PESO - Queen at Shaw

Joseph McAllister pentaxian at
Mon Oct 12 18:16:44 EDT 2009

On Oct 12, 2009, at 13:55 , Eactivist at wrote:

> knarftheriault at writes:
> Scroll down and click  on the photo to enlarge.
> Seems to be enjoying his streetcar (what we in  Toronto call trolleys
> or trams) with  dad:
> Hope  you enjoy.  Comments always  welcome.
> cheers,
> frank

I was going to chide you about the Toronto use of the words trolley or  
tram for a streetcar. But I tried looking up the definitions for  
streetcar, trolley, light rail, subway, tram, etc, and found that  
diff. areas of the world use diff. terminologies.

As I drove "Trolleys" here in Seattle for 6 years, as well as busses.  
and I never took the tests to drive our "Streetcars" or "Light Rail",  
I thought I knew my business.

To us professionals, ahem, a Streetcar is a fairly slow electric  
single unit railed car that is powered by a single overhead pole/wire,  
being grounded by the wheels/tracks, and usually mixes with auto  

A Trolley is a rubber tired electrified bus that has two overhead  
poles/wires to provide motive power.

Light Rail is a higher speed single wire/pantograph wheel/track  
electric powered multi-car unit that runs on dedicated track that only  
mixes with traffic (in Seattle) once it gets downtown. In many places  
it runs all around the downtown area (But not in Seattle, where they  
go into a tunnel shared with hybrid articulated buses that only use  
battery power in the tunnel). If it connects two named towns, or a  
suburb to a city, it is an Interurban, and usually is a bit faster  
with fewer stops.

What I grew up with was the Boston "MTA" as it was called by we  
Bostonians and the Kingston Trio, but somehow New York City took that  
name and forced us to call our MTA the "MBTA". Quite the bother. I bet  
if we had taken the Yankees more often in the series, that never would  
have happened. I have no idea what the MTA was called other than that,  
because it was inter-urban, ground level, elevated, and subway, all in  
one, just like the New York system, which they call a subway, even  
though it is also all three. So is Metro in Washington, and BART in  
San Francisco. I guess they can be called "transportation systems".

Heavy rail is usually intercity, dedicated tracks, high speed, no  
traffic interference, fewer stops, self powered, like the Long Island  
Railroad. Commuter Rail. (Just like the MTA and the MBTA, Metro and  

A Tram is a usually a large gondola car hanging from and moved by  
wires to which it is fastened either permanently or by grippers to  
transport users over any ground level obstacles. It can also be a  
railcar that is fashioned to climb a very steep mountain or hill, some  
powered by their own motive power and a counterweight, some by cable  
drive powered at the top or bottom of the run.

A Cable car is a single unit streetcar powered by an under-street  
cable that it grips onto like the San Francisco treat, and runs on  
tracks in traffic.

A Gondola as I knew it from my youth was a two to four person enclosed  
hanging car on a cable that went over towers that scared the heck out  
of you that you and your skis were packed into that took you to the  
top of the mountain so you could ski down. And a ride at Disney World  
and Vancouver B.C..

But what I found out is that the names of these conveyances  depended  
whether the predominant population of the cities these things were  
built in were German (US northwest) or British or French. And most  
importantly, whatever the builders or owners or the general public  
desired to call them.

So I'll let your names stand.    :-)

Joseph McAllister
pentaxian at

“If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug a camera.”
–Lewis Hine

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