AskDefine | Define footplate

Dictionary Definition

footplate n : the platform in the cab of a locomotive on which the engineer stands to operate the controls

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The metal plate which forms the base platform of a steam locomotive, particularly in UK, which supports the boiler and the engineer's cab.
  2. The engineer's cab in any kind of train.
    • 2006, Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day, Vintage 2007, p. 845:
      Kit had fallen into conversation with a footplate man who was deadheading back out to Samarkand, where he lived with his wife and children.

Extensive Definition

The footplate of a steam locomotive is a large metal plate that rests on top of the frames. It is the full width of the locomotive and extends all the way from the front buffer beam to the back buffer beam. The boiler, the cab, and other superstructure elements are in turn mounted on the footplate. The footplate also forms the floor of the locomotive's cab, giving rise to the expression on the footplate for being in the cab of a steam locomotive. The part of the footplate ahead of the cab is sometimes called the running plate.

National variations

The presence of a footplate is almost universal in British locomotive construction, is often (but not universally) seen in continental European locomotives, and practically never on locomotives constructed in the United States. American practice mounted the locomotive's boiler and cab directly on the frame. The walkways and running boards seen on American locomotives that sometimes give an appearance of a footplate are attached to the boiler or the pilot and are not structural elements. The absence of a footplate on American locomotives is one thing that makes them look "not quite right" to those accustomed to the British look.


The footplate has openings cut in it for various purposes. The firebox always extends beneath the footplate. The cylinders are beneath the footplate, and steam pipes pass through holes to them. The reversing gear control for the valve gear also passes through, and in some locomotives part of the valve motion also extends through the footplate. On British Railways Standard Locomotives the running plate was high enough to clear the wheels. On earlier British locomotives the tops of the wheels usually projected through slots in the running plate and were covered by splashers which are analagous to mudguards on a road vehicle.


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