Rail transport



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French 1912 drawing of typical elements of railways.


Rail transport is the transport of passengers and goods by means of wheeled vehicles specially designed to run along railways or railroads. Rail transport is part of the logistics chain, which facilitates the international trading and economic growth in most countries.

A typical railway/railroad track consists of two parallel rails, normally made of steel, secured to cross-beams, termed sleepers (U.K.) or 'ties' (U.S.). The sleepers maintain a constant distance between the two rails; a measurement known as the 'gauge' of the track. To maintain the alignment of the track it is either laid on a bed of ballast or else secured to a solid concrete foundation. The whole is referred to as permanent way (UK usage) or right-of-way (North American usage).

Railway rolling stock, which is fitted with metal wheels, moves with low frictional resistance when compared to road vehicles. On the other hand, locomotives and powered cars normally rely solely for traction on the point of contact of the wheel with the rail, whence they obtain adhesion (that is, the part of the transmitted axle load that makes the wheel "adhere" to the smooth rail). Whilst this is usually sufficient under normal dry rail conditions, adhesion can be reduced or even lost through the presence of unwanted material on the rail surface, such as moisture, grease, ice or dead leaves.

General

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A railway ticket issued in the United Kingdom.


Rail transport is an energy-efficient and capital-intensive means of mechanized land transport and is a component of logistics. Rails, which along with various engineered components, are part of the permanent way. They provide very smooth and hard surfaces on which the wheels of the train may roll with a minimum of friction. As an example, a typical modern wagon can hold up to 125 tons of freight on two four-wheel bogies/trucks (100 tons in UK). The contact area between each wheel and the rail is tiny, a strip no more than a few millimetres wide, and hence suffers very little friction. Furthermore, the track distributes the weight of the train evenly, allowing significantly greater loads per axle / wheel than in road transport, leading to less wear and tear on the permanent way. This can save energy compared with other forms of transportation, such as road transport which depends on the friction between rubber tires and the road. Trains also have a small frontal area in relation to the load they are carrying, which cuts down on forward air resistance and thus energy usage, although does not necessarily account for the effect of side winds. 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.

Due to these various benefits, rail transport is a major form of public transport in many countries. In Asia, for example, many millions use trains as regular transport in India, China, South Korea and Japan. It is also widespread in European countries. By comparison, intercity rail transport in the United States is relatively scarce outside the Northeast Corridor, although a number of major U.S. cities have heavily-used, local rail-based passenger transport systems or light rail or commuter rail operations.[1]

The vehicles traveling on the rails are arranged in a series of individual powered or unpowered vehicles linked together, called a train; this can include the locomotive where present. A locomotive (or 'engine') is a powered vehicle used to haul a train of unpowered vehicles; calling a locomotive a "train" is a common popular misnomer. A string of unpowered vehicles without the locomotive is also termed a train; in the U.S.A. individual unpowered vehicles are known as cars (a generic term), and are divided according to the role: for a passenger-carrying vehicle the term carriage (or coach) is used, whilst a freight-carrying vehicle is known as a freight car; in Britain, a freight car would be called a wagon (or a truck). An individual powered passenger vehicle is known as a railcar or a power car; when one or more as these are coupled to one or more unpowered trailer cars as an inseparable unit, this is called a railcar set; several sets coupled together make up a multiple unit. Collectively, rail vehicles of all types are known as rolling stock.

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An intercity passenger train (left) and freight train (right) in Great Britain.

History

See also Timeline of railway history


The earliest evidence of a railway found thus far was the  km ( mi) Diolkos wagonway, which transported boats across the Corinth isthmus in Greece during the 6th century BC. Trucks pushed by slaves ran in grooves in limestone, which provided the track element, preventing the wagons from leaving the intended route. The Diolkos ran for over 1300 years, until 900 AD. The first horse-drawn wagonways also appeared in ancient Greece, with others to be found on Malta and various parts of the Roman Empire, using cut-stone tracks.

