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Author Topic: Tram v train: definitions?  (Read 342 times)
Bmblbzzz
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« on: January 16, 2020, 10:00:53 am »

The recent thread about the Southend Pier Tramway made me wonder if there is a definition of the difference between a tram and a train. In this case, we have a "tramway" with "trains" running on it.

We – or at least I – tend to think of a tram as a vehicle running mostly in an urban environment, often on non-segregated tracks, ie shared with road traffic. Trams tend to be narrower, shorter and slower than trains but I'm not aware of any specific boundary points for these dimensions. In my observation, their component coaches are non-disconnectable, but that's only my observation and inference. Is there in fact an accepted distinction between trams and trains or is it just "usage"?
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Tuesday had come down through Dundrum and Foster Avenue, brine-fresh from sea-travel, a corn-yellow sun-drench that called forth the bees at an incustomary hour to their bumbling.
Reginald25
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« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2020, 10:09:19 am »

Rightly or otherwise, I always thought a tramway was a route where the majority of the track was embedded in a roadway suitable for other vehicles. The 'majority' is needed as trains have level crossings etc, and trams have dedicated track sections that aren't paved. Some funiculars are called tramsways (I think, such as Gt Orme), that situation does seems to be outside my definition!
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2020, 10:50:19 am »

An interesting academic exercise in trying to define it I suppose!

However, the original tramways were to all intents and purposes railways, built to take such things as coal or stone to a transhipment point, usually for onward water-borne transport. These would not have been embedded in roads and certainly not tarmac ones, because tarmac had yet to be invented.
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didcotdean
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« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2020, 12:09:32 pm »

Tram is thought to derive from a word which originally meant a beam of wood (and in some Germanic languages still does, as well as rungs of a ladder), which of course 'rails' were made of initially.
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johnneyw
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« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2020, 02:47:28 pm »

There is also the historic use of Dramway as found, for example, near Bristol running from Coalpit Heath to the river Avon and also near Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire.  The term seems to be another name for early Wagonways. Wikipedia describes them as: Wagonways (or Waggonways) consisted of the horses, equipment and tracks used for hauling wagons, which preceded steam-powered railways. The terms plateway, tramway and dramway were used.
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Bmblbzzz
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« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2020, 03:06:47 pm »

Wikipedia gives it as Middle Flemish:
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The English terms tram and tramway are derived from the Scots word tram,[4] referring respectively to a type of truck (goods wagon or freight railroad car) used in coal mines and the tracks on which they ran. The word tram probably derived from Middle Flemish trame ("beam, handle of a barrow, bar, rung"). The identical word la trame with the meaning "crossbeam" is also used in the French language. Etymologists believe that the word tram refers to the wooden beams the railway tracks were initially made of before the railroad pioneers switched to the much more wear-resistant tracks made of iron and, later, steel.[5] The word Tram-car is attested from 1873.[6]

It also says that, confusingly, Americans use the word tram to refer to a rubber-tired trackless train.
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Bmblbzzz
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« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2020, 03:07:29 pm »

However, I was really more interested in present day definitions and usage than etymology.
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eightf48544
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« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2020, 03:18:57 pm »

Then of course there are Tram - Trains in Sheffield which run heavy rail and on the streets, Although you could argue Sheffeild isn't a true Tram -  Train as it doesn't use 25Kv (16.2/3 Germany) or diesel (Nordhausen Kasel) on heavy rail true like a true Tram Train,

Wheel profiles are diiferent for heavy rail and street running. so clever compromise is neededfor Tram - Trains.  
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broadgage
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« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2020, 04:19:38 pm »

A good definition back in the good old days was;
Tramway=consists primarily of steel rails set into a road surface such that motor cars, pedestrians, horses etc may still use the road. Usually driven by "line of sight" Unlike railways that are usually reliant on signals.
Not normally used by railway trains, though exceptions existed such the Weymouth tramway.

Tram=vehicle intended for use on a tramway. Somewhat like a large bus in general design but equipped with steel wheels to fit the tram rails.
Commonly powered by a direct current overhead supply at about 500 to 800 volts, but steam power, horses, batteries, and cable haulage are less common alternatives.
Not in general intended for use on a railway, though a "one off" low speed journey by rail was not unknown, for example to deliver a newly built tram to the area of operation.

These days though the distinction has become less clear. Many modern trams are IMHO more like local trains, with limited street running.
Many modern trams require a raised platform, somewhat like a station platform. Classic trams were able to pick up and set down passengers anywhere like a bus. They had dedicated stops, like a bus, but COULD pick up and set down anywhere.
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A proper intercity train has a minimum of 8 coaches, gangwayed throughout, with first at one end, and a full sized buffet car between first and standard.
It has space for cycles, surfboards,luggage etc.
A 5 car DMU is not a proper inter-city train. The 5+5 and 9 car DMUs are almost as bad.
Trowres
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« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2020, 05:04:55 pm »

From the Transport and Works Act 1992:
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“railway” means a system of transport employing parallel rails which—

(a) provide support and guidance for vehicles carried on flanged wheels, and

(b) form a track which either is of a gauge of at least 350 millimetres or crosses a carriageway (whether or not on the same level),

but does not include a tramway;

Quote
“tramway” means a system of transport used wholly or mainly for the carriage of passengers and employing parallel rails which—

(a) provide support and guidance for vehicles carried on flanged wheels, and

(b) are laid wholly or mainly along a street or in any other place to which the public has access (including a place to which the public has access only on making a payment);

The Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems Act 2006 includes almost identical definitions but with the following addition for tramways:-
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...and
b) on any part of which the permitted maximum speed is such as to enable the driver to stop a vehicle in the distance he can see to be clear ahead
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Bmblbzzz
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« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2020, 05:32:26 pm »

 Smiley That official definition coincides pretty well with Broadgage's, which is more or less what I reckoned. That it's down to being at least partly on-street. Good to have it confirmed by officialdom!
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Tuesday had come down through Dundrum and Foster Avenue, brine-fresh from sea-travel, a corn-yellow sun-drench that called forth the bees at an incustomary hour to their bumbling.
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