The Signalling Record Society
Engineers' Line References
This page should be regarded as “Work in Progress”. The webmaster will welcome additional information for this page.
Signal Fact 30
The Norwich & Yarmouth Railway introduced block telegraph working in 1848 using Cooke & Wheatstone 1830s style instruments.
The instruments were used for general messages as well as authorising train movements.
ELRs are only applicable to some of the lines that became part of British Railways on 1 January 1948, excluding the Northern Counties Committee. Other railways are not included in this system.
The system was devised by British Rail, Western Region who introduced three letter codes based on the Great Western Railway's line names thus "Main Line" became MLN. When the system was extended nationally in the 1980s some of the initial codes were altered and some changes still occur today. In partcular, a number of Western Region codes were changed so the original could be used elsewhere. The system is still in use by Network Rail used in Table 'A' of current Sectional Appendices and published in the Quail series of Railway Track Diagrams.
The ELR is visible on many items of railway infrastructure items such as bridges, culverts and so on. An excellent listing and a more detailed explanation can be found on Phil Deaves Railway Codes web site which now contains greater detail of the content of many of the ELRs.
The British Rail issued "ELR Maps For The GEOGIS System" dated May 1988 states:
An ELR is defined as a route that has continuous mileage (containing no jumps in mileage, either forward or backward) and containing no duplicated bridge / structure number or identifier: thus an ELR Code plus a mileage, in miles and yards, identifies a unique location within BR. Each route code has either three alpha characters or three alpha characters and one numeric."
Like all good rules, it seems broken in places. And the location of some ELRs has eluded us for now.
A note of caution regarding quoted ELR mileages on lines, particularly branch lines, that had closed before the system went into use. The mileages can well represent less than the true extent of the line and this is probably due to the branch terminal area having been sold off leaving BR responsiblity to end on the approaches.
Cross Referencing to RailRef
The RailRef Line Codes provide comprehensive coverage of the railways. ELRs only exist (or should only exist) where the line was operational in 1988 when GEOGIS came into use or British Rail still had responsibility for items of infrastructure on lines that had already closed.
The various Acts of Parliament authorising construction of railways included a provision that the railway company (or its successors) must continue to be responsible for the infrastructure they created even after closure of the line. This responsibility continued for ever unless they could eliminate the item concerned or they were able to persuade someone else to take on that liability.
British Rail's liabilities included infrastructure on lines closed long before grouping let alone nationalisation and avoidance of the costs of these responsibilities undoubtedly led to the rapid demise of many bridges and viaducts soon after line closure. This responsibility for closed line infrastructure passed to British Rail (Residuary) Ltd in 1994 rather than to Railtrack. With the demise of British Rail (Residuary) the responsiblity passed Department for Transport - poetic justice really as they had spent decades keeping the costs involved off their budget.
Quite a few sections of railway that closed or passed to other bodies before ELRs came into use and where no residual responsibility remained thus have no ELR at all.
The ELRs Listed
A series of pages has been created to allow the Line Code(s) for which an ELR exists to be located easily. There is a separate page for each initial letter of the ELRs; thus the page 'A' contains the ELRs from AAA to AZZ in alphabetical sequence and similarly for the others and there are 26 such pages.
Each ELR page will open in a new window and contains the cross reference information in tabular form:
|ELR||The Engineer's Line Reference Code.|
|BR-NR||Whether or not the code has been listed in a British Rail, Railtrack or Network Rail Sectional Appendix or published in one or more editions of the Railway Track Diagrams (Quail volumes 1 to 5 now published by TrackMaps) or included the GEOGIS database or are included in infrastructure lists originating with BR Residual. If blank the origin of the ELR is uncertain because the Society has not had sight of any official rail industry document listing that ELR.|
|Line Name||Name or other defining description. These are not necessarily the same description used by other publications or web sites.|
|RailRef||The corresponding Line Code(s). Fuller detail will be found by following the link(s) in this column.|