ABS: See: Automatic Block
Absolute Block: A length
of track that no train is permitted to enter while the track
is occupied by another train.
Absolute Signal: A block
or interlocking signal without a number plate, or designated
by an "A" marker. An absolute signal is a signal that
cannot be passed when red without stopping and getting permission
from the dispatcher. Interlockings are all absolute signals.
The other red signals have number plates on them and may be
passed at restricted speed. There is always confusion with absolute
signals and absolute blocks. The main difference is that an
absolute block can only have one train at a time. The absolute
signal, though red can be passed with dispatcher permission.
members on the ground sometimes say this when they want the
engineer to move the train ahead. The letter A is pronounced
in a way that makes it easier to understand.
Automatic Block Signal System (ABS):
A series of consecutive blocks governed by block signals, cab
signals, or both. The signals are activated by a train moving
through the block, or by certain conditions that affect the
Armed: You may hear the
Engineer say this over the radio while setting up a train. This
has to do with setting up the FRED on the end of the train before
a train can leave. Typically a crew member has to switch something
on the FRED, then the receiver in the cab will show it as armed
if it's working right.
An empty train of intermodal cars.
Block: A length of track
between consecutive block signals, or between a block signal
and the end of block system limits. Also see: "Automatic
Block Signal System"
Block Signal: A fixed signal
at the entrance of a block that governs trains entering and
using that block. These signals typically have numbers, and
those numbers are sometimes called by crews over the radio,
along with the aspect the signal is showing at the time they
enter the block.
Block System: A block or
series of consecutive blocks within ABS, CTC, or interlocking
BNSF: The Burlington, Northern,
Santa Fe Railroad. (Sometimes called "BSF" for short)
C&E: Conductor &
When crews call what the signals are indicating as they move
along a route, they sometimes simply say "Clear Block"
when approaching a signal that gives a clear indication.
CN: Canadian National Railroad
COFC: Container on a Flat
Control Operator: Employee
assigned to operate a CTC or interlocking control machine, or
authorized to grant track permits.
CP: Canadian Pacific Railroad
CP: (Followed by name of
locations) Stands for Control Point.
Control Point: The location
of absolute signals controlled by a control operator.
Controlled Signal: An absolute
signal controlled by a control operator.
Crossing at Grade: A crossing
that intersects at the same level the track is on.
Crossover: This is a set
of switches that allows a train to crossover from one track,
to a parallel track.
CSX: CSX Transportation
CTC: Centralized Traffic
Control. This is a block system that uses block signal indications
to authorize train movements.
Current of Traffic: The
movement of trains in one direction on a main track, as specified
by the rules. A group of trains doing this, is sometimes called
Detector: A detector is
an electronic device that is sometimes installed along a well
used section of track at various intervals. There's all different
kinds of detectors, but their basic purpose, is to check each
train as it goes through, to see if there's any potentially
dangerous defects on the train. Once the train passes all the
way through the detector, it will announce on the same road
channel that is used for that track, the condition of the train.
This announcement will also usually include a milepost point,
or station name. Some detectors simply say "No Defect",
while others will check for much more, such as overheated parts
on wheels, oversize loads, axle counts, speed, and sometimes
even outside temperature. Detectors will sometimes announce
themselves with just their milepost location when the train
first hits it, then give the report after the train goes though.
Other times it will just announce after the train has gone through.
If there IS a defect somewhere in the train, some detectors
will make a high pitch alert sound as the train is still moving
through the detector, then announce what the problem is after
it is all the way through.
Diamond: This is a point
where two tracks cross over each other, usually at a 90 degree
angle, or less.
Dispatcher (DISP): A person
who works in a central, or local office for the railroad, and
helps organize how trains will move. Dispatchers may work in
an office near the line they help run, or in the case of some
larger railroads, such as Union Pacific, they can sometimes
be in another state. They may be identified with names or numbers
that correspond to the area or line that they run.
Distant Signal: A fixed
signal outside a block system that governs the approach to a
block signal, interlocking signal, or switch point indicator.
A distant signal does not indicate conditions that affect track
use between the distant signal and block or interlocking signals,
or between the distant signal and switch point indicator. A
distant is identified by a "D".
DRGW: Denver & Rio
Grande Western. In a roundabout way, this railroad was merged
into Union Pacific. You can still see D&RGW units on UP
Dual Control Switch: A
power operated switch, movable point frog, or derail, that can
also be operated by hand.
DT: Double Track
Electric Switch Lock: An
electrically controlled lock that restricts the use of a hand
operated switch or derail.
Fill (Fill Work): This
is when a local, or switch crew may, or may not stop at a certain
point along the line, to pickup and/or set out cars at that
spot. This could be an interchange, yard, private customer,
Fixed Signal: A signal
that is fixed to a location permanently and that indicates a
condition affecting train movement.
Flag Man: Any employee
providing flag protection.
Flat Wheel (Flat Spots):
Sometimes the wheels on engines or cars can lockup and slide
along the rail. This will leave a flat worn-down spot on the
wheel. You can sometimes hear these banging on cars when a train
Foreman: Employee in charge
FRED: Stands for Flashing
Rear End Device. These gizmos took the place of cabooses. They
are mounted on the coupler of the last car in a train, and data
on the train's air pressure is sent via radio to the head end.
