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When I say "train station" I am corrected to say "railway station", but I don't understand why.

Examples...

Buses are stationed at a bus station.

Trains are stationed at a train station.

Why in this respect is "train station" incorrect?

  • 8
    Because someone is Pist. Nothing wrong with "train station". – Hot Licks Dec 10 '15 at 15:04
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    You might consider asking the person(s) correcting you. Where I'm from (US Midwest), train station is used when speaking or writing (e-mailing, texting) about the place you go to board a train. – Kristina Lopez Dec 10 '15 at 15:07
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    It may help to add a dialect tag like [american-english] or [british-english]. – Andrew Leach Dec 10 '15 at 15:14
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    @FumbleFingers It might be significant in light of Chenmunka's answer. There are still BrE users who insist on railway station, although their numbers are reducing; there are significantly fewer AmE speakers who insist on that. – Andrew Leach Dec 10 '15 at 15:24
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    It's anecdotal I know, but in my entire life, the only American I can think of who I've ever heard use the term "railway station" is Paul Simon. And he can't be used as representative of American dialectal tendency for two reasons: first, he uses it in a song where "railway" will flow much more fluidly than "train" and second, he spent a good part of his early, formative songwriting years in England absorbing English culture. – Trevor Brown Dec 10 '15 at 18:46
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Here are the case-insensitive Google Ngram results:

For British English:

Google Ngram comparing non-case-sensitive usage of "railway station" and "train station" in the British corpus. "Railway station" enters the corpus around 1840 with a steep increase around 1850, and reaches use rates as high as .0004% between 1860 and 1920 then gradually declines to about .0002% in 2000. "Train station" enters the corpus around 1970 and takes off rapidly around 1990, reaching approximately .00018% by 2000, just short of the usage of "railway station" in that year.

For American English:

Google Ngram comparing non-case-sensitive usage of "railway station" and "train station" in the American corpus. "Railway station" enters the corpus around 1840, gradually increases to a peak of just over .0002% around 1915, then gradually declines until about 1950 when it levels off at about half the peak usage, with a rate of .00008% in 2000. "Train station" enters the corpus in the early 1940s and takes off quickly around 1970, surpassing "railway station" in the late 1980s to reach a use rate of approximately .00016% in 2000

For All English:

Google Ngram comparing non-case-sensitive usage of "railway station" and "train station" in the English corpus as a whole. "Railway station" entered the corpus in the 1830s, rose swiftly in usage in the 1840s and 1850s and saw steady usage at a rate somewhere around .0002% to .00025% for several decades, beginning a slow decline in use in the 1930s. As of the year 2000 its usage was at its lowest point since the early 1860s, at approximately .00013%. The term "train station" entered the corpus somewhere around 1950, quickly rising to surpass the usage of "railway station" in the late 1990s, reaching a rate of use of approximately .00015% in 2000.

In short, don't worry about the difference, unless you're trying to sound old fashioned (e.g. writing historical fiction). In general, "train station" is fine.

However, if you're trying hard to please some particular person who is correcting you, it may be helpful to use the particular term they prefer, using the word that is most effective at conveying to that particular listener what you are trying to convey. (See relevant XKCD here.)

  • 1
    "...Thank you. That means a lot." – Mitch Dec 10 '15 at 20:00
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    I suspect that, to a large degree, the above are biased towards "railroad"/"railway" because those terms are considered more "literary" and hence the references are more apt to make it into "formal" literature. – Hot Licks Dec 10 '15 at 20:51
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This is a question of usage.

in British English, up until a couple of years ago it would always have been Railway Station.

However, in recent years, Train Station has entered popular usage. Whether this is borrowed from American English, I am not able to say.

However, to address your question, both are correct. It is probable that your teacher seeks to preserve the Railway usage as that is what he is used to.

