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Encyclopedia > Railroad
This is the top-level page of WikiProject trains
Rail tracks
Rail tracks

Rail transport refers to the land transport of passengers and goods along railways or railroads. These consist of two parallel rails, usually of steel, generally mounted upon cross-sectional beams (termed "sleepers" or "ties") of timber, concrete or other material. The underlying support maintains the rails at a fixed distance (gauge) apart. Usually vehicles running on the rails are arranged in a train (a series of individual powered or unpowered vehicles linked together).

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General


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This article is part
of the Transport series
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Animal-powered
Aviation
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More topics | The future

Rail transport is one of the most energy efficient means of mechanised land transport known. The rails provide very smooth and hard surfaces on which the wheels of the train may roll with a minimum of friction. This is more comfortable than most other forms of land transport and saves energy. Trains also have a small frontal area in relation to the load they are carrying, which cuts down on air resistance and thus energy usage. In all, under the right circumstances, a train needs 50-70% less energy to transport a given tonnage of freight (or given number of passengers), than does road transport. Furthermore, together with the sleepers, the rails distribute the weight of the train evenly, allowing significantly greater loads per axle/wheel than in road transport.


Rail transport is also one of the safest modes of transport, and also makes a highly efficient use of space: a double tracked rail line can carry more passengers or freight in a given amount of time than a four-laned road.


As a result, rail transport is often the major form of public transport in many countries. In Asia, for example, many millions use trains as regular transport in India, South Korea, Japan, China, and elsewhere.


Commercially, rail transport has had a mixed record. Most rail systems, including urban metro/subway systems, are highly subsidised and have never or rarely been profitable; however, their indirect benefits are often great. For example, despite a well-developed network consisting of 4 grades of trains and a widespread urban rail network in Seoul and Pusan, Korean National Rail is a nationalized organization that has never come close to having receipts equal costs (see Transportation in South Korea). Similarly, passenger rail in the US and many other countries is still dependent on government subsidies. As a result levels of rail transport have in some times and places been reduced in order to save money(see Beeching Axe). Conversely, US freight railways have consolidated and become more efficient in their progress toward profitability. Japan East Railways has taken an innovative and creative marketing stance and have achieved profitability as a result.


Like other forms of public transport, many railways are having to make considerable investment in order to meet new requirements for security in the face of recent terrorism incidents. Securing railways is often more difficult than other modes of transport because stations are designed with easy access and high capacity as their primary goals rather than security, because most trains make many stops, rendering any sort of passenger screening difficult, and because securing the tracks as they run through cities and the countryside is impractical.


Operations

Main Article: Rail transport operations


A rail transport system consists of several necessary elements, and should be viewed from a system-wide perspective. Some locomotives may be wonderfully aesthetic constructions, but they won't work unless they are given an appropriate system on which to run.


Firstly there is the geography onto which the permanent way is built. Next is the requirements of the system - what was it built for? For carrying freight, commuters, medium or long-distance travellers? Has that requirement changed over time and left the system to adapt?


As a result of this, what is the type of system. Is it light or heavy rail, high-speed? To what gauge is it built? In a broader sense, rail transport includes monorail, rubber-tyred metros and maglev, since the cars also run in a guided path. The term "guideway" describes the non-traditional modes.

Rail transport
General
Operations
Stations
Trains
Rolling stock
History
Terminology
By country
Disasters
Modelling
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Trains require a propulsion mechanism: horses, or steam, diesel or electric locomotives. (The last of these options, the most energy efficient, requires electrification of the system).


To be electrified, a means of supplying electricity to the train is needed. This can be done with overhead wires or with a third rail system. The former is the more common method.


Depending on how much traffic they carry, railways can be built with a varying number of tracks. Rail lines that carry little traffic are often built with a single track which is used by trains traveling in both directions; on rail lines like these, "crossovers", "passing loops" or "passing sidings", which consist of short stretches of double track, are provided at certain points along the line to allow trains to pass each other, and travel in different directions. Alternatively, there may be larger sections of the line that are double track - effective timetabling can allow train travel up and down the partially double track line equivalent to travel on fully double tracks. Conversely, double tram track is sometimes intertwined at narrow passages (see Tram Tracks). Single-track lines are cheaper to build, but can only handle a limited amount of traffic.


On busier lines, two or more tracks are provided, one or more for each direction of travel. On very busy lines as many as eight tracks (four tracks in each direction) are used to handle large amounts of traffic.


With the advent of containerized freight in the 1960s, rail and ship transportation have become an integrated network that move bulk goods very efficiently with a very low labor cost. An example is that goods from east Asia that are bound for Europe will often be shipped across the Pacific and transferred to trains to cross North America and be transferred back to a ship for the Atlantic crossing.


Major cities often have metro and/or light rail/tram systems. For a tram on the road the terms streetcar track or tram track are used, rather than railway or railroad. A tram with its own right-of-way is called a tramway.


History

Main Article: History of rail transport.


The first horse tracked vehicles, drawn wagonways appeared in Greece, Malta, and parts of the Roman Empire at least 2000 years ago using cut-stone tracks. They began reappearing in Europe, from around 1550, usually operating with crude wooden tracks. In the late 18th century iron rails began to appear: British civil engineer William Jessop designed edge rails to be used with flanged wheels for use on a scheme in Loughborough, Leicestershire (in 1789 and subsequently opened an iron-works to produce more rails). In 1802, Jessop opened the Surrey Iron Railway in south London - arguably the world's first public railway, albeit a horse-drawn one.


