In railroading, what is the very front piece of the train called that deflects obstacles and debris?
In railroading, the pilot (also known as a cowcatcher, cattle catcher or cow plow) is the device mounted at the front of a locomotive to deflect obstacles on the track that might otherwise derail the train.
In addition to the pilot, small metal bars called life-guards, rail guards or guard irons (UK) are provided immediately in front of the wheels. They knock away smaller obstacles lying directly on the running surface of the railhead. Historically, fenced-off railway systems in Europe relied exclusively on those devices and did not use pilots, but that design is rarely used in modern systems.
In snowy areas the pilot also has the function of a snowplow. The pilot was invented by Charles Babbage in the 19th century, during his period of working for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. However, Babbage's invention was not built, and it is uncertain whether later users were aware of Babbage's idea.
A North American engineer, engine driver, loco pilot, motorman, train driver (British and Commonwealth English), is a person who drives a train. The driver is in charge of, and responsible for driving the engine, as well as the mechanical operation of the train, train speed, and all train handling. But the name of this part of the train, 'pilot' is still used worldwide today.