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Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2011 with funding from 

LYRASIS IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 




By Mary Elting 





Copyright 1947, 1953 by Duenewald Printing Corporation. 
Lithographed in the United States of America. 


Sam is the fireman on a big freight locomotive. Like 
lots of people who work on trains, Sam belongs to a 
family of railroaders. His father was a locomotive engi- 
neer. His grandfather was one, too. And, long ago, 
grandmother was an ''op.'' That means she operated 
the fast-clicking telegraph key in a railroad station. Her 
telegraph ^messages helped to keep the trains running 
safely and on time. 

When Sam was a little boy, he listened to his father 
and grandfather talking railroad talk. They used all kinds 
of words that ordinary people didn't understand. They 
had wonderful nicknames for each other, and slang 
words for many of the things they did. 

For instance, grandfather called his big locomotive 
a hog. Since he ran it, he was the hogger. After every 
trip, he brought his engine to the roundhouse, where 
men cleaned it and fixed it all up. Pig-pen was one nick- 
name for the roundhouse. Can you figure out why? 
Another nickname was barn, because people often 
called a locomotive an Iron Horse. The barn had stalls 
for the engines. A modern roundhouse does, too. 

The lumps of coal that grandfather's engine burned 
were called black diamonds. Fireman was the regular 
name for the man who shoveled coal, cleaned out the 
ashes and helped to grease the wheels with tallow fat. 
But the fireman also had a whole string of nicknames 
— diamond pusher, ashcat, bakehead and tallow pot. 
He called his shovel his banjo. 

Once an old-fashioned train began rolling, it was 
hard to stop it. A man had to run from car to car, put- 
ting the brakes on by hand. Naturally, he was the brake- 
man, but his friends called him the shack. 

In the days before electric lights, railroads needed 
signals just as they do now. The first ones were large 
balls that hung from a tall post. A black ball hanging 
halfway to the top of the post meant STOP. A white 
ball hanging high in the air meant CLEAR TRACK. 

Lots of things have changed since then, but a signal 


TO &o ^rs%y. 



to go ahead is still the ''highbaH'' because railroaders 
still use many of the old words. Firemen and brakemen 
now have machinery that does many of the things they 
used to do, but they keep their old names. And one 
thing hasn't changed at all: People still love trains. The 
men who work on the huge powerful engines would 
rather work there than almost anywhere else. That's 
how Sam feels about it. 

When Sam reports for work, his big steam locomo- 
tive is all ready. Men have oiled it and checked it. The 
fire is roaring in the firebox. In the old days, a fireman 
spent most of his time shoveling coal. The faster the 
train went, the more steam it needed and the faster the 
fireman had to work with his banjo. Sam knows how 
to use a shovel if he needs to, but that's not his main 
job. His locomotive has a machine called an automatic 
stoker which feeds coal into the firebox. 

Sam just checks up on the fire. He looks at dials 
and gauges in the locomotive cab, and they tell him 
what he wants to know. There is enough steam. Every- 
thing is ship-shape. 

Sam and the engineer and a brakeman work at the 


front of the train, so they are called the head-end crew. 
Another brakeman and the freight conductor work in 
the caboose — the last car on the train. In between the 
caboose and the locomotive are sixty cars of important 
freight that has to be delivered fast. A fast freight is 
called a hotshot or redball. A slow one 
is a drag. 

Sam and the engineer are ready to 
go. Far down the track the conductor 
raises his arm and gives the highball 
signal. He is ready, too. Now the engi- 
neer pulls the throttle lever. The long 
train snakes out of the freight yards 
onto the main line, and pretty soon 
they are ''batting the stack off her'' — 
which means making fast time. 

• • • 


• • 

Sam, on the left side of the cab, watches the track 
ahead. The engineer sits on the right, keeping a sharp 
lookout. When they come to a curve, Sam looks back 
along the train to make sure everything is all right. 

After a while they see a little town up ahead, and 
beside the track stands a signal they have been expect- 
ing. It looks like a round plate, with places for nine 
lights in it. But only three of the lights are ever flashed 
at once. At the top of the page you will see what each 
set of lights means. 

This time three green go-ahead lights are showing. 

''Clear signal,'' Sam calls to the engineer. 

''Green eye it is," the engineer replies. 

All through the trip he and Sam will call the signals 
back and forth to each other, just to make sure there 
is no mistake. The engineer gives one long blast on his 
whistle to tell the station agent in the little town that 
the train is coming. 

As they go past the station, Sam leans out of the 
cab and snatches a hoop from the station agent's hand. 
Quickly Sam takes a piece of paper from it and tosses 


^ % 

the hoop out again. In the meantime the agent hands 
another hoop to the conductor in the caboose. 

The paper that Sam takes off the hoop is a train 
order, called a flimsy. On the flimsy the station agent 
has written instructions for the train's crew. Orders 
come to the station by telegraph. Sometimes they tell 
the crew that the train must make an unexpected stop 
at the next station. Sometimes they give information 
about other trains that have been delayed. 

Bigger stations often have train order posts that 
stand beside the track, but small-town agents hoop the 
orders up by hand. Usually the agent has to walk along 
the track and pick up hoops that the crew toss down. 
But the one who gave the orders to Sam has a dog 
trained to chase hoops and bring them back! 

Sam and the engineer and 
the brakeman read the orders 
to be sure nobody makes a mis- 
take that might cause an acci- 
dent. Back in the caboose the 
other brakeman and the con- 
ductor read their copy of the 
orders, too. Then the con- 
ductor goes to work at his desk 
again. The caboose is really his 


office. There he checks the papers that tell where every 
freight car in the train is supposed to go. 

The brakeman pours himself a cup of coffee that's 
been heating on the stove in the caboose. Then he 
climbs to his seat in the cupola — the little tower with 
windows through which he can watch the train. Squir- 
rel cage is a nickname for the cupola. The caboose has 
the most nicknames of all. Crib, crum box, crummy, 
bounce, doghouse, parlor and monkey house are some 
of them. 

Safety is everybody's job on a train, and each man 
in the crew knows the rules. If the train makes an emer- 
gency stop, the men take care that no other train will 
bump into them. One brakeman runs out ahead and 


¥ * 

-M # *.? 

the other runs back along the track 
with signal flags to warn the other 
trains. At night they take along fusees, 
which look like giant firecrackers and 
burn with a bright red warning glow. 
Torpedoes are the best warning of all. 
The brakeman fastens torpedoes to 
the track with little clamps. Then, if a 
locomotive runs over them, they ex- 
plode with loud bangs that tell the en- 
gineer to stop before he runs into the 
stalled train ahead. 

