What is a train?

65477

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When talking to school children (up to the age of 11) about railways there are two questions that come up time and time again:

how old is it?

what is a train?

I must admit that having started to search the internet for an answer to the second question I am even more confused. I thought I had an answer, but I am not so sure now.

Remembering the age group(s) I am talking about - how would you answer this question? You may like to give different questions for the three school groups: Early Years (under 5), KS1 (5-7) & KS2 (8-11)
 
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Bertie the bus

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How many 11 year olds don't know what a train is? I would suggest they have bigger problems than an exact definition if they haven't learned what a train is by that age.

As for toddlers I would have thought an answer is pretty simple. You get many on forums like this saying that a locomotive isn't a train, it must haul carriages or wagons to be defined as such, but I can't imagine little kids really care about pedantry.
 

zwk500

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I suppose in it's basic form a train is the collection of vehicles coupled together. It operates to a schedule, with individual parts of that schedule being known as a service. However common usage blurs this line a bit.

As mentioned, the pedantry of whether a light loco counts as a train will not be relevant to 11 years and under.
 

Ken H

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2 or more vehicles coupled together. Could be rubber tyred vehicles on the road. Like the australian road trains. or on rails.
But was a class 153 operating on its own a train? And was it a multiple unit?
 

Bletchleyite

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2 or more vehicles coupled together. Could be rubber tyred vehicles on the road. Like the australian road trains. or on rails.
But was a class 153 operating on its own a train? And was it a multiple unit?

A MU is a powered unit that can operate in multiple, isn't it? So a 153 is, but an HST isn't?
 

edwin_m

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In operational terms a single vehicle counts as a train, if it can operate on its own.

A HST is a MU in the sense that the power cars each end are operating in multiple.

I agree this won't be of much relevance to schookids. I remember when a bunch of primary classes visited the RTC and someone explained the parts of the first Class 66 which was there at the time. The main reaction was laughter at the word "bogie".
 

XAM2175

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A MU is a powered unit that can operate in multiple, isn't it? So a 153 is, but an HST isn't?
I'd always understood it as a self-propelled unit consisting of multiple semi-permanently-coupled vehicles; by which definition a 153 is not an MU (but rather a railcar or railbus or the like), and an HST could or could not be an MU depending on how semi-permanently-coupled you considered them to be (remembering that in their early days they were treated by BR as though they were DMUs). I had also understood that, by convention if nothing else, an MU usually involved a degree of distributed traction - by which definition an HST qualifies, but also by which I've never considered Intercity 225 or ICE 2 sets to be MUs, for example.

Of course this is a hugely-contested definition too :lol:
 
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I think in classic RailUK responses even I am confused by some of these responses and they miss the basic points. As soon as it’s complicated enough to involve acronyms or pedantry it’s too far.
I think to someone at primary school, a train is a just vehicle, much like a bus or a lorry, but that only travels on metal tracks instead of roads. They can only go where the tracks go and are normally used for transporting lots of people of lots of stuff over quite a long way.
 

Bletchleyite

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I'd always understood it as a self-propelled unit consisting of multiple semi-permanently-coupled vehicles; by which definition a 153 is not an MU (but rather a railcar or railbus or the like), and an HST could or could not be an MU depending on how semi-permanently-coupled you considered them to be (remembering that in their early days they were treated by BR as though they were DMUs). I had also understood that, by convention if nothing else, an MU usually involved a degree of distributed traction - by which definition an HST qualifies, but also by which I've never considered Intercity 225 or ICE 2 sets to be MUs, for example.

Of course this is a hugely-contested definition too :lol:

HSTs of course have been both, with the decision to switch from MU numbering to LHCS numbering being more driven by the desire to swap power cars round frequently for maintenance purposes.
 

daikilo

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The response provided by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is " 'Train' comes from a French verb that meant "to draw; drag." It originally referred to the part of a gown that trailed behind the wearer." They also suggest the first trace of the word being used was in the 14th century.