Railways began re-appearing in Europe after a hiatus following the collapse of the Roman Empire from around 1550, usually operating with wooden track. The first railways in Great Britain (also known as wagonways) were constructed in the early 17th century, mainly for transporting coal from mines to canal wharfs where it could be transferred to a boat for onward shipment. The earliest recorded examples of this are the Wollaton Wagonway in Nottinghamshire and the Bourtreehill - Broomlands Wagonway in Irvine, Ayrshire. Other examples can be found in Broseley in Shropshire, where wooden rails and flanged wheels were utilised, as on a modern railway. However, the rails were liable to wear out under the pressure, and had to be replaced. In 1768, the Coalbrookdale Iron Works laid cast iron plates on top of the wooden rails, providing a more durable load-bearing surface. From the late 18th century, iron rails began to appear, with the British civil engineer William Jessop designing smooth iron edge rails, which were to be used in conjunction with flanged iron wheels. Jessop used this innovation on a route between Loughborough and Nanpantan, Leicestershire in 1789. In 1803, Jessop opened the Surrey Iron Railway in south London, arguably the world's first horse-drawn public railway.[2]

The first locomotive to haul a train of wagons on rails was designed by Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick, and was trialled in 1804 on a plateway at Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales.[3] Although the locomotive successfully hauled the train, the rail design was not a success, partly because its weight broke a number of the brittle cast-iron plates. Despite this setback, another area of South Wales pioneered rail operations, when, in 1806, a horse-drawn railway was built between Swansea and Mumbles: the Swansea-Mumbles railway started carrying fare-paying passengers in 1807 – the first in the world to do so.[4]

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Density of the railway net in Europe 1896.


In 1811, John Blenkinsop designed the first successful and practical railway locomotive.[5] He patented a system of moving coals by a rack railway worked by a steam locomotive (patent no. 3431), and a line was built connecting the Middleton Colliery to Leeds. The locomotive (The Salamanca) was built by Matthew Murray of Fenton, Murray and Wood.[6] The Middleton Railway was the first railway to successfully use steam locomotives on a commercial basis. It was also the first railway in Great Britain to be built under the terms laid out in an Act of Parliament. Blenkinsop's engine had double-acting cylinders and, unlike the Trevithick pattern, no flywheel. Due to previous experience of broken rails, the locomotive was made very light and this brought concerns about insufficient adhesion, so instead of driving the wheels directly, the cylinders drove a cogwheel through spur gears, the cogwheel providing traction by engaging with a rack cast into the side of the rail.

The Kilmarnock and Troon Railway was built in 1811 and was officially opened one year later in 1812. The line began life as a 9.5 mile (16 km), double track 4 ft 0 in (1,219 mm) gauge, horse-drawn waggonway. It was built using cast iron plate rails with an inner flange. A George Stephenson built locomotive, his second one from Killingworth colliery, was tried on the main line in 1817, but the weight of the engine broke the cast iron plate rails. It worked better when wooden rails were used; and the locomotive remained in use until 1848.

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Blücher, an early railway locomotive built in 1814 by George Stephenson.
The Stockton and Darlington Railway opened in northern England in 1825[7] to be followed five years later by the Liverpool and Manchester Railway,[8] considered to be the world's first "Inter City" line. The rail gauge (the distance between the two rails of the track) was used for the early wagonways, and had been adopted for the Stockton and Darlington Railway. The 4 ftin (1435 mm) width became known as the international "standard gauge", used by about sixty per cent of the world's railways. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway, on the other hand, proved the viability of rail transport when, after organising the Rainhill Trials of 1829, Stephenson's Rocket successfully hauled a load of 13 tons at an average speed of 12 miles per hour. The company took the step of working its trains from its opening entirely by steam traction. Railways then soon spread throughout the United Kingdom and 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 first railroad in the United States may have been a gravity railroad in Lewiston, New York in 1764. The 1810 Leiper Railroad in Pennsylvania was intended as the first permanent railroad,[9] and the 1826 Granite Railway in Massachusetts was the first commercial railroad to evolve through continuous operations into a common carrier. The Baltimore and Ohio, opened in 1830, was the first to evolve into a major system. In 1867, the first elevated railroad was built in New York. In 1869, the symbolically important transcontinental railroad was completed in the United States with the driving of a golden spike at Promontory, Utah.[10] The development of the railroad in the United States helped reduce transportation time and cost, which allowed migration towards the west. Railroads increased the accessibility of goods to consumers, thus allowing individuals and capital to flow westward.