The first regular stop for Sam's 
train is a station where the tender is 
filled with water. The long string of 
freight cars waits here on a siding while 
a fast passenger train goes by. 
On the next part of Sam's trip, the train has to climb 
some steep grades. One engine alone can't do all the 
work, so a helper engine couples on just ahead of the 
caboose. On the days when Sam's train is extra long 
and heavy, two helpers are needed. 

Going downhill in the mountains is work, too — 
work for the brakes. In the old days, the brakeman had 
to run along the tops of freight cars and ''club down." 


That means he used a long club called a sap, to turn 
the wheels that set the hand brakes on each car. 

The catwalks or decks along the car roofs made a 
path for the brakemen. Sometimes they walked up and 
down inspecting the train. Then they said they were 

Fast freight cars, and slow ones, too, now have air 
brakes which are squeezed against the wheels by com- 
pressed air. Every car has an air hose that runs under- 
neath it to the brake machinery. The hose from each 
car can be joined to the hose on the ones behind and 
in front, and finally to the locomotive's hose. A pump 
in the locomotive compresses the air for the whole 
train. Now if the engineer wants to stop, he just moves 
a lever. A whoosh of air tightens the brakes on every 

When the train goes down a long hill, the squeez- 
ing of the brakes can actually make the wheels get red 
hot. Some freight trains have to stop and let the wheels 
get cool. But the cars in Sam's train have a sort of fan 
built into the brake machinery. The fan cools the 
wheels, and the redball freight goes right on down. 

After a while, Sam takes a little scoop and tosses 
some sand into the firebox. He knows that the engine's 
flues are likely to get clogged up with soot, and the 


sand will clean them out. Later on, sand does an even 
more important job. The train has run into a storm in 
the cold, high mountains. Slushy snow has frozen on 
the rails. Instead of pulling ahead, the engine's wheels 
begin to slip round arid round. 

But the engineer fixes that easily. He squirts sand 
onto the slick track to make the wheels pull again. The 
sand comes from the dome, which is the hump you can 
see behind the stack on top of a locomotive. Pipes lead 
down from the dome on each side and aim the sand 
onto the track just in front of the driving wheels. 

A locomotive's sand is just 
as important as coal and water. 
Ice or rain or even the damp- 
ness in a tunnel can make slip- 
pery tracks. So the railroads 
keep supplies of fine dry sand 
to fill the domes. Sam always 
checks to see if he has enough 
sand when the tender takes on 

STOP .W jy RgQ uce S PCgp 


The huge coal towers in big freight yards can fill 
several tenders at once. Often, while the loading goes 
on, ashes from the locomotive's firebox get cleaned out 
at the same time. There is a dump pit under the tracks, 
with little cars that run on their own rails. After a little 
car is filled with ashes, it can be pushed away and un- 
loaded at the ash heap. 

When Sam pulls into the next big freight yard, his 
part of the run is finished. After a while he will board 
another engine and take another freight train back to his 
home station. He has a regular schedule for work. That 
doesn't seem strange these days, but Sam's grandfather 
would have thought it was something miraculous. 

In the old days, grandfather never knew what time 
he'd have to leave for work. Sometimes, when he was 
just ready to blow out the kerosene lamp and go to 
bed, there would be a knock at the door. On the dark 
porch stood a boy, still panting from a bicycle ride up 
the street. He was the railroad call boy, and he'd come 
to sa}^ that an engineer was needed right away. Grand- 
father had been assigned to the job. So he pulled on 
his clothes and went off, no matter how sleepy he was. 



The place where Sam leaves his train is called a 
division point. Other men will take over all the cars 
of redball freight and speed them on another division 
of their trip. Let's see who these different railroaders 
are and what they do. 

Sixty freight cars have come roaring together over 
the mountains behind Sam's engine. But now the cars 
have to be separated. Some of them are going to Balti- 
more. Some will turn north to Chicago. Others are 
bound south. Freight cars for twenty different cities 
are coupled together in one train, and somebody must 
unscramble them. 

Suppose you have a lot of colored beads on a string 
and you want to separate them into greens and reds 
and blues. The easiest way is to get three cups and let 


the beads drop off one by one, each into its own cup 
with the others of the same color. 

That's just what railroaders do with a freight train. 
Instead of cups, of course, they have a lot of separate 
tracks, all branching off a main track. On one branch 
track, they collect the cars that go to Baltimore; on an- 
other, the cars for Chicago; on another, the cars headed 
south. This system of tracks is a classification yard. 

In order to turn the cars from one track to another, 
there must be a lot of switches. A switch is made up of 
movable pieces of rail that guide the cars' wheels. Look 
at the picture and you will see how a switch guides a 
car either along the main track or onto a branch track 
that curves off to the right. 

Some of the most wonder- 
ful inventions in the world have 
been put to work in the big 
freight classification yards. First 
the regular engine leaves the 
train and a special switch engine 
couples on. The engineer of 
the switch engine has a radio 
telephone in the cab, so he can 
listen to orders from the tower- 
man who unscrambles the train. 
The towerman sits in a tower beside the track at 
the top of a little hill called the hump. The main track 
goes over the hump and down. Then it divides into 
several branch tracks. If you uncouple a car just at the 
top of the hump, it will roll down the slope by itself. 
To make the car go onto the right branch, the 
towerman works an electric switch. He just pushes lit- 
tle handles on the board in front of him, and electric 
machinery moves the switches in the tracks. 

On the desk beside him, the towerman has a list 
that tells him where each car in the train is and what 
city it is headed for. He knows which branch tracks 
should be used — track number 4 for cars going to 
Baltimore, track 6 for Chicago cars. 



Slowly the switch engine 
pushes the train toward the 
hump. On the way the cars pass 
over a big hole underneath the 
track. In the hole sits a man in 
a chair that can be tipped and 
turned. And all around are 
bright lights that shine on the 
undersides of cars as they pass. 
This is the inspection pit. The 
man in the chair tilts this way 
and that, watching through a 
shatterproof glass hood to see 
if anything is broken or loose on the under side of the 
cars. When he spots a car that needs repairing, he talks 
with the towerman by radio telephone. And the tower- 
man switches the car off to a repair track. 

(Not all yards have radio telephone. In the ones 
that don't, the inspector pushes a button and squirts 
whitewash onto a car to mark it for repair.) 

Now the cars come close to the hump. A brakeman 
uncouples the first one. Slowly it starts downhill. Then 
it gathers speed — faster, faster. If it hits another car 
there will be a crash. But, like magic, something seems 
to grab at the wheels and slow them down. 


