Railroading Glossary
The following glossary is arranged alphabetically with each term catalogued by first letter. Select a letter below to begin.
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M
N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
The rear of a steam locomotive's firebox; located in the cab, it's where many of the locomotive's controls are mounted.
Facility where heavy repair and rebuilding of locomotives takes place.
Bad order
A command placed on a card that is tacked to a car with a mechanical defect or that has been loaded improperly when examined by a car inspector. Can be used as an adjective to describe such as car, or as a verb, to describe the action of taking the car out of service for repair.
Baldwin Locomotive Works; also a locomotive built by Baldwin.
A layer of material-usually crushed rock, cinders, or gravel-on top of the roadbed that holds the ties in position and facilitates drainage. Also used to describe any extra weight added to a locomotive to bring it up to a desired weight. (An SD40-2, for example, can weight anywhere from 150 to 200 tons, depending on the amount of ballast added at the buyer's specifications. The usual method of ballasting is to use thicker sheets of steel to fabricate the frame. Occasionally smaller amounts of weight, usually concrete casting, are added to equalize weight distribution.)
Declared legally insolvent (unable to pay debts as they fall due) and with assets taken over by judicial process to be distributed among creditors.
A train consisting of all empty flatcars.
Diesel locomotives with four axles, each driven by a traction motor.
A railroad eating house.
Beebe, Lucius (1902-1966)
Socialite newspaper editor (the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise), and author of several railroad books that brought respectability to the hobby.
Belt line
A railroad with trackage in and around a city.
Big Four
Nickname of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis, a railroad largely owned by New York Central. Also used as a nickname for the group of four men who were the principal backers of the Central Pacific Railroad, the company that built the western portion of the first transcontinental railroad east from Sacramento, Calif. in the 1860's. They were: Collis P. Huntington, Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford, and Mark Hopkins.
Billing carrier
The railroad that performs the first line-haul movement of a shipment; responsible for preparing the waybill document.
Officially the Bipolar Gearless Type, a name given by General Electric to the class of five electric locomotives of 1918-1919 for Milwaukee Road. So named because each traction motor had only two poles, mounted directly on the locomotive chassis beside each axle, employing low-speed motors with the motor armatures mounted directly on the axle; no traction motor whine or gear-tooth growl made it a silent-running locomotive.
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. Labor union founded in 1863. Represents locomotive engineers and train dispatchers in the United States and Canada.
Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen. A labor union with roots dating back to 1873. Instrumental in supporting legislation creating the Railway Labor Act. In 1968, merged with three other labor unions to form United Transportation Union.
A section of track defined for the purpose of controlling trains. Also, a group of cars that are coupled together for movement to a common destination.
Block signal
Lineside signal placed at the beginning of a block that governs the use of that block. See also Automatic Block Signal.
Block station
Lineside office staffed by an operator who controlled train traffic on designated sections of track called blocks.
Blower duct
Found in EMD GP and SD units built since the GP30. A rectangular duct leading from the central equipment blower, just below the central air intake, straight down to the running board on the left side of the unit (short hood considered front). The shape was changed to slope outward from top to bottom during late Dash Two production. A horizontal duct continues to the rear atop the left running board. The ducts carry air to cool the traction motors.
Blue flag
Blue-colored flag, sign, or light which indicates that the rolling stock it is placed on or near may not be moved because employees are working around or under it.
Connected in a manner permitting the flow of electric current, as two rails.
A railroader who changes jobs often as he drifts through the country.
Booster engine
Small steam engine on a locomotive's trailing truck or one of its tender trucks to provide extra power when starting a train.
Booster unit
A unit of motive power with traction motors but without a diesel engine. Electricity for the motors is provided by a standard locomotive with which the booster unit is mated. Usually used in hump, transfer, or other low-speed service. The engine-the prime mover-of a diesel locomotive can produce more electric power than its traction motors can absorb at low speeds. A booster unit can use this excess current to provide additional tractive force. Other terms are slug, MATE, TEBU, remote power unit, and drone.
Cylinder diameter.
The tracks in a yard where cars are switched to after rolling down the hump; used for building trains.
Box motor
Self-propelled baggage-type electric car.
Enclosed freight car used for hauling goods that must be protected from the weather. Loaded/unloaded through side doors.
Boxed joints
Tracks with rail joints on one side directly opposite the joints on the other side; also called "opposed" or "square" joints.
Supports that keep the shipments in a freight car from sliding or shifting while the train is in motion; usually constructed of wood or metal.
Brake horsepower
The horsepower of an engine taken off a brake attached thereto; measured with a device called a friction dynamometer.
Branch line
A secondary railway line as distinguished from the main line of a railroad
Bridge route
A railroad with more bridge traffic than traffic originating or terminating on line.
Bridge traffic
Freight received from one railroad to be moved by a second railroad for delivery to a third, for example, double-stack containers received by I&M Rail Link at Kansas City to be forwarded to Chicago, Ill. for delivery to CSX Transportation. Also called "overhead traffic".
Broad gauge
Any track gauge greater than 4 feet 8 ½ inches. The Erie Railroad was built with a gauge of 6 feet. Contemporary examples include BART (5 feet 6 inches); Toronto Transit Commission (4 feet 10 inches); and SEPTA (5 feet 2 ¼ inches). Elsewhere in the world gauges greater than standard are found in Spain, Portugal, India (5 feet 6 inches); Ireland and New South Wales, Australia (5 feet 3 inches); and Russia (5 feet).
Brooks Locomotive Works of Dunkirk, NY; became part of American Locomotive Co.
Budd, Edward G.
Founder of the Budd Company, best known for its stainless steel passenger cars.
Building a train
Assembling cars in a yard in the proper sequence.
Commodities such as grain, coal, soda ash, ore, plastic pellets, liquid sweeteners, petroleum, etc.
Bulletin order
Paperwork notifying railroad employees of changes in procedure affecting train movements or operations.
To displace a junior employee from a job assignment by the exercise of seniority rights.
Business car
A company-owned passenger reserved for the use of railroad officials.
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