oldpway.info Glossary page

This page provides lists of the abbreviations used in oldpway.info, followed by a glossary of permanent way terms.
The three lists are: Abbreviations for railway companies, Other abbreviations and Glossary of terms.

Abbreviated company markings on rail chairs

For a list of manufacturing company names, indicated by abbreviation initials on cast-iron rail chairs, see the article on British Permanent Way Manufacturers.

List of abbreviations for railway companies

BR(SR)British Railways Southern Region
CalRCaledonian Railway
CamRCambrian Railway
GNSRGreat North of Scotland Railway
GNRGreat Northern Railway
GNRIGreat Northern Railway of Ireland
GWRGreat Western Railway
HRHighland Railway
LBSCRLondon, Brighton and South Coast Railway
LMSRLondon, Midland and Scottish Railway
LNERLondon and North Eastern Railway
LNWRLondon and North Western Railway
LSWRLondon and South Western Railway
LYRLancashire and Yorkshire Railway
MGWRMidland Great Western Railway (of Ireland)
MRMidland Railway
MSLRManchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway
NBRNorth British Railway
NERNorth Eastern Railway
NSRNorth Staffordshire Railway
SRSouthern Railway
S&DRStockton and Darlington Railway

List of other abbreviations

FRSAFellow of the Royal Society of Arts
FSAFellow of the Society of Arts, now known as the Royal Society of Arts, originally the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce
ICEInstitution of Civil Engineers
IRCInternational Railway Congress (see IRC_article)
IRCAInternational Railway Congress Association (see IRC_article)
MInstCEMember of the Institution of Civil Engineers
M.I.Mech.EMember of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers
P&CPoints and Crossings
ProcICEProceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers
PWIPermanent Way Institution
REARailway Engineers’ Association
S&CSwitches and Crossings

Glossary of permanent way terms

"Acute crossing"See Crossing.
ChairSee Railchair.
Crossing The crossing is where two rails cross. An acute (or vee) crossing is where the left and right rails cross each other. An obtuse crossing is where the two rails on the same side cross each other. A turnout has one acute (or vee) crossing. A diagonal crossing is where two tracks cross diagonally; it has two acute crossings and two obtuse crossings.
Crossover A crossover is the track arrangement where there are two parallel tracks, with a connecting track to allow movement from one track to the other. In a "facing crossover" the movement between tracks occurs in the normal direction of running. In a "trailing crossover" the movement between tracks requires the train to be stopped and reversed over the crossover; this is safer than a "facing crossover" because derailments are less likely.
"Diagonal crossing"See Crossing.
"Facing crossover"See Crossover.
HeelThe heel is the back end of a switch, where the two rails have separated.
"Jump track"See "Jump line".
"Jump line" A jump line, also known as a jump track, is a short temporary crossover used on the tracks servicing a steam navvy while it is excavating.
Empty spoil wagons are brought to behind the steam navvy. One empty wagon at a time is moved by horse over the jump line to a parallel siding where it is filled with the spoil from the steam navvy bucket, then moved away. The jump line uses straight rails with wooden blocks to lift and guide the empty horse-drawn wagon where the rails cross and join. The jump lines are moved forward as the excavation extends.
The figure here shows a common layout with 3 tracks and 2 jump lines behind the navvy, so it can alternately dump spoil to the left and right. This figure is from the 1885 paper "Dunbar and Ruston's Steam Navvy" by Mr Joseph Ruston, which explains the jump line on p.202 and is here. It was published in "Engineering: An Illustrated Weekly Journal", vol.40, July to December 1885, p.178,180,202-204, which can be read and downloaded on Google books here.
A photo of a jump line in use in 1896 near Rugby on the construction of the Great Central Railway is here (copied from this Image Leicestershire webpage, snapshotted here).
A postcard posted in 1902 showing a jump line in use in Fartown Cutting on the Midland Railway Extension at Huddersfield is here (copied from this image, with details given near the bottom of this webpage, snapshotted here).
Thanks to Alan Blackburn of Rookhope, County Durham, for providing this information and finding these photos.
KeySee Railchair.
"Looping points" "Looping points" and "relooping points" are obscure terms whose meaning was lost for many years but rediscovered in 2020. In about 1900 the North Eastern Railway constructed its turnout points (switches) with stretcher rods bent from round rod. These rods attached to the point blades by fitting in "point loops" which were joined to the blades. The "point loops" were like the eyes in hook and eye fastenings. "Looping points" or "relooping points" meant fixing "point loops" to the blades. The terms have been seen in an NER letter of 1903, in NER signal reports of 1909, and in Midland Railway signalling notices of 1915 concerning an NER station. It is not known whether the terms were only used for NER practice or were in more common use. For more details see "The Meaning of 'Looping Points and Rivetting Crossings'" by Ernest Bate, p.52-54 of "North Eastern Express", vol.60, no.242, May 2021, ISSN 0962-8746.
NoseThe nose is the sharp point of an acute (or vee) crossing, where the two running edges come together to cross each other.
"Obtuse crossing"See Crossing.
"P&C"See "Switches and Crossings".
"Plain line"Railway track which does not have any diverging or crossing tracks is called "plain line".
"Point loops"See "Looping points".
PointsSee Switch and see Turnout.
"Points and Crossings"See "Switches and Crossings".
RailchairA railchair or chair is the pedestal, normally made of cast-iron, which is used hold the rail upright (or slightly inclined), to attach it to the sleeper and to support the weight of the rail and the passing trains. The rail is normally held in the chair with a key, which is typically a tapered wooden block.
"Relooping points"See "Looping points".
"Rerivetting crossings"See "Rivetting crossings".
"Rivetting crossings" "Rivetting crossings" and "rerivetting crossings" are obscure terms whose meaning was lost for many years but rediscovered in 2020. In vee (or acute) crossings of turnouts, the two running rails come together at the narrow nose. The vee crossing was normally made by shaping the two rails and bolting them together. But in 1900 a few railways, including the North Eastern Railway, joined the two shaped rails by large countersunk rivets rather than bolts. "Rivetting crossings" or "rerivetting crossings" meant replacing the rivets in vee crossings made with rivets rather than bolts. The terms have been seen in an NER letter of 1903, and in Midland Railway signalling notices of 1915 concerning an NER station. For more details see "The Meaning of 'Looping Points and Rivetting Crossings'" by Ernest Bate, p.52-54 of "North Eastern Express", vol.60, no.242, May 2021, ISSN 0962-8746.
"S&C"See "Switches and Crossings".
"Stretcher rod"The switch blades of turnouts are joined by "stretcher rods" which connect the blades together at the correct spacing and which pull them sideways to set the switch to the left or right direction. The design of stretcher rods varied much between railway companies and over time. See also "Looping points".
"Stub switch"See Switch.
Switch A switch is the part of a turnout where a single rail diverges into two rails. Switches are normally designed with one solid rail and with one rail which tapers to a flexible blade. Other designs of switch existed in the early days of railways, including "stub" switches in which a single solid rail was flexed to the two alternative routes. A turnout uses a pair of switches.
"Switches and Crossings" "Switches and Crossings", or "S&C", is the collective name for trackwork where tracks diverge or cross. The term "Points and Crossings", or "P&C", was more often used in the past.
ToeThe toe is the front end of a switch, where the two rails merge into one.
"Trailing crossover"See Crossover.
Turnout A turnout, often just called "points", is where a single track diverges into two tracks. A simple turnout is made up of a pair of switches (or points) and an acute (or vee) crossing where the rails cross, together with connecting rails and check-rails.
"Vee crossing"See Crossing.