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Facing Point

A matter of perspective. A point which allows a train to change lines without reversing the direction of travel is known as a facing point. If a train would have to reverse to change lines, that would be described as a trailing point.

Facing Point Lock

A train passing through a facing point would derail if the point blades moved while the train was passing over them. To prevent this a lock was fitted which prevented the blades moving. On old mechanical signal boxes this would have been worked from a separate lever, thus requiring two levers to be moved before points could be changed - one to unlock/lock the point and one to move the blades.


A steam locomotive with a boiler having two barrels connected to a common firebox mounted on the main frame. The cab is in the middle and a power bogie is located under each boiler.


A normally horizontal plate, which is hinged to the rear of a locomotive footplate, and which rests on the footplate of a tender.

Fell System

A system of railway traction in which driving wheels rotating on vertical axles grip both sides of an extra rail laid between the running rails.

See also: Funicular Railway, Rack-and-Pinion.

Fastest Steam Locomotive

Mallard is still unbeaten as the fastest ever steam locomotive recording 125 miles per hour between Grantham and Peterborough on 3 July 1938, breaking the record previously held by the Flying Scotsman.


A decorative object on top of a signal post or doll, or on the roof of a building.

Fire Bars

Removable metal rods which form the grate for a solid-fuelled boiler.

Fire Devil

A brazier or fire bucket used on railways for various heating purposes; or, years ago, as a crude tail-lamp for a train.

Fire Irons

Long metal rods which are used for poking or raking the fire of a steam locomotive.

Fire Tube

Boiler tubes through which hot gases from the fire pass.


Literally a box containing the fire. It is surrounded by water on the top and all sides. The bottom is a grate with an ash pan below that.

Firebox Crown

The metal plate making up the top surface of the inner part of a firebox.


Used to close off the fire-hole, thus preventing flames blowing back in to the cab. The doors are usually hollow and allow a small amount of air into the firebox above the fire even when completely closed.

Fire-Less Locomotive

A steam-type locomotive in which the boiler is replaced by a steam or compressed air reservoir which may be charged periodically from a stationary supply. This type of locomotive is often used where there is a very high fire risk .


Fish-plates are the two short metal plates bolted to the ends of two rails to join them end to end.

Fitted Train

A train consisting only of vehicles fitted with continuous brakes.

Fixed Distant

A distant signal which is fixed in the on position to indicate a permanent speed restriction or other need for caution at a given location.

Fixed-Link Valve Gear

Another term for Gooch valve gear.


A system of signalling trains manually with flags during breakdown or suspension of the normal signalling system.

Flame Scoop

Also often called the firebox deflector plate, this serves to deflect cold air entering via the fire-hole downwards towards the grate thus helping to keep an even temperature at the tube plate and reduce unequal expansion and contraction of the tubes which tends to make them leak.


The protrusion on the circumference of a wheel tyre, which retains the wheel on the rail in the presence of lateral forces.

Flange Depth

The distance between the top of a rail, and the lowermost point of a flange when the wheel tread is bearing on the rail.

Flange Oiler

A mechanical device, which automatically applies a small quantity of oil onto the flanges of passing trains when they are approaching a sharp curve, thereby minimising friction and wear.

Flange Width

The overall lateral width of a flange


The gap between a running rail and a check-rail, or between a frog and a wing-rail, through which a flange may pass.

Flat Bottom Rail

Refers to the cross sectional shape of the rail.


A flat spot on the circular tyre of a wheel, usually caused by the wheel skidding along the rail when braking heavily. Causes a characteristic knocking noise and vibration in the vehicle.

Flitch Plates

The outer metal plates of a sandwich frame.

Fly Crank

A crank connected to the end of an extended axle.

Fly Shunting

A process of shunting in which a vehicle, which is not coupled to the shunting locomotive, is propelled forward and then allowed to continue moving under its own momentum.

Flying Scotsman

Perhaps the most famous of all steam locomotives. In 1934 on it's daily run from London to Edinburgh it set a speed record for steam of 100 miles per hour (161 kilometres per hour).

Fogging Machine

A machine which is able to be operated remotely to place detonators on a rail.


A person who is positioned on duty at a signal in foggy weather to place detonators on the track when the signal on.


A footstep running almost the entire length of a vehicle, on which a shunter (person) might stand while the vehicle is moving.


The floor of a locomotive cab. The term is sometimes also used to describe the running plate.


A step, or series of steps, enabling a person to climb up to a doorway on a railway vehicle; or steps on the end of a vehicle enabling a person to climb onto the roof.

Formation Level

The foundation level of a permanent way upon which the ballast is laid.

Fouling Bar

A bar situated just below rail level on the inside face of a running rail at the approach to a set of facing points. The action of the flanges depressing the bar, actuates a mechanism which prevents the points from being changed under the vehicle.

Fouling Point

The point on a pair of converging tracks where the two trains would collide side on if allowed to approach together.

Foundation Ring

The lowermost component of a firebox which joins the inner and outer plates of the firebox sides.


The intersection of two rails, where one rail crosses another.

Full Brake

A coach type railway vehicle with accommodation for luggage and guard, but not passengers.

Funicular Railway

A short-length railway on a continuous steep incline, worked by cable and stationary engines. With this system, the weight of the train going up is either counterbalanced by a similar train going down, or by a dead weight. In cases were the train going down is always heavier than the one going up, the stationary engine in unnecessary. Where running water is continuously available at the top of the incline, use of this might be made in filling a tank in the vehicle at the top of the incline and letting it out again at the bottom (see also fell system and rack-and-pinion).

Fusible Plugs

To prevent boiler explosions due to low water most boilers were fitted with lead filled plugs in the top of the fire box. Under normal circumstances the water covering the firebox prevented the lead melting. If the water level fell below the top of the firebox, the plug would overheat and melt. The resulting blast of water and steam would put the fire out before further damage could occur.