Railroad Language -- Lingo -- Dictionary (2023)

This Glossary of Railroad Lingo is from:
Railroad Avenue, by Freeman H. Hubbard, 1945
* Designates Contributed by BW Allen...BNSF Locomotive Engineer
# Designates Contributed by FW Smoter...Web Master Johnstown FloodPage

AGE—Seniority, length of service

AIR MONKEY—Air-brake repairman

* ALL DARKIE, NO SPARKY—(Hi-Ball on a roll by)

ALLEY—Clear track in railroad yard

ANCHOR THEM—Set hand brakes on still cars; theopposite is release anchors

ARMSTRONG—Old-style equipment operated by musculareffort, such as hand-brakes, some turntables, engines withoutautomatic stokers, etc.

ARTIST—Man who is particularly adept, usually withprefix such as brake, pin, speed, etc.

ASHCAT—Locomotive fireman

BACK TO THE FARM—Laid off on account of slack business.When a man is discharged he is given six months twice a year

BAD ORDER—Crippled car or locomotive, often calledcripple. Must be marked at night by a blue light when menare working around it

BAIL IT IN—Feed the locomotive firebox

Locomotive fireman. Also called bell ringer,blackie, and many other names scattered throughout this glossary

BALING-WIRE MECHANIC—A man of little mechanicalability


BALLAST—Turkey or chicken dressing

BALLAST SCORCHER—Speedy engineer

BAND WAGON—Pay car or pay train from which wageswere handed out to railroad employees

BANJO—Fireman's shovel; old-style banjo-shapedsignal

BAREFOOT—Car or engine without brakes. (Many locomotivesbuilt in the 1860's and 1870's were not equipped with brakes excepton the tank)

BARN—Locomotive roundhouse, so-called from thebuilding in which streetcars are housed

BAT THE STACK OFF OF HER—Make fast time, work anengine at full stroke

BATTING 'EM OUT—Used generally by switchmen whena yard engine is switching a string of cars

BATTLESHIP—Large freight engine or interurban car,or a coal car. Also a formidable female, such as the landladyor a henpecked man's wife

BEANERY—Railroad eating house. Beanery queenis a waitress

BEANS—Meet orders; lunch period

BEAT 'ER ON THE BACK—Make fast time; work an engineat full stroke

BEEHIVE—Railroad yard office

BELL RINGER—Locomotive fireman

BEND THE IRON—Change the position of the rusta switch. Also called bend or bend the rail

BIG BOYS—Special trains for officials

BIG E—Engineer, so called from the large initialon membership buttons of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers

BIG FOUR—The four operating Brotherhoods: Brotherhoodof Railroad Trainmen, Order of Railway Conductors, Brotherhoodof Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, and Brotherhood of LocomotiveEngineers

BIG HOLE—Emergency application of air-brake valve,causing a quick stop. Big-holing her, the same as wipingthe clock, is making an emergency stop

BIG HOOK—Wrecking crane

BIG O—Conductor; so named from first initial inOrder of Railway Conductors. Sometimes called big ox andless complimentary terms

BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAINS—Hobo's paradise, as describedin song by Harry K. McClintock. (See Indian Valley Line)

BINDERS—Hand brakes

BINDLE STIFF or BLANKET STIFF—Hobo who totes ablanket and uses it wherever night finds him. (Bindle isa corruption of "bundle")

BIRD CAGE—Brakeman's or switchman's lantern

BLACK DIAMONDS—Company coal. Diamond crackeris a locomotive fireman


BLACK ONES—Railway Express refrigerator or boxcarshaving no interior illumination pressed into mail service duringthe Christmas rush

BLACK SNAKE—Solid train of loaded coal cars

BLACKBALLED—black-listed, boycotted

BLACKJACKS—Fifty-ton Santa Fe coal cars paintedblack

BLAZER—Hot journal with packings afire

BLEED—Drain air from. Bleeder is valve bywhich air is bled from auxiliary reservoir of a car

BLIND BAGGAGE—Hobo riding head end of baggage carnext to tender, where no door is placed; commonly called ridingthe blinds

BLIZZARD LIGHTS—Originally the lights on eitherside of the headlight that served in emergency when the oil-burningheadlight blew out. Now they indicate the train is nonscheduleor extra

BLOOD—Old-time engine built by Manchester LocomotiveWorks. Mr. Aretas Blood being the builder's name

BLOW 'ER DOWN—Reduce water in a locomotive boilerwhen carrying too much


BLOW UP—Use the blower to increase draft on thefire and thereby raise the steam pressure in the boiler. Alsoquit a job suddenly

'BO—Hobo. 'Bo chaser is freight brakemanor railroad policeman

BOARD—Fixed signal regulating railroad traffic,usually referred to as slow board., order board., clear board(for clear tracks) or red board (stop). Do not confusethis with extra board or spare board, colloquiallyknown as slow board or starvation list, usuallycontaining names of qualified train or enginemen not in regularactive service who are called to work in emergencies. These namesare listed in order of seniority, the man hired most recentlybeing the last one called to service

BOBTAIL—Switch engine

BOILER ASCENSION—Boiler explosion

BOILER HEADER—Man riding in engine cab

BOILER WASH—A high-water engineer

BOOK OF RULES—Examination based on facts in rulebook

BOOKKEEPER—Trainman who makes out reports; flagman

BOOTLEGGER—Train that runs over more than one railroad

BOOMER—Drifter who went from one railroad job toanother, staying but a short time on each job or each road. Thisterm dates back to pioneer days when men followed boom camps.The opposite is home guard. Boomers should not be confusedwith tramps, although they occasionally became tramps. Boomerswere railroad workers often in big demand because of theirwide experience, sometimes blackballed because their tenure ofstay was uncertain. Their common practice was to follow the "rushes"-thatis, to apply for seasonal jobs when and where they were most needed,when the movement of strawberry crops, watermelons, grain, etc.,was making the railroads temporarily short-handed. There are virtuallyno boomers in North America today. When men are neededfor seasonal jobs they are called from the extra board


BOWLING ALLEY—Hand-fired coal-burning locomotive.(A fireman throwing in the lumps of coal goes through motionsthat resemble bowling)


BRAIN PLATE—Trainman's cap or hat badge

BRAINS or THE BRAINS—Conductor; sometimes calledbrainless wonder, a term also applied to any train or enginemanor official who does things his fellows consider queer

BRAKE CLUB—Three-foot hickory stick used by freighttrainmen to tighten hand brakes. Sometimes called sap or staffof ignorance

BRASS—A babbitt-lined blank of bronze that formsthe bearing upon which the car rests. To brass a car isto replace one of those bearings

BRASS BUTTONS—Passenger conductor on railroad orstreetcar line

BRASS COLLAR or BRASS HAT—Railroad official. Termmay have originated from gold-braided collar of conductor's uniformand brass plate on his cap

BRASS POUNDER—Telegraph operator

BREEZE—Service air

BRIDGE HOG—Bridge and building carpenter of theold school antedating steel and concrete

BROKEN KNUCKLES—Railroad sleeping quarters

BROWNIES—Demerits. This system is traced back toGeorge R. Brown, general superintendent of the Fall Brook Railway(now part of the New York Central) in 1885. He thought the thencurrent practice of suspending men for breaking rules was unfairto their families and substituted a system of demerit marks. Toomany demerits in a given period resulted in dismissal. The Brownsystem, with many variations, has since been widely adopted bythe railroad industry. A superintendent's private car is calledbrownie box or brownie wagon

BUCK THE BOARD—Working the extra board. (Seeboard)

BUCKLE THE RUBBERS—Connect air, steam, or signalhose

BUG—Telegraph instrument or trainman's or switchman'slight, which is also called bug torch. Bug may also bea three-wheeled electric truck that carries mail and baggage aroundterminals

BUG LINE—Telephone connection between engine houseand yard or telegraph office

BUG SLINGER—Switchman or brakeman

BUGGY—Caboose; rarely applied to other cars

BULL—Railroad policeman. Also called flatfootor gumshoe, but the distinctive railroad terms arecinder dick and 'bo chaser

BULL PEN—Crew room

BULLGINE—Steam locomotive

BULLNOSE—Front drawbar of a locomotive

BUMP—Obtain another man's position by exercisingseniority. When a crew is deprived of its assignment, as whena train is removed from the timetable, its members select thejobs they wish from those held by others with less whiskers

BUMPER—Post at end of spur track, placed thereto stop rolling stock from running onto the ground

BUNCH OF THIEVES—Wrecking crew

BUST UP A CUT—To separate the cars in a train,removing some that have reached their destination, assigning othersto through trains, etc.

