Model Railroaders & Toy Train Enthusiast, are sub cultures onto their own. The verbiage, linguistics, terminology and lingo is specific to both expressions of playing with and running toy trains. It does not always reflect the traditional use of verbiage or lingo of the Rails. There are enough deviations to allow me to say….A language all of it’s own.
It’s to late to attempt to change things, as it’s gone on longer then I’m old. With the exception being, a few of us who knows the difference.
One of the ironies to a open discussion on the internet, around club layouts or locally at CJ’s, is we have a international influence of model railroaders. IE., Everyone from Europe, Britain, Asia, Russia, South Africa, South America, Canada and of course the good old U.S. of A., can and will discuss trains on a world wide website. Nothing wrong with that.
I’m sorry I didn’t hear that. You asked, “Did I leave anybody out?” More then likely. So let me say, we want to hear from all or our toy train and model railroad enthusiast from wherever you are.
What seems to be happening is a push toward a universal railroad language, which is as foreign as can be one to the other. There have been attempts to come up with a universal model railroad language similar to the push to go metric…….. and I’m not sorry to say, no thanks. Why not enjoy the differences and variety it presents? Learn something new?
What do we expect from you?
Nothing! You do not have to use proper grammar, syntax, verbiage and/or lingo to be a Toy Train enthusiast or a Model Railroader. Unless you join a club of rivet counters. Aiiyiiyii!
**There isn’t a rule or mandate that says you have to use the lingo of either Toy Train Enthusiast, Model Railroaders or the Rails.
- However, I would recommend and encourage you to learn the lingo of your fellow Model Railroaders or Toy Train Enthusiast. It makes it easier to communicate.
- Make up your own….what the heck? Everyone else has. But as a reminder, it doesn’t really work when you get into a discussion with fellow toy train enthusiast and model railroaders. The “I Call It,” syndrome. I think I’ve aptly made that point.
Did someone just heckle me? What was your question? Now speak right into the microphone, the usher is bringing you. What do I prescribe to? Good question. There you go getting all nosy, again! My choice is simple but not simpleton.
Here’s my take: I’m going to build a model of a prototype railroad and I want my lingo to reflect that of the Rails. For example: I model the AT&SF and other Western American Railroads. I prefer to come as close to the prototype as I can get. I also want my words, language, lingo to be that of the employees, who worked for those railroads. Lucky for me my family of Rails, signed on with the Santa Fe. AND thanks to them, I have a better perspective on the differences between the two worlds. I never once heard them refer to or use the term “Turnout,” to describe a track switch, it was always a “Switch”. No more, no less.
You in the back row, yes you. Did I hear you ask, Who and what are Rails? Yes! OK, without further a do: We will look at the Rails and I will add in here the Engineering Departments. You’ll see how this plays out as we continue this discussion.
- Rails: Defined as those employees who work for and at various levels for the railroads. The 1:1 foot scale, the prototype, the real deal they use Switch: Their traditions and lingo continue to this day, although new technology is changing the face of things.
- Engineering Departments of the Railroads are known to be influenced by European education and engineering. Their language, descriptive wording actually sounded foreign to the American Rails. They use “Turnout,” to describe the whole of the unit. Their text, definitions, descriptive wording and traditions also continue to this day.
Several factions impact our railroads.
- The Rails and the Unions that represents them.
- Then you have the Suits or Management and Administration .
- The other major player, is the Engineering Departments.
- Yes, I heard you! Good point and one of the most frustrating for our Railroads.
- The Fed’s and their quagmire of laws and legislation that is forever changing. Memorize something today and it will be changed come tomorrow.
If you are looking for verbiage you can use a definitive dictionary with regard to Toy Trains, Model Railroading and the Railroads (1:1 foot scale as in the real deal past and present), here it is:
Model Railroad Terminology: http://www.modeltrainguide.com/index.php?mode=displayarticle§ion=1&article=2
Railroad Terminology: Here is an updated version in PDF format. It may not open directly to your screen so check you r downloads: https://www.bnsf.com/customers/pdf/glossary.pdf
Railfans: Let’s not forget the track-side foamers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_North_American_railway_terms
Railroad Rule Books: Are a great source for to learn the rules of train operations and the proper verbiage of said Rails.
