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Noquay - Model Railway Inglenook Layout 4mm (OO)

Glossary of Railway & Model Railway Terms


  • Scale - The size of things on a model railway relative to a real railway. For example, in the most popular scale, HO, models are 1/87th full size.
  • Scenic Break - A scenic break is a deliberate barrier to disguise the fact that the main line links two sections of a layout which either clash or should, be separated. An example might be a rural landscape and a heavily populated city.
  • Scissor Crossing - Junction between two parallel railway tracks enabling trains to cross over from one to the other in either direction.
  • Scratchbuilding - Making a model from raw materials and parts, and not using kits.
  • Section Hand - A track worker.
  • Sectional Track, Settrack - Rigid pieces of straight and curved track that come with train sets.
  • Selective Compression - A modeling technique that gives the impression that there are more buildings in a scene than are really possible. This is acomplished by making the buildings in the background smaller to give the impression that they are further away.
  • Semaphore - Type of fixed signal with a pivoted arm which can be raised or lowered as required.
  • Semi-Conductor - Material used in electric traction rectifiers, whose electrical resistance depends on the direction of the applied voltage. Silicon and Germanium are typical examples.
  • Seniority - Length of service relative to others.
  • Service Track - Track on which engines take on coal and water.
  • Shanty - A caboose, also a small building.
  • Shoo-fly Track - Temporary track used primarily for mainline service.
  • Shuffle - To switch cars.
  • Shunt - To switch to another path.
  • Shunting Signal - A signal provided for the movement of trains or vehicles other than normal passage along running Lines. Aalso known as dummy, dolly, tommy dod, doddy.
  • Shuttle - Train which gives a frequent return service over a short route.
  • Siding - A passing siding or temporary storage area, An auxiliary track turning out from the mainline and rejoining at another point along the main; can be used as a holding track; Sidings can also be used in the form of a branch or short line to service a small town and rejoin the mainline at a distant point.
  • Signal - A visual display device for controlling the movement of trains by warning or advising the driver of the occupational state of the line ahead or intention to divert to another line.
  • Signal Box - Tower or building housing equipment for operation of points and signals in a particular section of a route.
  • Signaller, Signalman - A person responsible for the operation of the signalling system, to safely control the passage and regulation of trains, usually located in a Signal Box. Also known as bobby.
  • Silo - Sand storage tower for filling locomotive sand boxes.
  • Single Track System - Consists of a single track between two terminals.
  • Six-Foot - Area between parallel railway tracks.
  • Skew Bridge - Bridge that spans obliquely and is therefore longer than the square gap.
  • Slab - Track rails laid on a continuous concrete or asphalt base instead of conventional sleepers and ballast, to minimize settlement and changes in alignment, this helps to reduce maintenance costs.
  • Sleeper - Steel, wood or precast concrete beam for holding the rails to correct gauge and distributing the load imposed by passing trains.The sleepers are usually set in crushed rock or ballast.
  • Slug - A locomotive which receives its electrical current to run the traction motors from another locomotive. They are not equipped with their own diesel and therefore must be operated with another locomotive.
  • Smoke Box - The section of a steam locomotive boiler at the forward end which houses the main steam pipes to the cylinders, exhaust pipe and stack.
  • Smoking-A-Meet - Sending a column of black smoke to signal any approaching train that another is present.
  • Snow Plough - Special vehicle propelled by, or attachment to, front of locomotive to remove snow from the track. The snow plough may be of simple wedge shape or rotary type.
  • Snow Shed - Substantially built shed along the side of a mountain with sloping roof erected over the railway to provide a path for avalanches without blocking the line.
  • Solebar - Longitudinal main frame, outer member of carriage or wagon under-frame, usually of channel section.
  • Soleplate - Longitudinal main frame member of a built up carriage bogie, usually of standard rolled steel section of pressings. Also a plate inserted between the chairs and the sleeper at a pair of points to maintain the correct gauge and prevent any spreading of the gauge that might occur from the gradual enlargement of the spike holes in the wooden sleepers.
