[Tagging] What exactly is a preserved railway?

Nathan Edgars II neroute2 at gmail.com
Thu Feb 17 00:35:08 GMT 2011

On 2/16/2011 6:47 PM, Steve Bennett wrote:
> On Thu, Feb 17, 2011 at 6:42 AM, Nathan Edgars II<neroute2 at gmail.com>  wrote:
>> According to the wiki, railway=preserved means "A railway running historic
>> trains, usually a tourist attraction". The concept is simple enough. But
>> there are some edge cases. Which of these is a preserved railway?
>> 1. A railway running replicas of historic trains
>> 2. A tourist railway running modern trains on a preserved line (example: the
>> White Pass and Yukon Route has new diesels from the 1980s, newer than some
>> older diesels still used on major freight railroads)
>> 3. A streetcar line running historic streetcars in regular commuter service
>> (example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mattapan_High_Speed_Line)
>> 4. A tourist railway using neither preserved trackage nor preserved trains
>> 5. An amusement park railway, using either historic or recent trains
>> 4 and sometimes 5 seem to not fit the definition or its intent, yet are not
>> standard rail lines (thus railway=rail seems incomplete). Perhaps something
>> like railway=tourist would better capture the intent.
> These are very good questions. I guess we need to look at why we're
> making the distinction in the first place. I imagine it would be so
> people using the map can readily distinguish between a practical train
> line running regular services at normal speeds, and a line that might
> only run one service a week, at slow speeds, etc.

I'm not sure about this. My impression is that, in the US railfan 
community at least, the divide is between "normal" and "tourist" 
railways. The former will generally carry freight and sometimes regular 
commuter or intercity trains. The latter exists primarily for tourists 
to ride interesting trains. Tourist trains may operate over normal 
trackage. On the other hand, a tourist line may carry the occasional 
freight movement, but its primary purpose is tourism, and the line would 
likely be abandoned if the tourist trains didn't exist.
> I'm sure there will be other edge cases too: what of a line that runs
> both normal and historic services? A track following a historic route,
> but re-laid with a standard gauge? A scenic route which is used both
> by tourists and locals?
> IMHO the "rail=preserved" is good for capturing a stage in the rail
> lifecycle: proposed, construction, (normal), disused, preserved,
> abandoned. For other distinctions like tourism/normal use or theme
> parks, other tags would be better, perhaps in addition.
> I guess we should bear in mind though that the map is really talking
> about the physical infrastructure, and shouldn't be swayed too much by
> what services run on that infrastructure. So your five questions above
> could be simplified greatly by simply disregarding the trains, and
> focussing solely on the track.

We already distinguish between (existence of) services by railway=rail 
vs. railway=disused. The latter may be track that looks fine but isn't 
connected to the rest of the system and is thus out of service. A 
preserved track will normally look just like a normal track to the 
non-railfan. For example 
is a tourist line, not connected to any freight tracks, but it looks 
like a normal rail line when crossing it. But the same is true for 

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