Light Signals at China Rail

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Other signals in China Railways

Here is the explanation of some light signals you will find useful when visiting China Railways.
Last update Dec 2004

This is preliminary text, not completed! References to signal book 2002 issue. There exist more light signals than the one I refer to here, but these are the ones you will see most of the time. References to figures or paragraphs are to China Rail signal book from 2002.

Signals for entering stations (Paragraph 317).

These signals have two black tables with two lights each.



  • Page 251 fig 25 - one green light - drive at full line speed
  • Page 251 fig 26 - one yellow light - enter station on streight track, prepare to stop in station.
  • Page 252 fig 27 - yellow over yellow light - permission to pass over switches, enter the station at reduced speed and prepare to stop in station.
  • Page 253 fig 29 - one red light - not allowed to proceed (stop).

  • Page 252 fig 28 - yellow blinking light over yellow light - not yet fully translated. Permission to pass something called «number 18», where I am still missing a reference to this. I have never seen this signal in practice.
  • Page 253 fig 30 - one green light over one yellow light - (not completely sure about the precie meaning, probably this is used for extra outer entrance signals): permit to pass a switch in straight direction - enter station, pass the next already green light signal for approaching trains, and then prepare to stop. I have never seen this signal in practice.
  • Page 254, fig 31 - one red light, and one white light below the signal table - Not translated yet. Probably something like "pass carefully at 20 km/h".

    Special Signal for entering stations (Paragraph 318).

    The main signal sghows red, but below it a white light is on.

    In this case, the train is allowed to pass the entrance signal at a speed of 20 km/h, driving carefully and being prepared to stop at any time.

    Signals for leaving stations (Paragraph 319).

    These signals have one table with three lights in it if they only show the aspect of the actual exit signal, or they have two table with two lights each if they also show how the next signal looks like. May be implemented as dwarf signals (mounted on the ground). Finally there may be only one table with two lights.
  • Automatic block line: One green light (middle light) - allowed to leave the station. Indicates that there are at least two empty blocks ahead. (Zhun xu lieche you cheshan chufa, biaoshi yunxing qianfang zhishao liangge bisefenqu kong xian.) (fig 32)
  • One green light (upper light in two light table or dwarf signal) - allowed to leave the station. (Half automatic block line) No indication of any blocks ahead. (Zhun xu lieche you cheshan chufa.) (fig 43)
  • Automatic block line: One green light (upper light in three light table) - allowed to leave the station. Indicates that there are at least three empty blocks ahead. (Zhun xu lieche you cheshan chufa, biaoshi yunxing qianfang zhishao sange bisefenqu kong xian.) (fig 37)
  • Automatic block line: One yellow light (upper light) - allowed to leave the station. Indicates that there is one empty block ahead. (Zhun xu lieche you cheshan chufa, biaoshi yunxing yige bisefenqu kong xian.) (fig 33)
  • Automatic block line: One yellow light (downmost light) - allowed to leave the station. Indicates that there is one empty block ahead. (Zhun xu lieche you cheshan chufa, biaoshi yunxing qianfang you yige bisefenqu kong xian.) (fig 39)
  • One red light (downmost light or middle light) - do not pass! (Bu zhun lieche yueguo gai xinhaoji). (fig 34, 40, 44). Automatic block line: Red light in three light table (fig 34, 40).
  • Automatic block line: One green light downmost in upper table, one green light downmost in lower table (or green light over no light over green light in dwarf signal) - allowed to leave station, leave for a line with semi-automatic block system. (Zhunxu lieche you chezhan chufa, kaiwang ban zidong bisequjian). (fig 35)
  • One green light uppermost in upper table, one green light downmost in lower table (no dwarf signal alternative) - allowed to leave station, leave for semi-automatic block section. (Zhunxu lieche you chezhan chufa, kaiwang ban zidong bisequ duan). (fig 41)
  • One green light uppermost in upper table with two lights, one green light uppermost in lower table (green over no light over green in dwarf signal) - allowed to leave station, Leaving for a secondary railway line. (Semi-automatic block line probably). (Zhunxu lieche you chezhan chufa, kaiwang ciyao xian lu). (fig 45)
  • Automatic block line: One green light as uppermost in three light table, one yellow as downmost in same table (or green above no light above yellow in dwarf signal) - allowed to leave the station. Indicates that there are two empty blocks ahead. (Zhunxu lieche you chezhan chufa, biaoshi yunxing qianfang you liangge bisefenqu kong xian.) (fig 38)
  • One white light in lower table (or one white light in dwarf signal - if there are two dwarf signals beside each other and the light is in the right one, or one white light in a three light dwarf signal) - allowed to pass the signal for shunting. (Zhun xu yuegao gai xinhaoji diaoche). (fig 36, 42, 46).

    Signals along the line (Paragraph 320)

    Such signals look like signals for leaving a station, in principle.
  • One green light (upper light in three light table or dwarf signal) - allowed to leave the station along a straight train way. The signal indicates that the station can be left and the next route signal is clear ..... (Zhun xu lieche you cheshan jing zheng xian chufa, biaoshi chu zhan he jin lu xinhaoji jun ren kaifang zhuangtai.) (fig 47)
  • One yellow light (downmost light in three light table or dwarf signal) - allowed to move, prepare to stop at the next light signal. (Zhun xu lieche yunxing dao ci yi sedeng xinhaoji zhiqian zhunbei tingche.) (fig 48)
  • One green light as uppermost in upper two light table, one yellow as uppermost in lower two light table (or green above no light above yellow in dwarf signal) -Indicates that this signal can be passed by the train, further to the front is at least one route signal which is clear. (i.e. the second route signal after this is red). (Biaoshi gai xinhaoji lieche yunxing qianfang zhishao you yi jia jin lu xinhaoji ren kaifang zhuangtai.) (fig 49)
  • One red light (downmost light or middle light) - do not pass! (fig 50)
  • One white light in lower table (or one white light in rightmost of two dwarf signals) - allowed to pass the signal for shunting. (fig 51).