Further information: Oldest railroads in North America

Electrification

Enlarge picture
A historic postcard showing electric trolley-powered streetcars in Richmond, Virginia, where Frank J. Sprague successfully demonstrated his new system on the hills in 1888. The intersection shown is at 8th & Broad Streets.


Robert Davidson started to experiment with an electrical railway car in Scotland in 1838. By 1839 he had completed and presented a 16 feet long carriage which weighed a total of six tons, including batteries. It reached a maximum speed of four miles per hour.

Magnus Volk opened his electric railway in Brighton in 1883.

The use of overhead wires conducting electricity, invented by Granville T. Woods in 1888, amongst several other improvements, led to the development of electrified railways, the first of which in the United States was operated at Coney Island from 1892. Richmond, Virginia had the first successful electrically-powered trolley system in the United States. Designed by electric power pioneer Frank J. Sprague, the trolley system opened its first line in January, 1888. Richmond's hills, long a transportation obstacle, were considered an ideal proving ground. The new technology soon replaced horse-powered streetcars.

Diesel and electric trains and locomotives replaced steam in many countries in the decades after World War II.
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Two SD70M diesel locomotives of the Union Pacific refuelling at Dunsmuir, California.
In the USSR the phenomenon of children's railways was developed since the 1930s (the world's first one was opened on July 24, 1935). Fully operated by children, they were extracurricular educational institutions, where teenagers learnt railway professions. A lot of them are functioning in post-Soviet states and Eastern European countries.

Many countries since the 1960s have adopted high-speed railways. On April 3 2007, the French TGV set a new train speed record. The train, with a modified engine and wheels, reached 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph). The record attempt took place on the new LGV Est line between Paris and Strasbourg using a specially equipped TGV Duplex train. The overhead lines had also been modified for the attempt to carry 31,000 V rather than the line's normal 25,000 V.[11][12] On 24 August 2005, the Qingzang railway became the highest railway line in the world, when track was laid through the Tanggula Mountain Pass at  m ( ft) above sea level in the Tanggula Mountains, Tibet.[13]

Operations



A railway can be broken down into two major components. Firstly, there are the items which "move", also referred to as the rolling stock, which include locomotives, passenger carrying vehicles (coaches), freight carrying vehicles (goods wagons/freight cars). Secondly are the "fixed" components, usually referred to as the railway's infrastructure, including the permanent way and ancillary buildings that are necessary for a railway to function.

Signalling

Main article: Railway signalling
Enlarge picture
GWR semaphore-type signal.
Railway signalling is a system used to control railway traffic safely, essentially to prevent trains from colliding. Being guided by fixed rails, trains are uniquely susceptible to collision; furthermore, trains cannot stop quickly, and frequently operate at speeds that do not enable them to stop within sighting distance of the driver.

Most forms of train control involve movement authority being passed from those responsible for each section of a rail network (e.g., a signalman or stationmaster) to the train crew. The set of rules and the physical equipment used to accomplish this determine what is known as the method of working (UK), method of operation (US) or safeworking (Aus.). Not all these methods require the use of physical signals and some systems are specific to single track railways. The signalling process is traditionally carried out in a signal box or interlocking tower, a small building constructed to house the lever frames required for the signalman to operate switches and signal equipment. These were placed at various strategic intervals along the route of a railway, controlling their own sections of track. More recent technological developments have initiated the redundancy of such operational doctrine, with the centralization of signalling operations to regional control rooms. This has been facilitated by the increased use of computers, allowing vast sections of track to be monitored from a single location.

Right of way

Railway tracks are laid upon land owned or leased by the railway. Owing to the requirements for large radius turns and modest grades, rails will often be laid in circuitous routes. Public carrier railways are typically granted limited rights of eminent domain (UK:compulsory purchase). In many cases in the 19th century railways were given additional incentives in the form of grants of public land. Route length and grade requirements can be reduced by the use of alternating earthen cut and fill, bridges, and tunnels, all of which can greatly increase the capital expenditures required to develop a right of way, while significantly reducing operating costs and allowing higher speeds on longer radius curves. In densely urbanized areas such as Manhattan, railways are sometimes laid out in tunnels to minimize the effects on existing properties (see condemnation).