The first steam locomotive to operate on tracks, built by Richard Trevithick was operated in 1804 in Wales, although it was not financially successful.


The first successful steam locomotives were built by George Stephenson, culminating in his famous Rocket locomotive.

Enlarge
Twin diesel locomotives of the Union Pacific refueling at Dunsmuir, California

In 1806 a horse-drawn railway was built between Swansea and Mumbles. In 1807 this railway started carrying fare-paying passengers - the first in the world to do so.


The first successful steam-operated railway, the Stockton and Darlington Railway, ran in northern England in the 1820s. This was soon followed by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, which proved the viability of rail transport.


Railways soon spread throughout Britain and through the world, and became the dominant means of land transport for nearly a century, until the invention of aircraft and automobiles, which prompted a gradual decline in railways.


The United States inaugurated its first railroad, the Baltimore & Ohio, in 1827.


The use of overhead cables conducting electricity, invented by Granville T. Woods in 1888, amongst several other improvements by Woods, led to the development of electrified railways, the first of which was operated at Coney Island from 1892.


Diesel and electric trains and locomotives replaced steam in many countries in the decades after World War II.


Many countries since the 1960s have adopted High-speed railways.


Terminology

Main Article: Rail terminology
Enlarge
Retro train "Costerina", Gdynia - Koscierzyna

In Britain and other British Commonwealth countries the term railway is used in preference to railroad, while in the United States the reverse is true. However, railroad has been used historically in Britain and a number of American companies have railway in their names instead of railroad (the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway being the most pre-eminent modern example). See the article on usage of the terms railroad and railway for more information.

Bahasa Indonesia - rel kereta api ((train) railway, lit. fire coach)
Bahasa Melayu (Malaysia) - landasan keretapi ((train) railway, keretapi is a combination of kereta lit. car/coach and api lit. fire)
Chinese - tie3lu4 (铁路 (simplified), 鐵路 (traditional) ) (iron roadway)
Czech - Železnice (iron way)
Danish - jernbane (iron way)
Dutch - spoorweg (track road)
English (Commonwealth, some American) - railway
English (American) - railroad
Esperanto - fervojo (iron way)
Finnish - rautatie (iron road)
French - chemin de fer (way of iron)
Frisian - spoarwei (track road)
German - Eisenbahn (iron way)
Greek - sidiródromos (σιδηρόδρομος) (iron road)
Hebrew - Pasi Racevet (פסי רכבת) (iron road)
Irish - iarnród (iron road)
Italian - ferrovia (iron way)
Japanese - tetsudou (鉄道 (Kanji), てつどう (Hiragana), テツドウ (Katakana) ) (iron path)
Korean - cheoldo (철도 (Hangul), 鐵道 (Hanja) ) (iron road)
Norwegian - jernbane (iron track)
Persian - Rah-ahan (راه‌آهن) (iron way)
Poland - kolej żelazna
Portuguese (Brazilian) - ferrovia (iron way) or estrada de ferro (road of iron)
Portuguese (Iberic) - caminho de ferro (way of iron)
Romanian - calea ferată (iron way)
Romansh - viafer (iron way)
Russian - zheleznaya doroga (железная дорога) (iron road)
Scottish Gaelic - rathad iarainn (road of iron)
Slovak - Železnica (iron way)
Spanish - ferrocarril (iron road)
Swedish - järnväg (iron way)
Turkish - demir yolu (iron way)
Welsh - rheilffordd (rail road)

In Britain the term railway often refers to the complete organisation of tracks, trains, stations, signaling, timetables and the organising companies which collectively make up a coordinated railway system, while permanent way or p/way refers to the tracks alone. See also Rail transport in the United Kingdom. Subways, metros, elevated lines, trolley lines, and undergrounds are all specialized railways.


Rail transport by country

Main Article: Rail transport by country


Of 236 countries and dependencies, 143 have rail transport (including several with very little), of which ca. 90 have passenger services.


See also: Rail usage statistics by country, List of countries by rail transport network size


Railway disasters and lessons learned

Significant railway disasters are those accidents where lessons were learned, and practices were changed.


See also

Commons
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External links

  • http://bueker.net/trainspotting/maps.php - maps of European railway networks
  • http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/fields/2121.html - rail transport by country
  • http://www.bahn.de/pv/uebersicht/die_bahn_international_guests.shtml - travel planner of German Railways (covers Europe, as well as at least each branch of the Trans-Siberian railway)
  • http://www.vagabondo.net/Indexeng.htm?/Eng/Thenet/Travel/rail.htm - links to railway companies and timetables
  • http://www.routesinternational.com/rail.htm - links
  • Rinbad (http://www.rinbad.demon.co.uk/) - on railway geography and infrastructure in Europe and around the world
  • http://www.railpassengers.org.uk/News/OtherPublications/Council/Railfuture_NRIS - National Railcard International Survey - Survey of national rail discount cards in various European countries
  • Track maps (http://trackmap.net/)

  Results from FactBites:
 
Rail transport - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1896 words)
The first railroad in the United States may have been a gravity railroad in Lewiston, New York in 1764.
The Leiper Railroad in Pennsylvania was the first permanent railroad, opened in 1810, and the Granite Railroad in 1826 may have been the first to evolve through continuous operations into a common carrier.
However, railroad was used in Britain concurrently with railway until the 1850s when railway became the established term.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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