Glossary of termsGlossary of terms

The glossary explains railway terms and jargon used within the site. Click a letter to jump to that section.

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

A

A.I.R.P.S.
Association of Independent Railways and Preservation Societies. Former name of the Heritage Railway Association.
Axle Box
A bushing in the hub of a wheel, through which the axle passes. Contains a bearing and lubricant.

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B

Bagnall
W. G. Bagnall — a manufacturer of locomotives.
Bardic Lamp
This is a special rugged torch with coloured filters. It can be used with a white light as a torch, and with the Red, Green and Orange filters can be used for signalling to other people on the railway at night time.
Block System
A type of signalling which provides a method of stopping one train from running to the rear of another by dividing running lines into sections and allowing only one train in each section.
BR
Common abbreviation for British Railways.
Brick Arch
Located in the firebox of a steam locomotive above the fire and below the tubeplate, so making a combustion chamber above the arch. This helps to ensure that all the volatile material from the coal is burnt in the fire box.
British Railways
British Railways (BR), which later traded as British Rail, was the operator of most of the Rail transport in Great Britain between 1948-1997. It was formed as a result of the the nationalisation of the "Big Four" British railway companies and lasted until the gradual privatisation of British Rail in stages between 1994 to 1997. Originally a trading brand of the Railway Executive of the British Transport Commission, it became an independent statutory corporation in 1962: the British Railways Board.
BSK
Brake Second Corridor — a Coach with second class compartment seating connected by a side corridor and a guard's brake compartment.
BSO
Brake Second Open — a Coach with second class open plan seating and a guard's brake compartment.
BSOT
Brake Second Open (Trolley) — a Coach with second class open plan seating and a guard's brake compartment. A bay of seats is removed to make room for a catering trolley.

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C

Calling-On Signal
A small signal, below the main signal, which allows the driver to pass the signal at danger, usually for shunting purposes.
CK
Composite Corridor — a Coach with first and second class compartment seating connected by a side corridor.
Crossing Keeper
The person who supervises a Level Crossing, indicating to the driver that the crossing is clear, and stopping the public from crossing when the train is approaching.

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D

Disposing
When the engine has completed its day's work, it is returned to the shed, where the firebox and smokebox are then cleared out. The water tanks and coal bunkers are filled. All of this hard work is covered by the phrase "Disposing the engine".
DMBS
Driving Motor Brake Second — a Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) vehicle which is powered, having a driving cab, guard's brake compartment, and second class seating.
DMS
Driving Motor Second — a Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) vehicle which is powered, having a driving cab and second class seating.

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E

Engine
May refer to a locomotive, or in the case of a diesel locomotive or multiple unit, the diesel engine that powers it.

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F

Firebox
Part of a steam locomotive boiler where the combustion of coal (or oil) takes place that produces the hot gases which then pass through the boiler tubes to heat the water, producing the steam used to drive the locomotive.
Fishplate
Fishplate
Example of a Fishplate. Info Icon
The rail is installed on to the track in short lengths (60 feet). Steel or wrought iron plates placed in pairs at rail joints to bring the rail heads together, strengthen the joint and forming a contiguous running surface.
The term is believed to be a nautical in origin. When a sailing ship broke a spar, a temporary repair could be made by putting the broken ends together, placing two shaped pieces of wood on each side of the break (like splints) and securing them to the broken spar, usually by wrapping strong thin rope round the splints. For some reason this was not known as splitting the break, but fishing it. When William Bridges Adams (1797 - 1872) patented his new method of jointing rails, he referred to the jointing plates as fishplates. The first large railway company to use them as standard was the London & North Western Railway, which introduced them in 1853.
Formation
The formation is what connects the sleepers with the ground, the track's foundations. As our track runs over heavy clay, we have clay, sand, a non-perminable membrane and finally ballast.
Frame
On a steam locomotive, the frame connects the wheels to the boiler, and supports the cylinders. Typically the frames are made from plate steel ½" to ¾" thick, 12" to 18" deep and running the length of the locomotive.
Frame Stretchers
These are pieces of plate steel that run from side to side keeping the frames the correct distance apart, and make a number of boxes down the length of the locomotive, thus adding to the rigidity.

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G

Great Western Railway
A British railway company that linked London with the south west and west of England and most of Wales. It was founded in 1833, received its enabling Act of Parliament in 1835, and ran its first trains three years later. It was finally wound up at the end of 1947 when it was nationalised and became the Western Region of British Railways.
GUV
General Utility Van — a type of non-passenger-carrying coaching stock.
GWR
A common abbreviation for Great Western Railway.

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H

Heritage Railway Association
The Heritage Railways Association (HRA) is an umbrella organisation representing the majority of the heritage and tourist railways, railway museums, steam centres and railway preservation groups in the UK and Ireland. Groups and individuals involved with the preservation of stations and other railway buildings, and private individuals are also welcomed to join as Friends of the Association.
Hot Box
Term used to describe an Axle Box that has overheated. This could be due to cracked bearings, or lack of lubrication.