Safety and railway disasters

Trains can travel at very high speed; however, they are heavy, are unable to deviate from the track and require a great distance to stop. Although rail transport is considered one of the safest forms of travel, there are many possibilities for accidents to take place. These can vary from the minor derailment (jumping the track), a head-on collision with another train coming the opposite way and collision with an automobile at a level crossing/grade crossing. Level crossing collisions are relatively common in the United States where there are several thousand each year killing about 500 people - although the comparable figures in the United Kingdom are 30 and 12 (collisions and casualties, respectively). For information regarding major accidents, see List of rail accidents. The most important safety measures are railway signalling and gates at level/grade crossings. Train whistles warn of the presence of a train, whilst trackside signals maintain the distances between trains. In the United Kingdom, vandalism or negligence is thought responsible for about half of rail accidents. Railway lines are zoned or divided into blocks guarded by combinations of block signals, operating rules, and automatic-control devices so that one train, at most, may be in a block at any time. Compared with road travel, railways remain relatively safe. Annual death rates on roads are over 40,000 in the United States and about 3,000 in the United Kingdom, compared with 1,000 rail-related fatalities in the United States and under 20 in the UK.[14][15] (These figures do not account for differences in passenger-miles traveled by mode; see e.g. Transportation safety in the United States.)

Trackage

Main article: Rail tracks


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Bolted rail connection and tie-down. Also known as a fishplate.


A typical railway/railroad track consists of two parallel steel (or in older networks, iron) rails, generally anchored perpendicular to beams, termed sleepers or ties, of timber, concrete, or steel to maintain a consistent distance apart, or gauge. The rails and perpendicular beams are usually then placed on a foundation made of concrete or compressed earth and gravel in a bed of ballast to prevent the track from buckling (bending out of its original configuration) as the ground settles over time beneath and under the weight of the vehicles passing above. The vehicles travelling on the rails are arranged in a train; a series of individual powered or unpowered vehicles linked together, displaying markers. These vehicles (referred to, in general, as cars, carriages or wagons) move with much less friction than do vehicles riding on rubber tires on a paved road, and the locomotive that pulls the train tends to use energy far more efficiently as a result.

Trackage, consisting of sleepers/ties and rails, may be prefabricated or assembled in place. Rails may be composed of segments welded or bolted, and may be of a length comparable to that of a railcar or two or may be many hundreds of feet long.

The surface of the ballast is sloped around curves to reduce side forces. This reduces the forces tending to displace the track, reduces the tendency to overturn at high speed, and makes for a more comfortable ride for standing cattle and standing or seated passengers in trains. This will be optimal at only one particular speed, however.

Track components

Railways are highly complex feats of engineering, with many hours of planning and forethought required for a successful outcome. The first component of a railway is the route, which is planned to provide the least resistance in terms of gradient and engineering works. As such, the trackbed is heavily engineered to provide, where possible, a level surface. As such, embankments are constructed to support the track, in order to provide a compromise in terms of the route's average elevation. With this in mind, sundry structures such as bridges and viaducts are constructed in an attempt to maintain the railway's elevation, and gradients are kept within manageable constraints. Where such items are not always justified, such as in hilly terrain, where routes may require long detours to avoid such features, a cutting or tunnel is dug or bored through the obstacle. Once the sundry engineering works are completed, a bed of stone (ballast) is laid over the compacted trackbed to ensure drainage around the ties and even distribution of pressure over a wider area, locking the track-work in place. This crushed stone is firmly tamped to prevent further settling and to lock the stones. Minor watercourses are led through pipes (culverts) before the grade is raised

The base of the trackage consists of treated wood or concrete "ties", also known as "sleepers". These ensure the proper distance between the rails (known as "gauge") and anchor the rail structure to the roadbed through the use of Plates. These are attached to the top of the ties in order to provide a secure housing for the rails. After placement of the rail atop the plate, spikes are driven through holes in the plate and into the tie where they are held by friction. The top of the spike has a head that clamps the rail. Alternatively, lag bolts may be used to retain the clamps; this is preferred since screws do not tend to loosen. The spaces between and surrounding the ties are filled with additional ballast to stabilize the rail assembly against movement.