BUTTERFLY—Note thrown (or handed) from train byan official to a section foreman or other employee, so calledbecause it may flutter along the track, although it is usuallyweighted down when thrown from a car


CABOOSE BOUNCE, CABOOSE HOP—Early term for a traincomposed only of an engine and caboose


CALLER—One whose duty is to summon train or enginecrews or announce trains

CALLIOPE—Steam locomotive

CAMEL or CAMELBACK—Engine with control cab builtover middle of boiler, suggesting camel's hump. Also called MotherHubbard type

CAN—Tank car

CANNED—Taken out of service

CAPTAIN—Conductor; often called skipper. Thistitle dates from Civil War days when some railroads were run bythe Army and the conductor was in many cases a captain

CAR-CATCHER—Rear brakeman

CAR KNOCKER—Car inspector or car repairer-fromthe early custom of tapping the wheels to detect flaws. Also calledcar whacker; and car toad (because he squats whileinspecting), car tink, and car tonk

CAR-SEAL HAWK—Railroad policeman

CARD—Credentials showing Brotherhood or Union membership

CARHOUSE CAR—Covered cement car

CARRY A WHITE FEATHER—Show a plume of steam overthe safety valves of the engine

CARRYING GREEN—Train whose engine displays greenflags by day or green lights by night to indicate that a secondsection is following closely. Carrying white in the samemanner signifies an extra train

CARRYING THE BANNER—Flagging. Also wearing ostentatiousBrotherhood emblems, frequently done by 'bos in working the mainstem for a handout

CARRYING THE MAIL—Bringing train orders

CASEY JONES—Any locomotive engineer, especiallya fast one. Name derived from John Luther (Casey) Jones

CATWALK—Plank walk on top of boxcars; sometimescalled the deck from which comes the word deckorate

CHAIN GANG—Crew assigned to pool service, workingfirst in, first out

CHAMBERMAID—Machinist in roundhouse

CHARIOT—Caboose, or general manager's car

CHASING THE RED—Flagman going back with red flagor light to protect his train

CHECKER—A company spy, particularly one checkingup on loss of materials or of the receipts of an agent or conductor

CHERRY PICKER—Switchman, so called because of redlights on switch stands. Also any railroad man who is always figuringon the best jobs and sidestepping undesirable ones (based on theold allusion, "Life is a bowl of cherries")

CHEW CINDERS—Engines do this when reversed whilerunning and while working quite a bit of steam

CHIP PIES—Narrow-gauge cars

CINDER CRUNCHER—Switchman or flagman. Cinderskipper is yard clerk

CINDER DICK—Railroad policeman or detective

CINDER SNAPPER—Passenger who rides open platformson observation car


CLAW—Clinker hook used by fireman

CLEARANCE CARD—Authority to use main line

CLOCK—Steam gauge. (See wiping the clock; don'tconfuse with Dutch clock). Also fare register

CLOWN—Switchman or yard brakeman. Clown wagon iscaboose

CLUB—Same as brake club. Club winder isswitchman or brakeman. A brakeman's club was usually his onlyweapon of defense against hoboes

COAL HEAVER—Fireman, sometimes called stoker

COCK-LOFT—Cupola of a caboose. Also called crow'snest

COFFEE—Respite period enjoyed by baggagemen whileawaiting arrival of the next train. Also called spot

COFFEEPOT—Little, old, steam locomotive

COLLAR AND ELBOW JOINT—Boardinghouse. (There isn'ttoo much room at dinner table)

COLOR-BLIND—Employee who can't distinguish betweenhis own money and the company's

COMPANY BIBLE—Book of rules

COMPANY JEWELRY—Trainman's hat, badge, and switchkeys

COMPANY NOTCH or WALL STREET NOTCH—Forward cornerof the reverse gear quadrant. It is called the company notchbecause an engine exerts full pulling power when worked witha full stroke


CONSIST—Contents or equipment of a train. Reportform sent ahead so yardmaster can make plans for switching thetrain. The report is usually dropped off to an operator; thisis dropping the consist

COOL A SPINDLE—Cool a hotbox by replacing the brassor putting water on the bearing


CORNERED—When a car, not in the clear on a siding,is struck by a train or engine

CORNFIELD MEET—Head-on collision or one that isnarrowly averted

COULDN'T PULL A SETTING HEN OFF HER NEST—Derogatorydescription of old-fashioned locomotive

COUNTING THE TIES—Reducing speed

COW CAGE—Stock car. Also called cow crate

COWCATCHER—Pilot. The old term was discarded byrailroad officials, probably because it was a butt for jokesters.You've often heard about the passenger on a slow local train complainingto the conductor, "I don't understand why you have the cowcatcheron the front of the engine. This train can never overtakea cow. But if you'd attach it to the rear of the train it mightat least discourage cows from climbing into the last car and annoyingthe passengers"

CRADLE—Gondola or other open-top car


CRIPPLE—See bad order

(Video) Railway Vocabulary | Railway Related Words | Easy English Learning Process

CROAKER—Company doctor

CROWNING HIM—Coupling a caboose on a freight trainwhen it is made up

CRUMB BOSS—Man in charge of camp cars

CRUMMY—Caboose. Also called crum box, crib andmany other names. Innumerable poems have been written about "thelittle red caboose behind the train"

CUPOLA—Observation tower on caboose

CUSHIONS—Passenger cars. Cushion rider maybe either a passenger or member of passenger-train crew. (Seevarnished cars)

CUT—Several cars attached to an engine or coupledtogether by themselves. Also that part of the right-of-way whichis excavated out of a hill or mountain instead of running up overit or being tunneled through it

CUT THE BOARD—Lay off the most recently hired menon the extra list. (See board)

DANCING ON THE CARPET—Called to an official's officefor investigation or discipline

DEADBEAT— is defined by Webster as "one whopersistently fails to pay his debts or way." The word wascoined in the late 1800's when railroad workers noticed that loadedfreight cars made a different beat over the track-joints thancars that weren't carrying a load. The empty cars made a "deadbeat" which meant they weren't paying their way. By the beginningof the 20th century "deadbeat" came to encompassed peoplewho failed to carry their share of the load also.

DEAD IRON and LIVE IRON—The two sets of trackson a scale

DEAD MAN'S HOLE—Method of righting an overturnedengine or car. A six-foot hole is dug about forty feet from theengine or car, long enough to hold a large solid-oak plank. Atrench is then dug up to the engine and heavy ropes laid in it,with a four-sheave block, or pulley, at the lower end of the engineand a three-sheave block at the top of the boiler. Chains arefastened to the underside of the engine and hooked to the three-sheaveblock. The free end of the rope is then hooked to the drawbarof a road engine. The hole is filled-packed hard to hold the "deadman" down against the coming pull. When the engine movesup the track she pulls ropes over the top of the boiler of theoverturned locomotive on the chains that are fastened to the lowerpart, rolling the engine over sidewise and onto her wheels again

DEAD MAN'S THROTTLE—Throttle that requires pressureof operator's hand or foot to prevent power shut-off and applicationof brakes. An engine so equipped would stop instantly if the operatorfell dead. Also called dead man's button

DEADHEAD—Employee riding on a pass; any nonpayingpassenger. Also fireman's derisive term for head brakeman whorides engine cab. Also a locomotive being hauled "dead"on a train

DECK—Front part of engine cab. Also catwalkon roofs of boxcars

DECKORATE—Get out on top of freight cars to sethand brakes or receive or transmit signals. Derived from deck

DEHORNED—Demoted or discharged

DETAINER or DELAYER—Train dispatcher

DIAMOND—Railroad crossover. Black diamonds iscoal



DIE GAME—Stall on a hill

DING-DONG—Gas or gas-electric coach, usually usedon small roads or branch lines not important enough to supportregular trains; name derived from sound of its bell. Sometimescalled doodlebug

DINGER—Conductor (man who rings the bell)

DINKY—Switch engine without tender, used aroundback shop and roundhouse, or any small locomotive. Alsoa four-wheeltrolleycar

