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
F units
Diesel locomotives in the F model series built by General Motors' Electro-Motive Division (EMD) in the 1940's and ‘50's. The F7 was the most numerous model in the series.
F5
Not an official Electro-Motive Division diesel locomotive model. A designation sometimes used by historians to describe certain units built during the transition from F3 to F7, specifically those F3's produced between August 1948 and February 1949 with the new D-27 traction motors that would be the standard for the F7.
Factor of adhesion
Ratio of locomotive weight to tractive force. A 400,000-pound locomotive exerting 100,000 pounds of tractive force has a factor of adhesion of 4.0.
Family Lines
Not a railroad in itself, but a marketing title for a group of affiliated railroads: Seaboard Coast Line, Louisville & Nashville, Clinchfield, Georgia Railroad, West Point Route. The term was in use from 1974 until 1982, when the five railroads were combined into the Seaboard System.
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
The agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation that conducts research and is responsible for railroad safety.
Feedwater heater
In a steam locomotive, a device that pre-heats water from the tender as it is fed into the boiler to make steam.
Ferry trip
The movement of a train or engine from Point A to Point B so it can be ready for use at Point B.
Fill
A right of way formed by placing rock, earth, or other material across a low area to provide a relatively level surface for track.
Financial interest
Ownership of enough securities of a second road, short of control, to influence its traffic policies.
First trick
The first work shift of the day, roughly 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
First-generation diesel
First-generation diesels were those that replaced steam locomotives, whether viewed from the standpoint of the railroad or the builder.
Five-well stack car
Five-unit cars that carry double-stacked containers.
Flange
A small lip on the inner edge of the wheel that keeps rolling stock on the rails. Flange depth is only about 1 inch.
Flange oiler
Devices mounted on locomotives that apply grease or oil to the wheel flanges in order to prevent flange wear. Also a trackside device that automatically applies lubricant to wheel flanges as they pass.
Flangeway
A space or groove next to a rail to allow passage for wheel flanges.
Flat spot
Occurs as the result of a wheelset locking up and sliding for some distance along the rails, causing the part of the wheel in contact with the rail to wear flat. Often happens when an emergency brake application is made, or after a normal brake application when the brakes on a rail car will not fully release.
Flat switching
Switching cars in a "flat" yard (one that does not have a hump). Involves considerable back-and-forth movement of the locomotive as it pushes each group of cars to the proper track.
Flatcar
Freight car with a floor, but no sides or roof. Used to carry loads, often large objects, that do not require weather protection. Some have end or center bulkheads for carrying lumber. Intermodal flatcars carry truck trailers or containers.
Flexicoil truck
Electro-Motive Division's term for the truck that is standard on its six-axle units and available as an option on four-axle units. It is characterized by sets of coil springs between the bolster and the truck frame. The standard Type A switcher truck is a stiff, hard-riding truck; the four-wheel Flexicoil truck lets switchers ride better at road speeds.
Flimsies
Train orders. The name comes from the thin paper on which they were printed.
Flip
A commuter train that is scheduled to turn back (or "flip" back) at some point short of the end of the line for most trains, in order to return to the city for another outbound load of passengers.
Flying junction
Connection between rail lines, with at least one being two or more tracks, in which ramps and bridges carry one line over another to reduce conflicts. Similar to a freeway interchange.
Flyover
A structure carrying one set of tracks over another set of tracks for the purpose of eliminating movement conflicts that would have occurred had the two sets of tracks crossed at grade. Also known as a jumpover.
FM
Abbreviation for locomotive builder Fairbanks Morse; most active 1944-1958.
Foreclosure
A legal proceeding that bars or extinguishes a mortgagor's right of redeeming a mortgaged estate. In domestic terms, you mortgage your house as security on a loan for its purchase. If you fail to keep up payments, the mortgagee-the bank-can foreclose, which means the bank gets the house and you no longer have it. It's the same with a loan for construction of a railroad.
Foreign
Used by a railroad to refer to locomotives or rolling stock owned by another railroad or company.
Form D
A type of track warrant used exclusively by railroads in the eastern United States governed by NORAC (Northeast Operating Rules Advisory Committee) operating rules.
FRA
Federal Railroad Administration. The agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation that conducts research and is responsible for railroad safety.
FRED
Acronym of Flashing Rear-End Device, the modern end-of-train marker, placed on the rear coupler of a train to monitor air-brake system integrity and air pressure. Also known as an end-of-train (EOT) device.
Frog
The part of a track switch that permits the wheel flanges of cars taking one route to "pass through" the railhead of the other. Switches are numbered according to the angle of their frogs. A No. 20 switch (good for about 40 mph) separates the rails 1 foot for every 20 feet of travel. The lower the frog number, the sharper the curve, and the less speed at which the diverging route can be taken.
Fruit block
Solid train of refrigerator cars carrying produce.
Full service trackage rights
An arrangement where one railroad (the tenant) operates its trains over the tracks of another railroad (the owner), and may directly serve customers located along the segment of owner's track that the tenant is using.
Fusee
A type of flare used on railroads
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