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
Name train
A passenger train with a name, more prestigious than one with just a number.
Narrow gauge
Any track gauge less than 4 feet 8 ½ inches (standard gauge). The most common North American narrow gauge was 3 feet, and the largest concentration of it was in Colorado. Two isolated portions remain in existence carrying tourists: Cumbres & Toltec and Durango & Silverton. Some 3-foot-gauge track remains in common-carrier service in Mexico, primarily in Yucatan. Canadian National's lines in Newfoundland (abandoned in 1988) were 3 feet 6 inches, the British colonial track gauge. Elsewhere in the world the most prevalent narrow gauges are 3 feet 6 inches and 1 meter (39.37 inches).
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
An independent federal agency that investigates serious railroad accidents as well as those in other modes of transportation, conducts special investigation and safety studies, and issues safety recommendations to prevent future accidents.
Née (pronounced "nay")
French for "born as", used to indicate the original identity of a locomotive (i.e., CR 2685, ex-PC 2685, née NH 2525).
Net ton mile
Moving one ton of freight the distance of one mile.
Nickel Plate
Common nickname for the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad. First given by the Ohio newspaper the Norwalk Chronicle, which referred to the line as "the great New York and St. Louis double-track nickel-plated railroad". The company adopted the nickname, emblazoning it on its rolling stock and using it as the basis for its official "NKP" reporting marks.
Nominal
Advertised. When being tested on the road, a 3000 h.p. locomotive may produce only 2800 h.p. because of mechanical problems, climate extremes, or poor fuel, but its nominal rating is still 3000 h.p.
NORAC
The Northeast Operating Rules Advisory Committee, whose rulebook is used by most railroads in the northeastern U.S.
NRHS
National Railway Historical Society.
NTSB
National Transportation Safety Board. An independent federal agency that investigates serious railroad accidents as well as those in other modes of transportation, conducts special investigation and safety studies, and issues safety recommendations to prevent future accidents.
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