DIPLOMA—Clearance or service letter; fake serviceletter

DIRTY CAR—Storage car containing a varied assortmentof mail and parcels that demand extra work in separating

DISHWASHERS—Engine wipers at roundhouse

DITCH—That part of the right-of-way that is lowerthan the roadbed. A derailed train is "in the ditch"

DOGCATCHERS—Crew sent out to relieve another thathas been outlawed-that is, overtaken on the road by thesixteen-hour law, which is variously known as dog law,hog law, and pure-food law

DOGHOUSE—Caboose or its cupola

DONEGAN—Old car, with wheels removed, used as residenceor office. Originated about 1900, when a Jersey Central carpenterand two foremen, all named Donegan, occupied three shacks in thesame vicinity. People were directed to the Donegans so often thatthe shacks themselves came to be known by that name. The namestuck, even after the men had passed on and the shacks had beenreplaced by converted old cars

DONKEY—Derisive term for section man; small auxiliaryengine

DOODLEBUG—Rail motorcar used by section men, linemen,etc. Also called ding dong

DOPE—Order, official instructions, explanation.Also a composition for cooling hot journals

DOPE IT—Use compound in the water to keep it fromboiling when working an engine hard

DOPE MONKEY—Car inspector

DOUBLE—In going up a hill, to cut the train inhalf and take each section up separately

DOUBLE-HEADER—Train hauled by two engines

DOUSE THE GLIM—Extinguish a lantern, especiallyby a sudden upward movement

DRAG—Heavy train of "dead" freight; anyslow freight train, as contrasted with manifest or hotshot

DRAWBAR FLAGGING—Flagman leaning against the drawbaron the caboose, or standing near the caboose, to protect the rearend of his train, instead of going back "a sufficient distance"as rules require. Such a man is taking a chance, due maybe tolaziness, exhaustion, severe cold, fear of the train leaving withouthim, etc.

DRIFTING THROTTLE—Running with steam throttle crackedopen to keep air and dust from being sucked into steam cylinders

DRILL CREW—Yard crew. (See yard)

DRINK—Water for locomotive

DRONE CAGE—Private car

DROP—Switching movement in which cars are cut offfrom an engine and allowed to coast to their places. (See hump)


DROP 'ER DOWN—Pull reverse lever forward. Drop'er in the corner means to make fast time, figuratively droppingthe Johnson bar in one corner of the cab

DROPPER—Switchman riding a car on a hump

DROWNING IT OUT—Cooling an overheated journal

DRUMMER—Yard conductor

DRUNKARD—Late Saturday-night passenger train

DUCATS—Passenger conductor's hat checks

DUDE—Passenger conductor

DUDE WRANGLER—Passenger brakeman

DUMMY—Employees' train. Dummy locomotive isa switcher type having the boiler and running gear entirely housed,used occasionally for service in public streets

DUST-RAISER—Fireman (shoveling coal into firebox)

DUSTING HER OUT—Putting sand through the firedoorof an oil burner while working the engine hard; this cuts outthe soot in the flues and makes the locomotive steam. Also knownas giving the old girl a dose of salts

DUTCH CLOCK—Speed recorder

DUTCH DROP—Rarely used method of bringing a caronto the main line from a spur. The engine heads into the spur,couples head-on to the car, and backs out. When the car is movingfast enough the engine is cut off, speeds up to get back on themain line before the car, then moves forward ahead of the junctionbetween the main line and the spur so the car rolls out behindthe engine

DYNAMITER—Car on which defective mechanism sendsthe brakes into full emergency when only a service applicationis made by the engineer. Also, a quick-action triple valve

EAGLE-EYE—Locomotive engineer

EASY SIGN—Signal indicating the train is to moveslowly

END MAN—Rear brakeman on freight train

ELECTRIC OWL—Night operator

ELEPHANT CAR—Special car coupled behind locomotiveto accommodate head brakeman


EYE—Trackside signal

FAMILY DISTURBER—Pay car or pay train

FAN—Blower on a locomotive boiler

FIELD—Classification yard

FIELDER or FIELD MAN—Yard brakeman


FIRE BOY—Locomotive fireman

FIRST READER—Conductor's train book

FISH WAGON—Gas-electric car or other motorcar equippedwith an air horn (which sounds like a fishmonger's horn)

FISHTAIL—Semaphore blade, so called from its peculiarshape

FIST—Telegraph operator's handwriting. This script,in the days before telephones, typewriters, and teletypes, wascharacterized by its swiftness, its bold flowing curves whichconnected one word with another, and its legibility. Ops wereproud of their penmanship

FIXED MAN—Switchman in a hump yard assigned toone certain post from which he rides cars being humped

FIXED SIGNAL—Derisive term for a student brakemanstanding on a boxcar with his lamp out and a cinder in his eye

FLAG—Assumed name. Many a boomer workedunder a flag when his own name was black-listed

FLAT—Flatcar. Also called car with the top blowedoff

FLAT WHEEL—Car wheel that has flat spots on thetread. Also applied to an employee who limps

FLIMSY—Train order. (Standard practice is to issuethese on tissue paper to facilitate the making of carbon copies)

FLIP—To board a moving train. The word accuratelysuggests the motion used

FLOATER—Same as boomer

FLY LIGHT—Miss a meal. Boomers often didthat; hoboes still do

FLYING SWITCH—Switching technique in which theengine pulls away from a car or cars she has started rolling,permitting them to be switched onto a track other than that takenby the engine. The switch is thrown instantly after the enginehas passed it and just before the cars reach it. This procedure,common in bygone days, is now frowned upon by officials


FOOTBOARD—The step on the rear and front ends ofswitch or freight engines. Many casualties were caused in the"good old days" by switchmen missing these steps ondark slippery nights

FOOTBOARD YARD MASTER—Conductor who acts as yardmasterin a small yard

FOREIGN CAR—Car running over any railroad otherthan one that owns it

FOUNTAIN—That part of a locomotive where steamissues from the boiler and flows into pipes for lubrication, injection,etc.

FREEZE A HOB or A BLAZER—Cool a heated journal

FREEZER—Refrigerator car. Also reefer orriff

FROG—Implement for rerailing cars or engines. Alsoan X-shaped plate where two tracks cross

FUSEE—Red flare used for flagging purposes. Itssharp point is driven into the right-of-way and no following trainmay pass as long as it is burning, although on some roads it ispermissible to stop, extinguish the fusee, and proceedwith caution in automatic block-signal limits

GALLOPER—Locomotive, the iron horse

GALLOPING GOOSE—A shaky section car

GALVANIZER—Car inspector

GANDY DANCER—Track laborer. Name may have originatedfrom the gander-like tremulations of a man tamping ties, or fromthe old Gandy Manufacturing Company of Chicago, which made tampingbars, claw bars, picks, and shovels

GANGWAY—Space between the rear cab post of a locomotiveand her tender

GARDEN—See yard

GAS HOUSE—Yard office


GAY CAT—Tramp held in contempt by fellow vagrantsbecause he is willing to work if a job comes along

GENERAL—Yardmaster, abbreviated Y.M.

GET THE ROCKING CHAIR—Retire on a pension

GET YOUR HEAD CUT IN—Boomer slang for "wiseup"

GIRL or OLD GIRL—Affectionate term for steam engine.The locomotive, like the sailing ship, is often called "she"instead of "it"


GLASS CARS—Passenger cars

GLIM—Switchman's or trainman's lantern

GLIMMER—Locomotive headlight

GLORY—String of empty cars. Also death, especiallyby accident

GLORY HUNTER—Reckless, fast-running engineer

GLORY ROAD—Sentimental term for railroad

GOAT—Yard engine. (See yard)

GOAT FEEDER—Yard fireman

GO HIGH—Same as deckorate

G.M. —General manager. G.Y.M. is general yardmaster

GODS OF IRON—Huge, powerful locomotives

GON—Gondola, or steel-sided, flat-bottom coal car


GOO-GOO EYE—Locomotive with two firedoors

GOOSE—To make an emergency stop

GOOSE HER—Reverse a locomotive that is under headway

GO-TO-HELL SIGNAL—Signal given with violent motionof hand or lantern

GRAB IRON—Steel bar attached to cars and enginesas a hand bold

GRABBER—Conductor of a passenger train. (He grabstickets)

GRAMOPHONE—Obsolete term for telephone

GRASS WAGON—Tourist car. (Tourists like scenery)