    Passing Signals (tongguo xinhaoji) (Paragraph 321)

    Signals on lines with fully automatic block system have three lights. They are mounted on the left side of the mast. In case of semi-automatic block system only signals with one green or one red light may be used. These signals have four aspects, in order to show two blocks ahead, for high speed trains



  • One green light in the top position of the table: Passing the signal is allowed. There are at least three free blocks ahead. (fig 55)
  • One green light in the middle of the table: Passing the signal is allowed. There are at least two free blocks ahead. (fig 52)
  • One green light in the top of the table above one yellow light on the bottom position of the table: Passing the signal is allowed. There are two free blocks ahead. (fig 56)
  • One yellow light in the top position of the table: Passing the signal is allowed. There is one free block ahead. (fig 53)
  • One yellow light in the bottom position of the table: Passing the signal is allowed. There is one free block ahead. (fig 57)
  • One red light on the bottom position of the table: Stop. (fig 54)
  • One red light on the middle position of the table: Stop. (fig 58)

    Thus, this is how you pass signals towards a stop: Green in top position - green in middle position - green over yellow - yellow - red.


    Passing an automatic block signal when there are problems

    An automatic block light signal shows red light. An extra blue light is shown (paragraph 323, picture 59) in a black rectangle standing on its tip, below the red light signal. This means the train may proceed past the signal at 20 km/h, move forward to the next signal showing "pass" and at all times be prepared to stop.

    I do not know the exact use of this signal. It may be analog to the same Russian signal: If the main signal cannot show other aspects than red, or the next block is occupied, the train shall stop, or approach the signal carefully, identify it as an automatic block signal, and then proceed at 20 km/h until some hindrance train or otherwise) gets visible, or until the next signal. At station entries, a white signal, not a blue one, is shown (see paragraph 318). Probably the blue light is shown at the order of a manual operator, while the red light is automatic.

    Distant light signals (paragraph 324, 325, 326)

    The distant light signal aspects show the following signals:
    1. one green light in a signal with two lamps on a short mast -- indicates the main signal in open state.
    2. one yellow light in a signal with two lamps on a short mast -- indicates the main signal in closed state.
    3. one yellow light in a signal on a short black and white striped mast, in a black rhombus -- indicates that the corresponding not visible main signal is red. When the signal does not burn, regard the signal as not applying. (This is a repeater distant signal).
    4. one red light in a signal on a short black and white striped mast (picture 60 in signal book), in a black rhombus -- not allowed to pass the main signal. (I am not sure about the difference to the yellow distant signal).


    Station exit light signal for several tracks, and repeaters

    Some stations have only one exit signal, but an indicator which track the exit signal allows departure from. In this case, the usual exit signal (a two light signal) indicates green light. Below it are mounted three small white lights. If the left small white light is on, it allows the left track to exit. If the middle small light is on, it allows the middle track to exit. If the right small light is on, it allows the right track to exit. (Signal book paragraph 349).

    Some stations have a repeater for the exit signal at the platform or on the way out of the station on the left side of the track. In this case the normal exit signal shows green, and on the platform, or to the left of the train way, is a white light.

    (Signal book paragraph 350).

    Shunting light signal with three white lamps

    I have to verify this in reality!

    Some station have a shunting signal, about two meters high, with three lamps, one can be seen when looking away from the shunting area, two can be seen when moving towards the sunting area. These show the following signals:

    (Signal book paragraph 328): Hump signals

    They are light signals on a mast, with two plates of two lights each. Lights are from uppermost: Yellow, green, red, white. They show the following eignht signal aspects:

    1. One green light: push the shunt towards the hump at the specified speed.
    2. One green flashing light: accelerate in direction of hump
    3. One yellow flashing light: Decelerate to push towards the hump.
    4. One yellow light: "Pre-humping" (prepare to hump).
    5. One red light: stop the shunt
    6. One red flashing light: Shunt shall move back from the hump.
    7. One white light: engine shall come below the hump, to the foot of hump.
    8. One white flashing light: Shunt shall leave the hump. No hump shunting, but push and pull shunting.

    Repeater light signal with three white lamps in a triangle, before entrance of station

    (Signal book paragraph 330, picture 76 to 78). The signal plate is a black rhombus on its tip. Such signals can be seen on the east entry to Haizita station on the Zhundong line.

    Two lights upwards from left in 60 degree angle: Station entry signal will allow the train to enter station over points in straight direction.

    Two lights horizontal: Station entry signal will allow the train to enter station over points in round direction.

    No lights: Station entry signal will be in closed state.

    Repeater light signal with one lamp inside a station

    (Signal book paragraph 330, picture 79 and 80).

    Signal is a black rhombus on its tip with one light:

  • green light indicates: Station exit signal will be in open state. No light indicates station exit signal is closed.
  • White light indicates: Station exit signal will be in open state for shunting. No light indicates station exit signal is closed.