Something does rise up like fingers from the sides 
of the track. It is the car retarder which squeezes against 
the wheels and keeps the car from rolling along too fast. 

The retarder works by electricity. The towerman 
just presses a button or a handle in the tower, and far 
down the track the retarder machinery goes to work. 
Before railroads had this machinery, brakemen went 
over the hump with the cars, working fast and hard to 
put the hand brakes on at just the right time. Brakemen 
who did this were called hump riders. 

Once in a while a hump rider still goes with a car 
of very fragile freight that might be broken if it banged 
into another car the least bit too hard. 

Car after car drifts down the hump and stops just 
where it should. When one freight train has been un- 

scrambled, another rolls up beneath the tower, and its 
cars, too, are shuffled. In just a few hours half a dozen 
trains have been broken up and made into new ones. 

Some yards have extra inspectors who stand on top 
of a building and look down at the cars from above. 
They can see broken parts that the man in the inspection 
pit might miss. In other yards, a man is stationed beside 
the track that leads up to the hump. In his hands, he 
holds something that looks like a gun. It is — an oil 
gun. As each car passes, he takes aim and fires a stream 
of oil straight into the car's journal box. (You'll read 
about the journal box on page 42.) 

Not every freight yard has a hump or car retarders 
or radio telephones. Only the biggest ones have all these 

*• • %^ 

things. In many yards the switch 

engine pushes the whole train ^UL^^x^ 

first onto one track and then ^u>UZlJrve^ 

onto another, dropping a car 

each time. 

There are several kinds of 
switch engine, built especially 
for their jobs. But switching is 
often done with very old en- 
gines that aren't fast enough 
for regular runs any more. Rail- 
road men call an old wheezy 
engine a teakettle. An ordinary 
switch engine is a bobtail or a 
yard goat. 

If the yard doesn't have 
switches that work by electri- 
city, switchmen work them by 
hand. A switchman is some- 
times called a cherry picker, be- 
cause of the red lights on the 
switches. Another nickname for 
him is snake. That's because he 
used to wear a union button 







with a big snaky S on it. Many rail- 
roaders belong to unions called Brother- 
hoods. Part of the safety of their work 
was brought about by the unions which 
helped to get laws passed and rules es- 
tablished to make railroading as free 
from danger as possible. 

In the old days, one great danger 
came from the big, heavy gadget called 
a link-and-pin that joined the cars to- 
gether. The switchman or the brakeman 
had to reach in and fasten it when a 
train was being made up. If the cars be- 
gan to move while he was at work, he 
might get his fingers cut off. 

All cars now have automatic coup- 
lings which clasp together and hold 
tight when one car bumps another. To 
uncouple, the switchman works a han- 
dle that keeps his fingers safely out of 
the way. 

A railroad yard is a noisy place. Usu- 
ally the engineer can't possibly talk with 
a switchman down the track, no matter 
how loud he shouts. So railroaders have 


worked out a whole sign language in 
which they can talk to each other from 
a distance. The pictures tell what some 
of these special signals mean. 

After a new freight train has been 
made up at the classification yard, a car 
inspector puts a blue flag on the engine 
and another on the caboose. Then he 
checks up carefully on the whole train 
to make sure everything is in good 
working order. An old nickname for 
inspector is car toad, because he often 
squats down to look for broken parts. 
While he is at work, the blue flags 
are a warning that the train, must not 
be disturbed. If the inspector finds a 
car that needs repairs, he reports that 
it is a ''bad order car.'' 

Locomotives get their regular in- 
spection in the roundhouse. Small re- 
pair jobs are done there. But if there's 
something seriously wrong, off the en- 
gine goes to the backshop for a com- 
plete overhauling. 



IN C,iR.<lue <>>T /SRfA'S 

/ eN«i-rt-» #vc«os.s T*t'^c-KS 

The backshop for locomotive repairs has rails on 
the floor — and rails up in the air, too. An engine 
chuffs in on its own tracks and stops. When it has 
cooled down, an overhead crane travels on its rails high 
above the floor. It swoops down, picks up the body of 
the locomotive and carries the whole thing away, leav- 
ing the wheels behind. 

Now a dozen men swarm over the engine's body, 
and before long it looks like an old piece of junk. Some 
parts get thrown away. But many of them just need 
cleaning or mending. As the hundreds of parts come 
off, they are marked with the engine's number. Then 
they scatter all over the shop to be inspected and 
cleaned or fixed and tested. 

Meantime, other workers take charge of the wheels. 
In the old days, they had one particular way of testing 
a wheel. They gave it a good sharp rap with a hammer. 
If the metal rang out clear and bell-like, it was supposed 
to be all right. Inspectors in railroad yards went about 
tapping car wheels, too. And that's how repairmen and 
inspectors got their nicknames — car knocker, car- 
whacker, car-tinker, car-tink, car-tonk. Wheel experts 
in the backshop now have scientific te^ts to make sure 



that wheels are in good condition. Sometimes they even 
do X-ray tests, looking for cracks hidden deep inside 
the metal! 

When you walk around a big railroad shop, every- 
thing seems noisy and helter-skelter. Noisy it is. Wheels 
screech, hammers pound, fires roar. But the work is 
really planned out in a very orderly way. And nothing 
goes to waste. When big machine parts get worn down, 
they can often be shaved and smoothed and made over 
into smaller parts for a different purpose. 

Even the shavings have their uses. A machine with 
a magnet in it sorts the tiny bits of metal. The iron bits 
stick to the magnet and other kinds drop through into 
containers. Later, each kind of metal is melted down to 
make new parts. Iron dust from one engine's axle may 
turn up later in one of the thousands of new car wheels 
that railroads keep in huge yards. 

All of this fixing and testing and making over takes 
a lot of time. A locomotive may spend a month or more 
in the shop. But at last it is all put together again, com- 
plete with a new coat of paint. Now it goes out for a 
test on the slip-track. This is a greased track where the 
engine's wheels whirl round as if it were going at top 
speed while it is really almost standing still. If every- 
thing works all right, its old number is put in place, and 
an almost new locomotive is ready to highball again. 







'*^ BOARD! 





More than forty different kinds of locomotive work 
for the railroads. Some of them haul freight, and some 
are passenger train engines. Some are steam locomo- 
tives, some are not. 

Steam locomotives all need water to make the steam 
that makes the wheels turn. But they don't all get it in 
the same way. One kind never has to stop and wait 
for its tender to be filled. Instead it has a scoop that dips 
down as the engine passes over a long track-pan of 
water set between the rails. With no time lost, the 
scoop sucks up water into the tank. The men say, 
''She's jerked a drink.'' In winter, the track-pans are 
heated to keep the water from freezing. 

