VRE Train Dictionary

The purpose of Train Dictionary is to provide a place, solely for the understanding of railroad linguistics. We know we sometimes confuse our passengers by using industry dialect. In our communications we often refer to things that are not part of the normal vocabulary. With the Train Dictionary you will now be able to decipher those unusual words and have a clearer picture.


Gravel, slag or other heavy material used as a road bed to support cross ties and rails.


Bridge Strike

When a vehicle strikes the supports of any of the bridges our trains traverse.


Code Line failure

The inability of the dispatcher to control the signals and switches electronically. When this occurs the signals fail-safe and all train traffic must then manually operate switches and signals.



The coupled vehicles making up a train. A train consist usually contains cars (coaches), a cab car and a locomotive.


Defect Detector

Both CSXT and Norfolk Southern have electronic defect detectors mounted on the track structure spaced 20 miles apart. These devices scan each passing train for overheating wheel bearings and check for anything dragging on the tracks (therefore a detector is sometimes called a dragger or a drag detector).



When a train goes into emergency, it means the contiguous air line that runs the length of the train has been broken or has come apart. When the air line is broken, the stored air pressure in each car applies the brakes in their fullest position...or emergency. Once the brakes are applied and they cannot be released until the continuity of the air line is repaired and pressure has been restored.


Extra Board

A list of employees who may be assigned to train crews (1) when extra trains are run, (2) when regular crews have not had sufficient rest time before they can legally be required to return to duty, or (3) when relief men are required on regular crews.



Heavy steel flangeways that connect rails to switches, diamonds, cross-overs and other track structures. Frogs guide wheels from one rail to another.


Hand Throwing Switches

When a switch's electrical system fails, it immediately locks itself in a fail safe position. Once the go ahead is given by a dispatcher for trains to move through this area, the train proceeds slowly toward the switch. It then stops while a crew member climbs down from the train and attempts to manually throw the switch. In order to accomplish this, a crew member must disconnect the electrical switch motor and use the mechanical lever to move points of the switch. He then will reboard the train and the train may continue on at a restricted speed.


High Rail Car

A high rail car is a piece of equipment that can ride the rails to inspect for potential problems. It is equipped with tires and rail wheels and can operate on both asphalt and the rails. When a potential problem is identified, the high rail car is dispatched to patrol the rails. In cases of flood warnings, the car looks for high water or washed out ballast (the rocks under the rails). If a problem is found, they first try to correct it on the spot. If they cannot make repairs, they notify the dispatcher and either trains are slowed or kept out of the effected territory until it is corrected. In the case of the flood, when no exceptions are found the high rail car then relays that information to the dispatcher who, in turn, releases the restrictions and contacts the trains.


Hot Box

An overheated journal (end of the wheel axle that moves in the bearings) caused by excessive friction between bearing and journal; lack of lubricant or foreign matter. If these devices are out of service, the train dispatcher may require the train to stop and have a crewmember make a quick inspection of the entire train. Normally walking the length of the train does this or, an easier way is to put a crewmember off the train at the front and pull the train by him or her.


Hours of Service

In the interest of safety, the Federal Railroad Administration regulates how many hours a train crew can work in a 24 hour period. Crews may work up to 12 hours in one shift or may work a 16 hour day if they have 4 hours of rest at some point during the day. In addition, crews must have at least 8 hours off in any one 24 hour period.



A railroad employee who maintains, or fixes signals.



Maintenance Of Way


Passenger Needing Assistance


Track Congestion

Track congestion means there is a high number of trains traveling within our operational area.


Train Line

A cable of series of hoses used for connecting electrical.