High Iron (1938)
James A. Landau
JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Mon Jul 30 00:23:47 UTC 2001
In a message dated 07/29/2001 2:05:28 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
Bapopik at AOL.COM writes:
> CAR KNOCKER: Inspector (RHHDAS 1916.)
A car inspector carries a hammer which he uses to tap the wheels of the cars.
If the wheel has a crack in it, it will give off a different sound. You can
sometimes see car knockers in action on passenger trains that have reached
> CAR TOAD: Car repairer (RHHDAS 1929.)
I once had a neighbor who was a car inspector for CONRAIL. He said that a
so-called "car inspector" was really a car mechanic, which would imply that
"car toad" is redundant.
> GANDY DANCER: Car inspector (RHHDAS 1918.)
I've always heard this one used to mean a section hand. The most plausible
etymology I've heard is that many railroads supplied their track crews with
shovels made by a company in Gandy, Ohio.
A diplomat from Africa wandered into the Berlin Cafe in Brunswick, Maryland
(once called Berlin, MD and a long-time railroad town) and later described
the place as "a gandy bar to end all gandy bars"
> GOOSE, TO: To make an emergency stop (Not in RHHDAS.)
also called "dynamiting" (a high-speed emergency stop in a freight train can
derail cars) or "big-holing the Westinghouse"
> HIT THE DIRT, TO: To leap or fall off of a moving train, particularly when
> wreck is impending (RHHDAS 1902.)
According to one reference, Casey Jones's last words to his fireman Sim Webb
before his fatal wreck in 1900 were, "Junp, SIm! Unload!"
> JANNEY, TO: To couple (Not in RHHDAS.)
after Major Eli H. Janney (1831-1912) who invented the type of coupler used
by all US mainline railroads (except for certain Amtrak trains). The Janney
coupler was mandated by the Railroad Safety Appliance Act of 1893
> LIZARD SCORCHER: Train cook (Not in RHHDAS.)
Not to be confused with "ballast scorcher", a fast-driving engineer.
> NIGGERHEAD: Steam exit on top of locomotive boiler from which issue pipes
> injector, etc. (RHHDAS 1932.)
is this an ethnic slur or a reference to the type of tobacco?
> OPERATOR'S FIST: The distinctive, cursive type of handwriting
> of telegraph operators and train dispatchers (Not in RHHDAS.)
Probably a mistake on Beebe's part. Any Morse code operator has a style of
sending Morse that is as distinctive as his handwriting or voice (although
with a good deal of effort it can be counterfeited.) In my experience "fist"
refers to an operator's distinctive style.
- Jim Landau
Here's a challenge for you: what (now-obsolete) railroad employee was known
as a "Twelfth Avenue Cowboy"?
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