446 RAILROAD-RELATED TERMS
has converted this document from the plain text sent to rec.railroad (RIP) by P.Veltman on November 23, 1994. The
original 59 entries are denoted in italics. Since
that time, the glossary has been essentially improved and enriched, not
only by myself, but also by the numerous readers. Thank you for
D. W. Bair,
W. J. Cedzich,
J. M. Davis,
T. R. Gerbracht,
P. B. Hargrove,
D. B. Hannah,
J. P. Smith,
D. R. Somoza,
J. W. Cocks,
- Association of American Railroads.
- AB Valve
- The operating device used on freight cars for charging,
applying, and releasing the brakes. Also called a triple valve
- ABD Valve
- An improvement of the AB Valve that features a quick
- ABDW Valve
- An improvement of the ABD Valve. Modifies the
Emergency Portion and provides for accelerated buildup of brake cylinder
pressure during quick service applications.
- Absolute Block
- A length of track in which no train or engine is permitted to
enter while it is occupied by another train or engine.
- Absolute Permissive Block (APB)
- A designated section of track or tracks within which the
movement of trains will be governed by block signals, whose
indications supersede the superiority of trains. The block signals
may be controlled manually or automatically.
- Absolute Signal
- A block or interlocking signal designated by an "A" market or
the absence of a number plate.
- Add, to
- Couple car(s) to a train
- Adhesion Coefficient
- The ratio of tangential and normal force that exist between the wheel
and the rail during motion.
- AEI Tag
- An electronic transponder located on the side of rail cars that
identifies them to trackside readers.
- Air Brake System
- All of the devices and parts included in making an air brake
for controlling the speed and stopping a locomotive or train. It
is made up of the operating devices, the pipes, fittings and
foundation brake gear.
- Air Test
- The act of operating the brake valve to determine that the air
brake system was operating correctly and could stop the train if
- A clear track in a switching yard.
- Angle Cock
- An appliance used for the purpose of opening or closing brake
pipe on ends of cars, rear ends of tenders,
and front ends of switch engines so equipped. Provision is made for
supporting hose at proper angle.
- All Purpose Employee --
an employee that is a promoted engineer that can also be
forced to work as a conductor or trainman.
- Consists of all of the operations from the time the brake pipe
reduction is started until the brake is released.
- Approach Signal
- A signal that governs the approach to another signal.
- When a 2-way EOT is in communication with the HOT allowing it to dump the
train from the rear.
- Articulated [Mallet]
- A Mallet locomotive. A simple articulated is a mallet which
had a large enough boiler to supply all four cylinders with high
pressure steam direct from the boiler. A compound mallet is a mallet
which had a boiler too small to supply high pressure steam to all four
cylinders at once, and used steam twice, once to the rear high pressure
cylinders and the "partially used" steam would then supply the front
cylinders. The best known example of a compound mallet is the N&W Y6b
mallet, which "shifted" to compound operation at higher speed. Some well
known simple articulated's are the UP BIG Boy, the UP Challenger, the N&W
Class A, the B&O EM-1 type, and the SP AC class.
- American Railway Union, Crushed during the Pullman strike in 1894
- Automatic Block Signal System
- A series of consecutive blocks governed by block signals, cab
signals or both, actuated by a train, engine or by certain
conditions affecting the use of a block.
- Automatic Cab Signal System (ACS)
- A system which provides for the automatic operation of the cab
signals and cab warning whistle.
- Automatic Stop Arm
- Mechanical arm located on the wayside, in conjunction with a wayside
signal, which causes an emergency brake application when a train passes
the signal at danger and the arm is in tripping position.
- Automatic Train Stop System (ATS)
- A system actuated by wayside inductors, so arranged that its
operation will automatically result in the application of the
brakes until the train has been brought to a stop.
- Auxiliary Reservoir
- A reservoir located on each rail car that stores air supplied by the
- Baby Lifter
- A brakeman.
- Bad Order
- A piece of rolling stock that needs repair.
- By moving the independent brake handle sideways,
the engineer can release locomotive brake cylinder pressure
that is due to an automatic brake application (a brake pipe pressure
The bail has no effect on brake cylinder pressure that is due to an
independent brake application.
- Fireman (because his head was near the door of firebox when shoveling
- Ball (of a Rail)
- The head of the rail
- Balloon Track
- Railroad track in the shape of a teardrop used to reverse the
direction of a train.
- Bend the Iron, To
- To throw a switch.
- An articulated steam locomotive with a central
boiler/cab assembly pivoted between two power
units. Designed for hard roads with tight curves,
this type is found mostly in Africa.
- Big Boy
- Union Pacific 4-8-8-4 600 ton steam freight locomotive
- Big C
- The conductor (from the Order of Railway Conductors)
- Big E
- A railroad engineer (for Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers)
- Emergency application of air brakes, usually when initiated by engineer,
i.e. put her in the big hole
- Brakes In Emergency;
application of the emergency braking system.
- Black Snake
- A coal train.
- Initials of Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers union
- Initials of Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Engine-men union
- A walk way between two passenger cars covered with either canvas or leather
in an accordion shape. From the outside of the blinds to the outer edge of the
cars there was a space about 24 inches wide. There was a ladder running up to
the top of the car in this space and the bums would grap hold of the ladder
and hold on to it. That was riding the blinds.
- A length of track between consecutive block signals or from a
block signal to the end of block system limits, governed by block
signals, cab signals or both.
- Block Occupancy Indicator
- An indicator used to convey information regarding block
- Block Signal
- A fixed signal at the entrance of a block to govern trains and
engines entering and using that block.
- Block System
- A block or series of consecutive blocks within APB,
ABS, ACS, CTC or
- Block Track
- Track with equipment for repairing rail cars on the spot.
- Blue Flag
- A blue flag or signal that is placed on a car or locomotive
when workers are around or under it. When a car or locomotive is
blue-flagged, then it must not be coupled to or moved in any
manner. The only person allowed to remove a blue flag is the
person who put it there in the first place.
- Brooklyn Manhattan
Transit - subdivision B-1
of the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) subway
- British: term for a signalman in UK. Derives from railway
policeman of early railways. The policeman being 'invented' by Sir
Robert (Bobby) Peel.
- Australian and European term for a truck.
- Itenerent railroad workers. Always moving from one road to another.
- A small two cylinder steam driven engine, manufactured by the
Franklin Railway Supply Co., and attached to an axle of the trailing
track of some steam locomotives to provide additional tractive
effort when starting a train.
- Bradley Bar
- A device shaped like a hockey stick used to straighten hand holds on
- The Brains
- The conductor
- Brake Beam
- A cross-piece in the foundation brake gear for a pair of
wheels to which the leverage delivers its force to be transmitted
through the attached brake head and brake shoes to the tread of the
- Brake Cylinder
- A cast metal cylinder with a piston that is forced outward by
compressed air in applying the brakes and returned by a release
spring in releasing the brakes.