  • Spar - The wooden rod used in poling operations.
  • Spark Arrester - A device, usually in the form of a mesh or baffle plate fitted in the smoke box to prevent the emission of live coals and sparks from the chimney or smoke stack.
  • SPDT (Single Pole Double Throw) - A type of electrical switch used in model railways.
  • Special - A train not shown in the working time table or pre-planned.
  • Spike - Square section heavy steel nail driven into wooden sleeper to affix flanged rail in position.
  • Spot - To marshall or shunt. To move a car to the desired location.
  • Spur - A divergent track having only one entry; a branch line over which irregular service is offered.
  • Stabling - Accommodation for a short period of time.
  • Staff - Wooden stick which must be carried by each train traveling on single line section of railway branch line to maintain absolute block working and prevent possibility of head-on collision.
  • Stagger - Interlacing of sleepers at switches and crossing or, making rail joints in one running rail not to coincide with those in other rail.
  • Standard Gauge - Most common distance between rails in a country. Also a three rail tin plate train manufactured by Lionel and others.
  • Starter - Signal Signal in British practice which gives authority to a train to proceed into a block section.
  • Station - Any stop along the mainline.
  • Station Way - A small station with a passing track only.
  • Steam Chest - A box containing the valve mechanism for the cylinders of a steam locomotive.
  • Stencil Indicator - A type of alphanumeric indicator, used in conjunction with shunting signals or off indicators, which uses a stencil to form the characters.
  • Stephenson Valve Gear - The mechanism that controls the movement of the steam distribution valve of a steam locomotive. Also Stephenson Valve Gear (link motion), a valve gear in which the steam lead is greatest at mid-gear and greatest at full forward.
  • Stock Car - USA term for vehicle used for the conveyance of cattle.
  • Stop Signal - Any signal capable of showing a Danger Aspect. Also known as home board, stop board, peg.
  • Stub - A short diverging track ending in a bumper; it has a switch only at one end
  • Stub Axle - Short non-revolving axle which supports only one wheel.
  • Stub Terminal - A dead end track with a bumping post; used in yards, industrial spurs, mining and logging areas.
  • Stud Contact - Similar to 3-rail, but the conductor rail is replaced by a row of energized studs along the center of the track. A long collector skate on the locomotive that picks up current. Used by Marklin and in O gauge.
  • Styrene - Short for polystyrene, a plastic commonly used for modeling. Comes in sheets, blocks, and rods of many different thickness and sizes.
  • Superheater - A device for raising the temperature and volume of the steam after it leaves the boiler through the application of additional heat.
  • Superelevation - Amount by which one rail of a curved track is raised above the other. Superelevation is positive when the outer rail is higher than the inner rail and negative when the inner rail is higher than the outer. Also called Cant. Superelivation allows the train to maintain a faster speed.
  • Suspension - Connecting system, including springs, between vehicle wheel and body, designed to give best possible riding qualities by keeping unsprung weights to a minimum and reducing shock loadings on track. Switch device for opening and closing electrical circuit.
  • Switch - USA term for points. Also called Turnout. A track section allowing the train to move from one track to another. Switch is also a term used to describe the sorting of freight cars.
  • Switchback - A method of climbing a steep grade in a confined area. This is accomplished with a series of switches requiring the train to change direction as it climbs up the side of a mountain on a series of switchbacks.
  • Switch Machine - A mechanical device which will change the position of a turnout; can be used manually or by remote control from a control panel.
  • Switch Stand - A mechanical device (usually done manually) which will change the position of a turnout, and simultaneously change the position of the signal mounted on top of the switch stand.
  • Switching District - An area where shippers have access to many railways through a terminal.
  • Switching Railway - Also called a terminal railway. These railways move freight in a limited area between shippers and a terminal where freight is transferred to long haul railways.
  • Synchronous - Electric motor whose speed varies in direct proportion to the frequency of the supply.