GRASSHOPPER—Old type of locomotive with verticalboiler and cylinders

GRAVE-DIGGER—Section man

GRAVEYARD—Siding occupied by obsolete and disusedengines and cars; scrap pile

GRAVEYARD WATCH—12.01 A.M. to 8 A.M., or any midnightshift, so called because that shift includes the quietest hoursof the day



GREASE THE PIG—Oil the engine. (See hog)

GREASY SPOON—Railroad eating house. Bill of fareis colloquially known as switch list, fork is hook, butteris grease pot, hotcakes are blind gaskets, and beansare torpedoes

GREENBACKS—Frogs for rerailing engines or cars

GREENBALL FREIGHT—Fruit or vegetables

GREEN EYE—Clear signal. (At the time Cy Warmanwrote his celebrated poem, "I Hope the Lights Are White,"the clear signal was white and green meant caution. This was changedyears ago because of the fact that when a red or green signallens broke or fell out it exposed a white, thus giving a clearboard to engineers even though the signal itself was set tostop or go slow)

GREETINGS FROM THE DS—Train orders from the dispatcher

GRIEVER—Spokesman on grievance committee; Brotherhoodor Union representative at an official investigation

GRIND—Shay-geared engine

GROUNDHOG—Brakeman, yardmaster, or switch engine

GRUNT—Locomotive engineer. Traveling gruntis road foreman of engines (hogs). Grunt may also be alineman's ground helper; grunting is working as a lineman'shelper

GUN—Torpedo, part of trainman's equipment; it isplaced on the track as a signal to the engineer. Also the injectoron the locomotive that forces water from tank to boiler. To gunmeans to control air-brake system from rear of train

GUNBOAT—Large steel car

GUT—Air hose. Guts is drawbar


(Video) Railway Related Word Meaning | Railway Vocabulary | Daily English Speaking Word Meaning

HALF—Period of two weeks

HAM—Poor telegrapher or student

HAND BOMBER or HAND GRENADE—Engine without automaticstoker, which is hand-fired

HAND-ON—Train order or company mail caught withthe hoop or without stopping

HANGING UP THE CLOCK—Boomer term that meant hockingyour railroad watch

HARNESS—Passenger trainman's uniform

HASH HOUSE—Railroad restaurant or lunch stand

HAT—Ineffectual railroad man. (All he uses hishead for is a hat rack)

HAY—Sleep on the job; any kind of sleep. Caboosewas sometimes called hay wagon

HAY BURNER—Hand oil lantern, inspection torch.Also a horse used in railroad or streetcar service

HEAD-END REVENUE—Money which railroads receivefor hauling mail, express, baggage, newspapers, and milk in cans,usually transported in cars nearest the locomotive, these commoditiesor shipments being known as head-end traffic

HEAD IN—Take a sidetrack when meeting an opposingtrain

HEAD MAN—Front brakeman on a freight train whorides the engine cab. Also called head pin


HEEL—Cars on end of tracks with brakes applied

HERDER—Man who couples engines and takes them offupon arrival and departure of trains

HIGHBALL—Signal made by waving hand or lamp ina high, wide semicircle, meaning "Come ahead" or "Leavetown" or "Pick up full speed." Verb highballor phrase 'ball the jack means to make a fast run.Word highball originated from old-time ball signal on post,raised aloft by pulley when track was clear. A very few of theseare still in service, in New England and elsewhere

HIGHBALL ARTIST—A locomotive engineer known forfast running

HIGH-DADDY—Flying switch

HIGH IRON—Main line or high-speed track (whichis laid with heavier rail than that used on unimportant branchesor spurs)

HIGH LINER—Main-line fast passenger train

HIGH-WHEELER—Passenger engine or fast passengertrain. Also highball artist

HIKER—A lineman who "hikes sticks" insteadof prosaically climbing poles

HIT 'ER—Work an engine harder. (Probably a variationof "hit the ball," which means "Get busy-no morefooling!")

HIT THE GRIT or GRAVEL—Fall off a car or locomotiveor get kicked off

HOBO—Tramp. Term is said to have originated onBurlington Route as a corruption of "Hello, boy!" whichconstruction workers used in greeting one another

HOG—Any large locomotive, usually freight. An engineermay be called a hogger, hoghead, hogmaster, hoggineer, hogjockey, hog eye, grunt, pig-mauler, etc. Some few engineersobject to such designations as disrespectful, which they rarelyare. For meaning of hog law see dogcatchers. Hogheadis said to have originated on the Denver & Rio Grandein 1887, being used to label a brakeman's caricature of an engineer

HOLDING HER AGAINST THE BRASS—Running electriccar at full speed

HOLE—Passing track where one train pulls in tomeet another

HOME GUARD—Employee who stays with one railroad,as contrasted with boomer. A homesteader is a boomerwho gets married and settles down

HOOK—Wrecking crane or auxiliary

HOOK 'ER UP AND PULL HER TAIL—To set the reverselever up on the quadrant and pull the throttle well out for highspeed

HOPPER—Steel-sided car with a bottom thatopens to allow unloading of coal, gravel, etc.


HORSE 'ER OVER—Reverse the engine. This is doneby compressed air on modern locomotives, but in early days, manuallyoperated reversing equipment required considerable jockeying toreverse an engine while in motion

HOSE COUPLER—Brakeman who handles trains by himselfwith the road engine around a big passenger terminal

HOSTLER—Any employee (usually a fireman) who servicesengines, especially at division points and terminals. Also calledashpit engineer

HOT—Having plenty of steam pressure (applied tolocomotives)

HOT-FOOTER—Engineer or conductor in switching servicewho is always in a hurry

HOT JEWEL—Same as hotbox

HOT-WATER BOTTLE—Elesco feed water heater

HOT WORKER—Boilermaker who repairs leaks in thefirebox or flue sheet while there is pressure in the boiler

HOTBOX—Overheated journal or bearing. Also calledhub. This was a frequent cause of delay in the old daysbut is virtually nonexistent on trains that are completely equippedwith ball-bearings. Trainmen are sometimes called hotbox detectors

HOTSHOT—Fast train; frequently a freight made upof merchandise and perishables. Often called a manifest orredball run

HOW MANY EMS HAVE YOU GOT? —How many thousand poundsof tonnage is your engine pulling? (M stands for 1,000)

HUMP—Artificial knoll at end of classificationyard over which cars are pushed so that they can roll on theirown momentum to separate tracks. (See drop.) Also the summitof a hill division or the top of a prominent grade. Boomersgenerally referred to the Continental Divide as the Hump

HUMPBACK JOB—Local freight run. (Conductor spendsmuch time in caboose bending over his wheel reports)

HUT—Brakeman's shelter just back of the coal bunkerson the tender tank of engines operating through Moffat Tunnel.May also refer to caboose, locomotive cab, switchman's shanty,or crossing watchman's shelter

IDLER—An unloaded flatcar placed before or aftera car from which oversize machinery, pipe, or other material projects

IN—A trainman who is at the home terminal and offduty is in

IN THE CLEAR—A train is in the clear whenit has passed over a switch and frog so far that another traincan pass without damage

IN THE COLOR—Train standing in the signal blockwaiting for a clear board

IN THE DITCH—Wrecked or derailed

IN THE HOLE—On a siding. (See hole.) Alsoin the lower berth of a Pullman, as contrasted with on thetot, in the upper berth

INDIAN VALLEY LINE—An imaginary railroad "atthe end of the rainbow," on which you could always find agood job and ideal working conditions. (Does not refer to theformer twenty-one-mile railroad of that name between Paxton andEngels, Calif.) Boomers resigning or being fired wouldsay they were going to the Indian Valley. The term is sometimesused to mean death or the railroader's Heaven. (See Big RockCandy Mountains)

IND ICATORS—Illuminated signs on the engine andcaboose that display the number of the train

IRON or RAIL—Track. Single iron means singletrack

Academic slang for locomotive

IRON SKULL—Boilermaker. (Jim Jeffries, one-timechampion prize fighter, worked as an iron skull for years)

JACK—Locomotive. (A term often confused with thelifting device, hence seldom used)

JACKPOT—Miscellaneous assortment of mail and parcelspiled in the aisle of a baggage car and requiring removal beforethe mail in the stalls can be "worked"

JAILHOUSE SPUDS—Waffled potatoes

JAM BUSTER—Assistant yardmaster

JAM NUTS—Doughnuts

JANNEY—To couple; derived from the Janney automaticcoupler

JAWBONE SHACK—Switch shanty

JAY ROD—Clinker hook

JERK A DRINK—Take water from track pan withoutstopping train. From this came the word jerkwater, whichusually means a locality serving only to supply water to the enginesof passing trains; a Place other than a regular stop, hence ofminor importance as jerkwater town, jerkwater college,etc.