- Brake Pipe
- Commonly called a train line, it is the pipe, hose,
connections, angle cocks, cut-out cocks, fittings, etc., connecting
the locomotive and all cars from one end of the train to the other
for the passage of air to charge and control the brakes.
- Brake Rigging
- A term commonly used instead of foundation brake gear.
- Brakes, Automatic
- Automatic brakes are the brake controls in the
locomotive that regulate the pressure of the brake pipe
and apply or release the brakes for the entire train
including the locomotives
- Brakes, Independent
- Independent brakes are the brake controls in the
locomotive that apply the brakes on the locomotives only.
The air hose marked ACT or BR CYL enables the lead unit to
control the trailing units brakes
- A portion of a division designated by a timetable. Rules and
instructions pertaining to subdivisions apply on branches.
- Branch Line
- A secondary line of a railroad, not the main line.
- Brass Hat
- AA railroad executive, usually a division manager or higher, a.k.a.
- Bridge Line Haul Road
- See overhead line haul road.
- Brotherhood Notch
- A notch high on the reverse lever quadrant which admitted a very limited
amount of steam to the cylinder making it easier on fireman, but
taking longer to get over the road.
- Initials of Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen union
- Slang for a railroad police officer or railroad detective.
- A condition where both drawbar knuckles are closed, making the coupling
impossible without opening one knuckle (amer. slang).
- Cab Apron
- The hinged metal plate attached to the rear end cab floor of a steam
locomotive, which rested on the front of the tender and formed a transition
piece between the engine and tender for crew safety. Also called a deck plate.
- Cab Forward
- A steam locomotive with the engineers cab placed ahead of the
boiler instead of behind it.
- Camel back
- Slang: an older rerailing device, also called a rerailing "frog". Used
in pairs, one on each side to lift the wheel flanges of a derailed car
and allow them to slide back onto the rail.
- Another name for the hood-type diesel locomotive. Examples: F40PH, FP45,
E and F units.
- Overhead wire system on elecricfied railroads for suppling current to
electric locomotives and self-propelled cars equipped with pantographs.
- Centipede Tender
- A high capacity tender applied to some large steam locomotives,
and having seven axles, with the front two axles contained in a track
casting and capable of swiveling. Major users of centipede tenders
include New York Central and Union Pacific railroads (USA).
- Cab Signal
- A signal located in engineer's compartment or cab, indicating
a condition affecting the movement of a train or engine and used in
conjunction with interlocking signals and in conjunction with or in
lieu of block signals.
- Cabin Car or Hack
- A non revenue car formally used on the rear of trains
- End of train non revenue car
- Caboose Valve
- A rotary valve type of device providing means for making a
controlled rate of brake pipe reduction for making a service or
emergency application from the caboose.
- From the 1889 Century Dictionary of the English Language:
A timber running along the tops of the upright pieces in the sides of the
body of a railway-carriage and supporting the roof and the roof sticks. Called
in the United States a plate.
- Car Knocker
- It was common for car inspectors to tap parts with a hammer. The
resulting tone of sound gave clues to the condition of those parts.
Ergo, Car Knocker.
- Formal name for a craft employee that inspects and repairs railway cars.
- Car Toad, Car Tonk
- Car inspector who checked the condition f freight and passenger cars
and conducted the air brake tests
- Central Control Room,
a facility from which rail system operation will be monitored and controlled.
- Centralized Traffic Control (CTC)
- A remotely controlled block signal system under which train
movements are authorized by block signals whose indicators
supersede the superiority of trains.
- A specified frequency for communication between train and
dispatcher or 2 trains. The channel numbers (07 thru 97) are shorthand
methods of designating assigned radio frequencies for
transmission. For example, channel 96 means to transmit on an assigned
radio frequency of 161.550 mHz.
- Cinder Dick
- Railroad detective (slang)
- Classification Lights
- Two electric lantern type lights, mounted high on
front of locomotive, with lenses that could be
switched from off, to white - for an extra train
or to green - indicating a train running as all
but the last section of a schedule. Flag holders
permitted the use of white and green flags for
daylite use, in like manner.
- Complete Locomotive
Control, retrofitted adhesion system manufactured
by Woodward Governor Company.
- Clear Block
- A block not occupied. Sometimes used to denote a clear signal
- Container on flat car. Referred to in intermodal traffic.
- Color Light Signal
- A fixed signal in which the indications are given by the color
of a light only.
- Color-Position Light Signal
- A fixed signal in which the indications are given by color and
position of two or more lights.
- Company Notch
- Denotes reverse lever in lower quadrant using lots of steam to pull
a heavy, i.e. revenue train making money for the company.
- Brakeman, with or without brains, displaying pencils.
- Controlled Point
- A location designated by number where signals and /or switches
of a CTC system are controlled by a control operator.
- Controlled Siding
- A siding within CTC or interlocking limits,
for use of which is governed by signal indication or control
- Controlled Signal
- An absolute signal, the aspect of which, is controlled by a
- Coon It, to
- To walk across the tops of freight cars.
- Clean, Oil, Test & Stencil. Applies to air brake rework.
- Covered Wagon
- A nickname that is generally attached to EMD E and F units.
- Cow Catcher
- A metal frame on the front of a locomotive to remove obstructions from
- A rail anchor of spring steel that is driven onto the base of the rail
and bears against the tie which is prevented from moving by the resistance of
the stone ballast. The name comes from the function of the anchor which is a
"rail anti-creep device."
- A length of track that carries one track across another.
- A track connection between two adjacent tracks.
- Crown Sheet
- The iron sheet at the top of the firebox, and
which was in direct contact with the heat from
the firebox.It was connected to the outside shell
of the boiler by "Stay Bolts" as were the
"side Sheets" which comprised the sides of the
- A wooden, two truck or bobber trucked, caboose. Also called a way car,
hack or, in the days of living in them, a bean shack
- A small cabin on the roof of a caboose to afford a means of lookout
for the train crew.
- Current of Traffic
- The movement of trains on a main track, in one direction,
specified by the rules.
- Cut, to
- Separate car(s) from a train
- Cut Lever
- The hand operated lever applied to all cars and locomotives, which was
used to lift the coupler pin and release the knuckle in order to couple or
uncouple cars and locomotives.
- Cycle Braking
- A rapid sequence of automatic brake applications and
releases. This does not allow enough time for the reservoirs on the
cars to recharge and exhausts the air pressure available to apply the
- Cylinder Cocks
- Drain valves, operated from engine cab,
to allow condensate to drain from cylinders
when locomotive had been idle for a period of
- Dark Territory
- A series of rail miles ungoverned by signals and unable to transmit
or receive radio or cellular phone signals.
- Date Nail
- A small nail used by railroads from late 1800's to present used to mark
the year a tie was placed in roadbed. Nails are distinctive in that each has
the last two digits of placement year stamped in head. Usually found within
six inches of tie end, but some are located mid tie to allow easier
inspection. Rarer nails value in 100's of dollar range to collectors
- Dead Head
- A railroad employee traveling on a pass.
