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Switch attendant in England (1918)

The operator of points and signals in the operation of a railway is referred to as a turnout attendant , also known as a change attendant in the 19th century .


In the early days of the railway, the turnout keeper was solely responsible for operating and maintaining local turnouts - waiting in the sense of maintaining them, i.e. keeping them moving by lubricating the moving parts, hence the name turnout attendant . In Germany, until the 1980s, there were marshalling areas in large train stations in areas without passenger traffic, the points of which were manually set by point attendants. For the stay of the turnout keepers there were turnout booths or manual turnout posts.

With the advent of remote switches and signals, an increasing number of signal boxes were installed. These emerged in larger train stations where the number of points or the distance between the facilities made several signal boxes necessary. The dispatcher , who was responsible for scheduling and executing the train journeys, was active in the main signal box. The switch keepers were subordinate to him, who either worked in the same signal box, the dispatcher signal box or in their own signal box, the guard signal box .


The point keeper not only sets points and other movable equipment in the railroad track, but also signals . The main signals but can due to technical dependencies between the signal boxes by the station block only in the individual order of the dispatcher use. In modernized systems, signal operation is centralized by the dispatcher. In addition, depending on the technical equipment and function of the interlocking, he is entrusted with the operation of the section block . The block field of the permit change for the single-track route block shape ensures the prevention of oncoming journeys from the neighboring train reporting point by means of a signal lock. With the guard, the permission field is also dependent on the order of the dispatcher. This applies to the operation of the substitute signals .

The switch keeper may perform shunting trips in the side tracks of the station at his own discretion; He may only allow shunting on main tracks if he has informed the dispatcher beforehand .

As a result of the centralization of control activities in larger control districts in modern signal boxes and the associated decline in mechanical signal boxes , the number of point attendants required decreased. In larger signal boxes they are still working to support the dispatchers.


The definition of the term “switch keeper” has changed several times. The following applies to the valid definition of terms and to the tasks to be performed by the point attendant:

Railway operations take place in two processes: 1. Trains run, 2. Shunting. The designation of the two processes forms the name of Directive 408 . The rules of guideline 408 (trains running and shunting) determine in module 408.0111 which employees carry out activities in rail operations, i.e. when performing both processes. These are dispatchers, switch keepers, train drivers or train drivers.

Module 408.0102 contains an explanation of terms for dispatchers: dispatchers regulate the execution of train journeys. For them, only the modules of module groups 408.01 (trains run and shunting - general -), 02 and 03 (trains run - normal case -), 04 (trains run - special features -), 05 (trains run - irregularities in rail operations -) apply. , 06 (trains run - irregularities in technical equipment -) and 09 (trains run and maneuvering - special features and irregularities -). Dispatchers are not involved in the "maneuvering" process.

Guideline 408 does not give an explanation of terms for point attendants. Your tasks are only mentioned in the modules of module groups 408.01 (driving and shunting trains - general -), 08 (shunting) and 09 (driving and shunting trains - special features and irregularities). You are not involved in the "trains run" process.

In the explanations to announcement 1 of the group guideline (KoRil) 408.01-09, valid from June 15, 2003 it is described how the term "switchman" has developed, which tasks a switchman has to perform and why the term "operator" in guideline 408 is used.

"So that the users of the module groups 408.01-09, the module groups 408.11-19 (employees who perform monitoring tasks or set up local guidelines or regulations) or other people, e.g. If, for example, managers or employees of authorities understand the terms "dispatcher", "operator" and "switchman" and the contexts better, we will explain them.

The term "operator" is not new. It is taken from the rules "Using signal systems" (e.g. 482.9001). Term: operator, meaning: the employees entrusted with the operation of signal systems (e.g. dispatcher, point keeper, gatekeeper, train driver). An operator can e.g. B. be a dispatcher or switch attendant, but it doesn't have to be. Not all operators have to be dispatchers or point attendants. Up until December 31, 1995, “attendant” was used instead of “operator”. Quotation from the preliminary remarks paragraph 4 h on the regulation for the operation of signal systems - general - (Sig VB 1), valid from July 1st, 1977: "In this regulation and in the other sub-issues of DV 482 are designated: h) as" Warden "the employees entrusted with the operation of signal systems (e.g. dispatcher, switch keeper, gatekeeper, train driver)." According to the documents available to us, the "track" with the designation "warden" can be traced back via the regulations for the block and signal box service (Bl u StV), valid from September 1, 1933 - 1942 edition - preliminary remarks, paragraph 6: “In these regulations, all employees entrusted with the operation of block and signal boxes are referred to as keepers. This includes the dispatchers who have to operate block or signal boxes "up to the regulations for the block service (BlV) of the Prussian State Railway Administration, valid from December 1, 1913. Quotation from the preliminary remarks, paragraph 5:" With guards are in these regulations all employees entrusted with the operation of blockworks are designated. ”In the regulations of the former Deutsche Reichsbahn (new federal states) the term“ keeper ”is used as a generic term for people who operate safety systems (DV 471 - SichV -).

In rules 408 (driving regulations, driving regulations, driving trains and maneuvering), the term “keeper” has of course been used when the operation of the signal systems has been addressed. The term was not explained in rules 408 because this is a term from the rules for operating signal systems. In the driving service regulations (FV), valid from April 1, 1944, edition 1947 it says z. B. in § 21 para. 9 (guarding) "A switch ... is considered to be guarded if the guard can overlook it", or in § 22 par. 21 (stopping of a main signal not possible) "... so he notifies the guard immediately Dispatcher ". In the first case, the keeper is a (turnout) keeper, in the second case a (signal) keeper.

... In Rules 408, however, the term “switch keeper” is also used. According to the explanations given above, the switch attendant would be a “switch operator”. “Switch keeper” would then be a sub-term of “keeper”. Rules 408 (as far as one can follow their development at the joint Deutsche Reichsbahn and beyond that at the Deutsche Bundesbahn and the Deutsche Bahn AG) have used the term "switch keeper" exclusively in connection with shunting.

... The new rules in module 408.111 reflect the development. Activities in rail operations are carried out by the dispatcher (for the “driving trains” part), point attendants (for the “shunting” part). The switch attendant agrees to a shunting run - not the dispatcher. An employee can therefore carry out several activities, he can be a dispatcher or switch attendant, depending on whether he is e.g. B. regulates the train sequence or whether he agrees to a shunting run. If signal systems are operated, this can be done by the dispatcher or the switch attendant, both of whom are "operators" according to rules 482.9001, until 31.12.1995 "attendants". The operator of an electronic interlocking is, if he regulates the sequence of trains, a dispatcher, if he agrees to shunting, the point keeper.

Several employees can work in one signal box. The dispatcher regulates the execution of a train journey. Other employees who set the route for the train journey, for example, are operators. Operators from another signal box can be involved in the execution of a train journey. The operators are then not - as is sometimes wrongly claimed - point keepers. As explained above, a turnout attendant can only be active in connection with shunting. "

- Extract from the explanations

With announcement 1 for Group Directive 408, Trains run and shunting, the harmonization of Rules 408 was provisionally concluded.

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