North American vs. British RR terms

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by RobertInOntario, Jun 1, 2007.

  1. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Since I mainly model British trains, but am still interested in North American ones, I often get confused over the different North American/British terms. So I thought I'd ask about clarifying a few terms here. I'm not sure if this is the best sub-forum, as these sort of apply to models as well as the prototype.

    Here are some examples that I already know about:

    Ties (North American) = Sleepers (British)
    Conductor (NA) = Guard (Br)
    Caboose (NA) = Guard's/Brake Van (Br)
    Freight Train (NA) = Goods Train (Br)
    Freight Cars (NA) = Vans, Wagons, Truck, etc. (Br)
    Railroad (American) = Railway (both British and Canadian!)

    And here's a couple that I'm not sure of:
    Signal Box (British) = Watch Tower or Gate House in N. America??
    The wheels under coaches or freight cars are called trucks or bogeys, but I'm not sure which is British and which is NA!

    Can anyone clarify or suggest others? It can get really confusing, especially when you go into an LHS asking for something!


  2. Dave Flinn

    Dave Flinn Member

    I have had some experience riding British railways, but I'm certainly not an expert on the different terminology between Britain and US. However, I think I can say with fair certainty that "trucks" is US and "bogeys" is British, for the most part. It seems that I have heard both used interchangeably in both places, however. I hope this is a least a little bit of help to you.
  3. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Dave! Rob
  4. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    The North American equivalent of the signal box would most likely be the interlocking tower.

  5. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Switch (NA) = Point (Br) = Turnout (NA model)
    Engineer (NA) = Driver (Br)
    Passenger cars (NA) = Carriages (Br)
    Multiple unit operation (NA; in the context of locomotives, not self-propelled) = Multiple working (Br)
  6. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Shunting (Brit) = Switching (N.A.)

  7. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Wayne -- this one had me stumped a bit! Rob
  8. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    This is helpful and kind of amusing as well! Thanks, Rob
  9. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    I use both of these interchangeably, as I do switches and turnouts and other terms. I'm practically half British anyway! Rob
  10. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Switching lead (NA) = Headshunt (Br)
    Wye (NA) = Triangle (Br)
    Switchback (NA) = Zigzag (Br)
  11. CNWman

    CNWman CNW Fan

    sign1 I find myself refering to switching as "Shunting", probably from my numerous encounters of the term throughout my reserach (don't ask, please)
  12. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Smokestack (NA) = Chimney (Br)
    Helper/Pusher (NA) = Banker (Br)
  13. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks -- these are all good terms and feedback. I didn't know about several of these, for example, Smokestck-chimney or helper/pusher-banker. Again, I use many of these terms interchangeably and often forget which is NA and which is British. Thanks again, Rob
  14. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Transfer table (NA) = Traverser (Br)
  15. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic


    In Canada cabeese (cabooses?) were also referred to as "vans".

    As for trucks vs. bogeys, I think the term bogey is used for passive wheels under just about anything other than trains in NA... truck trailers, cranes, tanks... go figure.

    Passenger Train (Br) = A What??? (NA)
  16. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Puff puff peep peep (Brit) = Choo choo wooo wooo (Can/US)

    ;) :D

  17. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    You pretty much said it! ... although some of the larger steam engine's whistles tend to sound a bit more like North American ones.

    This leads to another related topic. In North America, there is a whole system of whistle/horn signals that are still used, that date back to the 19th Century. I read about these recently in MR.

    For example, two short blasts mean the train is about to start moving forward; two long, a short and a long are for level crossings; and I believe three short blasts mean the train is about to reverse. There are about 10 other whistle/horn signals.

    But I don't believe they use any of these in Britain. If they do have any whistle/horn signals, I'd be interested in learning about them.

  18. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    OK, it's a bit of an aside, but I like this fact anyway...

    As we approach the 50 year anniversary of the demise of mainline steam, you can ask almost any kid "what does a train say?", and they will invariably answer "choo choo", and not make a noice like a diesel... ;)

    Gives me hope! :D

  19. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Yes, good point, and quite interesting too! In popular culture (i.e. cartoons/movies, etc.) a steam loco is still the most common "symbol" used for a train.

  20. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    Here's a link to the UP site for signals UP: Locomotive Horn Signals
    Someone once told me that these are universal, so a railroad employee anywhere in the world, would know what the signals mean.... But I'm not positive that's accurate...

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