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Rail transport operations are the day-to-day operations of a railway. A railway has two major components: the
infrastructure Infrastructure is the set of fundamental facilities and systems that support the sustainable functionality of households and firms. Serving a country, city, or other area, including the services and facilities necessary for its economy An ec ...

infrastructure
(the
permanent way The track on a railway or railroad, also known as the permanent way, is the structure consisting of the rails, fasteners shown for scale) A fastener (US English) or fastening (UK English) is a Household hardware, hardware device that mec ...
, tracks, stations, freight facilities, viaducts, tunnels, etc.) and the
rolling stock The term rolling stock in the rail transport Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine A machine is a man-made de ...
(the locomotives, passenger coaches,
freight car A railroad car, railcar (American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the Unite ...
s, etc.) Ownership and operation of these two components varies by location. In some places (notably, most of North America) private railway companies own and operate both the infrastructure and rolling stock (for example,
Union Pacific The Union Pacific Railroad , legally Union Pacific Railroad Company and simply Union Pacific, is a freight-hauling railroad that operates 8,300 locomotives over routes in 23 U.S. state In the United States The United States o ...
). In the United Kingdom, the infrastructure is owned and maintained by
Network Rail Network Rail Limited is the owner (via its subsidiary Network Rail Infrastructure Limited, which was known as Railtrack plc before 2002) and Railway infrastructure manager, infrastructure manager of most of the railway network in Great Britain. ...

Network Rail
while rolling stock is largely owned and operated by private railway companies. In countries with
nationalized Nationalization (or nationalisation) is the process of transforming privately-owned asset In financial accountancy, financial accounting, an asset is any resource owned or controlled by a business or an economic entity. It is anything (tangi ...
rail systems such as
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...
and
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses ...

France
, both the infrastructure and rolling stock are owned and operated directly or indirectly by the national government.


Operation

The operation of the railway is through a system of control, originally by mechanical means, but nowadays more usually electronic and computerized.


Intrinsic factors


Signalling

Signalling systems used to control the movement of traffic may be either of fixed block or moving block variety. ;Fixed block signalling Most blocks are 'fixed' blocks, i.e. they delineate a section of track between two defined points. On timetable, train order, and token-based systems, blocks usually start and end at selected stations. On signalling-based systems, blocks usually start and end at
signals
signals
. Alternatively,
cab signalling Cab signaling is a railway Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine that transports people or cargo. Vehicles includ ...
may be in use. The lengths of blocks are designed to allow trains to operate as frequently as necessary. A lightly used branch line might have blocks many kilometres long, whilst a busy commuter railway might have blocks a few hundred metres long. ;Moving block signalling A disadvantage of fixed blocks is that the faster trains are permitted to run, the longer the stopping distance, and therefore the longer the blocks need to be. This decreases a line's capacity. With
moving block In railway signalling, a moving block is a signalling block system Signalling block systems enable the safe and efficient operation of railways Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods ...
, computers are used to calculate a 'safe zone', behind each moving train, which no other train may enter. The system depends on precise knowledge of where each train is and how fast it is moving. With moving block, lineside signals are not provided, and instructions are passed direct to the trains. It has the advantage of increasing track capacity by allowing trains to run much closer together. The system is only used on very few independent networks such as underground lines.


Types of rail system

Most rail systems serve a number of functions on the same track, carrying local, long-distance and commuter passenger trains, and freight trains. The emphasis on each varies by country. Some
urban rail transit Urban rail transit is an all-encompassing term for various types of local rail Rail or rails may refer to: Rail transport *Rail transport and related matters *Rail (rail transport) or railway lines, the running surface of a railway Film *Rai ...
,
rapid transit Rapid transit or mass rapid transit (MRT), also known as heavy rail, metro, subway, tube, U-Bahn Rapid transit in Germany consists of four U-Bahn systems and fourteen S-Bahn systems. The U-Bahn or Untergrundbahn (''underground railway'') ...
and
light rail Light rail transit (LRT) is a form of passenger urban rail transit Urban rail transit is an all-encompassing term for various types of local rail Rail or rails may refer to: Rail transport *Rail transport and related matters *Rail (rail t ...

light rail
systems are isolated from the national system in the cities they serve. Some freight lines serving mines are also isolated, and these are usually owned by the mine company. An
industrial railway An industrial railway is a type of railway Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine that transports people or cargo ...
is a specialized rail system used inside factories or mines.
Steep grade railway A steep grade railway is a railway that ascends and descends a slope that has a steep grade. Such railways can use a number of different technologies to overcome the steepness of the grade. Usage Many steep grade railways are located in mountain ...
s are usually isolated, with special safety systems.


