British Railways Head Codes

British Railways introduced the 'Four Position Train Identification' system as a new system of classifying and identifying trains in the summer Working Timetable (WTT) commencing 12th June 1961. The system remains in place to this day, although the identification codes have not been displayed on the front of trains since the 1970's.

When the system was introduced, a four character identification code was displayed on the front of every train and enabled any train on any region to be identified.

The four position identification panel allocated characters as follows:

  • The first character specified the class of the train
  • The second character specified the destination area of the train
  • The last to charaters specified an individual train number

These codes are detailed below.

Train Classes (first character)

1 Express Passenger
2 Local Passenger
3 Parcels and empty coaching stock (ECS)
4 Express Freight
5 Express Freight
6 Express Freight
7 Express Freight
8 Through Freight
9 Mineral and empty wagon trains and local freight trains including untimetabled local trip workings and pilot engine workings
0 Light engine movements, Engine and Brakevan movements

Destination Codes (second character - all interegional trains)

The destination area of all trains, with the exception of local freight trains and light engine movements, was designated by the second character. The following codes were reserved for Inter Regional Trains:

E Eastern region
M London Midland Region
N North Eastern Region
O Southern Region
S Scottish Region
V Western Region
X Used on Inter regional trains, troop trains and special trains

Destination Codes (second character - Western Region)

A London District
B Bristol District
C Exeter and Plymouth Districts
F Swansea District
H Birmingham and Gloucester Districts
J Shrewsbury District
T Newport and Cardiff Districts
X Used on all Excursions, military and special trains within the Western Region, irrespective of destination area.

Destination Codes (second character - London Midland Region)

A Euston
B Euston and Rugby
C St Pancras, Marylebone and Manchester North
D Chester and Nottingham
F Leicester
G Birmingham
H Manchester South and Stoke-on-Trent
J Manchester North
K Crewe, Liverpool Lime Street and Liverpool Central
L Preston (incl Fylde), Barrow and Carlisle
P Blackpool, Fylde and Derby
T Special/Excursion passenger
Z Passenger and freight

Graham Plowman (19/12/2011)

References: BRB (Residuary) Ltd General Guide to the Four Position Train Identification system.

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