Trains Explained, for kids


A train is a connected series of vehicles for rail transport that move along a track (permanent way) to transport freight or passengers from one place to another. The track usually consists of two rails, but might also be a monorail or maglev guideway.

Propulsion for the train is provided by a separate locomotive, or from individual motors in self-propelled multiple units. Most modern trains are powered by diesel locomotives or by electricity supplied by overhead wires or additional rails, although historically (from the early 19th century to the mid-20th century) the steam locomotive was the dominant form of locomotive power. Other sources of power (such as horses, rope or wire, gravity, pneumatics, and gas turbines) are possible.

The word ‘train’ comes from the Old French trahiner, itself from the Latin trahere ‘pull, draw’.

There are various types of train designed for particular purposes. A train can consist of a combination of one or more locomotives and attached railroad cars, or a self-propelled multiple unit (or occasionally a single powered coach, called a railcar). Trains can also be hauled by horses, pulled by a cable, or run downhill by gravity.

Special kinds of trains running on corresponding special ‘railways’ are atmospheric railways, monorails, high-speed railways, maglev, rubber-tired underground, funicular and cog railways.

A passenger train may consist of one or several locomotives, and one or more coaches. Alternatively, a train may consist entirely of passenger carrying coaches, some or all of which are powered as a “multiple unit”. In many parts of the world, particularly Japan and Europe, high-speed rail is utilized extensively for passenger travel.

Freight trains comprise wagons or trucks rather than carriages, though some parcel and mail trains (especially Travelling Post Offices) are outwardly more like passenger trains.

Trains can also be ‘mixed’, comprising both passenger accommodation and freight vehicles. Such mixed trains are most likely to occur where services are infrequent, and running separate passenger and freight trains is not cost-effective, though the differing needs of passengers and freight usually means this is avoided where possible.

Special trains are also used for track maintenance; in some places, this is called maintenance of way.

In the United Kingdom, a train hauled by two locomotives is said to be “double-headed”, and in Canada and the United States it is quite common for a long freight train to be headed by three or more locomotives. A train with a locomotive attached at each end is described as ‘top and tailed’, this practice typically being used when there are no reversing facilities available. Where a second locomotive is attached temporarily to assist a train up steep banks or grades (or down them by providing braking power) it is referred to as ‘banking’ in the UK, or ‘helper service’ in North America. Recently, many loaded trains in the US have been made up with one or more locomotives in the middle or at the rear of the train, operated remotely from the lead cab. This is referred to as “DP” or “Distributed Power

The railway terminology that is used to describe a ‘train’ varies between countries.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the interchangeable terms set and unit are used to refer to a group of permanently or semi-permanently coupled vehicles, such as those of a multiple unit. While when referring to a train made up of a variety of vehicles, or of several sets/units, the term formation is used. (Although the UK public and media often forgo ‘formation’, for simply ‘train’.) The word rake is also used for a group of coaches or wagons.

In the United Kingdom Section 83(1) of the Railways Act 1993 defines “train” as follows:

    a) two or more items of rolling stock coupled together, at least one of which is a locomotive; or
    b) a locomotive not coupled to any other rolling stock.

United States

In the United States, the term consist is used to describe the group of rail vehicles which make up a train. When referring to motive power, consist refers to the group of locomotives powering the train. Similarly, the term trainset refers to a group of rolling stock that is permanently or semi-permanently coupled together to form a unified set of equipment (the term is most often applied to passenger train configurations).

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway’s 1948 operating rules define a train as: “An engine or more than one engine coupled, with or without cars, displaying markers.”


