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AREMA - (Formerly known as the AREA.) TheAmerican Railway Engineering and Maintenance Association, which is the technical and specification writing arm of the Association of American Railroads. AREMA standards are used through out North America, including Canada and Mexico.


Rail Section - A description of the weight and profile of the rail. The rail section is usually stamped on the web of rail. The first two or three numbers tell the weight per 3’ (one yard) section of rail.


Gage - The distance between the two running rails as measured 5/8” beneath the top surface of the rail. Standard gage is 56-1/2” or 4’ 8-1/2”.


Gage Side (of the Track) - The area between the two running rails.


Field Side (of the Track) - The area on the “out sides” of each of the running rails


Track Materials


Ballast - crushed aggregate (frequently stone) that is used within a track.


Compromise Bars - a special type of Splice Bar that connects one piece of rail that is of one rail section to another piece of rail of a different rail section.


Cross Tie - a standard railroad tie. Cross ties are either 6” x 8” or 7” x 9”. Length varies from 8 to 8-1/2’.


Joint Bars - Cast steel bars that connect one piece of rail to the next. Joint bars are punched with holes to match the end drilling on a rail.


Rail - The steel beams on which the railcar wheels travel. The running surface is the “head” of the rail, the bottom surface is the “base” of the rail, and the part that connects the head to the base is the “web” of the rail. Rail is either bolted together at the joints using joint bars or it is continuously welded rail (CWR). A full length of bolted rail is usually 33’ or 39’.


Relay - “Used” track material.


Spike - The “nail” that holds a rail to a tie.


Subballast - crushed aggregate (frequently stone) that is installed before track construction begins. Subballast provides a foundation and drainage for the track structure.


Splice Bars - see “Joint Bars”.


Switch Tie - a tie that is longer than the standard 8- 1/2’ cross tie and is used through a turnout from the switch points and continuing beyond the frog. They are generally 7” x 9” and vary in length from 9’ to 17’.


Tie Plate - the steel plate that is installed between the tie and the rail and is pre-punched for track spikes. Tie plates will prevent the rail from cutting into the tie and will distribute the load

that is on the rail across a larger area of the tie. Tie plates are either “single shouldered”, which means they have one ridge against which the rail is spiked, or they are “double shouldered”, which means they have two ridges into which the base of the rail must fit and be spiked against.


Tie Plug - A soft wood filler that is used to fill the hole where a track spike is removed before the tie is respiked.


Track Ballast - crushed aggregate (frequently stone) that is used under and between the ties of a



Track Bolt - A bolt with a button head and oval neck and a threaded nut designed to fasten together rails and splice bars and other rail joint fastenings.


Track Accessories


Bumping Post - a triangular steel structure at the end of a track that prevents a railcar from moving beyond the end of the track by making contact with the railcar coupler.


Derail - a device installed on a track to intentionally derail a car for safety purposes. (e.g. to prevent a car on an industry side track from rolling out onto the mainline.)


Wheel Stops - smaller devices that are attached on a track to prevent a railcar from moving beyond the wheel stops by making contact with the railcar wheels..


Miscellaneous Terms


Compromise Joint - the point where two rails that are different rail sections connect with Compromise Bars.


Crossing Diamond - a steel casting that allows two tracks to intersect and cross each other.


Flangeways - the gap between the running rail and anything installed along the gage side of a rail.


Surfacing - new track and turnouts are constructed directly on the subgrade and then buried in stone. After this, they are raised out of the stone to the final elevation by tamping stone under the ties. The excess stone is contoured or removed and the rails are aligned to remove any kinks. This entire process is called “Surfacing”.


Turnouts (“Switches”)


Clevis Clip - the fitting at the end of a connecting rod that attaches the connecting rod to the switch stand.


Connecting Rod - the bar that connects the switch points to the switch stand.


Crank (switch stand). A short crank casting of soft metal, designed to break when the switch is run through and therefore prevent damage to switch-point rails.


Cross Over - two turnouts installed in two parallel tracks with a small amount of “cross over track” to connect the two turnouts together. A cross over allows rail cars to switch from one track to the other.


Curve Closure Rail - the one curved rail within the turnout that connects a switch point to the frog.


Foot Latch - Switch stands frequently have “foot latches” into which the lever is thrown. Many foot latches are also equipped with a hasp to lock the switch stand out of service.


Frog - A device used where two running rails intersect and providing flangeways to permit wheels and wheel flanges on either rail to cross the other.


Guard Rails - rails that are attached along the inside of the outside rails, adjacent to the frog, to

guide the rail car wheels along the proper track. Sometimes, the term “guard rail” is also used to describe any additional rail installed along side a running rail, such as a “flangeway guard rail” in a railroad crossing or an additional rail installed on a curve to prevent derailment.


Heel Blocks - steel castings that are installed at the base of a switch point to maintain the proper distance between the base of the switch point and the stock rail and provide a “hinge” for the switch points.


Side Jaw Clip - a non-adjustable fitting that connects a switch rod to a switch point


Stock Rail - The rail against which a switch point is braced.


Switch Point - A pointed piece of rail that slides from stock rail to stock rail to begin a railroad switch. There are two switch points in a switch, referred to as the left-hand and right-hand. The left-hand/ right-hand point of reference is taken from a position standing at the pointed end of the switch points looking toward the frog.


Switch Rods - the rigid rods that connect two switch points to each other so they move together.

There is always a “No. 1” rod installed at the “point” of the switch points and usually a “No. 2” rod installed further behind the No. 1 rod. The No. 1 rod is sometimes referred to as the “head rod” and the No. 2 rod is sometimes referred to as the “back rod”.


Switch Stand - a device installed along the side of the track, adjacent to the switch points. By

operating the lever of the switch stand, the switch points slide to allow car movement from one track to the other.


Transit Clip - an adjustable fitting that connects a switch rod to a switch point.


Turnout - a “complete switch” that begins a new track from a “parent” track. It includes switch points, frog, curve closure rail, switch stand, and other components.