JERK-BY—See flying switch

JERK SOUP—Same as jerk a drink

JERRY—Section worker; sometimes applied to otherlaborers

JEWEL—Journal brass

JIGGER—Full tonnage of "dead" freight

JIMMIES—Four-wheel coal or ore cars

JITNEY—Four-wheel electric truck that carries baggagearound inside a terminal. Also unregulated private automobilethat carried passengers on public highways for 5-cent fare indirect competition with trolley cars

JOHNSON BAR—Reverse lever on a locomotive. (Seedrop 'er down)

JOIN THE BIRDS—Jump from moving engine or car,usually when a wreck is imminent

JOINT—A length of rail, generally 33 or 39 feet.Riding to a joint is bringing cars together so that theycouple

JOKER—In dependent or locomotive brake, part ofE-T (engine-train) equipment

JUGGLER—Member of way-freight crew who loads andunloads LCL freight at station stops

JUGGLING THE CIRCLE—Missing a train-order hoop

JUICE—Electricity. Juice fan is one whomakes a hobby out of electric railways (juice lines)

JUNK PILE—Old worn-out locomotive that is stillin service.

KANGAROO COURT—An official hearing or investigation,so named because it may be held wherever most convenient, anywherealong the road, jumping around like a kangaroo, to act on main-linemixups or other urgent problems

KEELEY—Water can for hot journals or bearings.Nickname derived from "Keeley cure" for liquor habit

KETTLE—Any small locomotive, especially an old,leaky one. Also called teakettle and coffeepot

KEY—Telegraph instrument

KICK—See drop

KICKER—Triple valve in defective order, which throwsair brakes into emergency when only a service application is intended,or sometimes by a bump of the train

KING—Freight conductor or yardmaster. King snipeis foreman of track gang. King pin is conductor

KITCHEN—Caboose; engine cab. Firebox is kitchenstove


KNOCKOUT—Same as bump

KNOWLEDGE BOX—Yardmaster's office; president ofthe road

LADDER—Main track of yard from which individualtracks lead off. Also called a lead. (See yard)

LAPLANDER—Passenger jostled into someone else'slap in crowded car


LAY-BY—Passing track, sidetrack. Layed outis delayed

LAY OVER—Time spent waiting for connection withother train

LCL—Less than carload lots of freight

LETTERS—Service letters given to men who resignor are discharged. Applicants for railroad jobs are usually askedto present letters proving previous employment. In theold days, when these were too unfavorable, many boomers used fakedletters or would work under a flag on somebody else'scertificates

LEVER JERKER—Interlocker lever man

LIBRARY—Cupola of caboose. Trainman occupying itwas sometimes known as a librarian


LIGHT ENGINE—An engine moving outside the yardwithout cars attached

LIGHTNING SLINGER—Telegraph operator

LINER—Passenger train

LINK AND PIN—Old-time type of coupler; used todenote oldfashioned methods of railroading

LIZARD SCORCHER—Dining-car chef

LOADS—Loaded freight cars

LOCAL LOAD—A truckload of mail in sacks and parcelssent from the storage car direct to a car on a local train, containingmail for towns along the route of the train


LUNAR WHITE—The color of white used on all switchesexcept on main line

LUNCH HOOKS—Your two hands

LUNG—Drawbar or air hose

LUNG DOCTOR—Locomotive engineer who pulls out drawbars.Also lung specialist

MADHOUSE—Engine foreman; scene of unusual activityor confusion MAIN IRON-Main track. Also called main stem MAINPIN-An official MAKE A JOINT-Couple cars MANIFEST-Same as hotshotMARKERS-Signals on rear of train, flags by day and lamps bynight MASTER MANIAC-Master mechanic, often abbreviated M.M. Oilis called master mechanic's blood

MASTER MIND—An official

MATCHING DIALS—Comparing time

MAUL—Work an 'engine with full stroke and fullthrottle

MEAT RUN—Fast run of perishable freight, hotshot

MEET ORDER—Train order specifying a definite locationwhere two or more trains will meet on a single track, one on asiding, the others on the high iron


MIDDLE MAN, MIDDLE SWING—Second brakeman on freighttrain

MIKE—Mikado-type engine (2-8-2), so named becausefirst of this type were built for Imperial Railways of Japan.(Because of the war with Japan, some railroads rechristened thistype MacArthur)

MILEAGE HOG—Engineer or conductor, paid on mileagebasis, who uses his seniority to the limit in getting good runs,which younger men resent

MILK TRUCK—Large hand truck with high cast-ironwheels used to transfer milk cans around in a terminal

MILL—Steam locomotive, or typewriter

MIXED LOAD—Truckload of mail sacks and parcelsfor many destinations sent from storage car to the yard(an outside platform) for further separation before forwarding

MONKEY—When a crew has been on duty sixteen hoursand is caught out on the road, the monkey gets them andthey are required by ICC rules to tie -up until a new crewcomes. (See dogcatchers)

MONKEY MONEY—The pass of a passenger who is ridingfree

MONKEY MOTION—Walschaert or Baker valve gear onlocomotive. Monkey house is caboose. Monkey suit ispassenger trainman's uniform or any other smart-looking uniform.Monkey tail is back-up hose

MOONLIGHT MECHANIC—Night roundhouse foreman

MOPPING OFF—Refers to escaping steam


MOTOR—Electric locomotive


MOVING DIRT—Fireman shoveling coal into firebox

MOVING SPIRIT—Train dispatcher, more often calledDS

MTYS—Empty cars

MUCKERS—Excavators in construction work

MUD CHICKENS—Surveyor. Mudhop is yard clerk,mudshop his office

MUD SUCKER—A nonlifting injector

MUDHEN—A saturated locomotive, one that is notsuperheated

MULE SKINNER—Driver of mule cart


MUTT AND JEFF PUMP—Denver & Rio Grande locomotivewith big air pump on right and small one on left

MUZZLE LOADER—Hand-fired locomotive

NEWS BUTCHER—Peddler who sells magazines, candy,fruit, 'etc., in trains. Usually employed nowadays by Union NewsCo. Thomas A. Edison, the inventor, was a news butcher inhis youth and became deaf when a conductor boxed his ears foraccidentally starting a fire while experimenting in a baggagecar near Smith Creek, Mich.

NICKEL GRABBER—Streetcar conductor

NIGGERHEAD—Turret at top of locomotive boiler,over crown sheet, from which saturated steam is taken for operationof pumps, stoker, injectors, and headlight turbine

19 ORDER—Train order that does not have to be signedfor. Operator can hand it on a hoop or delivery fork as the trainslows down. (See 31 order)

99—Failure to protect your train or to flag it

(Video) 100 English words about Trains - English Vocabulary Practice with Pictures and Videos #Phrasecamp

NO-BILL—Nonunion or nonbrotherhood railroad worker.Also called nonair

NOSE ON—Couple on with head end of engine

NOSEBAG—Lunch carried to work. Put on the nosebagmeans to eat a meal

NUMBER DUMMY—Yard clerk or car clerk; also callednumber grabber


OILCAN—Tank car

OLD GIRL—Affectionate term for steam engine

OLD HAND—Experienced railroader. Also called oldhead

* OLD HEAD—Lots of Seniority

OLD MAN—Superintendent or general manager

OLE HOSS—Salvage warehouse, or freight on hand

ON THE ADVERTISED—According to schedule; righton time. Often called on the card (timecard) and sometimeson the cat hop

ON THE CARPET—Commoner version of dancing onthe carpet

ON THE GROUND—On the ties, as a derailed train

ON THE SPOT—See spot

OP—Telegraph operator

OPEN-AIR NAVIGATOR—Hobo riding freight on top

OPEN THE GATE—Switch a train onto or off a siding.Close the gate means to close the switch after the trainhas passed it

O.R.C. —Conductor. (See big O)


OS—On (train) sheet; to report a train by to dispatcher

OUT—When a trainman is at a point other than hishome terminal, either on or off duty, he is out