Once Upon a Destined Time

By Siddiq Ather, MMNS

Wow it’s hot! Didn’t it just rain a few days ago? How can it be this hot, this late? How long is this bus ride? I can’t wait to get into some real air conditioning. After this ride, I totally deserve an ice cold mango shake. I wish the windows opened more. I should’ve gotten a window seat. I hope the sweat doesn’t mess up my shirt. Oh no, my water bottle is empty. This suit is so thick! I wonder if you could fry an egg on the street today. I wonder if anyone has actually tried frying an egg on the street.  Why in the world is that guy wearing a jacket? I wish I wore pants with pockets. What is that guy drinking, it looks nice and cool. Is that coffee? That coffee smells good. These people probably think I’m crazy with coffee on a day like today, but the scent does help keep my mind off the heat. He’s obviously a caffeine addict. If we hit a bump that guy is going to be in big trouble.  I wish they had shades on bus windows. That is how the bus ride would have probably sounded to someone who could read minds. For the rest, it was a long uncomfortable silence with occasional grunts, sighs, and irritated sounds. This was mixed in with the smell of sweat amalgamated with overdoses of cologne and perfume. The air was warm, but people still swarmed unto the buses. Patience torn, people started making fusses. In the end, their stops came just in time.

The last passenger reached in his pocket and took out some dimes.  He paid his due, took two steps and a hop and bid the driver adieu.  The driver shut the doors and the floors shook with sound of the bus’s roars as it tore away. The day was as hot as ever, so this clever man took shade under the bus stop shelter. The book was patiently waiting for him inside; he came inside and let his stuff abide in the corner as he eyed that book with the dark green cover and golden letters, Stories of the Wise and Human. He tried to open it by moving the buckle, but it angrily burned his finger. He gently moved it away with his sleeve and grabbed the book by the soft, but warm, cover and set it on his lap. He started flipping through the book; the first page held the words “one person one page”, the second page was blank, the third was blank, and so on until he found a page with writing. There was thick black ink running through the page with such brio and celerity that it demanded respect. Although it had loops here and there, they were so strong and sharp that they complemented the power of the rest of the script with an air of respectable elegance and refinement. It was as if a samurai had spilled ink on his sword and performed a series of techniques across the face of the paper without scratching the surface, but still staining it with the scarred shadows of a near sempiternal experience. He started reading the silent samurai’s slashes, starting from the first sentence.

I was a student, I am a student, and I plan to continue my pursuit of knowledge in the future; not everything can be learned through a book, some things can only be learned through experience. At the time of this incident I was a university student who had just finished his first year.  I could have gone home but it was really far away and I was trying to save up money; even if I went I would probably be alone because my parents were vacationing at some island resort. My family didn’t really stay in contact with any of our relatives, but it turned out that my father had a close cousin who lived a few hours away from campus and would be glad to have me over for the summer.  I packed my bags, and my scarlet wallet with the silver insignia; I walked to the train station and quickly jumped on the train catching a window seat; I read a book until the ride ended. The city quickly gave way to farmland, pastures, and rolling grass hills. The sky seemed bluer but it might have just been the time of day. It was a nice view but after a point it became redundant; my head started hurting immensely. The man in front of me was sleeping and snoring rather loudly. He had on a long coat and sunglasses. His head was in the crook of his arm in the middle of the table. His other arm was stretched across the table, half of which was limply hanging off the edge of the table. I really tasty scent floated by; I few seats ahead a couple had just been served an extremely delectable looking soup, my mouth started watering. I asked the employee who had served them the soup to get me a bowl of whatever they had.

I took out my wallet and gave the money and asked for a few headache pills too. There was a constant drumming and pounding happening in the left half of my head. It was beat-less and unabating. It kept getting louder and louder. I tried to cover my ears and eyes but it didn’t help. I stayed up late the night before, bad idea.  The pain echoed inward, then inverted and reverberated back out. It was a unpredictable pulse pressing outwards periodically and painfully. I turned to get up and bunch of hot liquid fell all over my chest.  I gasped and saw an employee before me and the soup I had order below me. The employee expressed regret and sympathy followed by a promise to get napkins. I walked to the bathroom and started cleaning my shirt.  I walked back and the employee was standing next to my seat. Before anything was said I asked for the headache pills and a glass of water. I ate the pills, leaned on the window, and closed my eyes. A moment passed and I woke up, extremely hungry.  I looked around a bit and not much had changed.  The employee had probably noticed that I had awoken because in a matter of seconds a hot bowl of soup was placed in front of me along with the money I had given and a sorry note.  I picked up the money to put into my wallet, but I couldn’t find it. I checked my pockets, my bag, the floor, my seat, the seat in front of me, and my backpack. That wallet had all the money I had gathered throughout the year and the savings I held from before. It had to be somewhere. That’s when I realized the man who was sitting in front of me was gone. 