Another, Excellent Resource Available.
Chard Walker, an agent for the Santa Fe Railroad, stationed for years at the Summit of Cajon Pass, Ca. A good friend of mine. He wrote a book featuring Cajon Pass, Ca., There are two editions and I’ll be honest I like the first one better then the second edition. In the old one you will find two pages of terms Rail Fans misuse. The new one is entitled “Chard Walker’s, Cajon, Rail Passage to the Pacific. ” To make room for and add two pages of color pictures of trains rolling through the Summit, The two pages of terms was removed. In both books you will find his descriptions, verbiage and lingo of the rails. May he rest in peace knowing he gave you and I a little glimpse into the world of Railroaders/Rails. Thanks, Chard.
I will leave you with one hotly contested example.
Although I’ve already pounded on my war drums in a paragraph or two above. You guessed it! The “T” word. A major pet peeve of mine.
Anyone who knows me, knows where this is headed next. I won’t apologize. This is a drum I will beat… until there is no more energy left in me and I cease to exist. Relax, I’m on the shorts…sigh…time is running out. I heard that! Good we won’t have to put-up…..! Yep, I heard that. Grin!
Regarding the U.S. of A., North American Railroading: “Turnout”, darn “T” word. is a word that most railroad architectural engineering departments use to describe what the Rails, call a “Switch”. To describe the whole mechanism. Foreign to the American ears but not necessarily the Canadian ears. Here in the U.S. of A., on the 1:1 foot scale, there have been heated arguments between the Rails and Engineers, over this very subject.
I was privileged to over hear such an argument between two distant relatives of mine. One a yard supervisor and the other a engineer….not a hog head. “”Why the hell can’t you use the lingo of the Rails? It would make it so much easier to communicate,”” asked the acting yard supervisor, to the engineering suit. Well, I can’t prove it to this day but I was told they were related. Distant Uncles, I thought and then learned more like cousins. But that’s a story for another time and place.
So , where did the descriptive term Turnout come from? European railways. Seriously? That was my first impression but read on. I promise, it’s not American Terminology in origin. More on this as we continue.
Picking up where we left off. Incidentally, those heated arguments between Rails and Engineers have continued to the present day. The same is true of warring factions in the ranks of model railroaders. Different factions have fought over this descriptive adverb/noun for years. As far as my research will take me back (beyond my birthdate) I find “Turnout,” used in our toy train and model railroad wig wags. This post here may start it all over again on some Train or Model Railroad website. I hope not. Does that mean we are going to be able to settle this issue here and now? Not likely. I think it’s here to stay.
Rick’s Story Time:
Well my kid’s liked my stories. Employees who worked under my tut-ledge and direction didn’t much care for them. Model Railroaders alleged friends often referred to my story times as, “Bull$#!+ Central.” Not exactly complimentary but I will leave you to decide for yourself. Gosh!
“Turnout,” here’s an accounting of the research I’ve run down, on the history of the word Turnout and examples of it’s misuse.
Here we go. Oh, no not again!
Worst case of arrogance I’ve ever witnessed, took place in Oro Grande, Ca on a weekend or two before Thanksgiving. A MOW crew for the Santa Fe railroad was delivering prefab (Atlas, well that’s what they looked like) switches. Replacements, if I recall correctly. Accompanying us foamers was a well intention-ed model railroader / rail-fan. He proceeded to correct the MOW Supervisor/Foreman, as well as the other Rails and MOW employees present. Correcting their terminology as though his word was final. Telling them the switch they were installing was a “Turnout” and they need to learn the proper terminology. Now that’s either a very brave or stupidly arrogant SOB uhh…err MR. You don’t correct the workers working for the railroad. They aren’t at fault here. It should be the other way around.
A friend of mine said of the Rails, they are wrong to call it a switch arguing the correct terminology is, you guessed it the “T” word. WOW, I couldn’t believe my ears. Another case of arrogance!
Rails know their terminology and have been using it longer then model railroaders. You have to ask yourself, do we really think we have the right to tell the rails or condemn them for our stupidity. Now that’s arrogance to the extreme.
