Could You Survive A Day On The Railroad?

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Did you grow up dreaming about one day becoming a train conductor? Do you feel a rush of excitement every time you hear a train blow its whistle? Have you ever stepped outside just to count all the cars on the train going by? Then whether you're a diehard train buff or just looking for a good quiz that "trains" your brain, this test is for you!

How many rails does a "monorail" have? Where is the "caboose"? What should you do if you see a sign featuring a "W"? Take this quiz and prove that you've got what it takes to make it on the railroad!

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1. Emergency inspection! What happened here?

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  1. Derailment
  2. Unpaid tickets
This train is derailed! That is to say, it has left its tracks unexpectedly. It can be very dangerous to try to move the train at a time like this.
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2. Who drives a train?

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  1. Track laborer
  2. Train operator
  3. Ticket collector
  4. Baggage handler
Trains are driven by the train operator, also known as the train engineer. They are responsible for operating the locomotive, while the train conductor supervises the entire operation and collects tickets from passengers.
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3. Railroad crossing! Is the sign shown below active or passive?

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  1. Passive, it marks the course of the tracks
  2. Active, it has mechanical parts & flashing lights
This is an active sign because it moves and has flashing lights. A "passive sign" is a stationary sign that marks the way along a railroad track.
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4. This car powers the train from the very front:

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  1. Coach car
  2. Locomotive
  3. Caboose
  4. Boxcar
Choo choo! The locomotive, also known as the train engine, is a rail transport car that provides the motive power for a train by means of an engine.
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5. Which country has the world's largest rail network?

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  1. United States
  2. Mexico
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Myanmar
The United States of America has the longest railway in the world with 228,218 km of railroad tracks. They are followed by the Russian Federation, China, and India in total track length.
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6. Which hilly American city is famous for its cable cars?

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  1. New York City
  2. Atlanta
  3. Los Angeles
  4. San Francisco
Built in 1973, the San Francisco cable car system is the world's last manually-operated cable car system. On an average weekday, San Franciscan cables can pull up to 26 cars at a time!
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7. What should you do if you approach a flashing yellow signal?

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  1. Go faster
  2. Proceed with caution
  3. Stop immediately
  4. Nothing
Imagine you're driving a car! Green light = go, red light = stop, and yellow light = proceed with caution.
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8. Trains often share the same track. Who makes sure they don't run into each other?

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  1. Rail technician
  2. Nobody
  3. Train dispatcher
  4. Freight loader
The train dispatcher, also known as a rail traffic controller, train controller, train service controller, or signalman, directs and facilitates the movement of trains in their assigned territory.
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9. What should you do if you see a sign with a "W" on it?

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  1. Look to your right
  2. Speed up
  3. Look to your left
  4. Blow the whistle
When you see a sign with a "W", blow the whistle! The sign indicates that there is a crossing ahead, so you should warn other vehicles of your presence.
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10. If two cars in a train are "coupled", they are:

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  1. Joined together
  2. The first and last car
No, these two cars aren't in love. They are coupled, or joined, together by a coupling mechanism.
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11. How many rails does a "monorail" have?

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  1. Four
  2. Six
  3. Two
  4. One
This one's easy if you know that "mono" means "one" in Greek. Monorails use a single rail and are elevated above the ground, like the Monorail Atlantis in Dubai, pictured above.
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12. FRED isn't the name of your train's best friend, but rather the...

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  1. First Rail Eavesdropping Detector
  2. Flashing Rear-End Device
The Flashing End of Train Device (aka FRED) monitors your train's brake pressure and movements, such as swaying. These days, it also records the train's GPS location.
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13. What does a brakeman's duties include?

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  1. Collecting tickets
  2. Checking for stowaways
  3. Braking, signaling, and switching
  4. Serving food
The brakeman operates and maintains the train's brakes, as well as handling any necessary signaling and switching of cars. In 2012, over 20,000 Americans worked brake, signal, and switch operator jobs.
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14. How does a train dispatcher know where a train is?