Points (Turnouts or Switches)

Main article: Railroad switch


Points (UK) or switches (US), technically known as turnouts, are the means of directing a train onto a diverging section of track, for example, a siding, a branch line, or a parallel running line. Laid similar to normal track, a point typically consists of a frog (common crossing), check rails and two switch rails. The switch rails may be moved left or right, under the control of the signalling system, to determine which path the train will follow.

Maintenance

Spikes in wooden ties can loosen over time, whilst split and rotten ties may be individually replaced with a concrete substitute. Should the rails settle owing to soil subsidence they may be lifted by specialized machinery and additional ballast tamped down to form a level elevation. Periodically, ballast must be removed and replaced with clean ballast to ensure adequate drainage, especially if wooden ties are used. Culverts and other passages for water must be kept clear lest water is impounded by the trackbed, causing landslips. Where trackbeds are placed along rivers, additional protection is usually placed to prevent erosion during times of high water, whilst Bridges are another important item requiring inspection and maintenance.

See also: Track maintenance and Maintenance of way

Terminology



Main article: Rail terminology


In the United Kingdom and most other Commonwealth of Nations countries, the term railway is used in preference to the United States term, railroad. In Canadian speech, railway and railroad are interchangeable, although in law railway is the usual term. Railroad was used in the United Kingdom concurrently with railway until the 1850s when railway became the established term. Several American companies have railway in their names instead of railroad, the BNSF Railway being the pre-eminent modern example.

Further information: Usage of the terms railroad and railway


In the United Kingdom, the term railway often refers to the whole organization of tracks, trains, stations, signalling, timetables and the operating companies that collectively make up a coordinated railway system, while permanent way or p/way refers to the tracks alone; however this terminology is generally not commonplace outside of the railway industry or those who take a keen interest in it.

See also:


Subways, metros, elevated lines, trolley lines, and undergrounds are all specialized railways.
Further information: International railroad terminology

Rail transport by country



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

Gallery




Rail connections.

Preparations for an electrified railway.

Concrete ties (sleepers).

Rails joined by thermite welding.

Expansion joint.

Complex switchpoint.

Guiderails in case of derailment.

Steel trestle.

Spectacular bridge in Southern British Columbia.


See also

This article is part
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Rail transport
Operations
Stations
Trains
Locomotives
Rolling stock
History
Terminology
By country
Disasters

Modelling
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Footnotes

1. ^ Public Transportation Ridership Statistics. American Public Transportation Association (2007). Retrieved on .
2. ^ Surrey Iron Railway 200th - 26th July 2003. Early Railways. Stephenson Locomotive Society. Retrieved on .
3. ^ Chartres, Professor J.: 'Richard Trevithick' in: Cannon, John (Ed.): Oxford Companion to British History, p. 932
4. ^ Early Days of Mumbles Railway. BBC (2007-02-15). Retrieved on .
5. ^ John Blenkinsop. Encyclopedia Brittanica. Retrieved on .
6. ^ Hamilton Ellis (1968). The Pictorial Encyclopedia of Railways. The Hamlyn Publishing Group, pp.20. 
7. ^ September 27th 1825 - Opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. The Stockton and Darlington Railway. Retrieved on .
8. ^ Liverpool and Manchester. Retrieved on .
9. ^ Morlok, Edward K. (2005-01-11). First permanent railroad in the U.S. and its connection to the University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved on .
10. ^ Ambrose, Stephen E. (2000). Nothing Like It In The World; The men who built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-84609-8. 
11. ^ Associated Press. "French train breaks speed record", CNN|, 2007-04-04. Retrieved on 2007-04-03. 
12. ^ Fouquet, Helene and Viscousi, Gregory. "French TGV Sets Record, Reaching 357 Miles an Hour (Update2)", Bloomberg, 2007-04-03. Retrieved on . 
13. ^ "New height of world's railway born in Tibet", Xinhua, 2005-08-24. Retrieved on . 
14. ^ Office of Hazardous Materials Safety. A Comparison of Risk: Accidental Deaths - United States - 1999-2003. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved on .
15. ^ Office of Rail Regulation. U.K. Health & Safety Executive. Retrieved on .

