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
Mountain tunnel, similar to a snowshed, with an open side facing away from the mountain.
Gallery car
Double-deck passenger car that has an open aisle in the center of the upper floor; primarily found on commuter trains.
Gandy Dancer
Slang term for a crew member hired to maintain railroad track and roadbed. Some attribute its origin to the Gandy Manufacturing Company of Chicago, which made track maintenance tools. The Gandy Tool, used to tamp down ballast in the roadbed, was a rod about 5 feet long with a cross bar near the bottom. Using the tool required placing one foot on the bar and hopping around on the roadbed, hence "gandy dancing."
The distance between the running rails of the track. In North America, standard gauge is 4 feet 8 ½ inches. See Track gauge.
A term originally applied to Electro-Motive Division's "GP" (General Purpose) units--initially the GP7, GP9, and GP18 models, which were intended for secondary duties. The term meant "Electro-Motive road switcher". The GP20 evolved from the GP18, but it was marketed not as a general-purpose unit but as a road freight locomotive, a replacement for the streamlined cab units that had replaced steam locomotives. The GP series continued to evolve into road units, and in 1974 EMD replaced the SW1500 (1500-horsepower switcher) with the MP15 (for Multi Purpose), a 1500-h.p. unit designed for switching, local work, and occasional road service-like the GP7 had been. Some apply the term "Geep" to any GP-series unit.
Giesl ejector
Conceived by an Austrian engineer of the same name and first introduced on steam locomotives in the 1940's. A prefabricated nozzle chimney combination comprising seven steam jets issuing fan-wise from an oblong nozzle casting to fill a long chimney outlet area. Used in Europe, Asia, and Africa; the lone U.S. application was to Chesapeake & Ohio 0-8-0 #191 in 1947.
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad.
Slang term for yard engines.
Golden State Route
UP's Kansas City-El Paso line, once operated as a through route by the Rock Island (east of Tucumcari, N.Mex.) and the SP.
Freight car with a floor and low sides. Some have removable roofs. Used to carry products such as iron, steel, scrap metal, etc.; high-side gondolas are used to carry coal.
The inclination or slope of track. It is usually measured as a percent. For example, a rise of 2 feet in 100 feet of track is 2 percent. Occasionally it is expressed as "1 in n", where n is the number of feet in which the track rises 1 foot. Both measures are ratios – 1 in 50 is the same as 2 percent. The steepest mainline grade in North America is 4.7 percent on a Norfolk Southern Railway line near Saluda, North Carolina. The usual maximum for a main line in mountainous territory is about 2 percent.
Grade crossing (or just "crossing")
Intersection of two railroad tracks, or more commonly, of a highway or street and a railroad.
Granger roads
Midwestern railroads that derived most of their revenue from transporting the products of agriculture. They were affected by legislation in the 1870's that regulated rail-freight rates in the states of Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri. The legislation was sponsored by a farmers' organization called the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry, whose efforts later led to the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887 and the nationwide regulation of railroads. The railroads most commonly considered to be Granger roads were the Chicago & North Western, Chicago Great Western, Minneapolis & St. Louis, Rock Island, Milwaukee Road, and the Burlington Route.
Grapevine throttle
In a steam locomotive (such as UP 844), a throttle whose handle extends downward from the linkage overhead (vs. horizontally).
Gross ton-mile
The combined weight of cars and their contents moving a distance of one mile.
Ground throw
A device for throwing turnouts by hand that is not much higher than the top of the rail.
Guard rail
An extra rail or set of rails placed between the running rails to prevent the wheels of a derailed car from going completely off the roadbed. If a wheel does derail where a guard rail is present, it is forced to remain between the guard rail and the running rail as it rolls along the ties. Placed at locations where a derailment would be especially disastrous, such as on bridges, adjacent to structures, or along cliffs.
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