Permanent way and railroad construction

The permanent way trails through the physical geography. The tracks' geometry is limited by the physical geography.


Types of vehicle

Trains are pushed/pulled by one or more
locomotive A locomotive or engine is a rail transport Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine A machine is a man-made ...

locomotive
units. Two or more locomotives coupled in multiple traction are frequently used in freight trains. Railroad cars or
rolling stock The term rolling stock in the rail transport Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine A machine is a man-made de ...
consist of
passenger cars A car (or automobile) is a wheeled motor vehicle A motor vehicle, also known as motorized vehicle or automotive vehicle, is a self-propelled vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine that transports people or cargo. Vehicle ...
,
freight car A railroad car, railcar (American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the Unite ...
s,
maintenance car
maintenance car
s and in
America The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country primarily located in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and a ...

America
caboose A caboose is a manned North American railroad car A railroad car, railcar (American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The Unit ...

caboose
s. Modern passenger trains sometimes are pushed/pulled by a tail and head unit (see
top and tail Image:top-and-tail-train.svg, 300px, In a top-and-tailed train, only the ''front'' locomotive is used; any other engines run "dead-in-train". A top-and-tail railway train has locomotives at both ends, for ease of changing direction, especially where ...
), of which not both need to be motorised or running. Many passenger trains consist of
multiple unit A multiple-unit train or simply multiple unit (MU) is a self-propelled train In rail transport Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicles running on rails, ...
s with motors mounted beneath the passenger cars.


Passenger operations

Most
public transport Public transport (also known as public transportation, public transit, mass transit, or simply transit) is a system of transport Transport (in British English), or transportation (in American English), is the Motion, movement of humans ...

public transport
passenger operations happen in the
train station A train station, railway station, railroad station or depot is a railway Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine ...

train station
and in the
passenger car Passenger car may refer to: * A car (automobile) as opposed to a truck * Passenger car (Ferris wheel), a compartment for carrying passengers * Passenger car (rail), railway rolling stock for carrying passengers See also

* Car (disambiguation) ...
. The passenger buys a ticket, either in the station, or on the train (sometimes at a higher
fare A fare is the fee paid by a passenger for use of a public transport Public transport (also known as public transportation, public transit, mass transit, or simply transit) is a system of transport Transport (commonly used in the U.K.) ...

fare
). There are generally speaking two ways of validating a ticket: * the passengers validate the tickets themselves (by perforating it, for instance) which is randomly checked by a ticket controller. This method is sometimes referred to as
Proof-of-payment Proof-of-payment (POP) or proof-of-fare (POF) is an honor Honour (British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect A standard language (also standard variety, standard dialect, and standard) is a language variety that ha ...
and is used extensively on one-man operated rail and bus lines, and may be controlled through the use of ticket barriers at entrances, especially in larger stations, or * a
conductor Conductor or conduction may refer to: Music * Conductor (music), a person who leads a musical ensemble like, for example, an orchestra. * Conductor (album), ''Conductor'' (album), an album by indie rock band The Comas * Conduction, a type of ...
checks all persons on the train for valid tickets and devaluate them, so they cannot be used again. Some passenger cars, especially in long-distance high-speed trains, have a restaurant or bar. These need to be catered. In recent times, train catering has been diminished somewhat by
vending machine A vending machine is an automated machine that provides items such as snacks A snack is a small portion of food generally Eating, eaten between meals. Snacks come in a variety of forms including packaged snack foods and other processed f ...
s in the train station or on the train. When not in use, passenger cars are stored, maintained and repaired in coach yards.


Freight operations

Freight In economics Economics () is a social science that studies the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of goods and services. Economics focuses on the ...

Freight
or cargo trains are loaded and unloaded in intermodal terminals (also called container freight stations or freight terminals), and at customer locations (e.g.
mines Mine, mines, miners or mining may refer to: Extraction or digging *Miner, a person engaged in mining or digging *Mining, extraction of mineral resources from the ground through a mine Grammar *Mine, a first-person English possessive pronoun Mil ...

mines
,
grain elevator A grain elevator is an agrarian facility complex designed to stockpile or store grain. In the grain trade, the term "grain elevator" also describes a tower containing a bucket elevator or a pneumatic conveyor, which scoops up grain from a lower ...
s,
factories A factory, manufacturing plant or a production plant is an industrial Industrial may also refer to: Industry * Industrial archaeology, the study of the history of the industry * Industrial engineering, engineering dealing with the optimizatio ...