- Dead Man
- Usually a foot pedal that was pressed by the engineer. When pressure on
the pedal was released, the train brakes were automatically applied. This
was to detect sleeping or dead engineers.
- In the days before air brakes, the duties of the
brakemen included stopping the train. The brakeman
would have to go to the top deck of the car - thus
decorate - and wind the stem winder.
- A device placed short of clearing point on a track to prevent
a car or engine from fouling main track, derailing
said car or engine if not removed to permit safe passage.
- A special track work item that allows two railroad tracks to cross
each other at grade.
- A yard master.
- Direct Traffic Control (DTC)
- System of traffic control with fixed blocks, where
block occupancy is granted remotely by a dispatcher.
Ordinarily, only one train may occupy a DTC block
at a time. Similar to TWC except that the blocks
are fixed by timetable rather than granted case by
case. DTC may be used in conjunction with track
signalling in APB, ABS, or over dark territory.
- Distant Signal
- A fixed signal outside of a block system, used to govern the
approach to a block signal, interlocking signal or switch point
indicator. It will not convey information as to conditions
affecting the use of the track between the distant signal and block
signal, interlocking signal or switch point indicator to which
approach is governed. It will be identified by a "D" marker.
- Distributed Power Trains
- Trains that have a remotely controlled
locomotive embedded within the train.
This allows for higher tonnage trains as the
drawbar tensions are lower than an equivalent
train with head-end power only.
- A portion of the railroad designated by timetable.
- Empty boxcar train.
- A device used in unison with a clawbar to pull spikes from the
wing rails of a frog and also from the guard rail.
- A brakeman or switch-tender - someone who throws switches.
- Slang for a passenger trainman. Usually used by freight trainmen who are
adept at station switching, and all the other skills needed in general
- Double Slip Switch
- Used only where space is limited, combines the functions of a
crossing and turnouts to allow any one of four routings.
- Double Track (DT)
- Two main tracks, on one of which the current of traffic is in
a specified direction, and on the other in the opposite direction.
- A common expression to describe the movement of a heavy train, such
as a coal drag or an ore drag.
- Drawbar Horsepower
- The total horsepower of a locomotive less the amount of
horsepower that it takes to move the locomotive itself, the balance
being available to pull the load.
- Drill Track
- A track connecting with the ladder track, over which
locomotives and cars move back and forth in switching.
- Switch a car behind the engine onto an adjacent track when the engine
can't run around the car. Requires two trainmen, one to pull the pin on the
car to be dropped and the other to throw the switch after the engine has
passed to let the car run onto the parallel track.
- Dual Control Switch
- A power-operated switch, also equipped for hand operation.
- A small auxiliary signal used to control unusual movements such as a set
back into a yard from a main line. Implies a complete stop and wait for a
manual operation from the panel. Usually ground mounted lens: two whites for
proceed and red/white for stop. Also known as dolly or dwarf.
- Dump the air
- Emergency application of the air brakes causing a train to stop abruptly,
usually causing damage to the merchandise being carried or to the train
- A short section of brake hose with a coupling(glad hand) on each end.
It's used to connect two short hoses together.
- Dwarf Signal
- Two or three lens signal used to control a move over a switch in a yard.
- Dynamic Braking
- A method of train braking where the kinetic energy from the
train movement generates current at the locomotive traction motors,
and is dissipated in a resistor grid on the locomotive.
- Initiation of an emergency application.
- A term commonly given to an brake operating valve that goes
into quick-action emergency when it should not. Also called a
Kicker. Dynamiting -- application of emergency (air)
- Electric Switch Lock
- An electrically controlled lock device affixed to a hand
operated switch or derail to control it's use.
- Elephant Ears
- Metal side plates used on some large steam locomotives to
lift the smoke above the train at speed.
- Elephant Style
- Joining several single-cockpit locomotives (e.g., F's) so that all
cokpits look in one direction (like elephants in a circus)
- Emergency Application
- An application resulting from an emergency rate of brake pipe
reduction which causes the brakes to apply quickly and with maximum
braking force for the shortest practical stopping distance.
- A unit propelled by any form of energy, or a combination of
such units operated from a single control, used in train or yard
- Engine Lite
- Locomotive or multiple units lite of any cars.
- Engine Whistle Signals
- * means a short blast of the whistle or horn
- means one long blast
|*||apply brakes, stop
|* *||answer to any signal not otherwise provided for
|* * *||when standing, back
|* * * *||call for signals
|-||test train brakes
|- -||release train brakes
|- - -||when running, stop at next passenger station
|- - -||when standing, train parted
|- - - -||recall flagman from south or west
|- - - - -||recall flagman from north or east
|- * *||calling attention to another train that signals are
displayed for a following section
|- * * *||flagman protect the rear of train
|* * * -||flagman protect the front of train
|- - *||approaching meeting or waiting points
|- - * -||approaching crossing at grade
|- * * -||answer to yellow temporary reduced speed flag placed 1 1/2 miles in advance of restricted tracks
- End Of Train unit
(see also Caboose). An EOT transmits brake pipe pressure
to the lead unit (head end locomotive),
while a two way EOT is also capable of receiving a
transmission from the lead unit to open the brake pipe and put the train into
emergency stop (clarified by Bob Murphy).
- Extra Train
- A train not authorized by timetable schedule. It may be
- Extra -
- For any extra train except work extra, the movement
of which is authorized in a specified direction.
- Work Extra -
- For any extra train authorized by Form H train
order, the movement of which may be in either
direction within specified limits.
- Facing Point Lock
- A locking device which automatically locks the switch points
of a spring switch in normal position.
- Double ended Locomotive with a single central cab,
Designed by Robert Francis Fairlie. Always running cab forward.
See http://www.bangor.ac.uk/ml/fr/fairlie.jpg. Robert Francis Fairlie also designed a 'single' locomotive
with one powered and one unpowered boogie and with a conventional cab at one
end so can travel chimney first or bunker first.
- Ferro- meaning iron plus equine- meaning
horse give one who studies iron horses, i.e., a railfan.
- Fire Box
- The "stove" where the wood, coal, oil, etc., was burned to make steam to
propel the engine.
- Length of iron, applied to either side of rail web,
used to connect sections of rail together.
- Fixed Signal
- A signal of fixed location indicating a condition affecting
the movement of a train.
- The rear brakeman. The great country music singer Jimmie Rodgers used to
brag about being a flagman. Reason? Because flagmen had to know how
to read so they could understand train orders.
- A slang term use by graffiti writers for a box car without ridges on the
the sides. Perfect for applying illegal graffiti by the medium of spray paint.
- Train order, or paper paper used for train orders.
- Flying Duck
- A derogatory term used to describe a switchman of the former
Pennsylvania Railroad, who customarily gave hand signals to their
enginemen using both hands at once.
- Flying Shunt
- A method to roll a car into a stub track when the train is
approaching from the opposite side of the switch to the stub track.
