Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

What's the Difference Between a Siding and Spur?

17537 views
35 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 21,718 posts
What's the Difference Between a Siding and Spur?
Posted by richhotrain on Friday, February 10, 2017 1:08 PM

I cannot figure out when to refer to a track that branches off the main line as a spur or a siding.  Can someone help me here? 

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    April 2011
  • From: About 20 minutes from IRM
  • 430 posts
Posted by CGW121 on Friday, February 10, 2017 1:19 PM

A spur has one switch connecting, a siding has two maybe more. I am sure someone will pontifacate more on this.

 

  • Member since
    March 2015
  • 1,349 posts
Posted by SouthPenn on Friday, February 10, 2017 1:36 PM

I think a spur is a track that goes some place, like another town or another rail road? 

A siding is a dead end?

South Penn
  • Member since
    June 2014
  • From: East Central Florida
  • 480 posts
Posted by Onewolf on Friday, February 10, 2017 1:42 PM

I was going to GUESS the same as CGW121: A spur has one connection to the mainline/branch and a siding has multiple. But I be rather ignorant.

Modeling an HO gauge freelance version of the Union Pacific Oregon Short Line and the Utah Railway around 1957 in a world where Pirates from the Great Salt Lake founded Ogden, UT.

- Photo album of layout construction -

  • Member since
    January 2014
  • 1,365 posts
Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Friday, February 10, 2017 1:55 PM

I think SouthPenn is pretty close: a spur goes someplace, whereas a siding just gets traffic off the main.

I wouldn't take this as gospel, though. I could easily be ignoranter than OneWolf.

Robert

LINK to SNSR Blog


  • Member since
    August 2013
  • From: Richmond, VA
  • 1,890 posts
Posted by carl425 on Friday, February 10, 2017 2:15 PM

From the CSX "Railroad Dictionary"

Siding An auxiliary track for meeting or passing trains. It is designated in special instructions.
Spur Track (Commonly Called Spur) A stub track that diverges from main or other tracks which provides access to industrial or commercial areas. It usually dead ends within an industry area.

 

I have the right to remain silent.  By posting here I have given up that right and accept that anything I say can and will be used as evidence to critique me.

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 21,718 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Friday, February 10, 2017 2:58 PM

Well, now I'm nore confused than ever.   Huh?

Not sure which dead ends and which goes "through".

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    February 2005
  • From: Vancouver Island, BC
  • 22,769 posts
Posted by selector on Friday, February 10, 2017 3:09 PM

A siding can have a single turnout leading onto it, or it can be double-ended with a turnout at each end.  The huge majority of sidings are double-ended so that a train going in one direction doesn't have to reverse to retake the main.  Instead, still moving in its intended direction, it throws the turnout in front of it, at the end at which it stopped to await the passage of an oncoming train, and retakes the main after the "meet."

A spur has one turnout permitting access to it, but it is not a siding whose purpose is to permit a meet and pass. Instead, a spur is really a main track leading to a smaller switching facility or to an industry, or series of industries.

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Northern CA Bay Area
  • 4,366 posts
Posted by cuyama on Friday, February 10, 2017 3:10 PM

It depends on the era and the railroad. For example, a Pennsylvania RR track construction specifications manual from the 1950s never mentions "spurs". Instead, it references "sidings", "side tracks", and "industry tracks".

A 1990s General Code of Operating Rules uses both "siding" and "spur"

A 1949 Wabash Employee Timetable refers to both single-ended and double-ended tracks as "sidings".

A 1939 ATSF Employee Timetable includes both "sidings" and "spurs"

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Northern CA Bay Area
  • 4,366 posts
Posted by cuyama on Friday, February 10, 2017 3:12 PM

richhotrain
Not sure which dead ends and which goes "through".

The general prototype usage seems to be that spurs always dead-end, sidings sometimes do -- but this varies by railroad and era.

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 21,718 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Friday, February 10, 2017 3:23 PM

ahh, OK, thanks guys.

So, spurs dead end whereas sidings often are double ended or pass through tracks.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    January 2010
  • From: Chi-Town
  • 7,638 posts
Posted by zstripe on Friday, February 10, 2017 3:31 PM

Rich,

Get more confused...he he! Theoretically Your reverse loops are considered Passing Loop Sidings:

http://modeltrains.about.com/od/glossary/g/spur.htm

Just about all You need to know about spurs/sidings...unfortunately You have to read them though...some people don't like to do those things anymore!

