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A passenger train is one which includes passenger-carrying vehicles which can often be very long and fast. It may be a self-powered multiple unit or railcar, or else a combination of one or more locomotives and one or more unpowered trailers known as coaches, cars or carriages. Passenger trains travel between stations or depots, at which passengers may board and disembark. In most cases, passenger trains operate on a fixed schedule and have superior track occupancy rights over freight trains.

Unlike freight trains, passenger trains must supply head-end power to each coach for lighting and heating, among other purposes. This can be drawn directly from the locomotive's prime mover (modified for the purpose), or from a separate diesel generator in the locomotive. For passenger service on remote routes where a head-end-equipped locomotive may not always be available, a separate generator van may be used.[5][6]

Oversight of a passenger train is the responsibility of the conductor. He or she is sometimes assisted by other crew members, such as service attendants or porters. During the heyday of North American passenger rail travel, long distance trains carried two conductors: the aforementioned train conductor, and a Pullman conductor, the latter being in charge of sleeping car personnel.

Many prestigious passenger train services have been given a specific name, some of which have become famous in literature and fiction. In past years, railroaders often referred to passenger trains as the "varnish", alluding to the bygone days of wooden-bodied coaches with their lustrous exterior finishes and fancy livery. "Blocking the varnish" meant a slow-moving freight train was obstructing a fast passenger train, causing delays.

Some passenger trains, both long distance and short distance, may use bi-level (double-decker) cars to carry more passengers per train. Car design and the general safety of passenger trains have dramatically evolved over time, making travel by rail remarkably safe.

Concerts