to the rails, are now generally admitted to be Limicoline, while the genus Aramus—the courlan or limpkin of the southern United States—still occupies a very undetermined position.
(2) (Through O.Fr. reille, from Lat. regula, a rule; the Du. and Swed. regel, Ger. Riegel, bolt or bar, are probably also from the Latin), a horizontal bar of wood, metal or other material resting on, or fixed in, upright posts to form a fence, or as a support for hanging things on, to form the “hand-rail” of a stair, &c.; on a ship the upper part of the bulwarks, e.g. the “taffrail,” round the stern bulwarks; especially, one of the pair of iron or steel bars on which a train or tram runs (see Railways).
There are two other words “rail”: (a) an obsolete word (O.E. hrægel), for a garment; often in the compound “night-rail”; and (b) a verb, to abuse, use angry language, from Fr. railler, possibly from the same root as Lat. radere, to scrape. The word is also seen in “rally,” to banter, tease (distinguish, however, “rally,” to bring together, especially of defeated troops (from Fr. rallier; re, again, and allier, ally, Lat. alligare)).
RAILWAYS. Railways had their origin in the tramways (q.v.) or wagon-ways which at least as early as the middle of the 16th century were used in the mineral districts of England round Newcastle for the conveyance of coal from the pits to the river Tyne for shipment. It may be supposed that originally the public roads, when worn by the cartage of the coal, were repaired by laying planks of timber at the bottom of the ruts, and that then the planks were laid on the surface of special roads or ways formed between the Collieries and the river. “The manner of the carriage,” says Lord Keeper North in 1676, “is by laying rails of timber . . . exactly straight and parallel, and bulky carts are made with four rowlets fitting these rails, whereby the carriage is so easy that one horse will draw down four or five chaldrons of coals” (from 10·6 to 13·2 tons). The planks were of wood, often beech, a few inches wide, and were fastened down, end to end, on logs of wood, or “sleepers,” placed crosswise at intervals of two or three feet. In time it became a common practice to cover them with a thin sheathing or plating of iron, in order to add to their life; this expedient caused more wear on the wooden rollers of the wagons, and, apparently towards the middle of the 18th century, led to the introduction of iron wheels, the use of which is recorded on a wooden railway near Bath in 1734. But the iron sheathing was not strong enough to resist buckling under the passage of the loaded wagons, and to remedy this defect the plan was tried of making the rails wholly of iron. In 1767 the Colebrookdale Iron Works cast a batch of iron rails or plates, each 3 ft. long and 4 in. broad, having at the inner side an upright ledge or flange, 3 in. high at the centre and tapering to a height of 2½ in. at the ends, for the purpose of keeping the flat wheels on the track. Subsequently, to increase the strength, a similar flange was added below the rail. Wooden sleepers continued to be used, the rails being secured by spikes passing through the extremities, but about 1793 stone blocks also began to be employed—an innovation associated with the name of Benjamin Outram, who, however, apparently was not actually the first to make it. This type of rail (fig. 1) was known as the plate-rail, tramway-plate or barrow way-plate—names which are preserved in the modern term “plate layer” applied to the men who lay and maintain the permanent way of a railway.
Another form of rail, distinguished as the edgerail, was first used on a line which was opened between Loughborough and Nanpantan in 1789. This line was originally designed as a “plateway” on the Outram system, but objections were raised to rails with upstanding ledges or flanges being laid on the turnpike road which was crossed at Loughborough on the level. In other cases this difficulty was overcome by paving or “causewaying” the road up to the level of the top of the flanges, but on this occasion William Jessop, of the Butterley Iron Works, near Derby, proposed to get over it by laying down two plates of iron, perfectly flat and level with the road but each having on its outside a groove ¾ in. wide and ¾ in. deep to control extra guiding wheels which were to be of somewhat larger diameter than the bearing wheels and to be affixed to them. The rest of the line was laid with what were substantially plate-rails placed on their edge instead of flat. These were cast in 3 ft. lengths, of a double-flanged section, and for the sake of strength they were “fish-bellied” or deeper in the middle than at the ends. At one end of each rail the flange spread out to form a foot which rested on a cross sleeper, being secured to the latter by a spike passing through a central hole, and above this foot the rail was so shaped as to form a socket into which was fitted the end of the next rail. Each length was thus fastened to a sleeper at one end, while at the other it was socketed into the end of its fellow. This method, however, was not found satisfactory: the projecting feet were liable to be broken off, and in 1799 or 1800 Jessop abandoned them, using instead separate cast-iron sockets or chairs, which were fastened to the sleepers and in which the rails were supported in an upright position. In the first instance he proposed to place the guiding wheels outside the bearing wheels, and the Nanpantan line was laid on this plan with a width of 5 ft. between the guide wheels; but before it was opened he decided not only to cast the guiding wheels and bearing wheels in one piece but also to put the former inside the rails, arguing that with this arrangement the edge-rails themselves would keep the wheels in position on the axles, whereas with that first contemplated fastenings would have been required for them (fig. 2). Jessop thus produced what was virtually the flanged wheel of to-day, having the flanges inside the rails, and further, it is said, established what has become the standard gauge of the world, 4 ft. 8½ in., or 5 ft. minus the width of two of his rails.
These two systems of constructing railways the plate-rail and the edge-rail-continued to exist side by side until well on in the 19th century. In most parts of England the plate-rail was preferred, and it was used on the Surrey iron railway, from Wandsworth to Croydon, which, sanctioned by parliament in 1801, was finished in 1803, and was the the first railway available to the public on payment of of tolls, previous lines having all been private and reserved exclusively for the use of their owners. In South Wales again, where in 1811 the railways in connexion with canals, Collieries and iron and copper works had a total length of nearly 150 miles, the plate-way was almost universal. But in the north of England and in Scotland the edge~rail was held in greater favour, and by the third decade of the century its superiority was generally established. The manufacture of the rails themselves was gradually improved. By making them in longer lengths a reduction was effected in the number of joints—always the weakest part of the line; and another advance consisted in the substitution of wrought iron for cast iron, though that material did not gain wide adoption until after the patent for an improved method of rolling rails granted in 1820 to John Birkinshaw, of the Bedlington Ironworks, Durham. His rails were wedge-shaped in section, much wider at the top than at the bottom, with the intermediate portion or web thinner still, and he recommended that they should be made 18 ft. long, even suggesting that several of them might be welded together end to end to form considerable lengths. They were supported on sleepers by chairs at intervals of 3 ft., and were fish-bellied between the points of support. As used by George Stephenson on the Stockton & Darlington and Whitstable & Canterbury lines they weighed 28 ℔ per yard. On the Liverpool & Manchester railway they were usually 12 ft. or 15 ft. long and weighed 35 ℔ to the yard, and they were fastened by iron wedges to chairs weighing 15 or 17 ℔ each. The chairs were
- “Another thing that is remarkable is their way-leaves; for, when men have pieces of ground between the colliery and the river, they sell leave to lead coals over their ground” (Roger North).