  • I think a couple of decades might be more appropriate than ...years, but essentially you're quite right, as this NGram shows. If you switch between US/UK corpora on that link, there's not muchy to suggest Americans actually started the switch. – FumbleFingers Dec 10 '15 at 15:17
  • Can you postulate any justification that one who prefers 'railway' over 'trian' might give? – Mitch Dec 10 '15 at 15:33
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    We Yanks have long tended to use the term railroad where Brits would use railway, though. – Brian Donovan Dec 10 '15 at 15:36
  • @Mitch you can meet any number of people who will say that a particular way of speaking is correct because that is how it has always been. – Chenmunka Dec 10 '15 at 15:36
  • @Chenmunka Yes, surely, but it sounds like a whole bunch of people agree though on railway and I would actually say quite the opposite and think many people would agree with me, so I'm trying to get the justification. I'm perfectly OK with hearing railway station, it's just oo many syllables for me (that's my made-up justification). – Mitch Dec 10 '15 at 15:50
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Although they essentially mean the same thing, here in the United States (Boston) there's a subtle difference. We have four different kinds of trains: intercity (Amtrak), suburban commuter rail, urban "rapid transit" subways, and urban light rail.

The term "train station" could be used for all kinds of trains, but "railroad station" (or railway station) would typically be used only for the longer distance intercity and commuter rail trains. Train stations for the subway and light rail are often called "subway stations", even for trains that run above ground. Locally, they're more often called "T Stations" or "T Stops". ("The T" is our local nickname for the transit system operated by the MBTA transit agency.)

A century ago, there were many different railroads that competed with one another. Although there were some shared "union" stations, the railroads often built their own stations for exclusive use by their own trains. For example, in New York City, Penn Station was originally built by the Pennsylvania Railroad and Grand Central Station was built by the New York Central Railroad.

Because these grand and fabulous stations were built by and belonged to the railroad companies, it may have seemed more appropriate to call them railroad stations (or railway stations), instead of just train stations. Nowadays, there are no great passenger railway companies; it's just various agencies or other entities that operate trains. So, that may be why "train station" is now the most commonly used option.

  • Although in recent decades the "railroad station" is often the building on the edge of downtown that houses a seedy assortment of craft and knick-knack shops. – Hot Licks Dec 10 '15 at 17:07
  • @HotLicks Sadly, that is true in many places, but you're lucky the station is still there. My own hometown had a spectacular railroad station, but it was demolished in 1958 because the company that owned it didn't want to have to pay the property tax. My mother (who loved the trains) was heartbroken! – ElmerCat Dec 10 '15 at 17:16
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In most parts of Britain until around the late 1980s people wouldn't say 'train station' or 'railway station'. When referring to railways they'd just say 'station'. The word would only be qualified for bus station, fire station, tube station, etc.

Station was synonymous with railways, many towns and cities have a Station Road or a Station Hotel, not a Train Station Road or Train Station Hotel.

  • I, growing up in Bristol, England, in the 1950's would have always said simply "station". Only a policeman or fireman might have been confused by this. I first heard "train station" in Canada in the 1980's but it has since become common in England and I still find it irritating. – Adrian Hutchison Aug 10 '17 at 7:25
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In Britain and Australia, it has always been "Railway Station" and not "Train Station" until the last 20 years or so. Usually, trains only stop momentarily, to pick up or set down passengers but the are NOT stationed there. Hotels adjacent to Railway Stations are usually called either the "Railway Hotel" or the "Station Hotel" but I have not come across a "Train Hotel". I think the gradual change to "Train Station" is either laziness or people who watch a lot of American Movies, picking up the American usage.

  • The railway isn't stationed at particular stops either, it's stationed the whole way along the line. Your logic as to what is "right" therefore fails. The ngrams in WBT's answer support your statement that "train station" has only been used in Britain for the past 20 years or so (maybe 25), but it's only been used in the US for about 5 years longer. It's therefore a recent change in both dialects, not one dialect's historical usage influencing the other. – AndyT Aug 10 '17 at 10:21

protected by Andrew Leach Aug 10 '17 at 7:35

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