It also says that it can be a connected line of vehicles with or without a locomotive or with a tractor unit as in road-train.

Clearly modern usage has evolved so that a class91 + a rake of Mk4s would be a train whichever direction it is running as would be an HST or Class 8xx.
 

edwin_m

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The response provided by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is " 'Train' comes from a French verb that meant "to draw; drag." It originally referred to the part of a gown that trailed behind the wearer." They also suggest the first trace of the word being used was in the 14th century.

It also says that it can be a connected line of vehicles with or without a locomotive or with a tractor unit as in road-train.

Clearly modern usage has evolved so that a class91 + a rake of Mk4s would be a train whichever direction it is running as would be an HST or Class 8xx.
And "drive" used to mean to herd one or more animals in front of one, including controlling one or more horses when seated behind on a cart. I'm not sure where that leaves driving a train...
 

Jurg

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This forum is a hoot at times. Why make these things so complicated? Reading some of the replies here I can hear in my mind an automated announcement at New Street station:

"the train now arriving at platform 4 is... not a train, actually".
 

swt_passenger

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This forum is a hoot at times. Why make these things so complicated? Reading some of the replies here I can hear in my mind an automated announcement at New Street station:

"the train now arriving at platform 4 is... not a train, actually".
Once we’re two or three posts into a discussion I think people stop reading the original question… o_O
 

Darandio

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This forum is a hoot at times. Why make these things so complicated? Reading some of the replies here I can hear in my mind an automated announcement at New Street station:

"the train now arriving at platform 4 is... not a train, actually".

Hilarious isn't it, for such a simple question it only took half a dozen posts to start dissecting whether 153's or HST's are a multiple unit. I'll give another half dozen posts and they'll move onto seats.

Rather than complicating the answer given to a child, why not ask a child what a train is? I've got an 8 year old in the house here and can ask him, then they can tear his answer into unneccesarily complicated shreds. :lol:
 
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We've been doing homophones in our story writing.

The children's eyes tend to glaze over when I talk about railways..... And don't mention bogies.
 

96tommy

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Before joining the railways, I worked in a nursery and primary school. I even got singled out (in a positive way) in the schools ofsted report for showing great knowledge when a kid asked me what a buffer was :lol:

All you need is a basic answer - Trains are like buses but on a track to take people to places quickly. Don't need anything more than that for young kids...
 

Fawkes Cat

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When talking to school children (up to the age of 11) about railways there are two questions that come up time and time again:

how old is it?

what is a train?

I must admit that having started to search the internet for an answer to the second question I am even more confused. I thought I had an answer, but I am not so sure now.

Remembering the age group(s) I am talking about - how would you answer this question? You may like to give different questions for the three school groups: Early Years (under 5), KS1 (5-7) & KS2 (8-11)
I'd try to say something like 'it's what moves along a railway at one time'. I have no doubt that the wording could be bettered, but the thought that I am trying to express in straightforward terms is that a train is the vehicle or coupled-together vehicles which travel together on a railway. So a 153 is a train, as are two Voyagers coupled together, or a locomotive plus rake of trucks (not intended to be an exhaustive list). I do not include power, so the slate trains that (historically) went down the Ffestiniog by gravity are also trains despite the absence of a locomotive - the compelling issue is capability of movement on the railway.

Of course, the problem of any simple description is that people may try to pick holes in it. Those people may be the under 11s that you are talking to, in which case you can move on to more complex explanations until they understand or are astonished by your technical expertise or get bored and wander off.
 

etr221

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I think the 'train' is one of those terms that - while we all sort of know what it means - is used in several subtly different ways (for the London Underground I identified three distinct meanings) that can be difficult to define precisely.

And while typing this Fawkes Cat has posted the same sort of definition as I would give: it's one or more vehicles coupled together, that run along the railway.

Add complexity, and subtlety, as needed, and can be handled....
 