There's usually a flashing beacon also mounted on the unit.
This is a term used to describe when a crew is happy with the
way the engines on a train are performing.
Head End: The front of
HER: Head End Restriction
This is the traditional railroad way of saying it's OK to start
moving the train.
"Highball your roll-by":
When a train passes maintenance personal on the ground, or other
trains sitting along its route, the people may watch the moving
train as it passes, and "highball their roll-by".
This is just a way of saying that everything looks OK on the
Hook: While switching cars,
crew members will sometimes say: "xx amount of cars ti'll
a hook". They are just telling the Engineer how much further
until the cars couple.
Hot Box Detector: See:
Hot Shot: This is a name
used to sometimes describe trains that are scheduled to be fast
moving. This can include trains carrying perishables, trailer
trains of UPS shipments, or other commodities.
Hump Yard: Some larger
yards are known as "hump yards". These yards have
a system that allows the cars being sorted into the yard, to
be shoved up to the top of a small hump at the end of the yard,
and then the cars are let run freely down the hump, and into
the various tracks they need to be on. When it's decided what
track a car needs to be on in the yard, an operator in a tower
tells the computer, and the computer automatically sets all
the track switches correctly, so the car will roll to that track.
The computer also controls what's called "retarders".
These control the speed at which the car is rolling as it starts
its decent down the hump.
IC: Illinois Central Railroad
Interchange: This is usually
used to describe a point where two different railroads connect
with each other.
Plant or "Plant" for short) This is basically a way
to describe a set of switches in a certain section of track.
It can be as simple as a crossover that goes from one track
to the next, or multiple switches at the head of a yard or interchange.
Interlocking Limits: The
tracks between outer opposing absolute signals of an interlocking.
Interlocking Signals: The
fixed signals of an interlocking that governs trains using interlocking
"In the Hole":
When a train needs to be cleared off the main track and into
a siding for another train, they sometimes refer to this as
being "put in the hole".
Junction (JCT): This is
an old name used in railroading. These days it could be just
about any type of named spot along a railroad right-of-way,
from an interchange with another railroad, to a set of switch
When crews are switching cars in a yard, they sometimes get
the cars to roll into the various tracks they want them to go
to, by using the momentum a car has as it rolls by itself. As
the Engineer shoves the cut of cars ahead, the crew person on
the ground will pull the pin and say "Kick" over the
radio, letting the Engineer know he can slow the train abruptly
so the car/cars that have been uncoupled will continue rolling
on their own.
Light Engines: Name given
for movements involving engines only, and no cars.
"Get the lineup":
A term used to describe having a set of switches or signals
setup to allow a train through a certain section of track.
"Good Run": A
way to describe how a crew has done a good job moving a train
quickly through a certain section of track.
Local: This is what railroads
usually call a train that works a small area. Locals usually
originate and return to the same point daily.
Main Track: A track that
extends through yards and between stations, that must not be
occupied without authority or protection.
Marker: This is another
name for the End of Train Device. See: FRED
Milepost (MP): Railroads
measure points along each line by using mileposts. These aren't
necessarily put at each mile, or even a consistent distance
apart, but they use them to indicate the position of various
points along a given line.
Milepost Cab: This is a
shuttle company that specializes in moving crews to and from
trains in vans. I believe BNSF uses them quite a bit.
MoW (MW): Maintenance of
Way. This is the maintenance department for a given railroad.
MT: Main Track
NS: Norfolk Southern Railroad
PBX: Some railroads have
equipment included in their radio system that allows employees
to make phone calls using their radios. These work simplex,
in the way that the person using the radio, can only talk, or
listen, not do both at the same time. These frequencies can
be monitored just like any other frequency.
Plant: See: Interlocking.
Pilot: An employee assigned
to a train to assist an Engineer or Conductor, who is unfamiliar
(or unqualified) for the portion of railroad the train will
operate on. This is kind of the same way a river, or harbor
Power: Another name for
Proceed Indication: Any
block signal indication that allows a train to proceed without
Protect: This may have
a few meanings, depending on the situation and the railroad.
It may mean that a train crew, MoW person is supposed to "protect"
at a crossing for some reason. Maybe because the crossing signals
aren't working. It can also have this meaning... When a crew
protects a train they are throwing out bad orders found by the
car department. When Protection is mentioned, that is the car
department blue flagging and locking the track, so they can
work the cars.
"Push the Button":
You might hear this called out by the Engineer on the radio
when they're getting a train ready to hit the main. When a crew
member is setting up the FRED on the end of the train, it has
to be armed once in place. The Engineer is telling them to do
this, so he can check to see if it's working on the receiver
in the cab.
Renzenberger Cab (Carry-All):
This is a company that is contracted to shuttle crews around
to trains for various railroads, such as Union Pacific.
Reverse Movement: A movement
that's opposite of the authorized direction.
RoW: Right of Way. This
is a name used by railroads in describing the property the track
Saw-By: This is when two
trains going opposite directions pass each other on a single
track mainline, by one train going into a siding.
