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What is a Route?

Within railway stations, trains must have the ability to change tracks. This is done with switches and crossings. It must be prevented that trains come into one block together or end up head-to-head.

Moving the position of a switch (throwing a switch) while a train is on the switch must be prevented. It must also be guaranteed trains have sufficient brake distance ahead of them.

Such conditions are provided by route setting. “Setting and locking a route” for a train consists of the following:

  • Switches are locked until the train has fully passed
  • Railroad crossings are closed on time and stay closed until the train has fully passed
  • Trains from an opposite direction to the same track are blocked
  • A bridge is closed and locked while closed
  • The track is free of railway vehicles

(There are more conditions, but we won’t make it too technical here.)

In Germany there are two distinct types of routes: Train routes and shunt routes

Train Routes

These are routes for train movements. Train routes are set for train which have a timetable assigned. A train is an consist of railway vehicles with at least one locomotive or multiple unit. Trains operate normally between the stations on the "free tracks". Trains always have a schedule and always have a train number.

Since trains often want to go fast, higher security requirements are required by law to guarantee the reliability and safety of the trains. Usually, this means that an flank protection is required and the level crossing must be closed to prevent dangerous situations. The signals Hp 1 or Hp 2 shown are shown to the driver to let him now that a train route has been set.

Setting trains routes involves pressing two buttons on the panel. Either you will press two signal buttons (red dots) together, or you’ll press a signal button together with an end button.

When both buttons are pressed, the system attempts to find a preset route that can be set between those two buttons. If a route exists, and all the interlocking safety checks pass, switches will be thrown into position. Finally, when all is ok with the route, the signal will go to proceed.

Setting a route can take time. It is not instantaneous. Do not press repeatedly or rapidly and can cause panel malfunctions.

If a route appears to be set, but the signal does not go to “proceed”, check if there is a switch that could not be thrown, a flank protection switch could not been thrown or any other condition that could prevent the route from being set completely.

It is important to understand that when a route is set, the interlocking system first tries to set the route at shunt route safety level. After that, the additional actions for setting it upto train route safety level will be executed. Therefor, it can happen that when attempting to set a train route, revoking needs to be done at shunt route level.

Shunt Routes

Shunt movements are movements of railway vehicles which are NOT according to a timetable.

Shunt movements do occur at speeds of up to 25 km/h "on sight". This means the driver must verify himself (by looking out the window) that the track is free and can be driven safely.

For all movements other than train movements, a shunt route needs to be set. (from signal to signal using the gray buttons)

Setting shunt routes involves the same operations as setting train routes, except instead of pressing train route buttons (red dots) only the grey shunt route buttons are pressed.

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