Two kinds of locomotive don't even need water. 
Electric engines use electric current instead of steam to 
turn the wheels. They get the current from wires along 
the tracks. Diesel-electrics are more complicated. They 
have oil-burning engines that make electric current right 
in the locomotive, and this current runs motors that 
turn the wheels. 

There are several engines inside a Diesel-electric 
locomotive. If one of them gets out of order during the 


very front of 
track through 
The cab is 
page, too, but 
stead of coal, 
to the tender, 

trip, the others keep on deliver- 
ing power while the one is re- 
paired. The engineer and the 
fireman sit in the cab at the 
a Diesel-electric. They can watch the 
front windows. 

at the front of the engine shown on this 
it is a steam locomotive. It burns oil in- 
so the cab doesn't have to be right next 
The men call it the Big Wamp. It hauls 
long freight trains across the Rocky 


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mill o 

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o lllllll 

'»*t^3>»fc^ I--I A f«i*«H?»^vJL^i*''»<»>*'J=vlsU^«H°>\Jl[ 



Mountains. One siding where the men stop to eat is 
so long that there has to be a restaurant at each end! 

Many railroads are buying more and more Diesels 
as their steam locomotives wear out. The Santa Fe 
Railroad's Diesel at the top of the page is called a 6000 
because it has six thousand horsepower. 

The New York, New Haven & Hartford uses elec- 
tric locomotives because it can get power for them eas- 
ily. The one above is called the EP-4 because it is the 
fourth model of electric passenger engine the road has 

All the others in these pictures are steam locomo- 
tives, but the T-1 is a special kind. Its name means that 
it is the first of a type called a turbine locomotive. An 


V-^^^^^;<f->-~t^-5^ ^ 


QyijiiHaj' -t^ Hi">\!y qy 


^-'^^0^-==-''^^^^^ ^ 



ordinary engine lets out its used-up steam in puffs, as 
if it were panting. A turbine doesn't, and so it never 
makes the familiar chuff-chuff noise. 

The name on each of the other steam locomotives 
shows that it belongs to a type that has a particular 
arrangement o( wheels. All Pacific-type engines have 
four small wheels in front, then six big ones, then two 
small ones in back. Mikados have two small, eight big, 
then two small ones. The way to write these wheel ar- 
rangements is 4-6-2 and 2-8-2. If an engine is called a 
2-6-0, that means it doesn't have any small wheels at 
the back. A 2-8-8-2 has two sets of big wheels and two 
sets of small ones. And 0-8-8-0 means there are no 
small wheels at all. 









Have you ever been on a 

^rain that stopped suddenly be- 

Jtv/een stations? Perhaps one of 

ithe cars had a hot box. Here is 

how it happened: 

Car axles must be kept well 
greased if they are going to 
move smoothly. They are fixed 
so that each end of the axle 
turns in a bed of oily stringy 
stuff called waste. The container that holds this bed of 
oily waste is the journal box, and there's one for every 
wheel on a car. 

Inspectors always check journal boxes carefully, but 
it sometimes happens that the oil gets used up while 
the car is moving. The unoiled axle grows hotter and 
hotter until the waste begins to smoke and burn. Then 
the car has a hot box, which railroaders also call a 
stinker. Hot boxes can be dangerous. If an axle goes too 
long without grease, it may break off and cause a bad 

When the train goes around a curve, the engineer 
or the fireman looks back for smoking journal boxes. 
The brakeman in the caboose keeps an eye out for 


them, too. On many new flight 
trains the conductor or^Jie 
brakeman can call immediatehc 
by radio telephone and tell th^^ 
engineer to stop for a stinker. 
But on older trains, the con- 
ductor can only pull the emer- 
gency air-brake, which stops 
the whole train fast. 

Although a hot box is dan- 
gerous, it's easy to remedy. The 

box only needs to be re-packed with fresh oil-soaked 

Everybody who works on a railroad watches for 
smoking journal boxes. Suppose a freight train has 
stopped on a siding to let a fast passenger train go by. 
The head freight brakeman stands beside the track. If 
he sees a hot box on the fast train — or any loose, drag- 
ging part — he signals to the passenger engineer. 

When railroad workers give a good look at a run- 
ning train, they say that they've made a running inspec- 
tion. Telegraph operators and station agents come out 
on the platform and make running inspections when- 
ever trains go by. 

The newest, fastest cars on both passenger and 




freight trains get fewer hot boxes than old ones. Their 
axles have roller bearings to help them turn smoothly, 
and the oil in their journal boxes is supposed to last for 
a long time. Still, an inspector may forget to check the 
oil, or it may leak out. 

There's no waste packed around roller bearings. So, 
how is anyone going to tell when one of the new cars 
gets a hot box? Some railroads have solved the problem 
with bombs! Into every journal box go two little gad- 
gets that explode when an unoiled axle begins to heat 
up. One bomb lets out a big puff of smoke that can 
easily be seen. The other spills a nasty smelling gas that 
is sure to make passengers complain, in case the con- 
ductor doesn't notice it himself. 

Roller-bearings are usually put on the freight cars 
that need to run at passenger train speed. Greenball 



freight always travels fast. A greenball train carries fruits 
and vegetables in refrigerator cars, which are also called 
reefers or riffs. 

At each end of a reefer are containers called bunk- 
ers. These hold ice to keep the food cool while it 
travels. At ordinary stations, men load ice into the 
bunkers by hand. But a big loading station has a giant 
icing machine to do the job. It rides along on its own 
rails, poking its great arms out and pouring tons of 
ice into the cars. 

Suppose you are sending carloads of spinach to 
market. The icing machine also blows fine-chopped 
ice, which looks like snow, on top of the spinach to 


keep it fresh. But suppose you have a lot of peaches 
that must go from the orchard to a big city hundreds 
of miles away. First, the reefers have to be pre-cooled. 
Onto the loading platforms roll machines with big can- 
vas funnels that fit tightly over the reefers' doors. These 
are blowers that force cold air into the cars. Now the 
crates of fruit can be loaded quickly, and the doors 
sealed shut. 

When fruit trains from California go across the high 
mountains in winter, there is danger that the reefers 
may get too cold. So the men lower charcoal stoves 
into the bunkers for the mountain trip. Then the bunk- 
ers are filled with ice when they get down into warmer 
country again. 

Some fruits, such as ba- 
nanas, have to be inspected on 
the road to make sure they are 
s_ ^ not spoiling. The inspectors are 

called messengers. 

