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In rail transport, a train is a series of rail vehicles that move along guides to transport freight or passengers from one place to another. The guideway (permanent way) usually consists of conventional rail tracks, but might also be monorail or maglev. Propulsion for the train is provided by a separate locomotive, or from individual motors in self-propelled multiple units. Most trains are powered by diesel engines or by electricity supplied by trackside systems. Historically the steam engine was the dominant form of locomotive power through the mid-20th century, but other sources of power (such as horses, rope, wire, gravity, pneumatics, or gas turbines) are possible.
In American railway terminology, 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). In the United Kingdom, the interchangeable terms set and unit are used to refer to a group of permanently or semi-permanently couple 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'.)
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.
Similarly, 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."
Types of trains
There are various types of trains 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.
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, four, or even five 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 the 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, 'helper service' in North America.
Trains can also be mixed, hauling both passengers and freight, see e.g. Transportation in Mauritania. Such mixed trains became rare in many countries, but were commonplace on the first 19th century railroads.
Special trains are also used for Track Maintenance; in some places, this is called maintenance of way.
The first trains were rope-hauled,
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