SF: Santa Fe Railway. This
railroad technically doesn't exist anymore, since it was merged
into BNSF. But it often takes a long time for railroaders to
break old habits, and various lines or interchanges can sometimes
be called the name of the old railroad for years after they're
gone. Engines and cars can also remain in the old railroad's
paint scheme and number for years also.
is the traditional way of saying the engine is pushing the cars.
Siding: A track connected
to the main track and used for meeting or passing trains.
Signal Aspect: The appearance
of a fixed or cab signal.
Signal Indication: The
action required by the signal aspect.
SP: Southern Pacific Railroad.
This railroad technically doesn't exist anymore, since it was
merged into Union Pacific. But it often takes a long time for
railroaders to break old habits, and various lines or interchanges
can sometimes be called the name of the old railroad for years
after they're gone. Engines and cars can also remain in the
old railroad's paint scheme and number for years also.
Special Agent: This is
a name sometimes used for police officers that a given railroad
employs to protect the railroad and its employees.
Special Instructions: Instructions
contained in the timetable, or given on train orders.
Spring Switch: A switch
with a spring mechanism that returns the switch points to the
original position after they are trailed through.
SSW: Once part of the Southern
Pacific system, engines wearing SSW can still be seen on Union
Pacific trains every so often. Probably not for long though.
Station: A place designated
by name in a timetable for the railroad. This does NOT have
to be a place where trains stop, not does there have to be any
actual physical station.
BNSF runs trains that consist of cars carrying coil steel only.
These trains mostly run back and forth from the Chicago, IL
area, to a steel processing plant called POSCO in Pitsburg,
"Stop and Flag: Under
"stop and flag" a road crossing where the signals
have been reported to have failed, this rule would apply. This
could also be a broken gate or flashers working continuously.
A signal maintenance person can be on the scene and provide
"protection" at the crossing for the train also. You
can also "flag" your train into a block system. You
would then open a switch and wait 5 minutes for a train, if
none appears you can enter the block. Line 15 appears on some
track warrants. "Flag protection not required against following
trains on the same track." In this case the crew would
just open the switch and go out on the main line.
Sub: (Sub Division) Railroad
territories are often broken down into Divisions, and Sub Divisions,
Switcher: A smaller type
of engine that usually just works yards, or urban areas. But
they sometimes work small road trains also. A good example of
a switcher would be an EMD SW1200, or EMD MP15.
Switch Point Indicator:
A light indicator used during movement over certain switches
to show that switch points fit properly.
Symbol: The larger railroads
usually have "symbols" assigned to each train now
days. This consists of a series of numbers and letters that
explain what the train is and where it's going. Each railroad
has its own way of doing things, but typically, the symbol will
have one letter that designates what kind of train it is basically,
then a series of 6 letters, the first 3 being the departure
spot's code, and the second 3 being the destination spot's code.
It will then sometimes have a number that indicates the date
it began its trip on the end of the symbol.
This is the traditional railroad way for a crew member to tell
the Engineer he can stop moving the train.
"There's a hole in them":
A crew may say this on the radio while switching cars, or preparing
the train for departure. This means that according to the air
gauges, one of the air hoses are not connected, or an angle
cock is open and the engine is pumping air into the atmosphere.
Timetable: A publication
that railroads put out, that shows essential information for
traveling over the railroad.
TOFC: Trailer on a Flat
Tower: Where there is a
complex series of switches, or a spot where two or more railroads
intersect each other, there may be a tower, or "Interlocking
Tower" that houses personnel, and equipment to run those
sections of track, and also organize how the trains move through
the area. With the advent of electronic systems in railroading,
the Interlocking Tower is quickly becoming extinct in America
though. Very small numbers still exist.
Track Bulletin: A notice
of conditions affecting train movement.
Track Warrant Control (TWC):
A method to authorize train movements or protect men and machines
working along a main track, within specified limits in a territory
designated by a timetable.
Trainmaster: This is a
type of supervisor that's in charge of operations over a certain
section of the railroad. Or in the case of a small railroad,
sometimes the operations of the whole railroad.
Trainmen: Conductors, assistant
conductors, brakemen, yard engine foremen, switchmen, and yard
TWC: See: Track Warrant
Unit Train: This is used
to describe a train that has only one type of car and commodity.
This could be anything from coal, to grain.
UP: Union Pacific Railroad
Utility Man (U-Man): Railroads
will sometimes have employees drive around in trucks, and help
the train crews in various ways. Sometimes they can drive ahead
and align switches, so the crews won't have to stop the train.
Or they can inspect a train before the crew brings the engines
to move it.
WC: Wisconsin Central Railroad
Window: When trains are
operating through a busy section of track, they may have to
wait for a "window" to cross over, or use, a certain
section of track along their route.
Xing: A road or pedestrian
X-Over: See: "Crossover"
Yard: A system of tracks,
other than main tracks and sidings, used for making up trains,
storing cars, and other equipment.
Yard Limits: A portion
of main track designated by yard limit signs and timetable special
instructions, or a track bulletin.
YL: Yard Limits
Yardmaster: This is the
person that's in charge of a certain yard on the railroad.