Model Railways: Glossary (Back Up)

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Model Railways:
Introduction |
Scales and Gauges |
Baseboard Locations |
The Trains
Themes |
Layout |

  • Ballast

    Gravel found between the sleepers of a railway to increase stability.

  • Ballasting

    Filling the gaps between the model railway's sleepers with artificial ballast to improve realism.

  • Baseboard

    Board the railway model is fixed to. Also called Train Board and Train Table.

  • Bogie

    A wheeled chassis found beneath rolling stock, usually long wagons or carriages, Normally found at either end of the carriage, these assist in navigating corners and points and also improve suspension. Known in the US as a Truck.

  • Dr Beeching

    Chairman of British Railways, the infamous evil axeman who closed over 6,000 miles of Britain's railways.

  • Brake Van

    Also called a Guard's Van, the brake van is the rearmost part of a train and is equipped with a brake for the guard to use in order to assist the stopping the train. Early trains only had brakes in the locomotive at the front of the train.

  • Caboose

    Similar to a Brake Van, used in America on Freight Trains. They include sleeping quarters for the crew and an office for the Conductor as, in the US, a trip can take week or more for transcontinental service.

  • Carriage

    What passengers travel inside.

  • Check rails

    The short sections of '[' shaped rail next to the normal or running rail, which serve to prevent, or reduce the effects of derailments on Points.

  • Coach

    Another name for Carriage.

  • Controller

    A mechanism used to control the models on the railway, at basic level controlling the speed and direction. More advanced models also look after the points and signals, and computer-controlled versions can instruct the engines to undertake a wide variety of tasks.

  • Coupling

    A coupling or coupler connects the different items of rolling stock together in order to form a train. Different railway model companies often use different forms of coupling, which can affect model railway compatibility, although it is often possible to change the couplers on any individual item of rolling stock.

  • Double slip

    An x-shaped or diamond crossing, on which it is possible for a train to either pass over or change routes.

  • Engine

    See Locomotive

  • Fishplate

    The metal bar used to join two rails together, forming a track.

  • Flexitrack

    Long lengths of bendy track that can be adjusted to suit your layout's design.

  • Frog

    The crossing point of two rails on a set of points.

  • Funicular Railway

    A railway which ascends and descends a cliff in pairs. One carriage ascends while the other descends, and they act to counterbalance each other.

  • Garden Railway

    A model railway that runs exclusively outside, often on a larger gauge than indoors.

  • Gauge

    The distance between the two rails a train runs on.

  • Hobby

    A relaxing activity engaged in during a person's spare time, normally not taken seriously. Model railways often begin as a hobby before becoming a Calling.

  • Hornby

    The dominant name in British model railways. Train sets are sometimes called 'Hornby railways' in a similar fashion to how every slot-car racetrack is known as 'Scalextric'.

  • Layout

    The design of a model railway.

  • Live steam

    Model railways that run on steam-power rather than electricity.

  • Locomotive

    The engine that provides the power for the train. The locomotive's role is purely to pull or push the carriages or wagons that make up the train.

  • Lower-quadrant semaphores

    Semaphores where the arm is horizontal to indicate 'stop', and lowered 45 degrees to indicate 'all clear'. Largely superseded by Upper-quadrant semaphores as accidents had been caused by broken signals dropping to indicate all clear when the signal should have indicated 'stop'.

  • Marshalling Yard

    An area dedicated to sorting out wagons and carriages in order to form trains. Known as a Switch Yard in the US.

  • Miniature Railway

    A small-scale railway that can carry passengers.

  • Mod-roc

    A roll of plaster-coated bandage similar to the stuff used for making plaster casts around broken limbs.

  • Model Railway

    A scaled-down version of a real (or fictitious) railway, but is too small to transport a person.

  • Points

    The points are a junction where trains are able to be taken from one track to another. Known in America as Switches.

  • Point blades

    The thin section of rail whose position can be changed to change the selected route on a set of points, held the correct distance apart by a tie bar. Known in America as Switch Rails.

  • Rail

    A railway track or railway line is a smooth, flat metal surface which trains run along. In America, a length of railway line makes up a Railroad, in the UK it is known as a Railway.

  • Ready-to-run

    Abbreviated to RTR, ready-to-run model railways require no assembly before use.

  • Setrack

    Rigid, pre-formed pieces of track

  • Scale
    A model railway's scale is the model's size when compared to the full-sized engine

  • Scatter

    A fine powder which is coloured to represent grass, gravel, sand, cinders on a path, mud, and various other types of ground cover and foliage with a little ingenuity

  • Semaphore Signal
    Semaphores pass messages to train drivers depending on the position of their arms. Many semaphores contain coloured lenses known as spectacles which change the colour of a light depending on the position of the arm.

  • Shunting

    Known in America as Switching, shunting is the act of sorting items of rolling stock. This is usually done with the aim of forming a train of interlocked carriages or wagons heading to the same destination, or to break up a train into individual wagons and carriages on the completion of a journey.

  • Signal Box

    A raised building containing a series of levers which, when manipulated, controls the points and signals in a local area. These are built where an excellent view of the railway can be observed, so that a signalman can view the railway to ensure there are no obstructions or other problems on the line.

  • Signals

    A device used to communicate with an engine driver travelling along the railway line. These usually inform whether or not it is safe to proceed, and come in the form of semaphore or light signals.

  • Sleepers

    The horizontal planks at right angles to the rails that the rails rest on.

  • Static Model

    A model purely for decoration that does not move.

  • Street furniture

    Phone boxes, postboxes and benches. Models of these add extra realism to a model railway.

  • Super-detailing

    Refining a model railway in order to provide an extra degree of realism that captures the attention of onlookers.

  • Tie Bar

    A bar that ties the two rails at the points together so that they move at the same time.

  • Tank Engine

    A steam-engine that carries its water on board in tanks, rather than pulled behind the engine in a tender. Coal is usually also carried on the engine, in a bunker.

  • Tender

    A special wagon designed to carry a locomotive's fuel and water, and is normally pulled directly behind the engine. A locomotive that uses a tender is called a tender engine rather than a tank engine.

  • Track

    See rail.

  • Train

    A series of wagons or carriages coupled together on a railway form a Train, and are moved along the rail by one or more locomotive.

  • Train Board / Train Table

    A wooden board on which a model railway scene may be erected.

  • Train Set

    Small, toy trains, possibly battery-powered. Also a model railway starter set.

  • Truck

    In the UK a Truck is another word for wagon, but in the US a Truck is used to describe a Bogie.

  • Turntable

    Many older engines, such as Tender Engines were designed to only pull trains from their rear. The Turntable is a large section of track mounted on a revolving platform that allows the locomotive to be turned around in a Marshalling Yard. Turntables were often used to give access to several bays in a Round House, where engines could be repaired or stored when not in service.

  • Upper quadrant semaphores

    In these, the arm is horizontal to indicate 'stop', and raised 45 degrees to indicate 'all clear'. Should the signal be broken, such as due to snow, gravity ensures that the semaphore's arm is dropped to indicate 'stop'.

  • Viaduct

    A long bridge consisting of a series of several small spans, often used by railways over rivers and areas of uneven ground.

Model Railways:
Introduction |
Scales and Gauges |
Baseboard Locations |
The Trains
Themes |
Layout |

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