European Railway Epochs

Published: 2018-12-01 - By: Alain LM
Last updated on: 2022-02-10
visibility: Public

European Railway Epochs

This article is an English translation of NEM 800 'Les époques du chemin de fer' standard published in 2007 (French version) by MOROP. This unofficial translation is published with permission of the President of MOROP, the European standardization body for Model Railroading. This standard is also available in German NEM 800 'Eisenbahn-Epochen'. No official English version exists.

This standard actually covers Continental European Railways, hence excludes United Kingdom for which a dedicated British Railway Eras system has been put in place.

1. General

In the history of railways, we can clearly see the emergence of epochs through technical developments and changes in socio-economic structures. These epochs are distinguished by: the type of construction, the colors and markings of vehicles, constructions and signaling. Vehicles and accessories are to be attached to a definite epoch. For model networks, it is also advisable to assign them an epoch according to their theme and their configuration.

2. Classification of Epochs

European railways have six epochs which, from the point of view of the modeler, can be distinguished, although their limits cannot precisely be, as a general rule. These evolutionary transitions overlap and are specific to certain regions.

Many changes are also apparent during these epochs, which call for distinguishing periods, which is not possible to unify for each country, given the differences evolution of each country or administration. This standard specifies the epochs.

The specific limitations of suitable epochs for a country, as well as the more precise classification in periods and their characteristics, are the subject of annexes specific to that country, which are classified as recommendations (see note [1] below).

3. Denomination and use

Epochs are marked by Roman numerals, periods are marked by lowercase letters added to the epochs (example: "Epoch IVb").

An epoch indication without additional letter should refer to the period marked by an asterisk (*). If models are to be assigned to a different period, the additional lowercase letter must always be used.

Recommendation is made to manufacturers of railway models and accessories to conform for their productions to an epoch and to state it in their catalogs.

4. Overview of Epochs

5. Characteristics of Epochs in Europe

Epoch I: Construction of the first railways, development of steam locomotives, number of private companies.
Epoch II: Intensive unification of manufacturing and operating regulations covering several countries (RIV, RIC), introduction of electric traction and lighted signals.
Epoch III: Reconstruction after the war and development of a modern locomotive roster, change of motive power following the development of electricity and diesel.
Epoch IV: Completion of the change of motive power, introduction of an international marking scheme of the fleet of towed vehicles.
Epoch V: Construction of high-speed lines, more striking liveries of the rolling stock so to improve brand image, liberalization of networks, transformation of state railways into shareholding companies. Separation of infrastructure and rolling stock, as well as passenger and freight traffic, even outside major networks. Epoch VI: Alongside the "legacy" railways, new Railway Operating Companies (ROC) without their own infrastructure are created, that own their motive power and personal liveries, offering passenger and freight services, national and international. Improvement of the UIC numbering scheme with 12 digits. Transition of existing international agreements (RIC, RIV, etc.) to the new European Directives (OTIF, TSI). Abandonment of common management of freight wagons (EUROP and OPW). The national lines of high-speed trains reserved solely for passenger traffic develop into one international network. Freight services in small railway stations and their facilities are abandoned as well as marshalling yards. In "passenger" service fixed and reversible trains predominate, the freight service is mainly composed of complete trains.

Note [1]: Periods, that are subdivisions of Epochs, are defined at country level. See on the MOROP list of Standards, NEM 801 to 825 - page in French here - page in German here. A recap table of periods of all countries is also available in Excel format here.

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