Take Care! Big Smile

Frank

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Northern CA Bay Area
  • 4,366 posts
Posted by cuyama on Friday, February 10, 2017 3:34 PM

zstripe
Theoridically Your reverse loops are considered Passing Loop Sidings: http://modeltrains.about.com/od/glossary/g/spur.htm Just about all You need to know about spurs/sidings

That page's definitions don't match typical prototype designations.

 

"You can't believe everything you read on the Internet"
                                         -- Abraham Lincoln

  • Member since
    January 2010
  • From: Chi-Town
  • 7,638 posts
Posted by zstripe on Friday, February 10, 2017 3:37 PM

cuyama

 

 
zstripe
Theoridically Your reverse loops are considered Passing Loop Sidings: http://modeltrains.about.com/od/glossary/g/spur.htm Just about all You need to know about spurs/sidings

 

That page's definitions don't match typical prototype designations.

 

I believe it does a pretty fair job for modelling purposes...but that's just My opinion.

Take Care! Big Smile

Frank

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Northern CA Bay Area
  • 4,366 posts
Posted by cuyama on Friday, February 10, 2017 3:46 PM

It's often a waste of time to post facts on this forum.

  • Member since
    February 2015
  • 223 posts
Posted by Choops on Friday, February 10, 2017 3:53 PM

Spur is a track to service a business for loading and unloading.

A siding is used for parking a train to clear the main line so another train can pass. does not need to be double ended but most probably are these days.

Steve

Modeling Union Pacific between Cheyenne and Laramie in 1957 (roughly)
  • Member since
    January 2010
  • From: Chi-Town
  • 7,638 posts
Posted by zstripe on Friday, February 10, 2017 4:05 PM

cuyama

It's often a waste of time to post facts on this forum.

 

Byron,

That's a fact also......Smile, Wink & Grin

Take Care! Big Smile

Frank

  • Member since
    March 2002
  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
  • 10,922 posts
Posted by dknelson on Friday, February 10, 2017 5:23 PM

When I see the work "spur" I cannot avoid thinking back to the old ads by AHC, America's Hobby Center, in MR.  One of their perpetual offers was a "spur deal" -- a turnout, a couple of pieces of snap track, and a bumper, for less than the price of the usual turnout.  So it was indeed a deal.  And a spur. 

I have also seen references to "a stub-ended siding," just to add to the fun.  And I have seen the word spur used in relation to streets.  I have not seen the word siding used in that context.

Locally, the C&NW switch crews of my youth would refer to servicing "Badger siding" (named for the industry at its terminus) which nonetheless met the definition of a spur: it left the main, made a 90 degree curve (an oil dealer and a tannery were on the curve) then straightened out to run at a right angle to the main.  A team track for a lumber dealer, a plastics plant, another tannery, and a gray iron foundary were all on that same relatively short siding, er, I mean, spur.   At one time so was a coal dealer, and one of the tanneries started as a soap factory.  Once the gray iron foundary closed they kept moving the bumper closer to the main as industry after industry closed or stopped using rail.

Dave Nelson 

  • Member since
    August 2013
  • 3,006 posts
Posted by ACY Tom on Friday, February 10, 2017 7:55 PM

Depending on the railroad and the time period, many of these terms are almost interchangeable. In the area that I have been focusing my efforts, the Pennsylvania Railroad had a line that began life as the Cleveland & Marietta. It diverged from the PRR's Cleveland & Pittsburgh line at Bayard, Ohio. I have been using the Sept. 24, 1950 Lake Division employee timetable as a guide.  

From Bayard to Dover, the line was identified as the Tuscarawas SECONDARY TRACK. From Dover to Marietta, the line was the Marietta BRANCH. There was a short dead-end branch that ran a couple miles from Dover to New Philadelphia, serving a few industries. It had previously gone a bit farther to Roswell to serve some coal mines, and it was called the NP-1 RUNNING TRACK. There was another short dead-end branch running north from Dover a couple miles to a brick kiln on the the outskirts of Strasburg. It was called the Strasburg SPUR. I don't know why PRR chose to use "Secondary track", "Branch", "Running track", and "Spur" for these various pieces of the railroad. In my experience, spurs connect to the rest of the world at only one end in most or all cases, although there might be some complex trackwork at some points on a spur. 

