a permanent road laid with rails, commonly in one or more pairs of continuous lines forming a track or tracks, on which locomotives and cars are run for the transportation of passengers, freight, and mail.
an entire system of such roads together with its rolling stock, buildings, etc.; the entire railway plant, including fixed and movable property.
the company of persons owning or operating such a plant.
1757, from rail (n.1) + road. Originally "road laid with rails for heavy wagons (in mining)." The system itself seems to have been in use by late 17c. Application to passenger and freight trains dates from 1825, though tending to be replaced in this
sense in England by railway (1812). The verb meaning "to convict quickly and perhaps unjustly" is from 1884.