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Rack and Pinion

A system of railway traction in which a toothed wheel which is part of a locomotive's transmission, engages with a rack laid between or alongside the running rails.

See also: Fell System, Funicular Railway.

Radial Truck

A single-axle truck in which axle side-play is imparted by curved guides in such a way that the axle is always normal to the curve which the vehicle is traversing.

Radius Link

An oscillating link in the Walschaerts valve-gear.

Radius Rod

A rod in the Walschaerts, Gooch and Allan straight-link valve-gears.

Rail Car

A self-propelled railway coach. This term is sometimes used to refer to an auto-train.

Rail Motor

Another name for a rail car.

Rail Spikes

Long flat-headed nails which are driven into sleepers each side of a flat-bottomed rail to secure the rail to the sleeper.


A longitudinal or transverse strip attached to a railway-vehicle roof for deflecting the flow of rain water away from doors or windows.


The sloping end of a station platform.

Ramsbottom Safety-Valve

A boiler safety-valve characterised by two vertical outlet tubes, which are capped by inverted cones. A single coil spring between the two outlet tubes loads down a bar onto which the cones are attached.

Reach Rod

Another term for a reversing rod.

Rear Direction (or in-rear)

Backwards from the location, with respect to the normal direction of travel for the line in question.


A steam reservoir in between the high- and low-pressure cylinders of a compound engine.

Reception Road

A siding into which a goods train is routed while waiting for its train to be taken into a marshalling yard for sorting.

Reception siding

A siding into which a goods train is routed while waiting for its train to be taken into a marshalling yard for sorting.


A siding or loop which is used to store a train for a short period so that it can be overtaken by a more important train.

A small recess in a wall inside a railway tunnel into which a person can stand when a train is passing.

Regenerative Braking

A system of braking used on electrically-powered vehicles where the control system is such that the traction motors can also act as generators. Thus, when decelerating, the motors feed current back into the electrical system; or, in the case of diesel-electric trains, dissipate the generated power in resistors.


The lateral displacement of the contact wire in railway overhead electrification.

Registration Arm

A horizontal rod which is used to fix a contact wire at the required registration.


Regulates the flow of steam to the cylinders from the boiler of a steam locomotive. In other words it is the accelerator.

Release Road

Another term for an escape road.

Relief Track (or Relief road)

The tracks used by the slowest moving or least important trains of a railway route where more than one set of tracks is provided for each direction of travel.

Relief Train

An unscheduled train, which is arranged, at short notice, to precede or follow on the same route as a scheduled train when the latter has been booked beyond its capacity.

Repeater Signal

A railway signal which duplicates a signal indication at another location.


A device which is laid close to the running rails of certain tracks in a hump yard, and when operated applies a retarding force to slow the speed of passing wagons.

Return Crank

A subsidiary crank secured at one end to the crank pin of a main crank, and then returns back approximately along the axis of the main crank.

Return-Crank Rod

Another term for the eccentric rod in the Walschaerts valve-gear.

Reverse Curve

A piece of track which curves in one direction and then changes direction without any appreciable length of straight track between the two curves.

Reversed (referring to signal and points levers)

The position of signal or points levers when they are pulled backwards in the frame. The reversed position indicates that the signal is off or that the points are set for the less commonly used route.

See also: Normal.


Device for changing a locomotives direction of travel.

Also known as the reversing lever on steam locomotives, smaller adjustments could be used control the usage of steam in the cylinders. See cut-off for details.

On diesel electric or electric locomotives the reverser is a large multi-way electro-pneumatic or electro-mechanical switch which changes over the direction of the field current in the traction motors. This reverses the direction of rotation of the motors and hence the locomotive.

Reversible Rail

An early-type of bull-head rail in which the head and base had the same cross-sectional shape.

Reversible Road

A running line which is signalled for trains to run in either direction according to requirements.

Reversing Crank

A bell crank which transfers movement from a reversing rod to a reversing link on a valve-gear.

Reversing Lever

A lever inside the cab of a steam locomotive which actuates the reversing of the valve-gear.

Reversing Link

A link between the reversing crank and the valve gear of a steam locomotive.

Reversing Loop

A length of track which turns back to join itself again at a set of points.

Reversing Rod

A rod which couples the reverse actuating-mechanism of a steam locomotive with the valve-gear.

Reversing Triangle

Three lengths of track which join each other in a triangular configuration in such a way that a train can be turned around by travelling round the triangle.

Right Away

A term used in most English-speaking countries for the signal given by a guard to a driver that he is permitted to depart.


Designed by Robert Stephenson in 1829 and worked on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

1/32nd scale model of Rocket made by Giancario Mastrini

The detail around the cylinder and wheels is stunning for a working model at 1/32nd scale.

Rocking Grate

A grate consisting of small sections which can be rocked to shake the remains of the fire through into the ash pan after the finish of a days work. Most steam locomotives have a flat grate which has to be raked out by hand via the fire-hole. Rocking grates require much less effort.

Rocking Levers

A set of levers which transfer the oscillating movement of one rod to that of another rod moving in the opposite direction.

Rolling Stock

Railway vehicles which are not self-propelled.

Rope-Worked Incline

Where part of a railway route is so steep that a normal locomotive is unable to pull a train up the incline, a system is sometimes used where a continuous loop of rope or steel cable, running from the top to the bottom of the incline, is driven by a stationary engine. At the bottom of the incline, a connection is made between the rope and the front of the train which is thus helped up the incline.

See also: Funicular Railway.

Round House

A railway locomotive shed covering tracks which are grouped radially from a turntable.

Round-Top Firebox

A locomotive firebox, the upper part of which is round in section

See also: Belpaire firebox.

Route Indicator

A board, positioned close to a signal arm, on which is indicated by numbers or letters, the route set for the approaching train.

Route Mile

Unit of measure between two places regardless of the number of tracks.

eg. Ten route miles of single track would be the same as 10 route miles of quadruple (4 lines) track, although one would be 10 miles of track and the quadruple track would be 40 miles of track).

Run-Round Loop

Another term for an escape road.

Running Board

A foot step which runs the length of a railway vehicle. The locomotive equivalent is generally referred to as the running plate.

Running Gear

Another term for brake gear.

Running Line

A railway track which is part of a continuous route, as opposed to sidings, loops, etc.

Running Plate

A foot ledge running the length of a locomotive at the approximate height of the foot-plate.

Running Rail

Rails upon which wheels roll, as opposed to check rails which are for guiding only, or conductor rails which are used for electrical pick- up only.

Running Shed

A motive-power depot with only limited repair and maintenance facilities. A locomotive requiring major repairs would be sent off to a larger motive-power depot.