factories
). Intermodal freight transport uses standardized
containers A container is any receptacle or enclosure for holding a product used in storage, packaging Packaging is the science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, b ...

containers
, which are handled by cranes. Along their routes, freight trains are routed through
rail yard A rail yard, railway yard, or railroad yard is a complex series of Track (rail transport), railroad tracks for storing, sorting, or loading and unloading railroad cars and locomotives. Railroad yards have many tracks in parallel for keeping rolli ...

rail yard
s to sort cars and assemble trains for their final destinations, as well as for equipment maintenance, refueling, and crew changes. Within a freight yard, trains are composed in a
classification yard A classification yard (American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United S ...
.
Switcher A switcher, shunter, yard pilot, switch engine, yard goat, or shifter is a small Rail transport, railroad locomotive used for manoeuvring railroad cars inside a rail yard in a process known as Shunt (railway operations), ''switching'' (US) or ...

Switcher
or shunter locomotives help the composing. A
unit train A unit train, also called a block train or a trainload service, is a train In rail transport Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicle A vehicle (from la, v ...
(also called a block train), which carries a block of cars all of the same origin and destination, does not get sorted in a classification yard, but may stop in a freight yard for inspection, engine servicing and/or crew changes. Combining freight and passenger operations on a single track with
passing loop A passing loop (UK usage) or passing siding (North America) (also called a crossing loop, crossing place, refuge loop or, colloquially, a hole) is a place on a single line railway or tram A tram (also known as a streetcar or trolley i ...
s poses operational problems, because of the different demands of freight operators and public transport. In many smaller countries passenger operations are done during the day, while freight trains operate mostly during the night. Dedicated tracks have been assigned to some operations.


Locomotive operations

Inactive locomotives may be housed in a locomotive depot (UK term) or engine house, also known as an engine shed or roundhouse (US). In engine facilities, or a
traction maintenance depot The motive power depot (MPD or locomotive depot) is the place where locomotive upright=1.2, An R class steam locomotive number R707 as operated by the Victorian Railways of Rail transport in Australia">Australia Australia, offi ...
, locomotives are cleaned, inspected for wear, repaired, updated, or otherwise improved. Decommissioned locomotives with steam generation capacities were sometimes positioned in semi-permanent locations and their boiler capacity was used to provide steam to heat facilities, power machinery, warm passenger cars, or snow and ice clearing activities such as defrosting
railroad switch A railroad switch (), turnout, or ''set ofpoints () is a mechanical installation enabling railway Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicle A vehicle (f ...
es in cold weather conditions. Railroad equipment that is considered obsolete by being outdated or inefficient when compared to newer equipment, or by being worn to a point that is un-repairable, may be taken out of railroad service. These pieces of equipment may have usable parts removed by the railroad company for reuse on other machines, or may be sold as complete units for reconditioning and reuse by another user. If the equipment is considered completely un-serviceable, and it is financially unwise to attempt to make it so, the entire machine may be declared
scrap Scrap consists of recyclable Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects. The recovery of energy from waste materials is often included in this concept. The recyclability of a material depe ...

scrap
and is usually sold to be taken away and dismantled for recycling of the raw materials. If the process of salvage or scrapping is financially unrecoverable, the equipment may be left in place until it becomes possible to do so. In some cases a significant or desirable piece of equipment will be purchased for preservation. There units may be placed in
railway museum A railway museum is a museum that explores the history of all aspects of rail related transportation, including: locomotives (steam locomotive, steam, diesel locomotive, diesel, and electric locomotive, electric), railroad car, railway cars, tra ...
s or may be purchased by railway preservation groups or private collectors. Steam locomotives were frequently housed in a circular train depot, known as a
roundhouse Roundhouse may refer to: Architecture and buildings Types * Roundhouse (dwelling), a kind of house with circular walls, prehistoric and modern, all over the world **Atlantic roundhouse, an Iron Age stone building found in the northern and western ...
that surrounded a
turntable A phonograph, in its later forms also called a gramophone (as a trademark since 1887, as a generic name in the UK since 1910) or since the 1940s called a record player, is a device for the mechanical recording and reproduction of sound I ...
.


Maintenance of way operations

The presence of a work train on a given section of track will temporarily decrease the capacity of the route. The normal method in such operations is to cease other traffic altogether during the track 'occupation'. Services may be diverted by an alternative route, if available; alternatively, passenger services may be maintained using a replacement bus service. It is therefore more economically viable to plan such track occupations for periods of reduced usage (e.g. 'off-peak', overnight or holiday times) to minimise the impact on normal services and revenue.


