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- The electrified rail that runs beside or between train tracks to power electric trains.
- 1961 March, “Talking of trains”, in Trains Illustrated, page 134:
- Rumour is abroad that, foiled by the Central T.U.C.C. in its attempt to close the Westerham branch, the Southern Region is considering third-rail electrification of the line with second-hand material [this never happened and the branch closed later in 1961].
- (by extension) anything that is dangerous to come into contact with, or is best avoided.
- 2014 March 29, Stephen Sestanovich, “Putin's reckless gamble”, in The New York Times:
- Despite ethnic resentment and suspicion, they [Ukraine's leaders] never contemplated breaking up the country. This was the third rail of Ukranian politics, and very few were willing to touch it. Secession was taboo.
the electrified rail that runs beside or between train tracks to power electric trains