Train Symbols vs Train Numbers

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Up to this point I’ve sometimes been identifying freights as “trains” and sometimes as “symbols.” Either was simply a colloquialism for the manifest but I’ve learned recently that I may have been “technically” wrong in doing that. It seems that on some railroads, train symbols are different from train numbers.

Depending on the road, train numbers can be used to designate scheduled trains (those whose authority to occupy the main track between stations as listed in the Division Employees Timetable).

Train symbols, on the other hand, may carry no timetable authority and may not authorize a train or engine to occupy the main track between stations.

Train symbols, often reflected the initial and final terminal of the train or perhaps the primary type of traffic handled on that train. A good example of this is the former TV-LA, (Trailer Vans off of the BNSF from L.A.). Conrail‘s hottest train, and a train which no other train was allowed to interfere with or delay.

Until I’m certain how each road distinquish these designations (if they distinquish them at all) I’ll simply refer to each train by its number and/or symbol. Example NS 11R or NYSW SU-100.

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Train Symbols vs Train Numbers

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Author:Railfan AC

AC is a U.S. Air Force Veteran, a long haul trucker, a transportation enthusiast and a lifelong lover of trains. AC's mission is to travel America documenting American railroading in the 21st century while educating those who want to know about the importance the railroads play in our daily lives including, but not limited to, the movement of goods, services and more.

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