Gloster

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It is a vehicle (or vehicles) that run on their own metal rails under their own power. If you want to be a bit clearer, you can add that a tram is a like a train, but can run on rails in the road. Anything else can be left to discussion or questions.
 

alistairlees

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A key point is that trains don't have steering wheels, as they are guided by the rails. This is often news to kids* (in my experience) and leads to a few more questions.

*some adults too
 

61653 HTAFC

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How many 11 year olds don't know what a train is? I would suggest they have bigger problems than an exact definition if they haven't learned what a train is by that age.

As for toddlers I would have thought an answer is pretty simple. You get many on forums like this saying that a locomotive isn't a train, it must haul carriages or wagons to be defined as such, but I can't imagine little kids really care about pedantry.
A few weeks ago there was a news story on BBC Look North about a 144 that was being turned into a classroom at a school in Bradford. They interviewed some of the pupils, and there was one lad (who looked about 8-9) who said he was excited about the new classroom because he'd never been on a train before.

Such deprivation! :lol:
 

Annetts key

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A suitable general definition is: a train (on a conventional railway) is a series of connected railway carriages or wagons moved by a locomotive or by using built in (integral) motors.

Obviously for children, you can simplify this a bit.

To me, a train is anything designed to go a long distance that has metal wheels and runs on a railway track. Mainly because if you are stood on the track and debate it for too long, it will hit you and end the debate rather quickly...

With regards to the off topic discussion about multiple units, keep in mind that not all units have carriages that are self powered. For example the Class 116/117/118 DMUs.
 

Mat17

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My understanding of multiple unit, is vehicles that can work independently or in multiple with compatible units. So a 153 is a multiple unit as it can work in multiple with say 156s etc. It doesn't matter that its on its own.

With regard to the original question, I'd argue a train is a vehicle (or group of vehicles) that travel on rails/tracks - usually separate from roads (the latter being trams).

Just keep it simple, if they want to know more details (and there will be one, because there always is), you can elaborate if necessary.
 

Bertie the bus

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A few weeks ago there was a news story on BBC Look North about a 144 that was being turned into a classroom at a school in Bradford. They interviewed some of the pupils, and there was one lad (who looked about 8-9) who said he was excited about the new classroom because he'd never been on a train before.

Such deprivation! :lol:
There are probably lots of kids who haven’t been on a train but not a single kid in human history has been on a space rocket but they still know what one is. I would be amazed, and quite concerned, if there were large numbers of children about to start secondary school who had no concept of what a train is whether they have travelled on one or not.
 

miklcct

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I think in classic RailUK responses even I am confused by some of these responses and they miss the basic points. As soon as it’s complicated enough to involve acronyms or pedantry it’s too far.
I think to someone at primary school, a train is a just vehicle, much like a bus or a lorry, but that only travels on metal tracks instead of roads. They can only go where the tracks go and are normally used for transporting lots of people of lots of stuff over quite a long way.
Then your child will point to a tram and say "it's a train!" (because it travel on metal tracks as well)
 
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Then your child will point to a tram and say "it's a train!" (because it travel on metal tracks as well)
If my (hypothetical) 10 year old child understands that the tram (which they wrongly call a train) is not able to swerve out of the way and will kill them, then I’d be absolutely fine with that. It’s the same as them confusing for instance a bus with a coach - it just doesn’t matter at that age!
I think you’re missing the point of the thread!
 

Darandio

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Then your child will point to a tram and say "it's a train!" (because it travel on metal tracks as well)

A child might know what a tram is and can see they effectively travel on roads. The same child might have visited Weymouth Quay a few years back, point to a train and say "it's a tram!" because in their eyes it was travelling on a road there.

As noted above though, it's completely missing the point.
 

Grumpy Git

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I never went on a train until I was 16, (in 1978).

I didn't realise there was such a beast as a DMU and was horrified at the lack of a loco!

I was thinking that at least a 37 would be employed, (it was a 104).
 
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