I checked the bathroom but my wallet wasn’t there either. Then I started looking through the train for the man in the jacket, but to no avail. The couple who had ordered the soup not too long ago was gone too and instead an old man was in there spot.

I saw one familiar face and asked him the time. He asked me where my stop was, I answered, and to my dismay I had just missed it. I found the locomotive engineer, conductor, and someone who looked like the manager and told them about my problem. As I went back to my seat I heard the announcement,” If anyone has seen a scarlet wallet with silver insignia please bring it to the nearest employee. I had a dreadful feeling that I knew exactly where it was. The man in the coat had probably stolen it as he left the train; how could I be so irresponsible.  There was nothing I could do but wait. The next stop would arrive in a few minutes.  On the bright side, my head ache was gone and I had a bowl of soup. I ate the soup which was not as appetizing as I thought it would be. The train stopped and people started to get up and leave. I scanned the crowd who was passing by until the last few passengers were leaving, no sight of the jacketed man.  Suddenly, my bag was ripped away from under my arm and taken in through the door behind me. I got up and saw someone running against the flow that the people were walking in. I yelled and ran after him. He was fast and slick, slipping through the tightest spots. I ran as fast as I could and started catching up to him.

We reached the end of the train and he stopped for a second and turned. Just as I was about to grab my bag from him he landed a huge back fist across my face that threw me to the side. He kicked me in the side and tried to choke me. I struggled to loosen his grip but couldn’t. I couldn’t breathe. I bent my knees and back and flipped forward slammed both of us on the ground. I picked him by the color and slammed him against the back door and noticed he had something bulging in his pocket that he was reaching for. His hand went in and I yanked away whatever he had taken out. Then he started looking very odd and dropped him. He was stretching his arm towards something and started breathing funny. It was like he couldn’t move. I looked to the side and saw an inhaler. That’s what was in his pocket. Bitterly, I picked it up and pressed it against his mouth a few times, he started breathing regularly again. I checked his pockets, but he didn’t have my wallet. I picked up my bag with one hand and dragged him with the other all the way to the front of the train.

I told the manager what had happened and ha gave me some napkins to wipe the blood off my face; apparently that’s all they can do, give napkins. The jacketed man walked in with a cane in one hand.  The manager asked me my name, I answered, and the jacketed man walked closer. He took out my scarlet wallet with the silver insignia, I took it. The man sincerely apologized; he was blind. He overheard my predicament and offered to have his driver drive me to my desired destination, I accepted. He told me the rough day he had that led to him taking the train. When he realized he had taken someone else’s wallet he tried his hardest to get it back, hoping that someone else’s day not go as bad as his. We talked and laughed all the way till the end of the ride. He quoted someone as saying,” the true worth of a man manifests when he is surrounded by distress, not when he is relaxing and at rest.” Do not ever let a problem of any sort frustrate you and make you angry.  The reward of good is only good. Be merciful to others and mercy will descend on you.

I had reached my destination, a farm in the middle of nowhere. The jacketed man gave me his card and said to drop by any time. That summer was one of the most serene and relaxing summers I have ever experienced. This summer I got a job in the city, and have been staying here for a while.  The country is nice, but so is the city; I just like trying different things, maybe next summer I’ll go to a tropical island. The bus has just come so I will end here, as I get together all my gear, including my wallet. Patience in times of frustration and irritation is a very powerful thing.