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I

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J

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K

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L

Light Railway Order
A statutory Instrument. The Light Railways Act 1896 was an Act of Parliament which defined a class of railways with the intention of enabling development of such railways without legislation specific to each line. A light railway is not a tramway but a separate class of railway.
LMS
Common abbreviation for London, Midland & Scottish Railway.
LNWR
Common abbreviation for London & North Western Railway.
London, Midland & Scottish Railway
The London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS) was a British railway company. It was formed on 1st January 1923 under the Railways Act of 1921, which required the grouping of over 120 separate railway companies into just four.
London & North Western Railway
A railway company which existed between 1846 and 1922. It was created by the merger of three railway companies - the Grand Junction Railway, the London & Birmingham Railway and the Manchester & Birmingham Railway. In 1923 it became a constituent of the London, Midland & Scottish (LMS) Railway.

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M

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N

NAV
A newspaper-carrying variant of the General Utility Van — a type of non-passenger-carrying coaching stock.
NJV
A postal variant of the General Utility Van — a type of non-passenger-carrying coaching stock.
NSR
Northampton Steam Railway Limited — the Limited Company that operates the Railway.
NLRPS
Northampton & Lamport Railway Preservation Society — the Charitable Organisation that provides volunteers to run the Railway.

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O

Off Shed
When railway staff talk of "Going Off Shed", they mean that they are going to take a locomotive from the Shed where it has been prepared for service, to the station to commence train operations.
Off (signal)
When a signal is showing a "proceed" aspect, for example the arm raised or lowered by 45 degrees or showing a green light, it is said to be "off".
On Shed
When railway staff talk of "Going On Shed", they mean that they are going to take a locomotive from the main line into the shed, usually for disposing at the end of a day's running.
On (signal)
When a signal is showing other than a "proceed" aspect, for example the arm in the horizontal position, or a red light (yellow for distant signals), it is said to be "on".
Operating Officer
The person "in charge" of all train movements on the Railway for a given day.

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P

Peckett
Peckett & Sons — a manufacturer of locomotives.
Push-Pull
A method of train operation where a locomotive remains attached to one end of a train, pulling it in one direction and pushing in in the other. The method of operation at the NLR uses a specially-converted coach with brake controls, which are used by a trained "Motorman" to stop the train.
PMV
Parcels and Miscellaneous Vehicle — a type of goods wagon.

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Q

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R

Raising Steam
A steam locomotive is not like a car or a diesel locomotive. It takes a number of hours to heat the water in the boiler to generate the required pressure of steam. This stage of heating up is called "Raising Steam".
RBR
Restaurant Buffet (Refurbished) — a designation of Buffet Car.

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S

Saddle Tank
A form of steam locomotive where the water tank is curved and fitted above and to the sides of the boiler, in similar fashion to the saddle on a horse.
Smokebox
On a steam locomotive, the smokebox is an extension at the front of the boiler barrel. It is airtight (except for the chimney) so that when exhaust steam from the cylinders goes up the chimney, it draws hot air through the boiler tubes from the firebox.
Southern Railway
The Southern Railway (SR), was a British railway company established in the 1923 Grouping. It linked London with the Channel ports, South West England and Kent. The railway was formed by the amalgamation of several smaller railway companies, the largest of which were the London & South Western Railway (LSWR), the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway (LBSC), and the South Eastern & Chatham Railway (SECR).
SR
Common abbreviation for Southern Railway.
ST
Common abbreviation for Saddle Tank (locomotive).
Stays
Threaded metal rods used to hold the inner and outer sections of the firebox together or to hold the firebox to the boiler barrel.
Standard Gauge
The Track Gauge is the distance between the rails of a railway track, measured from inside edge to inside edge of the rail head. Standard Gauge is the most widely used, 4'" (or 1,435mm).

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T

T
Common abbreviation for Tank (locomotive).
Tank
A form of steam locomotive where the water is carried in a tank on the locomotive itself, rather than a separate tender. The name "tank" alone usually refers to a Side Tank.
See Also: Saddle Tank.
Transport and Works Act
The modern replacement for a Light Railway Order.
TSO
Tourist Second Open — a Coach with second class open plan seating.
Tubes
In a steam locomotive boiler, the tubes carry the hot gases and smoke from the firebox to the smokebox, passing heat to the water.

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U

Underkeep
A shaped absorbent pad in the bottom of an axle box held against the underside of the axle by spring pressure. It applies oil to the axle to keep it lubricated.

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V

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W

Waybeams
The rail is usually supported and held in place by sleepers that cross at right angles to the rail direction. On Bridge 13 the 10" x 12" timbers run in the same direction as the track and are called Waybeams.
Warming Fire
It can take several hours to get a steam locomotive to working pressure from cold. On the afternoon before a running day, the fireman will light a Warming Fire and heat up the water until the pressure gauge just starts to move. The fire is then left to go out, and the retained heat will make raising steam quicker the next morning.

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X

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Y

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Z

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