Background factors (feasibility)

Each transport system represents a contribution to a country's
infrastructure Infrastructure is the set of fundamental facilities and systems that support the sustainable functionality of households and firms. Serving a country, city, or other area, including the services and facilities necessary for its economy An ec ...

infrastructure
, and as such must make
economic An economy (; ) is an area of the production Production may be: Economics and business * Production (economics) * Production, the act of manufacturing goods * Production, in the outline of industrial organization, the act of making products ...

economic
sense or eventually close. From this, each has a particular role or roles. These may change with time but they affect the specifications of each particular system.


Extrinsic factors

Rail transport systems are built into the
landscape A landscape is the visible features of an area of land Land is the solid surface of Earth that is not permanently submerged in water. Most but not all land is situated at elevations above sea level (variable over geologic time frames) an ...

landscape
, including both the
physical geography Physical geography (also known as physiography) is one of the two fields of geography Geography (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hell ...
(hills, valleys, etc.) and the
human geography Human geography or anthropogeography is the branch of geography Geography (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a coun ...
(location of settlements). The rail transport system may in turn feedback into the human geography.


Physical geography

The
permanent way The track on a railway or railroad, also known as the permanent way, is the structure consisting of the rails, fasteners shown for scale) A fastener (US English) or fastening (UK English) is a Household hardware, hardware device that mec ...
of a system must pass through the geography and
geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek ...

geology
of its region. This may be flat or mountainous, may include obstacles such as water and mountains. These determine, in part, the intrinsic nature of the system. The slope at which trains run must also be calculated correctly. In this stage, it is decided where
tunnel A tunnel is an underground passageway, dug through the surrounding soil/earth/rock and enclosed except for entrance and exit, commonly at each end. A pipeline Pipeline may refer to: Electronics, computers and computing * Pipeline (comput ...

tunnel
s pass.


Human geography

Rail transport systems affect the human geography. Large cities (such as
Nairobi Nairobi ( ) is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller low ...

Nairobi
) may be founded by a railroad passing through. Historically, when a station has been built outside the town or city it is intended to serve, that town has expanded to include the station, or buildings (especially
Inn Inns are generally establishments or buildings where travelers can seek lodging Lodging refers to the use of a short-term dwelling In law, a dwelling (also known as a residence or an abode) is a self-contained unit of accommodation ...

Inn
s) sprung up near the station. The existence of a station may increase the number of
commuters Commuting is periodically recurring travel Travel is the movement of people between distant geographical location In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of scienc ...

commuters
who live in a town or village and so cause it to become a
dormitory town A commuter town is a populated area that is primarily residential, rather than commercial or industrial. Routine travel from home to work and then from work to home is called commuting, which is where the term comes from. A commuter town may b ...
. The
transcontinental railroad A transcontinental railroad or transcontinental railway is contiguous railroad Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a mac ...
was a large factor in American
colonization Colonization, or colonisation refers to large-scale population movements where the migrants maintain strong links with their—or their ancestors'—former country, gaining significant privileges over other inhabitants of the territory by such l ...
of the
Western frontier The American frontier, also known as the Old West or the Wild West, includes the geography, history, folklore, and culture in the forward wave of American expansion that began with European colonial settlements in the early 17th century and e ...
. China's railroad expansion into
Tibet Tibet (; ; ) is a region in East Asia covering much of the Tibetan Plateau spanning about . It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpa people, Monpa, Tamang people, Tamang, Qia ...

Tibet
may have similar consequences.


Historical factors

Rail transport systems are often used for purposes they were not designed for, but have evolved into due to changes in human geography.
Politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and political), power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of res ...

Politics
can play a large part in decisions about railways, such as the
Beeching Axe The Beeching cuts (also Beeching Axe) was a plan to increase the efficiency of the nationalised Nationalization, or nationalisation, is the process of transforming privately owned assets into public assets by bringing them under the public ...
. In the
UK
UK
, building or rebuilding a railway usually requires an
Act of Parliament Acts of parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation, are texts of law passed by the Legislature, legislative body of a jurisdiction (often a parliament or council). In most countries, acts of parliament begin as a Bill (law), bill, wh ...
. In many countries,
rail subsidies Many countries offer subsidies A subsidy or government incentive is a form of financial aid or support extended to an economic sector (business, or individual) generally with the aim of promoting economic and social policy. Although commonly extend ...

rail subsidies
allow unprofitable, but socially desirable, railways to continue to operate.


References

{{DEFAULTSORT:Rail Transport Operations