Germany - Railway Terminology

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A brief Guide to German railway terminology

Among the kinds of different Bahnanlagen, railway layouts, to be found auf freier Strecke, on the open line, or more specifically not within the home-signals of a station, are an Abzweigstelle (Abzw), a junction or connection between the tracks of different lines, but not within a station, and an Überleitstelle (Üst), a crossover or running connection between different tracks of the same double-track line, not within a station. A line with Überleitstellen often has Gleiswechselbetrieb (GWB), a facility for wrong-line running, equivalent to the French ligne banalisée, where each track is equipped with signals for both directions, allowing a train to avoid a track section temporarily out of use for maintenance, or allowing fliegende Überholung, overtaking on the move, where two trains run parallel in the same direction at different speeds, and the slower train keeps running.

An Anschlußstelle (Anst) is a siding, normally with hand-operated points, which can be unlocked using a key. A train bringing wagons to the siding, or collecting wagons from the siding, must obtain the key from the nearest station, and no other train may enter the same section of line until the key has been brought back to the station. An Ausweichanschlußstelle (Awanst) is a siding as above, but with additional equipment allowing a train to take refuge in the siding protected by the points, which are locked in the straight position with the key and then electrically prevented from moving by the signal-box of the nearest station, thus making the line section clear for other trains.

A Bahnhof (Bf) is a station with points where trains may start or finish their journey, as distinct from a Haltepunkt (Hp), a place with a platform where passenger trains regularly stop, but with no points, or a Haltestelle (Hst), which is an Hp combined with an Abzw or Üst or Anst or Awanst. No particular term is employed for a running junction within a station area, but this would not be described as an Abzw, only by the station name, if necessary followed by the number of the point (eg Weiche 123).

A Blockstelle is a place not within a station and without points, but equipped with a Blocksignal (Bk) that splits the distance between stations into shorter Blockstrecken, block sections, that may not be entered by a second train before the first train has left. Most Bk have been replaced by a Selbstblocksignal (Sbk) or automatic intermediate block signal. An Sbk has only a number, but Abzw, Üst and Bk are given names, which can as in Britain be whimsical rather than geographical. Some examples are:

  • Ziehbrunnen (a well where water can be pulled up in a bucket),
  • Ziegenberg (goats' hill),
  • Forsthaus (forest-keeper's house),
  • Rauschwald (murmuring forest),
  • Himmelstuer (heaven's door)
  • ...

Thanks to various people both in Germany and Britain for the above.

There is a good, English language description of German railway signalling at

See also