Rolling stock

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This article is about rail vehicles. For the genre of motorsports, see stock car racing.
Variety of rolling stock in rail yard

The term rolling stock originally referred to any vehicles that move on a railway. It has since expanded to include the wheeled vehicles used by businesses on roadways.[citation needed] It usually includes both powered and unpowered vehicles, for example locomotives, railroad cars, coaches, and wagons.[1][2][3][4]

There is no argument with generally-accepted definitions of this term but no conclusive convention can be found regarding the presentation of the noun, and this is open to conjecture. While using two separate words ('stock' that rolls) has apparently gained authority through sheer weight of use (mostly—it can be presumed—through successive users observing and imitating the practice of others and thereby assuming and attributing credibility, rather than through any logical evaluation), in fact this might be seen to be specious. If society generally accepts such words as 'livestock' (live animal [farm] 'stock' that delivers asset value), and 'feedstock' (the [raw] material 'stock' to feed a machine or industrial process), then it would seem to follow that the mobile asset 'stock' of a transport operation would indeed be 'rollingstock'. Note that 'rolling stock' as two separate words has prior connotation in the investment and stock market context (e.g. share stock that is subject to 'rolling settlement', and '10-yr rolling stock market returns'). The matter of presentation of the word is little-discussed elsewhere, but while dictionaries are liable to present it as two words, it should be understood that dictionaries do not necessarily purport to be arbiters of 'correct' usage (i.e. spelling); rather, they follow and report 'evolved' usage. Any brief internet search of the noun in the transport context will reveal an almost equal mixture of the two uses, and it can be surmised that if the logic discussed above were to be accepted and applied in all instances, then we WOULD have a convention on the presentation of the word.


Rolling stock is considered to be a liquid asset,[citation needed] or close to it, since the value of the vehicle can be readily estimated and then shipped to the buyer without much cost or delay.

The term contrasts with fixed stock (infrastructure), which is a collective term for the track, signals, stations, other buildings, electric wires, etc., necessary to operate a railway.

Code names[edit]

In Great Britain, types of rolling stock were given code names, often of animals. For example, "Toad" was used as a code name for the Great Western Railway goods brake van,[5] while British Railways wagons used for track maintenance were named after fish, such as "Dogfish" for a ballast hopper.[6] These codes were telegraphese, somewhat analogous to the SMS language of today.

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