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Railway Dictionary


Here you will see a list of words rail enthusiasts use around our railways, We have provided the words used and what it is ment by each one, to help you understand what we are all talking about, especially on social networking websites.


While we try to improve the dictionary database, we might not cover everything, so if we are missing anything, please help us improve this website by contacting us.


This is a list of nicknames given to various locomotives and multiple units operating in Great Britain. Some have been given by railway enthusiasts, and some come from British Rail or the company who build that particular train/unit.  

The A to Z list has been provided from the rail community to help you understand the railway lingo (language)

The names have been listed in alphabetical order.

 - Special thanks to Google search, Wikipedia and the YREA team

Click on a letter below to take you to the 1st letter of the nickname you want.






AWS - Automatic Warning System. Standard UK style Automatic Warning System (AWS) unit as normally installed between the running rails. These devices are always fitted with a ramp at the approach end to reduce the risk of damage from loose train mounted equipment.


ATP or ATPS - Automatic Train Protection. Automatic Train Protection (ATP) in Great Britain refers to either of two implementations of a train protection system installed in sometrains in order to help prevent collisions through a driver's failure to observe a signal or speed restriction. Note that ATP can also refer to Automatic Train Protection Systems in general, as implemented in other parts of Europe and elsewhere





Body Snatcher - A nickname given to Class 57 locomotives.

Bone - A nickname for Class 58 locomotives, because when you look from the top of one they are shaped like a stereotypical dog's bone. 


Bubble Car  - A nickname given to Class 121 units, which only had one small coach.


Bo-Bo - A nickname given to a  Class 20, Chopper is also be used.





Can - A nickname for Class 86 locomotives.


Capitalstar - The name given by train builders Bombadier for their Class 378 trains for London Overground. The name comes from a combination of Capital, as they run in the capital city, and Electrostar which is the family of trains this unit comes from.


Caravan - A nickname given to Class 92 locomotives, as on channel tunnel freight diversions they were often towed around non electrified lines. 


Chopper - A nickname for Class 20 locomotives, coming from the almost Chinook helicopter like sound that their engines make. 


Crompton - A nickname for Class 33 locomotives, because of their electrical equipment.






Deltic - A nickname for Class 55 locomotives. The name comes from the engine type, and was also the name of the prototype.


Desiro - The name given by train manufacturer Siemens to a group of its EMU designs including Classes 350, 360, 380 and 450, as well as DMU designs including the class 185.


Dogbox - A nickname given to Class 153 DMUs.


Dusty Bin - A nickname for Class 321 EMUs which actually originates from a TV program.


Dyson - A nickname for Class 92 locomotives.


DMU - Stands for Diesel Multiple Unit, A train that uses diesel fuel to power the unit.




EMU - Stands for Electric Multiple Unit, a train using over head (OH), 3rd & 4th rail power lines.


ED - A nickname for Class 73 locomotives, which simply stands for Electro-Diesel after the dual-mode of these locomotives.


Electrostar - The name given by train manufacturer Bombadier to a group of its EMU designs, including Classes 357, 375, 376, 377, 378 and 379.




Flying Banana - A nickname used for Network Rail's New Measurement Train (NRNMT or NMT for short), which is formed of a Class 43 HST train.




Goyle - A name given to Class 31 locomotives.


Grid - A name given to Class 56 locomotives.


Gronk - The nickname given to a Class 08 shunting locomotive, the name being used to describe the sounds that their engines make.




Hoover - A name given to class 50 locomotives because of the original sound of their filtration equipment.

May also be called a Vac.


HST - Meaning High Speed Train and is usually used to refer to a train of Mark 3 (MK3) coaching stock with a Class 43 locomotive on each end.








Kettle - The nickname often given to any type of steam locomotive by railway enthusiasts (or diesel herritage groups) who don't have an interest in steam trains. Teapot may also be used. 




Log - A name given to Class 50 locomotives because of their long, rectangle shape.