Where does the “T” word come from? I was sure the “T” word, “Turnout,” was first introduced to Toy Train enthusiast and Model Railroaders in one of the model railroad wig wags (magazine) in the summer of 1962. I actually got my mother to spring for the expense of calling the wig wag (magazine). My intent was to advise the editors of their mistake. I could hear the laughing in the background including the following comment, “Some kid wants to straighten you guys out,” followed by giggles and lots of hee haw belly laughter. How to win and influence friends? Arrogance? Hurrumph! They didn’t win over this model railroader, as a friend and yes I’ve had and held a grudge ever since…..Grrrrr!.
More recently: A friend of mine started digging through his old magazines and discovered an article on “Turnouts,” and how to hard wire them in, dated June of 1952. My guess was the “T” word or term to describe a “Switch” has been around model railroading types…. much longer then that. Sure enough after some more digging around we found an older model railroad wig wag dated April 1939 and the author of that article states, “Switches are called Turnouts but we’ve called them switches for so long….” My first response was to think….. Well never mind it’s not a time to be a mind reader. Obviously, model railroaders have been creating their own language verbiage and lingo for a long, long time.
During a short stint in Ohio, while working for a hobby shop. I either challenged the wrong or right person to prove to me “Turnout” was used to refer to a “Switch”: by (get this) the American Rails. Did I say that right? He showed up with a very old blue print of a Colorado, narrow gauge railroad and sure enough, written in next to a switch was the inscription “Turnout”. Quick to note here. Keep in mind that doesn’t prove the Rails of American railroads ever used the “T” word. It does prove the architect or engineer that drew up the plans called them “Turnouts”. Who was he?
Our conversation then moved to the following: Many of the railroad engineers during the construction era of the Colorado Narrow gauge rails. They came from Europe, with some coming more specifically from Switzerland. According to them the correct terminology is “Turnout”. To be found in the older blue prints of many of the D&RG, D&RGW and D&RGS’s plot plans and blue prints. Signed by an engineer from Switzerland. Name forgotten by this hobbyist. It is also referred to as a “Turnout,” in the classical engineering manuals, hand books and encyclopedias all of European influence. My best research say the “T” word originated in Britain, as they were the first to have trains.
More recently I’ve been visiting with a former member of the railroad society of engineers and learned. The word “Turnout” the “T” word originated from England. As they were the first ones to build a railroad. Ok, that might start all kinds of arguments but I had to throw that in here.
Today, you can find the “T” word on the blue prints and plot plans for the new construction going on. The application here is to the whole of the unit. You will also find a break down showing a “Switch Mechanism” designed to move the points as in bend the rail. Chuck a good friend and former employee of the Santa Fe, led us in a interesting discussion at CJ’s April 31, 2016. Reminding us that the Rails, still call it a “Switch” and engineering departments still call them “Turnouts”. Thanks Chuck for the heads up.
I have several friends who are Architectural, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers of varying degrees and they all use Turnout to describe the whole of the Switch. Keeping in mind they are describing the whole of the unit which includes the moving parts. All taking place during installation of the “T”. Now check this out as it’s important. Something happens the night we all show up for operations night. It’s back to IE., “Rick, throw the Switch” (you know… the movable part). In keeping with the traditions of the Rails.
Long, long ago in a land of awe and admiration of the real trains that ran down the tracks. Someone got the idea to make Toy Trains and Model Railroading was born. As a way of adding legitimacy to their quest, they somehow picked up on the idea of calling switches, turnouts. Choosing to ignore the traditions and lingo of the Rails, and today everywhere I turn someone is using Turnout. Misusing it for the most part. IE., Throw the turnout. No, no, no it’s throw the switch, align the switch, bend the iron and I’ve heard align the points all used by Rails.
I could get into a even more interesting discussion on what is the “Frog?” What makes up the whole of the frog? Later, on that one.
End of the Story. But not the end of this discussion.
Amtrak Train Switches Track Then Reverses To Union Station
What’s a model railroader to do?
- Whether you choose to use “Turnout” in the engineering perspective or “Switch,” from the Rails perspective. It will be your choice.