Throughout the employee timetable, sidings are referred to as locations where two trains can meet or pass. Officially, a "meet" is a situation where two trains are coming from opposite directions and must get around one another. A "pass" is a situation in which one train overtakes another train going in the same direction.

On the main line, the dispatcher would only authorize passes and meets at locations where it was absolutely certain that the track length was adequate, and the employee timetable stipulated this with accurate information on track length, measured in carlengths.

I know of some situations on prototype roads where single-ended sidings were designated as pass/meet points, and a backup move was required. This was particularly common on short lines and low-density branches where traffic was fairly light. These pass/meet points were usually called sidings, whether they were single ended or double ended.

Terminology might be entirely different on another Railroad, or Division, or at a different time.

Tom  

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 10,482 posts
Posted by mlehman on Friday, February 10, 2017 9:46 PM

The most obvious way to know if something is a spur is to look at one on a boot. Some may have fancy spinning wheels, whatever. The essential thing is that it's attached to the boot at one end.

 

Mike Lehman

Urbana, IL

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 21,718 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, February 11, 2017 6:09 AM

mlehman

The most obvious way to know if something is a spur is to look at one on a boot. Some may have fancy spinning wheels, whatever. The essential thing is that it's attached to the boot at one end. 

Would that fancy spinning wheel be referred to as a "turntable"?  Smile, Wink & Grin

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    January 2015
  • From: Southern California
  • 1,567 posts
Posted by Lone Wolf and Santa Fe on Saturday, February 11, 2017 6:44 AM

Technically they are both sidings; A (passing) siding is like a passing lane. A spur siding is a dead end.

A passing siding is on the side of the mainline, running parallel to the main track with a turnout on both ends connecting it to the main (or branchline).
A spur siding could also be on the side but could also curve away. It usually goes to an industry.

Modeling a fictional version of California set in the 1990s Lone Wolf and Santa Fe Railroad
  • Member since
    February 2015
  • 223 posts
Posted by Choops on Saturday, February 11, 2017 7:02 AM

Please add pocket track to the conversation. Big Smile

Steve

Modeling Union Pacific between Cheyenne and Laramie in 1957 (roughly)
  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: North Dakota
  • 8,667 posts
Posted by BroadwayLion on Saturday, February 11, 2017 9:26 AM

Spur...... A Track serving a business or something. The train working it still holds the warrant for the main line while working  unless the warrant requires the train to be entirely clear of the mainline at so and such a time for another train to pass.

SIDING... is a place where trains meet or pass each other. It is under the control of CTC, and it frequently the end point of a track warrant, with a new warrant to be issued upon departure, unless of course the original warrant specifies continuing after the meet. A train would not work a siding as it would a spur, but even that is up for depage as a train may set out a defective car on a siding to be picked up later. The siding in Taylor ND has a built in spur for just this, since it clearly has no industry there.

In Richardton, there is a sput that leads into the team track, customers such as Stone Mill use it for shipping bagged grain products in box cars or containers. Equipment and particularly work trains can be laid up there.

The Ethanol Plant connects to the main line at both ends, and has several tracks that pass through the corn tower and tank filling station. There are several spurs that are east of the plant and loop back west again, because that is the land that they own and could not build longer straight spurs since they did not own that land. Looks like something a model railroader might build. These spurs were used for unloading hundreds of miles of oil pipe (the Dakota Pipeline project), but that pipe is all gone now. The ethanol plant does use the sidings for storing ethanol cars. Corn cars are returned right away lest drayage be paid. The GATX company Ethanol cars are leased to a consortium of ethanol plants and so they need a place to park them when not in use.

West of Town is the Halliburton plant. This too accesses the main line from both ends of the plant, but here the access switches are remotely contorlled by CTC, and the yard switiches by Halliburton. There is a complete wye at each access to the main, two loops that pass through the unolading terminal and eight spur tracks holding more than 10 cars each used for whatever, but originally intended for additives to be brought out and mixed with sand for particular customer specifications.