The train is stopped several yards from the switch. The engine and
the car to be dropped is uncoupled from the main part of the train, and
the brake reservoir on the car to be dropped is emptied. Brakeman #1
rides the car to be dropped, and brakeman #2 operates the switch.
The engine is accelerated, just prior to reaching the switch the
engineer slacks the throttle, brakeman #1 pulls the uncoupling handle,
then the engine speeds up, pulling away from the rolling car. Once the
engine passes the switch, brakeman #2 throws the switch allowing the
rolling car to go in the stub track.
Once the car is by the switch brakeman #1 applies the hand brake to
stop the car. The engine now can be backed up and then used to spot the
Although this action was considered to be unsafe, it was occasionally
- Flying Switch
- Same procedure as flying shunt except called a different name.
- Forestalling Lever
- A lever next to the engineer's position on locomotives used by railroads
with Intermittent Inductive Train Control. This control system would cause
an automatic brake application if an engineer violated a restrictive signal,
and the system required that the engineer operate the lever (ie. forestall)
when passing each signal to prevent air brake automatic application which
would stop the train. The IITS system included a magnetic shoe signal pickup
mechanism, which was placed on the first tender axle on steam locomotives
and on the lead axle on diesel locomotives, and wayside inductors in each
signal block. This system was in use for many years on the New York Central
- The name used by train crews to identify the people who gather along the
railroad tracks to watch or take pictures of trains.
- Form D
- A form used in receiving written permission to occupy track in DCS
sections of railroad lines. Permission is given by Train Dispatcher or
- Forty Five
- Yellow signal or semaphore at 45 degrees. Train may proceed through
signal, prepared to stop.
- Fountain Valve
- A steam supply chest mounted inside the cab at
highest point on boiler, with multiple valve
outlets that allowed many devices, such as the
air pumps,electric dynamo,hydrostatic lubricator,
etc, to be operated by steam from the boiler.
- Flashing Rear End
Device -- end of train telemetry device
- Friction Bearing
- A babbet type wheel bearing sometimes seen on old rail cars.
- The intersection of two rails of a switch.
- Front End
- A term used to describe the smokebox end of a steam locomotive,
including the exhaust stack, netting, etc.
- Full Service Application
- Corresponds to a handle position for the automatic brake handle. In this
position the brake pipe should be at 62 PSI (down from a 90 PSI release
charge pressure). When an application is made on the automatic brakes, the
equalizing reservoir pressure drops in proportion to the handle movement.
The self lapping valve (Automatic Brake Valve) then vents
brake pipe pressure at a service rate until the equalizing reservoir and brake
pipe pressures are equal. This pressure is measured on the locomotive only. It
may be less further back on the train due to leakage. A minimum reduction is a
6 PSI drop to 84 PSI. After a minimum reduction is made, the automatic brake
valve handle is linear down to zero. If the locomotive has a direction on the
reverser handle, or the independent brakes are released, below 45 PSI BPP an
emergency will occur and a valve will blow the brake pipe to zero in a hurry
(corrected by Bob Murphy).
- A warning device consisting of a cardboard tube filled with a combustible
mixture of chemicals that burns brightly when ignited and remains burning
for varying lengths of time. Fusees are ignited and dropped on the right of
way to indicate to a following train the presence of stopped or slow-moving
- Gandy Dancer
- A railroad track worker. Name came from the Gandy Mfg Co. in
the 19th century that made a lot of track tools.
- See Interchange Point
See also a more or less complete list of
|Broad gauge (Spain): ||1674 mm ||5'5 9/10th"
|Broad gauge (Portugal): ||1665 mm ||5'5 11/20th"
|Broad gauge (Ireland): ||1600 mm ||5'3"
|Broad gauge (Finland): ||1524 mm ||5' exactly
|Broad gauge (former USSR): ||1520 mm ||5'
|Standard gauge: ||1435 mm ||4'8 1/2"
|Narrow gauge (Cape gauge): ||1067 mm ||3'6"
|Narrow gauge (meter gauge): ||1000 mm ||3'3 37/100"
- Gauge Cocks
- Valves on the boilerhead - usually three in
number - to let the crew know the depth of water
over the "crown sheet" in event of a broken
water glass, which gave a visible indication of
water depth. and as a means to check the
accuracy of the water glass indication.
- Glad hand
- The metal attachments to which train line air hoses connect
- A yard engine.
- Good Set
- A train with no problems and with good air. Slang used by crews
at turn over points or when being relieved by other crews.
- A slang term for a promoted engineer with trainman seniority.
- Grade Resistance
- Resistance that results from the energy you must put into a
train to lift it vertically. The energy is returned without loss
when the train comes back down again.
- Rail slang for covered hoppers, which are often used to transport grain
and other bulk, fluid solids.
- A section of curved track that has flange lubricators.
- Green Eye
- A slang term for a clear signal.
- Trainman's suitcase.
- Guinea, or Guinny
- A green worker or one who is not an familiar with job requirements.
- Hand Brake
- A manually operated brake used to hold rail cars from moving.
- Hand Signals
- Before the advent of radios, signals were given
by hand or lantern There were innumerable ways
to communicate direction, destination, speed, or
stop. Most railroads had their own set of
distinct signals.A signal given with the hand
in a vertical zipper operating motion upon the
chest usually designated a mainline movement.
Five fingers exposed on the hand, or a small
circle with a lantern at night indicated track
five,both hands with all fingers held up,or a
small double circle, track ten etc.
There were signals to fit almost any condition
and learning to read them was sometimes an art
- Haul, Short
- The act of routing freight such that the haul takes maximum advantage
of the originating railroad, at the disadvantage of another railroad which
had to be used to carry the freight part of the way to its destination. The
railroad which suffered the disadvantage was said to be "short hauled."
- Head End
- The front of the train. Use of this term is declining with the
demise of the caboose.
- Head End Power
- A power system installed on diesel-electric passenger locomotives,
used to generate "hotel load" power to the passenger train, including
train heating and air conditioning. A head end power system may use
either the locomotive's prime mover, or it may use a separate HEP
engine generator set installed at the #2 end of the locomotive.
- Time interval between two following trains.
- Any locomotive added to assist a train up a grade.
- An oversized boxcar usually used to haul autoparts.
- A signal given to proceed at maximum permissible speed.
- High Iron
- The railroad's mainline, usually with more ballast and heavier
rail, which made this track higher than yard track.
- High Rail
- Main track.
- An individual who rides freight trains to get from town to town.
Not to be confused with a bum, a hobo is a transient worker.
- A locomotive
- Hoghead, Hogger
- A railroad engineer
- Hog Law
- Refers to ICC hours of service regulations.
- Holding Lights
- Amber or green
light signal displayed at certain station platforms
at or near the conductor's position, to regulate train spacing.
- Holy Roller
- A graffiti slang term for a car transport car. Like for their great
length, perfect for doing an end to end and other large "productions"
with the illegal spray-paint techniques.
