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April 11, 2012

From Top to Tail: A Lesson In Track Jargon

All work and no play… is just no fun! So how about a whimsical article featuring some of the crazy track jargon used by those working on the railroad, all the live long day?

Though it’s not directly about VIA’s Billion-Dollar Transformation, don’t knock it just yet, we still might spike your interest. Here then is a list of a few terms you may have heard railfans using:

Frog: The crossing point of two rails. The "X"-shape that occurs resembles the amphibian (check out the image above)

Doodlebug: A nickname for an older gasoline-electric self-powered passenger car used for small capacity rural commuter service. The modern version of this could arguably be the RDC

Darth Vader: The term used to describe modern railroad signals’ hood (installed to protect from the sun’s glare), which happens to resemble the villain’s helmet

High balling: When a piece of equipment travels on the rails solely for the purpose of reaching a location. Often the equipment will then be used at that location (for example, a surfacing machine “high balling” to a track build site, at which point it will be used to surface the new track).

Hump Yard: A rail yard that uses a “hump” or raised section and gravity to organize train cars into their proper position when making up trains of cars. You can find video footage of a hump yard (also referred to as a marshalling yard) at minute 11:05 of our “100 Year Old Station" video.

Pac-Man: The nickname for the logo used by Canadian Pacific Railway from 1968 to 1996. Can you guess why?

Railfan: A train enthusiast (At VIA Rail, we’re railfan fans!)

Spiker: A part of arail transport maintenance machine that drives rail spikes into the ties on a rail track to hold the rail in place

Trackmobile: a vehicle that has both wheels and hi-rails that can drive on either rails or roads and transfer from one to the other easily.

Top and tail: A train with locomotives at both ends, for ease of changing direction. You may not hear this term so much in North America as it is more commonly heard in the UK, but it was too fun to leave out!

Wayside: A more commonly used term that simply means trackside. It may have originated from the term “right-of-way”

We hope you’ve learned a thing or two about the railroad culture!

Check out the rest of our site for lots of articles, images and videos about the work being done to our Tracks, Trains and Stations, thanks to the Government of Canada’s Billion-Dollar Capital Investment Program.