OUTLAWED—See dogcatchers

OVER THE KNOLL—Getting up the hill

OVERLAP—Where two block signals control the samestretch of track OWL-Streetcar or train that runs late at night;almost anything having to do with night

PADDLE—Semaphore signal

PADDLE WHEEL—Narrow-gauge locomotive with drivingboxes outside of the wheels

PAIR OF PLIERS—Conductor's punch


PAPER CAR—Baggage car for the transportation ofnewspapers exclusively

PAPERWEIGHT—Railroad clerk, office worker. Alsocalled pencil pusher

PARLOR—Caboose. Parlor man or parlormaid is hind brakeman or flagman on freight train

PASSING THE CROAKER—Being examined by company doctor

PEAKED END—Head end of train. Also pointed orsharp end

PEANUT ROASTER—Any small steam engine

PECK—Twenty minutes allowed for lunch

PEDDLE—To set out freight cars

PEDDLER—Local way-freight train

PELICAN POND—Place outside a roundhouse (down South)where there is much ooze and slime, caused by the fact that manylocomotives are run thirty days without the boilers being washedout. The boilers are kept clean by blowing them out with blowoffcocks


PERSUADER—Blower (for locomotive fire)

PETTICOAT—Portion of the exhaust stack that guidesexhausted steam into the stack proper. When this becomes displaced,the spent steam goes back through the flues, cutting off the draftfrom the fire

PIE-CARD—Meal ticket. Also called grazing ticket

PIG—Locomotive. Pig-mauler is locomotiveengineer; pigpen locomotive roundhouse. (See hog)


PIN AHEAD AND PICK UP TWO BEHIND ONE—Cut off theengine, pick up three cars from siding, put two on the train,and set the first one back on the siding

PIN FOR HOME—Go home for the day

PINHEAD—Brakeman. Pin-lifter is yard brakeman.Pinner is a switchman that follows. Pin-puller isa switchman that cuts off cars from a train. The old-style link-and-pincoupler (now rarely used) was called Lincoln pin

PINK—Caution card or rush telegram

PLANT—Interlocking system

PLUG—"One-horse" passenger train. Alsothrottle of old-style locomotive; hence engineers were known asplug-pullers. Plugging her means using the reverse leveras a brake instead of the air. Local passenger trains are sometimesreferred to as Plug runs

PLUSH RUN—Passenger train

POCATELLO YARDMASTER—Derisive term for boomers,all of whom presumably claimed to have held, at some time,the tough job of night yardmaster at Pocatello, Idaho

POLE—To run light. (See light)

POLE PIN—Superintendent of telegraph

POP—To let safety valve on boiler release, causingwaste of steam, making a loud noise, and, when engine is workinghard, raising water in boiler, thereby causing locomotive to workwater

POP CAR—Gasoline car or speeder, used bysection men, linemen, etc.; so called because of the put-put noiseof its motor exhaust


POSITIVE BLOCK—Locomotive engineer

POSSUM BELLY—Toolbox under a caboose or under somewrecking cars

POUND HER—Work a locomotive to its full capacity

POUNDING THEIR EARS—Sleeping, making hay

PUD—Pick up and delivery service

PULLER—Switch engine hauling cars from one yardto another at the same terminal. Also the operator of an electrictruck that transfers baggage and mail around a terminal

PULL FREIGHT—To leave or to give up a job

PULL THE AIR—Set brakes by opening conductor'svalve or angle cock

PULL THE CALF'S TAIL—Yank the whistle cord

PULL THE PIN—Uncouple a car by pulling up the couplingpin. A boomer expression meaning to resign or quit a job

PURE-FOOD LAW—See dogcatchers

PUSHER—Extra engine on rear of train, usually placedthere to assist in climbing a grade

PUSSYFOOTER—Railroad policeman

PUT 'ER ON—Make a reduction in air in the train'sbraking system. Put 'er all on means apply emergency brake,more commonly described as big-holing her


QUILL—Whistle (term used especially in the South)

QUILLING—Personalized technique of blowing a locomotivewhistle, applicable only in the days before the whistles becamestandardized

RABBIT—A derail; an arrangement for preventingserious wrecks by sidetracking runaway trains, cars, or locomotiveson a downgrade. Unlike regular sidetracks, the derail ends relativelyabruptly on flat trackless land instead of curving back onto themain line. The term rabbit is applied to this device becauseof the timidity involved

RACE TRACK—Straight and flat stretch of track uponwhich an engineer can safely make unusually high speed. Also parallelstretches of track of two competing railroads upon which rivaltrains race one another (contrary to company rules but much tothe delight of enginemen, trainmen, and passengers, and perhapsto the secret delight of some officials)


RAIL—Any railroad employee

RAILFAN—Anyone who makes a hobby of railroading

RAP THE STACK—Give your locomotive a wide-openthrottle, make more speed. Rapper is an engineer who workshis engine too hard

RATTLE HER HOCKS—Get speed out of an engine

Freight train

RAWHIDER—Official, or any employee, who is especiallyhard on men or equipment, or both, with which he works. A rawhider,or slave driver, delights in causing someone to do more thanhis share of work. Running too fast when picking up a man on thefootboard, or making a quick stop just short of him when he isexpecting to step on, so that he has to walk back, are two waysit is done; but there are almost as many ways of rawhidingas there are different situations

REAL ESTATE—Poor coal mixed with dirt or slag.When mixed with sand it is called seashore

RED BOARD—Stop signal

REDBALL, BALL OF FIRE—Fast freight train,

REDCAP—Station porter. Term coined about 1900 byGeorge H. Daniels, New York Central publicist

RED EYE—Same as red board; also liquor

RED ONION—Eating house or sleeping quarters forrailroad men

REEFER or RIFF—Refrigerator car

REPTILE—See snake

RETAINER—Small valve located near brake wheel fordrawing off and holding air on cars. (Retainers often figureprominently in true tales and fiction stories about runaway carson trains)

RIDIN' 'EM HIGH—Traveling on tops of boxcars

RIDIN' THE RODS—An old-time hobo practice, nowvirtually obsolete. The hobo would place a board across trussrods under a car and ride on it. This was very dangerous evenin pleasant weather, and the possibility was ever present thatyou might doze, get careless, become too cramped, or lose yournerve-and roll under the wheels

RIDING THE POINT—Riding a locomotive, pointreferring to shape of pilot

RIGHT-HAND SIDE—Engineer's side of cab (on nearlyall North American roads). Left-hand side is fireman's side. Whena fireman is promoted he is set up to the right-hand side


RIPRAP—Loose pieces of heavy stone or masonry usedin some places to protect roadbeds from water erosion

RIP-TRACK—Minor repair track or car-repair department.RIP means repair

RIVET BUSTER—Boilermaker

ROAD HOG—Any large motor vehicle on a highway,especially intercity trailer trucks and busses that cut into railroadfreight and passenger revenue

ROOFED—Caught in close clearance

ROOF GARDEN—Mallet-type locomotive or any helperengine on a mountain job. Sometimes called sacred ox

ROUGHNECK—Freight brakeman

RUBBERNECK CAR—Observation car

RULE G—"The use of intoxicants or narcoticsis prohibited"—one of twelve general rules in standardcode adopted by Association of American Railroads, based uponprevious regulations made by individual companies. Countless thousandsof railroad men, especially boomers, have been dischargedfor violation of Rule G; not because of railroads' objectionto liquor itself but because a man under the influence of liquoris not to be trusted in a job involving human lives and property

RUN—The train to which a man is assigned is hisrun

RUN-AROUND—If it is a man's turn to work and heis not called, he may claim pay for the work he missed. He hasbeen given the run-around

RUN-IN—A collision; an argument or fight

RUN LIGHT—For an engine to run on the tracks withoutany cars

RUNNER—Locomotive engineer

RUNT—Dwarf signal


RUST PILE—Old locomotive

RUSTLING THE BUMS—Searching a freight train forhobos. In bygone days it was common practice for trainmen to collectmoney from freight-riding 'bos, often at the rate of a dollara division

SADDLE—First stop of freight car, under the lowestgrab iron

SANDHOG—Laborer who works in a caisson tunnelingunder a river, boring either a railroad tunnel, subway, or highwaytunnel

SAP—Same as brake club; also called thestaff of ignorance. To set hand brakes is to sap up somebinders