Reefers also carry meat and 
fish, butter, eggs, cheese and 
even fresh flowers. 

When a reefer's cargo is 
bound for a big town or city, it goes straight through, 
with as few stops as possible. But there are many small 
towns that couldn't use up a whole carload of butter or 
meat before it spoiled. So the railroads have peddler 
cars to supply these towns with small quantities of food. 
The cars stop at station after station, just the way a ped- 
dler would. The storekeepers get only what they need, 
then the car moves on. 



These two black sheep are 

railroad workers riding to work 

in Texas. They really do have 

jobs at stock pens, helping the 

men load other sheep into the 

livestock cars that carry them 

to market. If you have ever 

tried to drive sheep along, you 

know that they get confused 

and contrary. They will scatter 

in every direction except the 

right one. But, if they have a leader to show them the 

way, they will follow quietly behind him. 

So railroaders and stockyard workers often teach 
certain sheep to lead others up the ramp and into the 
stock car. When the last one is in, the lead sheep runs 
out, and the door slams shut. Black sheep are best for 
the job because they stand out from the usual white 
ones, and they don't get sent off to market by mistake. 
Perhaps you wonder how it is possible to teach 
sheep to do this kind of job. The answer is that they get 
a treat every time they finish loading a car. Some pets 
like sugar or a carrot, but these two were fondest of a 
big piece of chewing tobacco. 



Stock cars for sheep and 
pigs have two decks. Cars for 
cattle and horses and mules 
have only one. And poultry 
cars have several. The slits in 
livestock cars let in plenty of 
fresh air and keep the animals 
cool. Since pigs are likely to 
suffer from heat on a trip, they 
often get a soaking bath before they go into the cars. 

There is a rule that animals must not travel more 
than a day and a half cooped up in a car. So trains stop 
at resting pens along the way to let the animals out for 
exercise and food and water. After a few hours they are 
loaded again. Meantime the cars have had fresh clean 
sand or straw spread around on the floor. Some very 
fast stock trains zoom along at such high speed that 
they reach the market before the animals need to stop 
and rest. 

Veterinaries and inspectors often work at stock sta- 
tions, looking out for animals that are sick. Caretakers 
for poultry and animals usually go along in the caboose. 



Railroaders call a tank car a 
can. It really is an enormous can 
with different kinds of lining 
for hauling different liquids. 
Milk tanks have glass or steel 
linings. Tanks for certain chem- 
icals are lined with rubber or 
aluminum or lead. 

Altogether there are more 
than two hundred types of tank 
car, and here are some of the 
things that travel in them: fuel 
oil, gasoline, and asphalt; mo- 
lasses and sugar syrup; turpen- 
tine and alcohol; lard, corn oil 
and fish oil for vitamins. 

Some tank cars have heat- 
ing coils that warm up lard or 
molasses and keep it from get- 
ting too stiff to flow out easily. 
Most tank cars have a dome on 
top. If they didn't, they might 
burst open at the seams when 
the liquid inside them begins to 


expand in hot weather. Instead, 
the liquid bulges up into the 
dome, and no harm is done. 

Wine tank cars have four 
compartments for carrying dif- 
ferent kinds of wine. 

Milk tank cars are built with 
two compartments that tip 
slightly toward the center so 
that every bit of milk will flow 
out. Each compartment is rather 
like a thermos bottle, with spe- 
cial wrapping around it to keep 
the milk from getting warm and 
sour. And the tanks are always 
filled brim full so the milk won't 
slosh around and churn up a 
batch of butter on the road. 
Can you guess why milk tanks 
don't need domes? Remember 
the milk must stay cool. Even 
when the sun is hot outside, the 
cool milk doesn't expand, so no 
dome is needed to keep the 
tank from bursting. 



A whole train made up of nothing but cars loaded 
with coal is called a black snake. Since rain and snow 
won't hurt coal, it travels in cars without tops. One 
kind of coal car has sloping ends like the one on this 
page. It is called a hopper car. You load the coal in at 
the top, but you unload it by opening trapdoors in the 
bottom which let the coal drop into chutes. 

Coal also travels in gondolas, which are just square- 
ended bins on wheels. They have to be unloaded by 
hand or by a dumping machine. It is hard to believe 
how fast some of these machines work. First a switch 
engine pushes the car of coal onto a platform under- 
neath a tower. Grippers hold the car tight while it is 
jerked up, tilted over on its side, dumped, then let down 

again empty. The whole job 
takes only a minute or a minute 
and a half. The empty car rolls 
away downhill while a full one 
beins switched into pli 


Another kind of dumper, the one you can see in the 
picture, looks rather like a barrel that can roll from side 
to side. It, too, tips the car over on its side so the coal 
can run out into a chute. Then the machine swings 
back and lets the car drift downhill. 

Locomotives and shops use almost a fourth of all 
the coal the railroads haul. It takes much less coal now 
to run an engine than it used to take, because engineers 
and scientists have thought up ways to make locomo- 
tives better and better. They figure things so closely 
they can even tell how much it costs to blow an en- 
gine's whistle — three toots for a penny. 

Other things besides coal are often carried in hop- 
pers and gondolas. Ore travels 
from mines to mills in hop- 

Things such as sugar and 
chemicals are sometimes carried 
in covered hopper cars. Of 
course, these hoppers have 
tight lids and special linings, 
and they're kept very clean, so 
you won't find coal dust mixed 
with your candy. 

Early every summer the 
railroads put a lot of boxcars in 
the bank. That means they 
switch the cars off onto sidings 
all through the wheat-growing 
part of the country. Then, 
when the wheat is harvested 
and ready to be shipped to mar- 
ket, the cars can be drawn out 
of the bank, filled up with 
grain, and hauled away. 
The wheat gets ripe in the south first. When harvest 
is finished there, the cars move along. All through the 
summer the grain cars work their way farther north. 

Special grain doors have to be fitted in tight, just 
behind the regular sliding doors of the boxcars, to keep 


the wheat from leaking out. The grain doors go almost 
all the way to the top, but not quite. In a minute youil 
see why. 

After the farmers thresh their wheat, they take it to 
an elevator, which is an enormous storage tower close 
to the railroad tracks. Then, a chute from the elevator 
loads the wheat into the cars through the space at the 
top of the grain doors. 

When a car is loaded, a man crawls in on top of the 
grain and hunches himself along with elbows and toes. 
He is the grain sampler who works for the companies 
that buy the wheat. Every once in a while he pokes a 
gadget down into the grain and brings up a sample 
from various parts of the car. These samples are enough 
to tell him whether the whole car is fair, good, or ex- 
cellent wheat. 

