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I see that is a synonym of .

When did this happen and why? It seems that at the very least, this is the wrong way, i.e. rail->railroad should be the direction.

In the railroad industry (US), everything is either "railroad" or "railway". "Rail" is either a shortened form or means specifically the metal rails.

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  • $\begingroup$ This page should show when the change occurred. As to why, I have pinged said mod regarding this question. Typically, mods will make the synonym change based upon a flag from a regular community user. $\endgroup$
    – user16
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 1:14

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I merged and on May 17 after a question (now deleted) was asked using both tags at once. The author of the question was a new user without the "create tags" privilege, so I decided to investigate the apparent redundancy between pre-existing tags. Since they were being used identically and had only about a dozen questions between them, it seemed like the definition of an uncontroversial merge case.

Light rail systems are neither described as railroads (in the infrastructure sense of the term) nor operated by railroads (in the business entity sense of the term). "Rail" here is not an abbreviation of "railroad" in either of the above senses; instead, it refers to a mode of transportation. Rather than create an entirely new tag for one light rail question, I preferred the slightly more general term for the merge target.

Note that even the Federal Railway Administration of the US DOT, which has "railroad" in its name, prefers "rail" when referring to the mode of transportation; see this press release, for example:

The FAST Act authorizes \$305 billion over fiscal years 2016 through 2020 for the Department of Transportation’s rail, highway, motor vehicle safety, public transportation, motor carrier safety, hazardous materials safety, research, technology and statistics programs. The FAST Act also marks the first time intercity passenger rail programs have been included in a comprehensive, multimodal surface transportation authorization bill, authorizing more than $10 billion for intercity passenger and freight rail grants.

If you think there's a better way to categorize these questions, feel free to write up a brief proposal. Moderators can delete tag synonyms if that's what the community wants. But when a tag has such a small number of questions, we tend to prefer the simplest and least-fragmented tag convention.

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  • $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, in the crane industry, rail has another very specific meaning. This carries over into a number of welding codes, and I think even ASCE-7 to address special concerns and criteria for crane rails. In the mechanical world rail sometimes refers to linear guide rails, which are again very different from railroads. $\endgroup$
    – Ethan48
    Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 19:52
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Using "rail" makes more sense to me. It's unambiguous enough, it's shorter, anyone typing railroad or railway is going to hit rail first anyway, and "railroad" is not used in some dialects of English, such as British English.

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    $\begingroup$ Did you mean to say "railroad is not used in [...] British English"? $\endgroup$
    – AndyT
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ @AndyT yes, yes I did - thanks for spotting that! $\endgroup$
    – 410 gone
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 16:29

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