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  1. Google Maps
  2. Track circuits
Track circuits are the most common way to determine whether a section of line is occupied. The rails at either end of each section are electrically isolated from the next section and an electrical current runs between them. If the circuit is complete, the line is unoccupied. If a train enters, the line is short-circuited.
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15. Who signals for trains to slow or stop in order to protect workers on the tracks?

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  1. Flagman
  2. Baggage handler
  3. Engineer
  4. Rail carman
A flagman is a railroad worker who is tasked with protecting contractors or anyone performing work on a railroad, as well as protecting a train that has stopped on a section of track.
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16. What's the name of the fastest train in the United States?

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  1. Pullman's Luxury Train
  2. Amtrak's Acela Express
Amtrak's Acela Express is the fastest train in the United States, although its average speed is only 68 mph between Washington, D.C. and Boston. The train can hit 150 mph along a few stretches of straight track, however.
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17. You found a stowaway! Is "train hopping" legal in the United States?

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  1. Yes, get onboard!
  2. No, it's a felony
Train hopping is not only illegal, but it's also very dangerous! Train tracks are federal property, so trespassing on them is considered a felony. Don't risk it!
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18. What does a steam engine burn for fuel?

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  1. Animal dung
  2. Coal
Coal! Steam engines use the force produced by steam pressure to push a piston back and forth inside an engine cylinder, powering the locomotive. How is the steam produced? Coal is burned to make a fire, which then heats up a boiler full of water, producing steam.
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19. What level of education does a train operator need?

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  1. Ph.D.
  2. High school diploma
  3. Bachelor's degree
  4. None
A train operator needs a high school diploma or equivalent degree. In school, it's recommended to take courses that focus on mechanical skills, like electronics and shop, and communication skills, like English.
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20. What kind of eye test does a train operator need?

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  1. Color blindness test
  2. Pupil dilation
Train operators, conductors, and other railroad workers are required to pass a variety of color blindness tests to ensure they can correctly read traffic signs and signals.
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21. If your train is out of service, leave it at the rail _____.

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  1. Yard
  2. Garden
  3. Hotel
  4. Lot
A rail yard (also known as a railway yard or railroad yard) is a complex series of railroad tracks on which railroad cars and locomotives are stored, sorted, or loaded and unloaded, so that they don't disrupt normal rail traffic.
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22. _____ trains transport cargo to and from container ships and trucks.

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  1. Passenger
  2. Intermodal
Intermodal, or freight, trains are those that haul more than 60 cars loaded with cargo containers. They are often used in connection with container trips and semi-trucks.
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23. Passengers will be annoyed if your train doesn't arrive by the time listed on the:

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  1. Timetable
  2. Yellow Pages
  3. Train Brainteaser
  4. Passenger Placard
The timetable is a document with information on public transport service times. They principally list when trains will arrive or depart in order to assist passengers with planning a trip.
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24. What do you call the structure comprised of the rails, fasteners, ballast, and railroad ties?

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  1. Shortcut
  2. Permanent way
The permanent way, more commonly known as the railroad track, is the structure consisting of the rails, fasteners, railroad ties, ballast, and the underlying subgrade. It provides a dependable surface for the train's wheels to roll upon, enabling it to move forward and backward.
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25. This type of yard shares its name with the shape of a camel's back:

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  1. Mountain view
  2. Bump block
  3. Hump yard
  4. Hill lot
Hump yards use the force of gravity to roll cars into place via a small raised portion of ground, known as the "hump".
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26. What's special about a push-pull train?

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  1. It only moves forward
  2. It can move forward & backward
A push-pull train has a locomotive at one end and another locomotive or control cab at the other. This allows the train to be driven both forward and backward without needing to turn around.
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27. This type of platform features tracks on both sides:

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  1. Platform 9 3/4
  2. Island platform
Does your trip include a connection? If you're lucky, you only need to cross the platform to change from one train to the next. This type of platform is called an "island" because it sits between two tracks.
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28. Traditionally, how did a conductor inform passengers that it was time to board?