There is only about a two-foot space between the 
top of the grain and the roof of the car. So grain sam- 
plers have to be skinny men who can creep about easily. 

-i?f ■^ 





^ ^ • »' 


Besides the ordinary cars 
that do ordinary jobs, railroads 
have some cars that have been 
made for special purposes. 

A medical car is really a 
small traveling hospital. It goes 
along with construction crews 
when they have a big job to do far from a station. A 
trained nurse has her office in the car. She can take care 
of small injuries or give first aid until a doctor arrives. 
One special car looks like a load of big sausages. It 
is really a sort of boxcar frame into which long, heavy 
pipes have been fitted so that they wind back and forth. 
The pipes carry a load of helium gas. Helium is used 
in balloons and blimps, because it is very light and it 


can't catch fire. Even when this car is fully loaded with 
all the gas that can be squeezed into the pipes, it weighs 
only a ton more than an empty car. Most loaded freight 
cars weigh between forty and eighty tons. 

Sometimes a factory wants to ship a very tall ma- 
chine by freight. So the railroad has it loaded onto an 
underslung flat car that looks as if it had had a bite 
taken out of its middle. It's called a depressed center 

But still the machine may stick up too high to go 
through underpasses. Then a special department gets to 
work figuring out what to do. Men who know every 
mile of track work out a route that has no low under- 
passes. This sometimes means that the machine will 
make a dozen detours before it is delivered. 

Circus cars are sometimes just flat cars which carry 
the animals' cages. But some of them are specially built 

like stables, with stalls and a storage place for food. 
Fancy race horses ride in padded stable cars, too. 

A pickle car is made of six separate wooden tanks. 
Men at the pickle works fill them with cucumbers and 
brine. Then the car delivers them at the factory to be 

Have you ever wondered why some railroad bridges 
across rivers are so very high, while automobile bridges 
are quite low? The trains look a little scary, rushing 
along way up in the air. But there's a good reason why 
they do it, and those tall trestles are so wonderfully 
planned and built that they are very safe. 

Trains can't climb hills nearly as well as automo- 
biles can. The slopes that trains go up must be very 
gentle ones. Even a little bit of up-and-down grade 
slows a train a great deal. So the men who build rail- 
roads try to make the tracks run along as nearly level 
as possible. Next time you see a high bridge across a 
river, look at the rest of the country around. You'll see 
that the river cuts deep down between two hills. The 
bridge is built on tall stilts that make a level path for 
the train from one hilltop to the other. 

When trains have to go up or down a very long 
hill, the builders have a problem. They must slope the 


tracks very gradually. In mountains this means that the 
tracks zig-zag back and forth, with long, wide curves 
between the zigs and the zags. If you look back at the 
picture on page 19, you will see how one railroad 
solved the problem. The rails are laid so that they spiral 
upward, making a loop. When a very long train travels 
along the loop, it's like a huge snake coiled around over 
its own tail! 

Unless it's absolutely necessary, the builders try not 
to make curves. Trains run faster along rails that are 
straight as well as flat. Every bend means that the engi- 
neer has to slow down a little. 

And so there are two reasons why railroads often 
have tunnels right through mountains. Instead of climb- 
ing far up and then coming down in long, slow curves, 
the train can run quickly straight through. 

Tunnels are hard to dig. They often have to be 
blasted out of solid rock. So the builders don't make 
them any bigger than they have to. Of course, there's 
not room for a man to stand up on top of a freight car 


as it goes through a tunnel. To protect brakemen who 
might forget, there is a device called a tell-tale close to 
the mouth of a tunnel. It is simply a fringe of cords 
hanging down from a tall bar across the track. The 
cords touch the careless brakeman and warn him to get 
down right away before he's scraped off and hurt. 

If you started in the morning, it would take you till 
night just to name the inventions that have made rail- 
roading more safe than it was a hundred years ago. 
Some of them are simple things like a tell-tale. Others, 
such as air brakes, are complicated. The most wonder- 
ful invention of all took hundreds of scientists a long 

time to work out. It's called Centralized Traffic Con- 
trol, or CTC. 

To see what CTC does, you'll first have to imagine 
a stretch of railroad way out in the country, thirty miles 
from any station. There's just one main track, with sid- 
ings where trains running in opposite directions can 
pass each other. Each engineer has his train orders, so 
he knows whether he's supposed to go onto the siding 
or continue straight through. But unexpected things 
can always happen. If a train is late, it may not get to 
the siding on time. Then there will be danger of a 

That's where CTC comes 
in. Trains cannot bump into 
each other when CTC is at 
work. It is a wonderful system 
of electric wires that run along 
the tracks, all the way to an of- 
fice building in a railroad town. 
The wires end in a long board 
that's dotted with lights and 
small levers. Now when train 
wheels travel over the rails, the 
wires carry electric messages to 
that long board. Lights flash on and tell the man who 
watches the board exactly where the train is. If he wants 
it to go onto a siding, he pushes a lever. Electric 
switches miles away guide the train's wheels off the 
main track. At the same time, signal lights tell the engi- 
neer to stop. 

What's more, CTC has extra safety machinery, just 
in case the man at the board makes a mistake. If he 
pushes levers that might make two trains bump into 
each other, stop signals go on all along the line. All 
trains come to a halt until the mistake is corrected. 

In the old days, trains that ran through western 
ranch country were often late. The crew who had or- 



ders to pull onto a siding knew they might have to wait 
a long time. So they could just take a walk to the near- 
est house, wake the rancher and settle down for a visit. 
If their host was in a good humor, he'd build a fire and 
cook them a meal. Then, when they heard the whistle 
of the approaching train, they'd start back in plenty of 
time to signal as it passed their siding. Railroaders have 
fun talking about those early times, but they'd really 
rather have the safety of Centralized Traffic Control. 
CTC helps to keep passenger trains moving safely 
into big cities, too. The man at the board — he's called 
the dispatcher — decides which track each train should 
use. He pushes the levers. Electric switches move. Sig- 
nals flash to the engineer, and lights on the board show 
every train moving along. 



Maybe you think the conductor of 
a passenger train is only the man who 
takes tickets and says ''All Aboard/' But 
he really is the boss of the whole train. 
Even the engineer must follow his sig- 
nals. That's why they call the conductor 
the Captain. 

The brakeman is the conductor's 
helper. Together they collect tickets or fares and help 
passengers on and off at stations. 