MK 1, 2, 3 - MarK: Meaning the class of coaching stock, example of MK3's are used with the HST train sets


McRat - A nickname for a Class 26 diesel locomotive.




Nodding Donkey - A nickname given to any train from the Pacer series (Class 14x) due to it's poor ride quality. Bouncy Castle was also used.


Notworker - A derogatory name given by enthusiasts to the Class 465 / 466 Networker series of EMU's.






Peak - The name given to Class 45 locomotives.


Ped - A nickname for Class 31 locomotives. A shortened word for for pedestrian, it was in reference to their slow rate of acceleration.


Pig - A nickname for Class 442 EMU. Plastic Pig may also be used.






Rat - A nickname for Class 24 and 25 diesel locomotives.




Shed - A nickname for Class 66 locomotives.


Shoebox - A nickname given to Class 73 locomotives because of their small size and square shape.


Skateboard - A nickname given to Class 153 units, as they only have one carriage.


Skip - A nickname for Class 67 locomotives, because upside down they would look like a rubbish skip.


Skoda - A nickname for Class 90 locomotives, because they were prone to failures. At this time, we are unclear why.


Spoon - A nickname for Class 47 locomotives. Can also be used to give an impression of the sound a class 47's horn makes.


Sprinter or SuperSprinter - A name given by British Rail (BR) to its Class 15x series of DMUs.


Super Gronk - A nickname for Class 09 shunting locomotives, the name being used to describe the sounds that their engines make.


Super Shed - A nickname for Class 59 locomotives. 


Super Skoda - A nickname given to Class 91 locomotives, as they're essentially a 'vamped up' Class 90.


SPAD or SPADs - Signal Passed At Danger. 




Tea Cup - A nickname for Class 26 locomotives, in reference to the sound of their engines idling.


Teapot - The nickname often given to any type of steam locomotive by railway enthusiasts who don't have an interest in steam trains. Kettle may also be used.


Thumper - A name given to the 2XX series of DMU / DEMUs due to the sounds of their engines.


Tractor - A name given to class 37 locomotives, originating from their bodyshell shape.


Tram - A nickname for class 43 locomotives with MK3 coaching stock between them.


Tubes - A name given by enthusiasts and the public to trains on the London Underground (LU).


Tug - A nickname for class 60 locomotives. 


Turbostar - The name given by train manufacturer Bombadier to a group of its DMU designs, including classes 170, 171 and 172.


Turdo - A derogatory name given by railway enthusiasts to the Networker Turbo series of trains which British Rail produced (class 165 / class 166).


The Tin Bath or 'Tin Bath' - A nickname given by enthusiasts for a Steam Locomotive, whether enthusiasts have an interest in them or not. 


TPWS Train Protection and Warning System. In spite of the installation of AWS over most of the UK's main line railways, there has been a gradual increase in the number of signals passed at danger (SPADs) in recent years and some serious collisions as a result.   In an attempt to reduce these, a number of suggestions were made to reduce the impact (pun intended) of SPADs.  One of these is the Train Protection and Warning System or TPWS, which has now become standard across the UK.




U-Boat - A nickname for class 55 locomotives, because their engines have also been used in boats.


Ugly Duckling - A name given to class 70 locomotives after the bad reception they received from enthusiasts upon introduction.




Van - A nickname for class 87 locomotives.



Vac - A name given to class 50 locomotives because of the original sound of their filtration equipment.

May also be called a Hoover.




Western - A nickname for class 52 locomotives, most notably Western Champion.


Whistler - A nickname for class 40 locomotives, used to describe their engine's sound. 


Whistling Wardrobe - A nickname for class 20 locomotives, given because of the whistling sound of their engines and the large number of doors they have on the body.






Ying-Ying - A nickname for the sound that class 59, 66 and 67 locomotives make.



Zombies - A nickname given to class 57 locomotives, probably because they are used to haul the Devon and Cornwall sleeper train services.