Taylor is the next town west of us and it has a 2+ mile siding the longest between Mandan and Glendive. Beyond that is the Grain Cooperative with a single sidding connected to the main at both ends, manually contorlled, and requiring a track warrant to work the plant. BNSF does the movement of grain cars for the plant, were as the Ethanol plant has two locomotives, and the Halliburton plant has two new goats for this purpose.

Are they sidings or spurs? ONLY the timetable knows for sure.

POCKETS... Found on subways. I place to park a bad order train en route, or a place to stash the "gap" train. The gap train is called out if the next train is so far behind that it is need to collect passengers before the next road train can get there. Pocket tracks can be single ended or double ended. Non my layout the are all double ended since they must leave in the same direction as they entered.

ROAR

The Route of the Broadway Lion The Largest Subway Layout in North Dakota.

Here there be cats.                                LIONS with CAMERAS

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 107 posts
Posted by leewal on Friday, February 17, 2017 12:33 PM

I'm going to guess just like everybody else. A SPUR is a track that branches off the main to a particular industry - like a mine.  A SIDING is where a train can park to allow another train to pass.  I wouldn't think a siding serves any indutries. That's the job of a BRANCH which may serve a whole bunch of industries and may be many miles long and serve several cities.

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 21,718 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Friday, February 17, 2017 4:27 PM

leewal

I'm going to guess just like everybody else. A SPUR is a track that branches off the main to a particular industry - like a mine.  A SIDING is where a train can park to allow another train to pass.  I wouldn't think a siding serves any indutries. That's the job of a BRANCH which may serve a whole bunch of industries and may be many miles long and serve several cities.

 

That is a pretty good guess. Your definitions of a spur and a siding are highly accurate.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 10,018 posts
Posted by dehusman on Friday, February 17, 2017 5:24 PM

 

The problem is that people are defining it by track geometry and the real railroads define it by USE.

Definition (most rule books)

Siding - A track auxillary to the main track used for meeting and passing trains.

Definition DL&W 1952 rules

Side track - A track, other than siding, auxillary to the main track.

A "spur" is not defined in any of the rule books I have.

So here the way to tell what it is.  Answer this question:

Do I meet and pass trains in this track? 

If the answer is yes, its a siding.  If the answer is no, its not a siding, its something else.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    April 2011
  • 4 posts
Posted by Fat Russian on Monday, February 27, 2017 6:26 PM

To add even more to the confusion I will refer to the prototype in Picacho, Arizona, on the Union Pacific.  There were at one time two sidings at Picacho, a north and a south siding, a few years back Union Pacific completed a large section of Double track through there and now where the south siding existed is now the #2 Main Track, the North siding held a small seto out spur where we would set out Auto Racks bound for Phoenix, in recent months the set out track was extended to roughly the same length as the siding, the real difference for the prototype is that the siding has motorized CTC control points and Signals whereas the spur or setout track has manually operated switches and derails  (another item commonly found on spur tracks and not sidings)  at noth ends and no signals as it is not considered main track by GCOR definition. 

  • Member since
    December 2009
  • 54 posts
Posted by Carolina Northern on Monday, February 27, 2017 6:37 PM

All spurs are sidings, but not all sidings are spurs.

 

Don

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 30,002 posts
Posted by rrinker on Monday, February 27, 2017 8:07 PM

Per John Droege's Freight Terminals and Trains from 1912, the definition are:

There's a discussion in one of the other sections here about the difference between a siding and a spur - it's spelled out in this book:

 A stub track is a track connected to another at one end only

 A spur track is a stub of indefinite length diverging from the main line

 A siding is a track auxiliary to the main track for meeting or passing trains, limited to the distance between two adjoining telegraph stations.

An interesting read, if a bit dry, but a good insight into railroading just after the turn of the century. I'm about 200 pages in so far.

https://books.google.com/books?id=p4gNAAAAYAAJ&pg=PR3&dq=freight+terminals+droege&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwivuvSc95nSAhVH5YMKHdQRBI0Q6AEIIDAB#v=onepage&q=freight%20terminals%20droege&f=false

Note you do not have to read this online - there's a Google Books app for at least IOS and Android that lets you download the content and read offline.

 

                          --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Users Online

There are no community member online

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!