- Home Signal
- A special red signal that requires the train crew to call the dispatcher
for orders before the train can proceed.
- Hooking Up
- The act of shortening the duration of the steam admission setting
on a steam locomotive, using a Johnson Bar or Power reverse wheel or
lever, thereby trading power for speed.
- Horsepower per Trailing Ton.
- The total horsepower of all working locomotives divided by the
total trailing weight of the train in tons.
- Horsing Lever
- The lever on a steam locomotive used to manually adjust the valve
setting (ie. cutoff). Also known as the Johnson bar. When engines became
larger in size, a manual adjustment was no longer practical and air operated
motors were used for this purpose, and a smaller lever or wheel located in
the cab of the steam locomotive was used to adjust direction and cutoff.
- A person who operates engines in engine house territory and
works under the direction of the engine house foreman (inside
hostler). Some railroads created outside hostlers after a
limited exam, who could deliver engines anywhere in the terminal.
- Hostler's Controls
- A simple throttle to allow independent movement of locomotives
not equipped with engineers controls.
- Hospital Train
- A train consisting of damaged or wrecked rail cars being transported
to a repair point on their wheels. Some cars have no operating brakes
or intact train line. Many times a long flexable hose is used to
transmit brake pipe pressure around cars with damaged train lines. Such
a train must have a car on the rear with an operating brake controlled via
the hose. "Hospital Trains" are also restricted to speed as well.
- Hot Box
- On friction bearings, an overheated journal bearing.
- Hot Spot
- Loaded double-stack or container train.
- House Track
- A track entering, or along side a freight house. Cars are
spotted here for loading or unloading.
- A rail yard with a hill. Cars are cut off in motion at the top of the hump
and gravity pulls the cars to the classification tracks.
- Independent Break
- The brake control on a locomotive used to control the locomotives air brakes.
- INDependent City Subway - subdivision B-2
of the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) subway
- Initial Station
- The first station on each subdivision from which a train is
authorized to occupy the main track.
- Interchange Point
- The point at which two or more railroads join. Traffic is
passed from one road to another at interchange points.
- An arrangement of signal appliances so interconnected that
their movements must succeed each other in proper sequence. It may
be operated manually or automatically.
- Interlocking Limits
- The tracks between the outer opposing absolute signals of an
- Interlocking Signals
- The fixed signals of an interlocking, governing trains using
- Freight traffic that refers to containerization of freight for
easy transloading to different modes of transportation. See
- Iron Bender
- A switchman.
- Interboro Rapid
Transit - subdivision A
of the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) subway
- Jerkwater Town
- A small town with few facilities, identified on the
railroad by the existence of a water plug only.
- Jew Bar
- A device that holds a track in gauge. Used on sidings or industrial track.
- Johnson Bar
- Valve gear adjustment lever.
- Join the Birdies, to
- To jump from a locomotive cab before a collision.
- Joint Facilities
- Any facilities owned by two or more railroads.
- Journal Box
- Metal box around axle bearing for holding a lubricant saturated pad next
to the wheel bearing.
- British: a passenger leaping from a moving train on the blind side to
- (Steam) engine (amer. slang).
- The act of lowering an automatic stop arm in order to pass a red signal.
- A common expression for an emergency brake application which
occurs when a service brake application is intended or when no
application is intended.
- The movable portion of the drawbar coupler.
- Ladder Track
- A series of turnouts providing access to any of several
parallel yard tracks.
- A hand operated throttle connected to the governer on a diesel
- Less Than Carload Lots.
Brakemen on local freight runs
used to have to unload LCL merchandise at stations on
their territories. This merchandise was usually carried in
partially loaded - thus "Less than Carload lots" - boxcars, usually
right ahead of the caboose.
- Lead Rail
- Rail between the frog and the switch.
- Lightning Slinger
- Slang: railroad telegrapher.
- Line Haul Road
- A railroad that handles freight over a medium to long
- Linked Up
- When a 2-way EOT is in communication with the HOT allowing it to dump
the train from the rear.
- Live rail/Dead rail
- A railroad track scale was usually unable to
handle the weight of a locomotive, therefor it
was necessary to provide a way for the locomotive to
pass the scale without damaging it. The "live rail"
was the track where the cars were weighed, the
"dead rail" allowed the locomotive to pass over
the scale without damage.
- Locomotives are units propelled by any form of energy, or a combination of
such units operated from a single control station, used in train or yard service
- Locomotive Speed Limiter
- A modern device used to control train speeds. All engines on Amtrak's
NEC must be so equipped.
- Low Arm
- A nickname for a restricting signal in the days of the
semaphore with the arm down 45 degrees.
- Low Irish
- Stands for medium clear signal.
- Lubricating Arm
- The lubricator forced valve oil into the valve chamber to lubricate
the steam valve, and the lubricating arm on a mechanical lubricator drove
the pump that supplied this lube.
- Main Track
- A track extending through yards and between stations which
must not be occupied without authority or protection.
- Reference to the Mallet Articulated Cab Forward steam locomotives
used by Southern Pacific railroad in the 30's, 40's and 50's.
- Manual Block System
- A series of consecutive blocks, governed by block signals
operated manually, upon information by telegraph, telephone or
other means of communication.
- Short lines in Connecticut and Massachussets, USA
- A train signal that is used to indicate the end of the train.
- A steam freight locomotive having a 2-8-2 wheel arrangement,
pioneered in a design for the emperor of Japan in 1912.
- Mile Post
- A post or sign on pole each mile along the track that shows the distance
from a predefined location such as a major rail terminal.
- Monkey Motion
- Slang for the valve gear linkage on a steam locomotive.
- Monkey's Tail
- Slang for the handle of a switch stand, as in twisting the
- The electrical machine (traction motor) geared to the axles of all
diesel-electric and electric locomotives, and used to convert the electrical
energy provided by the diesel engine and main alternator in a diesel
electric locomotive, or the transformer output in an electric locomotive, to
mechanical force in the form of tractive effort.
- The descriptive term used on the electric division of the Great
Northern railroad to designate an electric locomotive.
- Mother and Slug
- The name used for a locomotive and slug when MU'd for yard or road
- Maintenance Of Way
- Multiple Main Tracks
- Two or more main tracks, the use of which is designated in the
- Multiple Unit. A lead locomotive followed by one or more
locomotives. Cables between the MU connectors bring the electrical signals
in party line fashion to the trailing units (clarified by Bob Murphy).
- Mud Hen
- A non-superheated steam engine.
- Mud Ring
- The lower part of the boiler of a steam locomotive directly in front of
the firebox, where boiler scale and sediment settled as the engine operated.
A removable plug was located at the bottom of the boiler in this area, and
this plug was removed during the monthly boiler wash to flush this
contamination from the boiler.
- A movable, hand-carried derail that is placed on either rail.
- Muzzle Loader
- Term used to describe a hand fired locomotive.
