main track: The track that carries most of the scheduled train traf-
fic. It is commonly referred to as “the main.”
milepost (also mile marker): Small signs usually located trackside that
indicate the number of miles to or from a specific point, most often
a major city. Railroads use mileposts to confirm the location of a
train or to let a train crew know where track repairs are going on.
observation car: A passenger car specially designed to be the last
car in a passenger train, often featuring extralarge windows or a
rounded end, or even an open-air platform at the end of the car.
VIA Rail has several of these beauties, called Park cars because
each is named for one of Canada's national parks. They elegantly
bring up the rear on several of VIA's long-distance trains.
pantograph: This is the device that extends upward from the roof of
an all-electric locomotive and presses against the overhead wire
(the catenary ), collecting the electricity that powers the train.
parlor car: Back in the golden age of train travel, these were the
first-class coach cars used for short-haul daytime travel, with
large, overstuffed swivel chairs and other features not found in
ordinary coaches. There was an additional fare for all that com-
fort and luxury, of course. Amtrak has added a Pacific Parlor
Car to the Coast Starlight's consist, in which folks traveling in
sleeping cars can relax, chat with fellow passengers, and enjoy
meals or beverages. Wine tastings are held each afternoon in this
car as the train travels through the wine-producing areas along
its route. There's even a small theater on the lower level where
DVDs are shown on a huge flat-screen TV.
piggyback cars: Railroad flatcars designed for hauling semitrailers.