On the slick, fast trains called streamliners the con- 
ductor has quite a job to do. Many of the passengers 
are making long trips, so they have complicated tickets 
that allow them to stop at several places and then come 
home again. The conductor has to check the tickets 
and make sure they are right. 

For short trips, conductors and brakemen take care 
of everything. But a streamliner needs a lot of other 
people who do special jobs. 

The first one you're likely to meet is the stewardess. 
She makes passengers comfortable. She answers ques- 
tions and points out things that are particularly inter- 
esting to look at through the window. 

At night the stewardess brings pillows to coach pas- 


sengers and helps them tilt their seats back. In some cars, 
each seat has a leg-rest that pulls out, making a sort of 
couch for anyone who wants a nap. 

The stewardess usually gives extra attention to chil- 
dren. She may read them stories in the playroom at the 
end of one car, or give them crayons and coloring 
books, or play records for them. She even has a supply 
of diapers for small babies and a refrigerator to keep 
their milk cool. 

A streamliner is really a sort of hotel on wheels. The 


observation car is like a lobby, with big soft chairs and 
sofas, tables full of magazines, a radio and desks for 
writing letters. At one end is a telephone booth where 
you can call up anyone you want to. This telephone 
works by radio. The radio operator on the train con- 
nects you with a regular telephone operator who com- 
pletes the call over ordinary phone wires. 

If you need a haircut, you can visit a barbershop on 
the train. Porters will press your clothes and shine your 
shoes for you. You can buy ice cream sodas at the snack 
bar. A businessman who wants to do some work can 
ask the train's stenographer to type out letters for him. 
And no matter how disagreeable the weather is outside, 
a streamliner is comfortable for it is air-conditioned. 

Most fun of all are the streamliners that have 
double-decker cars called Vista-Domes and Astra- 
Domes. The dome sticks up above the car like an over- 
sized caboose cupola. Like the freight brakeman, you 
can sit in the upper deck, look out through the win- 
dows in the dome and see everything around you. Day- 
times there may be mountains. At night, you can lean 
back in the adjustable seat and watch the stars. 

Streamliners go very fast, but not too fast for safety. 
Beside the track are signs that tell the engineer what the 
speed limits are. For extra safety, the locomotive may 
have a powerful headlight that sends out its beam like 
a searchlight. The beam travels across the sky in a 
figure-eight movement far ahead. People on highways 

see it and are warned to stop at grade crossings in 

plenty of time. 


The galley is the kitchen in the dining car. It has to 
be worked like those puzzles that won't come out right 
unless you move the pieces in just the proper order 
back and forth into one tiny little space. When you see 
all the food being loaded into the diner for one trip, 
you can't believe there's any space left over for cooking. 

But everything has been planned ahead of time so 
that it all fits inside the car. The cooks and the waiters 
have all gone to school where they learned how to pre- 
pare and serve food for dozens of people without get- 
ting the small galley cluttered up and out of order. 
Many diners have mechanical dishwashers. 



People eat so much on diners that railroads buy 
bananas by the boatload, meat and butter and coffee 
by the carload. One road has its own potato farm and 
turkey ranch. 

A table for two people in a diner is called a deuce. 
One for four people is a large. When a waiter has cus- 
tomers sitting at all his tables, he says that he is flat- 
tened out. And if he makes a mistake or gets nervous, 
the others say he has gone up a tree. 

It is fun to eat on a train, but the railroads them- 
selves are very serious about food. They have experts 

who plan special menus to please 
boys and girls. They figure out 
new ways of serving food so 
that it looks and tastes like 
Thanksgiving all year round. 
One road even asked scientists 
to grow fancy roses for the din- 
ing tables and to invent a chem- 
ical that could be mixed with 
water to keep the roses fresh!. 




Sleeping cars are called Pullman cars, because they 
are built and owned by the Pullman Company. For a 
long time, one sleeping car was just about like every 
other. It had two rows of double seats and an aisle go- 
ing down the middle. At night, the porter changed each 
pair of seats into a lower berth, and he pulled an upper 
berth down from its storage-place in the wall. Then he 
made the beds and hung green curtains from the ceiling 
to the floor all along the aisle. 

People who slept in upper berths climbed up and 
down a ladder. A button in each berth flashed on a light 
to call the porter. A little hammock hung against the 
wall. In it, you put your clothes and small packages. 
Your shoes went on the floor beneath the berths, so 

the porter could shine them while you slept. At the 
ends of the car were dressing-rooms and toilets. 

Many Pullman cars are still built like that. And it's 
still fun to climb the ladder to the upper berth. But 
more and more people are travelling in different kinds 
of sleeping cars. One kind is called a duplex. It has pe- 
culiar looking checkerboard windows outside. Inside are 
little private rooms, some on the lower level, some on 
the top level, with stairs leading to a corridor along the 
side. The rooms have sofa seats for daytime. At night, 
when you pull a handle in the wall, out slides a bed all 
made up and ready to be slept in. 

Another kind of sleeping car, called a roomette, has 
a row of small rooms all on one level. Each room has 


its folding bed. There's also a washbowl, toilet and 
clothes closet. An air-conditioner switch will make the 
room warmer or cooler, and you can even turn on a 

Roomettes are big enough for only one person. But 
several kinds of Pullman car rooms have beds for two 
or three people. Some are called drawing rooms. Others 
are called compartments. They have arm chairs as well 
as sofas. And connecting double bedrooms can be 
turned into a traveling home for a whole family. 



Snow trains carry people who want to go skiing. 
They leave early Sunday morning, wait all day on a 
siding at a station near a good skiing place, and come 
back in the evening. 

You can't always be sure 
ahead of time exactly where the 
train will stop. The snow may 
melt fast on one mountainside, 
so the railroad has to send the 
snow train to another place 
where the skiing is still good. 

A snow train has a baggage 
car that is fixed up like a store 

(^&fR.«ES op e,KO«J.T TOOTS^ 

where you can buy or rent any kind of skiing equip- 
ment. It also has a diner where you eat breakfast, lunch 
and dinner or have hot soup when you get cold. 

For long trips to deep-snow country, you start 
Saturday night in a sleeping car and get back early 
Monday morning. 

At the head end, a streamlined train has several cars 
that are different from passenger cars. One of them is 
built for the people who work on the train. It has berths 
where they sleep, shower rooms, lockers for clothes. 
The stewardess and the conductor may have offices 
there, too. (The men in the engine crew, of course, 
don't stay with the train. They change at division 

Some trains take a Railway Post Office car along at 
the head end. It does the work of a small post office. 
Regular mail clerks in the car sort letters and cancel the 
stamps. They toss out bags of mail at stations where the. 
train doesn't stop. At the same time, a long metal arm 
attached to the car reaches out and picks up mailbags 
that hang from hoops beside the track. 