SAWBONES—Company doctor

SAW BY—Slow complicated operation whereby one trainpasses another on a single-track railroad when the other is ona siding too short to hold the entire train. Saw by isapplied to any move through switches or through connecting switchesthat is necessitated by one train passing another

Nonunion workman; also car not equipped with automaticair system. (See nonair)

SCIZZOR-BILL—Uncomplimentary term referring toyard or road brakemen and students in train service

SCOOP—Fireman's shovel. Also the step on frontand rear ends of switch engines

SCOOT—Shuttle train

SCRAP PILE—Worn-out locomotive that is still inservice

SEAT HOG—Passenger who monopolizes more than oneseat in a car or station waiting room while others are standing.Such pests usually spread luggage, packages, or lunch over adjacentseats

SEASHORE—Sand used in sand dome. Also applied tocoal that is mixed with sand

SECRET WORKS—Automatic air-brake application. Alsothe draft timbers and drawbar of a car, when extracted by force.If only the drawbar is pulled out, you say, "We got a lung,"but if the draft timbers comewith it, you say, "We got thewhole damn secret works"

SENIORITY GRABBER—Railroad employee who is gladwhen someone above him dies, gets killed, is fired, or resigns,so he can move up the seniority list to a better job

The sorting of mail sacks and parcels withinthe storage car before transferring to trucks

SERVICE APPLICATION—Gradual speed reduction, ascontrasted with emergency stop caused by wiping the clock

SETTING UP—Loading a baggage car with mail andparcels according to a prearranged plan to facilitate rapid unloadingat various stations along the line

SETUP—Four to six hand trucks placed in formationbeside the door of a storage car to facilitate the separationof the mail and parcels being unloaded. Each truck is loaded withmatter to be transferred to other trains or to the R.P.O. (RailwayPost Office) terminal office

SHACK—Brakeman, occupant of caboose. Shacksmaster is a conductor SHAKE 'EM UP-Switching

SHAKING THE TRAIN—Putting on air brakes in emergency


SHINER—Brakeman's or switchman's lantern

SHINING TIME—Starting time (probably from old Negrospiritual "Rise and Shine")

SHOO-FLY—Temporary track, usually built arounda flooded area, a wreck, or other obstacle; sometimes built merelyto facilitate a rerailing

SHORT FLAGGING—Flagman not far enough from histrain to protect it. (See drawbar flagging)

SHORT LOADS—Cars consigned to points between divisionpoints and set out on sidings at their destinations. Also calledshorts

SHORT-TIME CREW—Crew working overtime but not yetaffected by the sixteen-hour law. (See dogcatchers)

SHUFFLE THE DECK—Switch cars onto house tracksat every station you pass on your run


SIDE-DOOR PULLMAN—Boxcar used by hobos in stealingrides

SKATE—Shoe placed on rail in hump yard to stopcars with defective brakes

SKIN YOUR EYE—Engineer's warning to man on leftside of cab when approaching curve


SKYROCKETS—Red-hot cinders from smokestack

SLAVE DRIVER—Yardmaster. Also any rawhider

SLING MORSE—Work as telegraph operator

SLIPS, CAR OR TRAIN OF—Car or train of bananas


SLOW BOARD—See board

SLUG—Heavy fire in locomotive firebox

SLUGS—A shipment of magazines, catalogues, or automobile-licenseplates in small mail sacks weighing approximately 100 pounds each

SMART ALECK—Passenger conductor

SMOKE or SMOKE AGENT—Locomotive fireman. Smokeris engine or firebox. Smoking 'em or running onsmoke orders is a dangerous method, now obsolete, of runninga train from one station or siding to another without orders fromthe dispatcher. You moved cautiously, continually watching forthe smoke of any train that might be approaching you on the sametrack

SNAKE—Switchman, so named from the large serpentineletter S on membership pins of the Switchman's Union of NorthAmerica. Sometimes called reptile or serpent

SNAKEHEAD—A rail that comes loose from the tiesand pierces the floor of a car; a fairly common accidentwith the strap-iron rails of a century ago

SNAP—Push or pull with another engine. Snapperis the engine that does the pulling

SNIPE—Track laborer. His boss is a king snipe

SNOOZER—Pullman sleeping car

SNUFF DIPPERS—Coal-burning engines that burn lignite(which, on the Missouri Pacific at least, is the same color assnuff)

SOAK—Saturated locomotive

SODA JERKER—Locomotive fireman

SOFT BELLIES—Wooden frame cars


SOFT PLUG—Fusible plug in crown sheet of locomotivethat is supposed to drop when water gets below top of sheet

SOLID CAR—A completely filled storage car containingsixty feet of mail and parcels, equal to a 100 per cent load

SOLID TRACK—Track full of cars

SPAR—Pole used to shove cars into the clear whenswitching. (See stake)

SPEED GAUGER—Locomotive engineer

SPEEDER—Same as pop car


SPIKE A TORCH—Throw a fusee

SPOT—To place a car in a designated position. Alsosleep, rest, or lunch period on company time. On the spot meansan opportunity for railroad men to "chew the rag" orswap experiences. Unlike the same underworld term, on the spothas no sinister implication in railroad slang

SPOTBOARD—Guide used by section men in surfacingor ballasting track in order to obtain an even bed.

SPOTTER—Spy, company man assigned to snoop aroundand check on employees

SQUEEZERS—Car-retarding system used in some railroadyards

SQUIRRELING—Climbing a car

STACK O' RUST—A locomotive that has seen betterdays

STAKE—Pole used in dangerous and now rare methodof switching. A cut of cars was shoved by a stake attachedto the car immediately in front of the engine. This method wassupposed to be superior to the ordinary method of "battingthem out" because there was less wear and tear on drawbarsand less damage to freight; but the human casualties that resultedgave more than one yard the nickname "slaughterhouse."Another meaning of stake is the money a boomer saved ona job so he could resign and continue eating regularly while lookingfor another job

STAKE DRIVER—Any engineering-department man

STALL—Space inside a mail or baggage car containingmail or parcels consigned to a certain destination and separatedfrom other shipments by removable steel posts

STARGAZER—Brakeman who fails to see signals


STEM—Track or right-of-way

STEM-WINDER—Climax type of geared locomotive. Alsoapplied to trolley car without brakes because of the motion ofits brake handle

STICK—Staff used on certain stretches of trackto control the block. It is carried by engine crews from one stationto another. Now rare

STIFF BUGGY—Specially designed four-wheel truckused for transferring coffins and rough boxes inside a station

STINGER—Brakeman. Derived from initial B(ee) ofBrotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, or perhaps from some brakemen'shabit of arousing hobos by applying a brake club to the solesof their shoes



STIRRUP—First step of freight car, under the lowestgrab iron

STOCK PEN—Yard office

STOCKHOLDER—Any employee who is always lookingout for the company's interests

STOPPER PULLER—Member of the crew that followsthe engine in switching

STORAGE CAR—Baggage car or (in rush periods) RailwayExpress car containing a mixed shipment of parcels and mail sacksconsigned to a certain terminal for sorting and rerouting to variousdestinations via other trains

STRAW BOSS—Foreman of small gang or acting foreman

STRAW-HAT BOYS—Railroad men who work only in pleasantweather

STRAWBERRY PATCH—Rear end of caboose by night;also railroad yard studded with red lights

STRETCH 'EM OUT—Take out slack in couplings anddrawbars of train

STRING—Several cars coupled together; also a telegraphwire

STRUGGLE FOR LIFE—Existence in railroad boardinghouse

STUDE TALLOW—Student fireman

STUDENT—Learner in either telegraph, train, orengine service; an apprentice

SUCK IT BY—Make a flying switch



SWELLHEAD—Conductor or locomotive engineer

SWING A BUG—Make a good job of braking. (See bug)

SWING MAN—Same as middle man

SWITCH LIST—Bill of fare at railroad eating house


TAIL OVER HER BACK—Engine with full head of steam,with plume resembling a squirrel's tail from her safety valve

TAKE THE RUBBER OUT OF THEM—Disconnect the airhoses on a train

TAKING YOUR MINUTES—Stopping for lunch

TALLOWPOT—Locomotive fireman, so called from meltedtallow used to lubricate valves and shine the engine

TANK—Locomotive tender. Tanker is tank carused in hauling oil, water, milk, chemicals or some other liquid