- North-Eastern Corridor
-- the Amtrak route with intensive passenger traffic that connects
Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston
- 19 & 31 train orders
- These types of orders were transmitted to train crews. They covered vast
area of conditions such as fixing meeting points, speed restrictions.
- Northeast Operating
Rules Advisory Committee:
the operating rules the many USA Northeast Freight and Passenger Railroads
- Number Dummies
- Clerks who worked as yard checkers
- Old Head
- One who has been around long enough to become familiar with
his work or who "has his head cut in" - knows how to do his
- One Person Train
Operation - the motorman (engineer) performs all the
functions of a conductor and an engineer on a passenger train.
- Old Reliable
Conductors -- The union that represented conductors during
the mid to late 19th century.
- Originating Line Haul Road
- The railroad where any freight shipment starts.
- Originating Station
- The first station on each subdivision from which a train is
authorized to occupy the main track.
- Other Track Material --
materials other than ties and rails, generally refers to spikes, tie plates
and rail anchors
- Overhead Line Haul Road
- Any railroad or railroads between the originating line haul
road and the terminating line haul road. Also known as a bridge
line haul road.
- A section of track where the control length of a
signal overlaps the next signal to reduce the
risk of collision if the train fails in braking
before the stop signal.
- Overlap Sign
- A sign marking the limit of control of a block signal.
- Out of Station (O. S.)
- Report the telegrapher would give the dispatcher on the Rock Island and
presumably other railroads when the train would be past their station.
- Paired Track
- When two railroads own single track lines, they may reach an
agreement whereby one railroads track services both roads in one
direction, while the other railroads track services both roads in
the other direction.
- British for the Centralized Control Tower.
- An electrical trolley carried on a collapsible and adjustable frame.
Used on electrified locomotives and self-propelled cars for current pick-up
from the catenary system.
- Partial Service Application
- Reducing the brake pipe pressure at a service rate but not
enough to cause the reservoir and cylinder pressure to equalize.
- British: a signal post.
- A TOFC or COFC type car.
- TOFC or trailer on a flat car. Originally
used when truck trailers were loaded onto flat cars for shipment by rail.
- A locomotive engineer trainee.
- An employee assigned to a train when the engineer or conductor
is not acquainted with the rules or portion of a railroad over
which the train is to be moved.
- 1. A piece of metal used to lock the coupler to keep cars coupled together.
Also a term meaning to push in the slack when uncoupling cars.
- 2. A brakeman. Third Pin -- the third brakeman required in
Indiana on all trains more than 69 cars in length. Head Pin
-- a brakeman that rides the head end or locomotive.
- "Pins and Knuckles"
- P/K, train inspection.
- Slang for interlocking.
- Illegal device to continuously bail independent brake pressure. Could
be simply a coin or a more elaborate device wedged above the independent
- (verb, to plug it) To place the brake handle in emergency.
- Portion of track within a terminal on which a train may stand for a
period of time
- South-African: a hand-operated pump-action
- Pony Truck
- The casting and wheel set or wheel sets which make up the leading
wheels of most steam locomotives, intended to guide locomotives through
curves and switches, and used to properly distribute the weight of the
- Position Light Signal
- A fixed signal in which the indications are given by the
position of two or more lights.
- A name used to mention the engine units on a train.
- Prime Mover
- A V-type diesel with 8 to 20 cylinders rated at about 125 hp
per cylinder if normally aspirated or 250 hp per cylinder if
- Private Car/Business Car
- Coaches owned by private individuals/railroad (for use of corporate
officials or supervisors). Cars were positioned at end of trains and train
crew were to remain off these cars except in performance of duties. Crew
was also to see that occupants of these cars were not disturbed at all costs
- Pumping Signal
- Any fixed signal including Absolute and Intermediate block
signals, who's indications change rapidly from one indication to another and
then back again due to track circuit or signal circuit failure. An engineer
encountering such a signal will be governed by the most restrictive
indication the signal can display.
- A helper added at the rear of a train.
- Railroad detective, police, or security personnel, often found in plain
clothes in rail yards or piggy-back lifts where high-dollar freight is being
- Puzzle Switch
- Another name for a slip or double slip switch.
- Railway Association of Canada (the AAR in Canada).
- Radio Train
- A heavy train that has additional "slave" locomotives located in
the middle of the train that are controlled by the engineer remotely by radio.
- Rail Weight
- The number of pounds per yard that rail weighs. Currently
rail is being rolled at 112 to 145 pounds per yard.
- Wagons/carriages semi permanently joined in an articulation rather than
via a coupler
- Red Eye
- A red signal or horizontal semaphore arm requiring the train to stop
and proceed with caution.
- A common slang term for a refrigerator car.
- Regenerative Braking
- Braking mode of modern electric locomotives, where the motors act as
generators as with the dynamic braking but, instead of being converted into
heat, the current is fed back to the supply. Return energy from asynchronous
motors is around 90%.
- Register Station
- A station at which a train register is located.
- Regular Train
- A train authorized by a timetable schedule.
- Repeater Signal
- Signal placed on the opposite side of the track from the controlling
signal. It repeats the aspect of the controlling signal for a greater range
- A heavy metal casting which was designed to be placed near a derailed
wheelset of a locomotive or car, for the purpose of guiding the wheelset
back onto the rail. Steam locomotives and early diesels usually carried
rerailers on hooks on the tender trucks or frame (steam locomotive) or on
the frame of a diesel.
- Restricted Speed
- A speed that will permit stopping within one half the range of
vision; short of train, engine, railroad car, stop signal, derail
or switch not properly lined, looking out for broken rail, not
exceeding 20 MPH.
- A device added to the braking device on a car,
to allow a portion of the air pressure to be retained in the brake
cylinder of a car to help restrict the movement of
a train on severe downgrades.
- Revenue Collection Train
- A train which picks up the revenue collected by the railroad clerk.
- Ribbon Rail
- Continuous welded rail, laid in 1/4 mile lengths then welded end to
end to make a continuous length.
- Rip Track
- A small car repair facility, often a single track in a small
yard. Name derived from "Repair, Inspect and Paint."
- Rolling Resistance
- Resistance that is made up of wheel friction, journal
friction, and wind resistance. It is non recoverable.
- Rotary Dump Car
- A car that is unloaded by turning it completely over.
- Rotary Dump Coupler
- A specially designed coupler used in rotary dump cars that rotate allowing
them to be dumped without being uncoupled.
- Ruling Grade
- The particular point on the run at which the combination of
grade and curve resistance makes the train pull hardest and ,
therefore, "rules" how heavy a load can be given to the locomotive.
- Run In
- Describes the action of the slack between the cars moving forward and
hitting against the engine. A run out would be the opposite effect.
- Saw-by, Double Saw-by
- Maneuver used by two trains at meeting point, when
train on siding is too long for the siding. Double saw-by is complicated
maneuver allowing two trains that are both longer than the siding at
meeting point to pass one another at that siding.
- Sense and Brake Unit
(see also Caboose)
- Non union member doing work usually contracted by railroads for
railway union labor contracts.