References

  • Cannon, John (Ed.): Oxford Companion to British History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) ISBN 0198608721

Further reading

Enlarge picture
End of the single track, unelectrified line at Bad Radkersburg, Styria, Austria, near the Slovenian border.
  • John H. Armstrong. Railroad: What It Is, What It Does 4th Edition (1998)
  • Rainer Fremdling, "Railways and German Economic Growth: A Leading Sector Analysis with a Comparison to the United States and Great Britain," The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 37, No. 3. (Sep., 1977), pp. 583-604.
  • Leland H. Jenks, "Railroads as an Economic Force in American Development," The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 4, No. 1 (May, 1944), 1-20.
  • O . S. Nock, ed. Encyclopedia of Railways (London, 1977), worldwide coverage, heavily illustrated
  • Frederick Smeeton Williams, Our Iron Roads: Their History, Construction and Social Influences (1852) (available through google books).
  • Patrick O’Brien. Railways and the Economic Development of Western Europe, 1830-1914 (1983)
  • Jack Simmons and Gordon Biddle, (editors). The Oxford Companion to British Railway History: From 1603 to the 1990s (2nd ed 1999)
  • Skelton, Oscar D. (1916). The Railway Builders. Glasgow, Brook, & Company, Toronto. 
  • John Stover, American Railroads (2nd ed 1997)
  • James W. Ely Jr "Railroads & American Law" (2001) University Press of Kansas
Sid Meier's Railroads! is an economic simulation game developed by Sid Meier on the Gamebryo game engine that was released in October 2006 and is the sequel to Railroad Tycoon 3.
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Transport or transportation is the movement of people and goods from one place to another. The term is derived from the Latin trans ("across") and portare ("to carry").
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passenger is a term broadly used to describe any person who travels in a vehicle, but bears little or no responsibility for the tasks required for that vehicle to arrive at its destination.
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economy is the system of human activities related to the production, distribution, exchange, and consumption of goods and services of a country or other area.

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Rail tracks are used on railways (or railroads), which, together with railroad switches (or points), guide trains without the need for steering. Tracks consist of two parallel steel rails, which are laid upon sleepers (or cross ties) that are embedded in ballast to form the
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Rail profile is a hot rolled steel profile of a specific shape or cross section (an asymmetrical I-beam).

Unlike some other uses of iron and steel, railway rails are subject to very high stresses and have to be made of very high quality steel.
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railroad tie, cross tie, or railway sleeper is a rectangular object used as a base for railroad tracks. Sleepers are members generally laid transverse to the rails, on which the rails are supported and fixed, to transfer the loads from rails to the ballast and sub
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Track ballast forms the trackbed upon which railroad ties (US) or railway sleepers (UK) are laid. It is packed between, below, and around the ties.<ref name="Sol18" /> It is used to facilitate drainage of water, to distribute the load from the railroad ties, and
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The permanent way means the physical elements of the railway line itself: generally the pairs of rails typically laid on sleepers embedded in ballast, intended to carry the ordinary trains of a railway.
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A right-of-way (plural: rights-of-way) is an easement or strip of land granted for transportation purposes, such as for a rail line of highway. In the case of an easement, it may revert to its original owners if the facility is abandoned.
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bogie is a wheeled wagon or trolley. In mechanics terms, a bogie is a chassis or framework carrying wheels, attached to a vehicle. It can be fixed in place, as on a cargo truck, mounted on a swivel, as on a train carriage or locomotive, or sprung as in the suspension of a
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Road transport (British English) or road transportation (American English) is transport on roads, that is most transport over land which is not rail transport in the wide sense.

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train is a series of rail vehicles that move along guides to transport freight or passengers from one place to another. The guideway (permanent way) usually consists of conventional rail tracks, but might also be monorail or maglev.
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