Railroad yards contain various parallel tracks on which cars are classified according to type and destination. Railroad workers then assemble the sorted cars into newly configured trains, which exit the yard via a main track. This railroad yard serves the city of Hutchinson, Kansas, a center in the American Midwest for the trade and shipping of wheat.
When the Long Island Railroad extended its third rail electrified service to Ronkonkoma in 1988, it expected ridership to creep up slowly. But only a week of all-electric operation saw 2,000 additional riders. A 6:40 am train with 1,200 seats was carrying almost 1,600 riders. The reason was that travel time to New York City went from 97 minutes to 71 minutes and no more need to change at Jamaica.
Long Island is not an isolated example of commuter railroad growth. More cars and more service are needed as the population expands beyond the old suburbs. Highways in outlying areas become even more crowded. Parking facilities fill up from patrons ten or more miles from the station. The early 1950's saw the Long Island Railroad in deep trouble. Legislation establishing a Railroad Redevelopment Corporation provided a dozen years of solvency and some equipment improvements. Over 200 new cars were purchased and almost 700 cars were rehabilitated.
While the railroad returned to acceptable standards, the program was really only a holding pattern. The rehabilitated equipment had come on the property between 1908 and 1930.
A terminal is an area where individual cars, perhaps arriving from various points, are sorted according to their destinations and assembled in trains. Freight and passenger terminals necessarily include not only stations with offices and various other facilities, but also yards with more or less elaborate systems of tracks and switches. Usually repair shops are provided, and passenger terminals usually include shops, yards, and sheds where cars are cleaned and supplies are put aboard sleeping cars and dining cars. An incoming locomotive, after its train is uncoupled in a receiving yard and drawn away by a switch engine, proceeds to the engine terminal for inspection, repairs, and servicing or storage. In a freight terminal, the train, minus its locomotive and caboose, is pushed into a classification yard where the cars are separated and sorted. On the usual level tracks the cars must be moved by switch engines, but a large and busy terminal may have a hump yard in which the cars are moved by gravity. Newly assembled strings of cars proceed to other yards where they can be loaded or unloaded, repaired, stored, or prepared for departure.