- Scrap Iron
- Broken knuckle due to uncontrolled slack action in train or overly
aggressive starting technique.
- That part of a timetable which prescribes class, direction,
number and movement for a regular train.
- One of two or more trains running on the same schedule,
displaying signals or for which signals are displayed.
- Semaphore Signal
- A signal in which the day indications are given by the
position of a semaphore arm.
- Shaker Bar
- A tool carried in steam locomotive cabs that
would be placed on the grate levers mounted in
the cab deck to allow the fireman to shake the
grates in the firebox, dumping ashes into the ash
pan below the firebox.
- A type of steam locomotive using a gear drive in place of a side rod
drive, designed by Ephraim Shay in the late 1800's, and produced by what
became the Lima Locomotive Works. This locomotive was designed for
logging and other operations where heavy grades and sharp curves
existed and prevented the use of side rod type locomotives.
- The effect of a sudden change in speed of a car, locomotive or
train, or part of a train.
- Shoo Fly Track
- A temporary track built around a train wreck or washout
- Shunting Movements
- Movements inside of stations and yards for
making up trains, moving cars between different
tracks and similar purposes. Shunting movements
are done under simplified conditions with
restricted speed and in viewing range.
- Side Track
- A track auxiliary to the main track.
- A track auxiliary to the main track for meeting or passing
trains. The timetable will indicate stations at which sidings are
- Signal Aspect
- The appearance of a fixed signal conveying an indication as
viewed from the direction of an approaching train; or the
appearance of a cab signal conveying an indication as viewed by an
observer in the cab.
- Signal Dolly
- Train that delivers supplies to towers.
- Signal Indication
- The information conveyed by the signal aspect.
- Signalling System
- A system to ensure the safe movement of trains
by means of lineside indications and/or
indications given in the driver's cab.
- The man who controls the signals and authorizes the movements of trains
on running lines
- Single-Car Test Device
- Is used to test the air brake equipment
on car that is sent to a repair track
- Single Track
- A main track upon which trains are operated in both
- The conductor
- The motion, forward or back, that one or more cars,
locomotives, or parts of a train has without moving other coupled
cars, locomotives, or parts of the train. Loose slack is the free
movement or lost motion between parts of a train. Spring slack is
the movement beyond the free or lost motion brought about through
compressing the draft gear springs. Slack is necessary so as to
start one car at a time and so that the train may be operated
around curves and over high and low places.
- Slack Action
- Movement of part of a coupled train at a different speed than
another part of the same train.
- Slippery Track
- A highly greased track near the roundhouse or back shop where a newly
rebuilt locomotive could be run in without going anywhere, and without
calling an engine crew or pilot.
- A small, ballasted, four or six axle unit, semipermanently
coupled to a locomotive that does not have a prime mover, but does
have traction motors. Generally used in yard duty where the
switcher has enough horsepower, but not enough tractive force to
push long strings of cars up a hump.
- Smoking to a Meet
- In steam service, pre-radio, making smoke to alert awaiting opposing
train that you were approaching meeting point.
- A switchman belonging to the SUNA, the Switchman's Union of North America.
- The title of a track laborer or Gandy dancer. One who builds or repairs
- A four-wheel MOW vehicle to carry men and supplies
to and from a railroad work site.
- A company employee charged with spying on other employees --
especially old time passenger conductors who collected cash fares
from passengers and sometimes did not turn all the receipts in to
the company at the end of the trip.
- The act of placing a car in a specific location on a track.
- Split Switch
- A term referring to the condition that exists at a switch when one pair
of wheels under a car follows a course different from all other wheels under
the car, generally resulting in a derailment.
- Spring Switch
- A switch equipped with a spring mechanism to restore the
switch points to original position after having been trailed
- Stack Train
- Train made up entirely or mainly of single or double stack
containers on flatcars designed for just that purpose.
- Standing Cut
- A term for making a cut of cars by walking to the cut to be made rather
than pulling the cut to you
- A place designated in the timetable station column by name.
- Stem Winder
- Nickname for a staff brake which consists of a vertical rod
and a wheel at the top of the rod for the leverage to wrap the brake
chain around the vertical rod to stop or secure the car. A pawl was
provided to hold the brake applied.
- A portable insulated pole used by railroads (and transit authorities)
with third rail trackage. The pole is used to "reach" from an existing third
rail power source to the pickup shoes of the electric locomotive in instances
where the shoes of the locomotive are not contacting the third rail. The
stinger can also be used to move electric locomotives within a shop complex.
- Stub Track
- A form of side track connected to a running track at one only
and protected at the other end by a bumping post or other
- A portion of a division designated by timetable.
- Initials of Switchmen Union of North America
- Sun Kink
- A section of rail that elongates and bends out of alignment due to heat
- Superior Train
- A train having precedence over another train.
- Swing Man
- Supplementary brakemen added to a crew for all or part of a trip,
perhaps to give more hand brake capacity in mountainous territory, or for
- Switch Point Indicator
- A light type indicator used in connection with facing point
movement over certain switches to indicate switch points fit
- Tallow Pot
- Fireman. In the 1800's tallow was used as a lubricant.
- Tangent Track
- Straight track.
- Tare Weight
- The weight of an empty car.
- Traffic Control System
- Transportation Communications
International Union, represents clerks,
car-men, yardmasters, and supervisors.
- "Total Disolved Solids." A sample of boiler water was
taken and tested before each steam locomtive
was despatched and the total disolved solids in
the water was indicated by a hydrometer at
a certain temperature.If the total was too high,
the boiler would "foam"and allow water into
the cylinders,causing lubrication to be washed
off pistons and valves.The cure for "Foaming"
was to blow water out of the boiler through
the "Blow off cocks" and replace with fresh
water through the "injectors" until T.D.S. was
reduced to a proper level.
- Team Track
- A track on which rail cars are placed for the use of the
public in loading or unloading freight.
- Another name for an EOT device which transmits End Of Train
info to engine. Also "Telem", "Tele", "FRED", and "Freddie".
- A vehicle connected to most steam locomotives which carried the
coal (or oil) and water for the locomotive.
- Terminating line haul road
- The last railroad over which any shipment travels.
- Terminating Station
- The last station on each subdivision to which a train is
authorized to occupy the main track.
- Throbbing Red
- A single flashing red light indicating Stop and Proceed
or in some cases (depending on the railroad) a flashing red light
indicating Restricting. No stop required, however a speed
- Tightlock Coupler
- A specially designed coupler used mostly on passenger cars
that minimize slack and have interlocking features.
- The authority for the movement of regular trains subject to
the rules. It may contain classified schedules and includes
- Toepath (Towpath)
- Towpath originated with canal barges and referred to the path
alongside the canal used by the horses that pulled the boats, hence
towpath. It was later used to describe the path alongside the first
railroad tracks, because before steam locomotives were developed for
the purpose, the original power was furnished by horses that pulled
the cars. The horses could not walk between the rails because of the
ties, therefore they walked on a path alongside the rails, the
towpath. In later years, some railroad workers, unfamiliar with the
history of the walkway, began referring to it as a toepath. Both
versions are equally acceptable now.