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  1. "Here we go!"
  2. "Hurry up!"
  3. "All aboard!"
  4. "Bon voyage!"
Passenger train conductors traditionally called out "All aboard!" to signal the enginemen to start the train, and to warn passengers that the train would be departing shortly.
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29. What is a track's "gauge"?

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  1. The weight it can support
  2. The space between two rails
The "gauge" is the space between two rails on a track. This space differs depending on the country and type of train.
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30. What do you call a train for overnight travel?

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  1. Sleeper train
  2. Late nite line
Sleeper trains are just what they sound like: a train where you can comfortably sleep. Before air travel, they were the preferred way to travel long distances overland. Have you heard of the "Orient Express"? This famous sleeper train used to run from Paris to Istanbul.
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31. This car at the rear of the train provides accommodation for the crew:

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  1. Boxcar
  2. Locomotive
  3. Caboose
  4. Coal-car
In North America, a caboose is a manned railroad car coupled to the end of a train. Traditionally, this is where the crew resides in-between their duties.
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32. How is it possible for locomotives to exit a rail yard without ever turning around?

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  1. Fidget spinners
  2. Turntables
Turntables aren't just for disc jockeys! They move train tracks in a circular motion, eliminating the need for train locomotives to leave and re-enter a train yard in order to turn around.
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33. This instrument attaches the train's wheels to its axles:

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  1. Smokebox
  2. Bogie
  3. Whistle
  4. Boiler
The bogie is the frame below the train. It's fixed to the wheels of the railway vehicle and is especially useful for facilitating movement on curved tracks. Does it sound odd to you? That's because the word comes from a Northern English dialect!
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34. Before your passengers disembark, you remind them to "Watch the gap"! Where's the gap?

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  1. Between the train door and the platform
  2. Between your train and the one behind
"Watch the gap", or "Mind the gap" as they say across the pond in England, are audible or visual warning phrases issued to passengers to take caution when crossing the spatial gap between the train door and the station platform.
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35. What do the English call the "spooky" train service that often has no passengers onboard?

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  1. Ghost train
  2. Castaway train
No, these trains aren't haunted! "Ghost trains" run on the British Train Network quite frequently. Why? It costs more time and money to shut down a rarely-used line than it costs to simply run it once per week.
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36. A "piggy-back" freight train is often carrying...

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  1. Trucks
  2. Airplanes
  3. Boats
  4. Bicycles
Trucks! "Piggy-back" trains carry semi-trucks from one loading point to the next, for example in mountainous areas like the Alps, or through the Channel Tunnel between England and France. The trucks can drive straight onto the train and then drive off again at their final destination.
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37. The circular sign mounted on the rear of early 20th-century passenger trains was called the:

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  1. Crankshaft
  2. Cylinder
  3. Piston
  4. Drumhead
The drumhead was an often removable and illuminated sign attached to the rear of trains during the first half of the 20th century in North America. The sign often included the logo of the railroad company or the train so that passengers could easily identify it.
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38. What does the term "horsepower" refer to in trains?

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  1. Speed of a racehorse
  2. Power of the engine
Horsepower ("hp") is a unit used to measure power, or the rate at which work is done, usually in engines or motors. The Scottish engineer, James Watt, coined the term in the late 18th century in order to compare the output of steam engines with the power of draft horses and to help others more easily understand the true power of the engine.
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39. What do you call a passenger train that runs on public streets in the United States?

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  1. Suspended monorail
  2. Streetcar / trolley
  3. Duck boat
  4. Amfibus
If you live in Canada or the US, you probably refer to your street railways as "trolleys" or "streetcars". In Europe, you're more likely to use the term "tram". The key difference between a train and a street railway is that the second runs primarily on public streets, whereas trains usually have their own track above, below, or beside the streets.
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40. The longest train journey in the world connects which two countries?

