[Tagging] railway=rail vs. railway=subway

Greg Troxel gdt at lexort.com
Tue Nov 22 14:13:45 UTC 2016

jc86035 <jc86035 at openmailbox.org> writes:

> Should a commuter rail system with rapid transit frequency but main
> line-standard tracks be tagged as railway=subway or railway=rail?

=rail.   What you describe is a real train that has an old-fashioned

> In Hong Kong, the MTR metro system has an "urban" set of DC 1432mm-gauge
> lines, and another set of AC standard gauge lines (East Rail Line, West
> Rail Line and Ma On Shan Line) connected to the Guangzhou–Shenzhen railway.
> One of the standard gauge lines (Ma On Shan Line: short distance between
> stations and low speed) was always tagged with railway=subway, but some
> time ago I retagged the West Rail Line (commuter rail with long distance
> between stations) with railway=subway, as well as the sections of the
> East Rail Line without intercity train service (without asking anyone).
> Should the lines be retagged as railway=rail, since they're not really
> subway/metro lines?

Probably not relevant, but be aware that in en_US, at least in Boston,
"subway" does refer to a rail system that is often but not entirely
underground and is more or less not really connected to the national
rail network.  Plus it tends to imply electric power, but often not the
same overhead line scheme that the electrified intercity train routes
use (e.g., third rail).  Actually our subway ("the T", "MBTA") does have
a connection to the real rail network, but I think it's basically for
deliveries and its unheard of for real trains to be on the MBTA tracks
and very exciting for train fans vice versa.

In en_GB, my understanding is that subway refers to a pedestrian tunnel
under a busy road/intersection, not rail.

Also around Boston, there are standard-gauge rail lines that really are
part of the national network that have commuter trains.  Some of these
run on tracks that also have intercity service.  Some run on tracks such
that they are the only passenger service (e.g. Boston-Fitchburg), but
those tracks also carry long-distance freight and they also used to
(before the 1950s) have long-distance passenger.

This is a all a long way of saying that if there were a diesel passenger
train that was operating on the long-distance train network and if it
using the tracks in question is physically feasible and not ridiculous,
then =rail is probably right.

Overall, I think frequency isn't important in this decision.  In New
York's rail stations, during rush hour it seems some train leaves every
2 minutes or more often, and that's definitely real rail.   For
comparison you might look up Metro North, Long Island Railroad, and NJ
PATH; they seem like the analog to the East/West/etc Rail Lines you
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