- Trailer on a flat car. Refers to intermodal shipments.
- Tons per Operative Brake
- Gross trailing tonnage of the train divided by the total
number of cars having operative brakes. (not including
- Tommy Dodd
- British slang for a subsidiary semaphore signal on the same post
or bracket as the main signal to which it applies.
- An explosive cap fastened to the top of the rail and exploded by the
pressure of a rolling wheel to give an audible indication of conditions on
the track ahead.
- Track Bulletin
- A notice containing information as to track conditions or
other conditions, necessary for the safe operation of trains or
- Track Car
- Equipment, not classified as an engine, which is operated on track for
inspection or maintenance. It may not shunt track circuits or operate signals
and will be governed by rules and special instructions for trains other than
- Track Circuit
- An electrical circuit of which the rails of the track form a
part. The track circuit is the basis of signaling systems.
- Track Gauge
- The distance between the inner faces of the track heads.
Nominally, 4' 8.5"".
- Track Head
- The top of the track on which the wheels roll.
- Track Pan
- A water filled trough placed between the rails at certain locations
on a railroad's main line, each trough having a length of up to 2500
feet, for the purpose of adding water to the tender of a steam
locomotive via an air activated scoop which was located on the
underside of a locomotive tender. The use of a track pan arrangement
prevented a need to stop to obtain water. Users of track pans included
the New York Central, the Pennsylvania, and the Baltimore and Ohio
Railroads in the US.
- Track Permit
- A form used to authorize occupancy of main track where
designated by special instructions.
- Track Side Warning Detector
- Wayside detectors which are provided at various locations as
shown in the timetable which detect such conditions as overheated
journals, dragging equipment, excess dimensions, shifted loads,
high water and slides.
- Track Warrant Control (TWC)
- A method of authorizing movements of trains or engines or
protecting men or machines on a main track within specified limits
in territory designated by special instructions or general order.
- Track Web
- The thin section of track between the base and the head.
- Trackage Rights
- An agreement between two railroads according to which, one
railroad buys the right to run its trains on the tracks of the
other, and usually pays a toll for the privilege. That toll is
called a "wheelage" charge.
- Traction Motor
- The electric motor that transfers the electrical current generated
by the locomotive to the rail.
- Tractive Force
- The amount of force at the driving wheel rims to start and
move tonnage up various grades.
- Trailing Truck
- A fabricated or steel casting containing one, two, or three wheel
sets, located under the engine cab and firebox of some steam locomotives.
- An engine or more than one engine coupled, with or without
cars, displaying a marker and authorized to operate on a main
- Train Brake
- The combined brakes on locomotive and cars that provides the
means of controlling the speed and stopping of the entire train.
- Train Line
- A cable of series of hoses used for connecting electrical
or steam (in older passenger equipment).
- Train of Superior Right
- A train given precedence by train order.
- Train of Superior Class
- A train given precedence by time table.
- Train of Superior Direction
- A train given precedence in the direction specified in the
time table as between opposing trains of the same class.
- Train Order
- A message changing the meeting point between two trains.
For movement of trains not provided by timetable
train orders will be authorized by, and over the
signature of the director of train dispatching
or chief dispatcher.
- Train Order Signal
- Fixed signal near the entrance to a river tube, bridge or at
stations with moving platforms. Two lunar white mean
Proceed without orders according to rules, two red mean Stop,
stay and call for orders. Also: a signal at a station that
indicates by its position or by its color, that train orders
are to be delivered to a train, or that no orders are to be delivered.
- Train Register
- A book or form used at designated stations for registering
time of arrival and departure of trains, and such other information
as may be prescribed.
- Additional track laid at a major junction to allow
trains to be turned by running the three sides of the triangle rather
than reversing in a wye. Found outside major terminal
stations where fixed passenger sets need to be turned to equalize flange wear.
- Enclosed freight car for carrying 3 levels of automobiles.
- Triple Valve
- An operating valve for charging the reservoir, applying the
brake, and releasing the brake.
- Truck Hunting
- Rapid oscillation of an empty car truck at high speeds where
the flanges tend to ride up on the head of the rail.
- Toronto Transit
Commission, public transit system operating in Toronto,
Ontario, Canada. First subway in Canada (1954). Largest light rail system
in North America.
- Turnout Number
- The ratio of the length of the tangent track to an equal unit
of space between the tangent track and a point on the branch track.
- Undesired Emergency. An emergency that is not initiated by a crew
- Another term for a locomotive engine.
- Unit Train
- A train composed entirely of one commodity, usually coal or mineral,
and usually composed of cars of a single owner and similar design, and
usually destined for a single destination.
- A term used in Canada for a caboose.
- Variable Switch
- A switch, designated by letter "V" or bowl painted yellow,
when trailed through the switch points remain lined in the position
to which forced.
- Term used to refer to passenger trains, dating back to the late 19th
century and the varnished passenger coaches of the luxury trains such as those
employed on the LV's Black Diamond and the C&O's Sportsman
- Affectionate rail slang for Wheeling and Lake Erie
Railway which was successor to most Nickel Plate Trackage.
- Water Plug
- The standpipe where a steam locomotive would stop to fill its
tender with water.
- Wheel Knocker
- Another name for car knocker. This person
would check the wheels for flaws.
- Wheel Pull
- Caused by the friction between the brake shoe and the wheel
and transmitted to the rail.
- Wheel Rolling
- The wheel rotating on its axle theoretically without motion
existing between the wheel and the rail at the area of contact.
- Wheel Slipping
- The wheel rotating on its axle with motion existing between
the wheel and rail at the area of contact.
- Wheel Sliding
- The wheel not rotating on its axle and motion existing between
the wheel and rail at the area of contact.
- Whistle Post
- A specially marked post on the engineer's side of the train that tells
him when to start whistling for a grade crossing. Slower trains may delay
whistling until closer to the crossing.
- Wide Vision Caboose
- Caboose with center areas extended out past normal sides of
caboose allowing for unobstructed forward viewing.
- A slang term for a car going down a track with no air or hand brake
- A track shaped like the letter "Y", but with a connector
between the two arms of the "Y". A wye is used to reverse the direction of
trains or cars. A train pulls completely through one leg of wye, the
switch is thrown and reverses the direction, allowing the movement across
the semi-loop track of the wye, and the train is then headed in the
- A system of tracks, other than main tracks and sidings, used
for making up trains, storing of cars and for other purposes.
- Yard Limits
- A portion of main track designated by yard limit signs and by
timetable, train order Form T or track bulletin, which trains and
engines may use as prescribed by Rule 93.
- Yard Engine
- An engine assigned to yard service.
- Yellow Eye
- A slang term for a yellow signal.
Page created on March 8, 1996.
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