- It’s all good because…. Can you guess what’s coming next? I thought so. And everyone said: It’s your railroad, you make the rules and you set the standards. Darn quick learners, I like that.
On the other hand, I don’t want to hear anyone use the term “Turnout Man”!!! I can guarantee you that was never used by the Railroads. Not, here in the good old U.S. of A.. It’s “Switch-man”, the person who throws the switch, aligns the switch and bends the rail.. Is it becoming clear yet?
One more example of misapplied verbiage aka lingo. Can you guess? On a how to video produced by an obvious newbie he says, “I will throw the turnout”. You don’t throw a turnout. You throw the switch. By now you should know that doesn’t fly. Sheez!!!!!
In all the years I’ve been around Rails, I’ve never once heard the term “Turnout” used to describe a “Switch”. I’ve heard them say you guys “Foamers,” (In a uncomplimentary way)… use “Turnout” but we don’t.
For sake of discussion here on BarstowRick.com, you will not read where I have written….or hear from these lips the word “Turnout” to describe a “Switch”. Except maybe for definitive purposes and only when I’m referring to the whole of the unit. AND perhaps to appease the boys and girls who are still using IT!
You in the back…AGAIN! The usher isn’t going to bring you the microphone so please shout it out. Did you ask me, ” What I use?” The descriptive wording I choose to use? Well…. You ought to know better then to ask by now. I will always use “Switch,” in the tradition of the Rails. That’s right a…..? And the audience answered in unison, “Switch”. How did you know? A+ for all of you.
Sorry,… no certifications….YET! This does not count as CEU’s. Since when does model railroaders need CEU’s? COL
You may read where I proclaim in profundo, “They aren’t turnouts, they are switches”. You will now have a better understanding.
In various videos, some posted here, you will hear presenters mention and in some cases use the wrong application of railroad terminology as well as model railroad terminology. It’s a learning curve. I will let you sort it out.
Now onward to our next video.
Amtrak Train Passes Track Switches CSX Train Passes
Model Railroading is a Global Hobby.
Keeping in mind there may be readers from different locations around the globe. Allow me to say:
Do get to know the vernacular of the railroads you model. Europe, Russia, Africa, Australia, China, Japan, the Middle East and etc. Wherever and whatever rail line you are modeling. Practice using the said verbiage, linguistics, and lingo. Nothing like a little authenticity and realistic descriptive wording, combined with correct operations to bring a layout to life.
We are playing with the big boys now. Drum roll please:
Bonus: I played percussion in a High School Band, My favorite was the Tympani. This tid bit is free, no charge and I just thought it might fit in here. (Sound man to add in a drum roll with a cymbal “tish”, added at the end of the next paragraph).
To the Toy train enthusiast. You need not be to concerned about the discussion here to fore shared with you. You can sit back with your cup of coffee, watch your trains roll through your imaginary scenery, across the prairies and into the mountains and never worry about what the prototype-rs and other model railroaders are doing. You can even ignore the infighting going on within their ranks. I said with a reassuring grin! So George, did you get that! LOL
Bonus Time: “Wig wag”, what does that mean. The Rails used it to identify one of the railroads monthly periodicals that tattle tales on who accomplished what, who’s kid went to college or the military, who married who and who gave birth to whom. “Tattle Tale” aka “Wig Wag'” I use it here to refer to our model magazines. That should fit right in…grin!
For those of us who know better you will hear us refer to the Switch Mechanism as a “Switch.” To the rest of you still using the “T” word may I present to you “The Pickled Finger of Fail Award.” I said with a big mischievous grin.
Call it what you want. Heck it’s your railroad your the owner and the operator.
So, did you get down to the hobby shop and pick up your electrical toggle switches, the lumber yard to get your wood for the bench-work and Lowe’s to get those all essential tools? Done? Congratulations.
Go have some fun and say BarstowRick, sent you. Oh that will confuse them and you will end up with blank looks and questions like…who’s he? And don’t say the Turnout Guy, Grrrrrrrr!!!
Thanks all for stopping in and giving us a read. Your visitation is important to us. Come on back when you get a chance and check out the rest of the website. Stay tuned there’s more to come.