signals in Austria  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Signal regulation V2 (PDF; 673 kB)
  2. ^ Alfred Horn: 75 years of the Vienna light rail. "Between the 30s Bock and the Silver Arrow". Bohmann-Verlag, Vienna 1974, ISBN 3-7002-0415-9 , pp. 293-294.
  3. ^ Alfred Horn: 75 years of the Vienna light rail. "Between the 30s Bock and the Silver Arrow". Bohmann-Verlag, Vienna 1974, ISBN 3-7002-0415-9 , p. 296.
  4. On own behalf by Roland Smiderkal