TEAKETTLE—See kettle

TEASE THE BRUTE—Follow the engine

TELLTALES—Any device that serves as a warning.Specifically the row of strips hanging down a short distance infront of a tunnel or low bridge to inform trainmen who are ridingcar tops that they'd better duck

* TEMPLE OF KNOWLEGE—Term for caboose

TERMINAL—Railway Post Office unit, usually at ornear the railroad station, where mail is removed from sacks, sorted,and forwarded to its ultimate destination

TERMINAL LOAD—A shipment of mail consigned to acertain R.P.O. terminal office for sorting and reshipment in othersacks

THE BISCUITS HANG HIGH—There's a scarcity of foodhandouts in that locality

THIRTY—Telegraphic term for "that's all-nomore"

31 ORDER—Train order that must be signed for; thetrain must stop to pick it up. (See 19 order)

THOUSAND-MILER—Black satin or blue percale shirtworn by railroaders, expected to last 1,000 miles between washings.(The usual basis of a day's work was about 10 0 miles, so twoshirts could easily last from one pay day to the next)

THREE-BAGGER—Train pushed or pulled by three engines.(No doubt originated by a baseball fan)


* THROTTLE GOD—Loc.Engineer)

THROW AWAY THE DIAMONDS—Term applied to locomotivefireman missing the firedoor with a shovelful of coal and spillingsome

* THROW OUT THE ANCHOR—Done for the Day

TIE 'EM DOWN—Set handbrakes

TIE ON—Couple on. Tie 'em together is tocouple cars

TIE UP—Stop for a meal or for rest

TIER—Pile of mail sacks or parcels occupying thefull width at each end of a car

TIMKENIZED—Equipped with Timken roller bearings

TIN LIZARD—Streamlined train

TING-A-LING—Small engine with "tinny"bell

TISSUE—Train order. (See flimsy)

TOAD—Derail. (See rabbit)

TOEPATH or TOWPATH—Running board of locomotiveor catwalk on top of boxcars, or that part of railroadembankment lying between end of ties and shoulders of fill

TONK—Car repairer

TONNAGE HOUND—Trainmaster or other official whoinsists upon longer or heavier trains than the crew and motivepower can handle efficiently

TOP DRESSER DRAWER—Upper bunk in caboose

TOWER BUFF—Railfan so zealous that he disregardssigns such as "Private," "No Admittance" and"Stay Out" on interlocking towers and other railroadstructures

TRAIN LINE—Pipe that carries compressed air tooperate air brakes

TRAMPIFIED—The way a boomer looked afterbeing out of work a long time. His clothes were "ragged asa barrel of sauerkraut" and he needed a "dime's worthof decency" (shave)

TRAVELING CARD—Card given by a railroad Brotherhoodto a man in search of employment. Also an empty slip bill

TRAVELING GRUNT—Road foreman of engines, travelingengineer. Sometimes called traveling man

TRICK—Shift, hours of duty

TRIMMER—Engine working in hump yard thatgoes down into yard and picks out misdirected cars andshoves them to clear. (See yard and hump)

TWO-WHEELER—Two-wheeled hand truck for transferringbaggage and mail around in a station

UNCLE SAM—Railway Post Office clerk

Just as a man who "can't take hisliquor" is sometimes actually under the table, so,figuratively, is a telegraph operator when messages are beingsent to him faster than he can receive

UNDERGROUND HOG—Chief engineer

UNLOAD—Get off train hurriedly

VARNISH—Passenger train. Also called varnishedshot, varnished job, varnished boxes, string of varnish, varnishedwagons, etc. These nicknames are rarely applied to modernstreamliners


* VOODOO BARGE—Updated Heavy,Slow Freight

WABASH—To hit cars going into adjacent tracks.(See cornered) Also refers to the officially frowned-uponpractice of slowing up for a stop signal at a crossing with anotherrailroad instead of stopping. The engineer would look up and downto make sure everything is safe, then start up again, having savedseveral minutes by not stopping entirely. Wabash may alsomean a heavy fire in the locomotive firebox

WAGON—Railroad car. (English term)

WALK THE DOG—Wheel a freight so fast as to makecars sway from side to side

WALK UP AGAINST THE GUN—Ascend a steep grade withthe injector on

Forward corner of reverse lever quadrantin engine cab (more commonly called company notch). CalledWall Street notch because engine pays dividends when heavinessof train requires engine to be worked that way

WASHOUT—Stop signal, waved violently by using botharms and swinging them in downward arc by day, or swinging lampin wide low semicircle across tracks at night

WATCH YOUR PINS—Be careful around stacks of ties,rails, etc.

WAY CAR—Caboose, or car of local freight

WEARING THE BLUE—Delayed by car inspectors. A blueflag or blue light is placed on cars thus delayed and being workedon

WEARING THE GREEN—Carrying green signals. Whentrains run in more than one section, all except the last mustdisplay two green flags

WEED BENDER—Railroaders' derisive term for cowboy,other such terms being hay shaker, clover picker, and plowjockey. Commonest term for cowboy is cowpuncher, whichis of railroad origin. Cowboys riding stock trains prod the cattle

* WEED WEASEL—Company Official Spying on Crews

WESTINGHOUSE—Air brake, also called windjammer

WET MULE IN THE FIREBOX—Bad job of firing a locomotive

WHALE BELLY—Steel car, or type of coal car withdrop bottom. Also called sow belly

WHEEL 'EM—Let a train run without braking. Wheelingmeans carrying or hauling at good speed; also called highballing.You say wheeling the berries when you mean haulingthe berry crop at high speed

WHEEL MONKEY—Car inspector

WHEN DO YOU SHINE? —What time were you called for?

WHISKERS—Quite a bit of seniority

WHISTLE OUT A FLAG—Engineer blows one long andthree short blasts for the brakeman to protect rear of train

WHITE FEATHER—Plume of steam over safety valves,indicating high boiler pressure

WHITE RIBBONS—White flags (an extra train)


WIDEN ON HER—Open the throttle, increase speed

WIGWAG—A grade-crossing signal

WILLIE—Waybill for loaded car

WIND—Air brakes

WING HER—Set brakes on moving train

WISE GUY—Station agent

WOLF or LONE WOLF—Nonbrotherhood man

WORKING A CAR—Unloading a storage mail car

WORKING MAIL—Mail in sacks and pouches consignedto R.P.O. (Railway Post Office) cars to be "worked"or sorted in transit

WORK WATER—Some old-time engineers preferred towork the water (operate the injector and watch the waterglass or gauge cocks). On most roads the fireman now worksthe water

WRECKING CREW—Relief crew. Derogatory term derivedfrom the difficulty regular men sometimes experience in rearranginga car after it has been used by relief men

WRONG IRON—Main track on which the current of trafficis in the opposite direction

WYE—Tracks running off the main line or lead,forming a letter Y; used for turning cars and engines whereno urntable is available

Empty car

XXX—Same as bad order

YARD—System of tracks for making up trains or storingcars. (Boomer's version: "System of rust surroundedy fence and inhabited by a dumb bunch of natives who will notlet a train in or out.") Also called garden and ield.Yard geese are yard switchmen. Y.M. is yardmaster. Yardgoat is switching engine

ZOO KEEPER—Gate tender at passenger station

ZULU—Emigrant family with its household goods and farm equipment traveling by rail; sometimes included even livestock crowded into the same boxcar. Zulu can mean only the car, or the car and all its contents. This ethod of travel was not uncommon in homesteading days on Western prairies. Origin of term is obscure. May have some connection with the fact that British homesteaders in Africa fled in overfilled farm wagons before Zulu marauders

Contents Page

(Video) Decoding Railroad Jargon


1. Train Vocabulary - Caboose?
(Mad English TV)
2. Railway Vocabulary | Railway Related Words English Vocabulary | Train Vocabulary
(Suma English Vocabulary)
3. 🔵 Railway Vocabulary - Interesting Words - ESL British English Pronunciation
4. Railway Track Components | #Sleeper | #Ballast | #Joint | #fastening system | #Joggled Fishplate
(Let's Grow Up)
5. Nampally Station Kada Raaja Lingo Video Song - Erra Mallelu Songs || Murali Mohan, Madhala Ranga Rao
(iDream Music)
6. Daily Use Vocabulary In English to Hindi/Administrative Office Words/सरकारी कार्यालयसे सम्बंधित शब्द
(SK10 Education)


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