• Railroad Terms

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by Engineer Spike
I think it would be neat to hear what terms guys use on other railroads. I am not talking about calling a caboose a van, hack, way car or buggy. An example would be like we call a basic day with no arbitraries, "straight vanilla". We call the newhires junior varsity, or JV.
On BN they call held away "rule". Marking off is throwing a shoe. What exampledo you have?
  by 130MM
I have no idea where it came from, but on the B&M the EOT device became known as a "Billy"; which is sort for Billy the Brakeman.

And a real esoteric one: again on the B&M, the tool called the "four ball spike puller" is known as a "Veronica"; which, I think, is a bastardation of the name of the tool manufacturer, Verona Tool Works.

  by Desertdweller
Here are a few I have run across:

Terms describing the "highly visible marker": FRED (flashing rear end device); smart Fred (Fred with telemetry); dumb Fred (Fred without telemetry); air Fred (Fred powered by air-driven turbogenerator).

Terms describing head end device used with Fred: Fred's Momma; Mary.

To divide the video display on a controlling unit with Distributed Power slaved to it, to enable independent operation of the DP units: Build a Fence ( the screen is then split with a vertical green line).

The oil strainer compartment on 567 or 645 engined EMD units, used as a point to add engine lube oil: The ice cream box ( the lid is held on by pivoting dog bolts that fit into slots on either side of the lid, like an old-fashioned milk box used when milk was home-delivered).

Favorite esoteric term: Pine Ridge Cruiser. This is an old automobile used for crew transport on the DM&E Railroad. Named after dilapidated autos found on Indian Reservations in the Dakotas.

  by Georgia Railroader
Marking off=pulling the pin
Taking a dump = setting out a Bad Order
  by CN_Hogger
One I hear all the time that I believe is mostly an old IC term, "Shoot(ing) the bill" for putting the train in emergency... Makes no sense to me...atleast not like 'big hole'....

  by CarterB
As opposed to "shooting the bill" //// "No thump..no dump" or "No bump ..no dump" self explanatory, and unofficial policy of many engineers/train operators.
  by Desertdweller
On the Meridian and Bigbee, at Selma, Alabama, is a track used for cars interchanged with the NS. It is called the "Hambone". No one I asked knew why. I suppose it was one of those tracks named years ago, for reasons long forgotten.

  by Freddy
Big Holed It.- Meant he put the train in emergency.(Brakes for the uninformed) Reason it's called Big Hole was that going into emergency meant a better chance of derailing, thus
making a 'Big Hole' in the ground.
From my experience slang was hardly ever used as there was a bigger chance of misunderstanding so it just wasn't done. To many times people would ask what in the world you were
talking about.
  by rovetherr
Buzz bomb-air-powered EOT
Visit Wob's office-take a poop.
Check a hose-Take a leak
Pinzy-push the cars together so a cut can be made
Blister Machine-hand-tamping bar
"Jacking Off"-Warning yelled out before removing track jacks.
Switch Monkey-Brakeman
  by Georgia Railroader
Jack, cut the jack, jack off - cut engine(s) from the rest of the train.
  by Desertdweller
The former C&NW engine men I worked with liked to call the locomotives "motors".

As opposed to steam engines, I suppose. Must be a C&NW "thing".

Then, a former L&N engineer was telling me about a "rubber chicken agreement" his union on the L&N had with the management.
Turns out, this was a local agreement that the train crew could not depart the yard until the railroad had supplied the crew with a box lunch. This was a standardized lunch that always included fried chicken. Yum!

  by jwhite07
The former C&NW engine men I worked with liked to call the locomotives "motors".

As opposed to steam engines, I suppose. Must be a C&NW "thing".
It was a New Haven "thing" too... of course, the term was in reference to electric locomotives, but it was applied to diesels as well. Well into the Amtrak era, the locomotive servicing area in New Haven located south and west of the station, was known as "Motor Storage". Motor Storage was closed sometime in the last decade; the new locomotive storage and servicing area on the north side of the main lines I believe is officially (and unimaginatively) called "Parcel G".
Check a hose-Take a leak
I knew a now-retired locomotive engineer who used to use railroad terminology for just about any topic of discussion. He'd describe a visit to the doctor's office as "getting set off on the RIP Track". Surgery was "I got hooked up to yard air". His wife was referred to as "the B-Unit". A belch (or worse) was "taking a PCS hit" or "going into emergency". On his way to the restroom he might say "gotta drain the Main Reservoir". Funny guy!
  by Bobinchesco
Pennsy men also refered to electric locomotives as motors. Locomotive engineers were enginemen, never motormen.
  by Desertdweller
I think the old-time engineers on the CB&Q used the term "motors", too.

  by Gadfly
Whammy= insurance carried by railroaders in the event of "run off" or disciplinary action.
Derailed= sometimes used to describe being "on the ground" or out of service.
Railroad Error= was used in demurrage and rates department/clerks to describe an error by the railroad in demurrage and storage charges or rates by the company.The customer would protest these mistakes and the saying was, "Charge it to 'railroad error'". It then came to mean ANY error by an employee and was used to express frustration over a mistake, usually by the employee uttering the phrase. You could be in the Yard or Freight office and someone would just blurt out to no one in particular, "RAILROAD ERROR!" Or, "We'll charge it to RAILROAD ERROR!" It was just a way to let off steam.

Go High= go beyond the switch stand, or clear it to line a train in.

Sign us (him, her, conductor, engineer, etc) ahead= to authorize movement via radio, flag, lantern, or green signal.

Shove out, or ahead= to shove a cut of cars, or tell an engineer to move his train.

Slam off= to run someone "Slam" off the right of way, fired with no recourse after investigation and arbitration.

Time Claim= claim for protected work covered by Union rules. A trainman comes into a shop, picks up a welder and welds a seam. The Machinist/Blacksmith/Carman that is protected by the shop agreement files a claim for a day's pay for the work done without authorization under the respective Union's rules. Railroads don't LIKE time claims (also called "time tickets" by some companies) and often themselves discourage non-covered people from doing craft work for fear of having to pay for it. This is why a rail buff should NOT get involved in railroad activities not only for safety reasons, but because it can cause the company trouble from the Unions in the form of claims for pay caused by work performed by outsiders. They are called "scabs" for a reason, and that includes non-employee railfans who want so BAD to get involved in railroad work. THEY think they are "helping", but they are not.

Kill the Blue flag= take up the blue flag on the repair track, OK to operate after track is clear, no repairs in progress, flag no long there.