1) A woman’s garment, formerly a piece of linen or other cloth worn about the neck.
1566 I gyve to Alison Theker on raile, Richmond
1611 to Issabell Mitton ... my best duble raile, Eldwick
1544 Also the wench ther suster to haue a ... kirchif, a rail, Wakefield
1585 a kirchyfe and a Rayle which are for the holie days, Slaithwaite
1612 3 railes, an apperne, a smocke 3 crosclothes 3 old neckerchiefs, South Cave. Occasionally recorded as ‘railband’: 1558 Fower crepings vjs ... iiij railbanndes iijs, Knaresborough.
2) A bar of wood, varying in size but usually between six and ten feet long, four inches broad and an inch or more thick. They were used in the construction of carts, fences, staircases, balconies, etc.
1658 8 score yeard of reales
for Seelling of a roome ... 15 Duble reales 22 single reales, Elland. Many wooden bridges must have had hand-rails but there is little evidence for that in bridge documents and the OED has no record of it in connection with bridges until 1726. In fact, a bridge at Knaresborough was brought to the attention of the Justices of Peace in 1695 because it lacked such an obvious structural feature. It was described as a bridge over A deep Houll ditch and was actually called Houll Becke Bridge. A petition by local people for its repair is lengthy and full of terrifying details. The following is an extract: … it doth stand High from the water and it is made of two slender narrow plankes which is much decayed, almost Rotten and Shrunk from together … that Chillder feet may slipp Betwixt them … neither hath it foot rile nor Hand Rile … In the night it is said that severall have fallen of it, now of Late two servant girles and an old man who had been drowned but that by accident George Hayge came and helped him out of the water.
3) These were ways or roads laid with rails which allowed heavily-laden wagons to move more freely, and in this sense the words are first on record in coal-mining districts.
Such railways are said to have existed in Newcastle from the early seventeenth century. They were originally of wood but rails made of cast-iron came into use in the 1700s. The evidence in Yorkshire for these words dates from the early nineteenth century: 1816 Taking down and laying iron rails Ł4 13s 4d, Bradshaw.