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  1. England & Italy
  2. Portugal & Vietnam
The longest train journey in the world starts in Portugal and ends in South Vietnam. It takes around 275 hours to travel the 11 thousand miles (around 12 days) and costs approximately $1,570. Just think of all the amazing sights you'll see along the way...
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41. What is the motto of the Federal Railroad Administration?

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  1. Moving America Forward
  2. Loco for Locomotives
  3. Trains 'R Us
  4. Keeping You On Track
Moving America Forward! Did you know? The Federal Railroad Administration’s mission is "to enable the safe, reliable, and efficient movement of people and goods for a strong America, now and in the future".
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42. How long is a typical shift for a train operator?

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  1. 8–10 hours
  2. 2–3 hours
Working on the railroad isn't your typical 9-to-5 job! The industry's standard working week is around 35 hours, often spread across four or five shifts of 8-10 hours each, depending on whether they start the day before 5 AM. These shifts can start at any time, including mornings, nights, and weekends.
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43. The moving arm that signals when to stop, go, or proceed with caution is called a:

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  1. Sonogram
  2. Specimen
  3. Semaphore
  4. Seismograph
A "semaphore" is a moving arm mounted to a mast that often includes colored and/or flashing lights. Although most have already been replaced by digital technology, you can still find semaphores across the globe today, even in the US and United Kingdom.
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44. How long does it take the average freight train to come to a complete stop?

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  1. More than 1 mile
  2. 10 feet
Over a mile! The average freight train is around 1 to 1¼ miles in length (90 to 120 rail cars), meaning it can't stop quickly or swerve. If the train is traveling at 55 miles an hour, it usually requires at least 1 mile to come to a complete stop once the emergency brake has been applied.
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45. This northeastern city opened America's first subway system in 1897.

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  1. Boston
  2. Augusta
  3. New Orleans
  4. Tampa
Boston opened the four-track-wide segment of the Green Line tunnel between Park Street and Boylston stations in September 1897. It's now a National Historic Landmark.
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46. Can trains move faster than the speed of sound?

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  1. Yes, that's why you never hear them coming
  2. No, the fastest train only reaches 357 mph
Even though they look super fast, trains can't move faster than the speed of sound. The current world record of a train’s top speed is 357.2 mph, set by Japan Railways’ mag-lev bullet train.
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47. Where can train passengers sit and enjoy a restaurant-style meal?

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  1. Fast food car
  2. Pantry car
  3. Dining car
  4. Cuisine car
Even though you don't see them as often today, dining cars play a significant role in trains by giving passengers a place to enjoy restaurant-quality food while watching the scenery through the window. While dining cars have slowly been replaced by food-service cars, you can still find them on many medium to long-distance trains.
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48. A train travels from Boston to NYC at 100 mph. How much distance does it cover in 45 minutes?

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  1. 75 miles
  2. 5 miles
75 miles! As a train operator, you'll need good math skills. A train traveling at 100 mph will travel 100 miles in one hour, or 60 minutes. 45 minutes is 3/4 of 60 minutes. Multiply 100 miles by 3/4 and you'll get your answer: 75 miles.
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49. Why do subways have a "third rail" on their tracks?

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  1. The trains are wider
  2. To power the electric motor
The electrified third rail on a subway track carries the power from the rail to the train's electric motor. In the New York City subway system, for example, the third rails carry 625 volts of electricity. These rails used to require their very own power plant to operate!
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50. The "Federal Railroad Administration" belongs to which US department?

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  1. Homeland Security
  2. Agriculture
  3. Transportation
  4. Education
This one's easy if you think of what railroads are used for: transporting people and goods. The Federal Railroad Administration belongs to the U.S. Department of Transportation, along with the Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Highway Administration.
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