The men who work in the Post Office car have 


learned to be very accurate and 
fast. They need to know the 
names and locations of hun- 
dreds of towns and cities, so 
they can toss each letter into 
exactly the right sorting bag. 

The Railway Express car 
carries packages of all kinds. It 
has refrigerated boxes for small 
quantities of things like fresh 
flowers and fish. 

The idea for express cars 
started long ago, before the 
government's regular post office 
system had been worked out 
well. In those days, people often 
wanted to send valuable pack- 
ages or letters in a hurry, but 
they had no way to do it. So 
some young men, who were 
known to be very honest, took 
on the job. Sometimes they car- 
ried parcels or letters in locked 
bags — sometimes in their own 
tall stovepipe hats! Gradually 


they got so much business that they had to hire a whole 
car from the railroad. They were the grandfathers of the 
Railway Express that now owns hundreds of cars. 

In springtime, the express man often travels with 
noisy cargo. That is the season when chicken farmers 
begin sending baby chicks in boxes all over the country. 
Pet animals usually ride in the baggage car, along 
with suitcases, trunks and bicycles. All kinds of pets 
travel on trains. You check them, just the way you 
check a suitcase, and the baggageman takes care of 

them. He is used to dogs and 
cats and birds, but once a bag- 
gageman had to mind a huge 
sea cow all the way from New 
York to St. Louis. 

Sometimes dogs get so fond 
of trains that they spend their 
whole lives riding with friendly 
engineers or baggagemen. Cooks 
and waiters in the diner save 
scraps for them to eat. 

The most famous traveller 
of all was a Scotch terrier named 
Owney. During his long life he 
covered more than 150,000 


miles, riding in Railway Post Office cars. The men put 
tags on his collar showing where he had been. Finally 
he collected so many tags that he had to have a harness 
to hold them. When he died, the Post Office Depart- 
ment had him stuffed and put in its museum. 

When your grandmother was a little girl, fast trains 
ran from coast to coast and slower ones climbed to 
towns high in the mountains. Super-highways for auto- 
mobiles and trucks were something that only a few 
people even imagined then. So — if freight and pas- 
sengers were going very far, they had to travel by train. 
Mountains gave the railroads a lot of trouble, because 
it was hard to dig wide roadbeds along the steep, rocky 

hillsides or to push them through tunnels in solid stone. 

One answer to the problem was to make the tracks 
not so wide and the tunnels not so high and the trains 
not so big! These railroads were called narrow gauge. 
(Gauge means the distance between the tracks.) The 
trains looked like toys, but they carried on their jobs 
perfectly well. A narrow-gauge engine and cars could 
whip easily around sharp curves, hugging the side of the 
cliff. The pint-sized locomotives pulled heavy loads. 
Elegant ladies and gentlemen used to travel in the tiny 
cars which were just as fancy as the big streamliners are 
now — maybe even fancier. 

When good highways and huge trailer trucks came 
along, most of the narrow gauge railroads stopped run- 



ning. A truck and trailer cost a lot less to operate than 
even a toy-like locomotive and freight cars. But in a few 
places you can still see the little giants at work. For in- 
stance, there is the Edaville Railroad which runs through 
the cranberry bogs in Massachusetts. 

The narrow gauge Edaville trains haul boxes into the 
bogs where pickers fill them with berries. Then the 
loaded cars take the berries out to a cleaning and sort- 
ing shed for shipment to canneries and stores. 

On many trips the Edaville trains carry passengers, 
too, for people love to ride behind the old-time engines. 
The man who owns the railroad lets everyone travel 
free, but if you want a souvenir ticket, you can buy it 
for a nickel! 


The section crews are the , 
men who lay new railroad 
tracks and keep the old ones 
repaired. Railroaders call them 
gandy dancers, and the boss of 
the crew is the king snipe. i 

In the old days, all the sec- 
tion work was done with hand tools. Men lifted the 
heavy rails with tongs. They chipped out the notches 
in the wooden ties for the rails to rest in. They ham- 
mered down the spikes that held the rails. The crew \ 
rode to work on a handcar, pumping a lever up and 
down to make the wheels turn. . 1 

Now there are motor cars instead of handcars, and 
wonderful machines help with the work. A rail-laying 
crane lifts the rails and swings them into place on the 
ties. An adzer with whirling knife-blades cuts the 


notches. The spikes still have to be started into their 
holes by hand, but then a mechanical hammer that runs 
by compressed air finishes the pounding job. 

Perhaps youVe noticed that there seem to be a lot 
of cinders along railroad tracks. But they didn't come 
from the engines. They were put there on purpose. 
Railroads also use chipped stone or gravel or even 
squashed-up oyster shells under the tracks and ties. 

All of these things are called 
ballast, and they make a good 
firm bed for the rails. When it 
rains or snows, the loose peb- 
bly ballast lets the water run off 
quickly, so that the ties will dry 
out and keep from rotting. 

Grass and weeds don't grow 
very well in ballast, but when 
they do a motor car with a 
chemical spray comes along and 
kills them off. When lots of 
rubbish has collected, a clean- 
ing machine goes to work. The 
machine is called the Big Liz. It 
moves down the track, scoop- 
ing up ballast and sifting out all 


the dust and junk. Then it squirts the cleaned ballast 
out again, leaving a clean roadbed behind. 

Section crews often have portable telephones or 
walkie-talkies that save a lot of time. If they need ma- 
terials, they call up the office and put in the order right 
away. And if the job takes longer than they expected, 
they phone a warning to the nearest station where trains 
can wait until it's safe to go ahead. 

How does the section crew know when it is neces- 
sary to put in a new rail? In the old days, they got or- 
ders from an inspector who walked or rode slowly along 
in an inspection car, looking for cracks or breaks. That's, 
still the way it is done in many places. But some rail- 
roads have a machine-detective that finds cracks so 
small a man couldn't even see them. 

The machine rides in a detector car, and it works 


by electricity with tubes something like radio tubes. 
The men who run it simply look at wavy lines drawn 
on paper by pens that are part of the machine. When- 
ever the car passes over a cracked rail, the pens make a 
different kind of line. And right away the section crew 
is asked to put a new rail in. Summer and winter, the 
detector cars creep along, making sure that tracks are 

In winter, of course, the tracks must be kept clear. 
If there's just an ordinary snowfall, a powerful locomo- 
tive can run through it with no trouble. But when drifts 
get deep and heavy, the snow plow must go to work. 

The man who first invented railroad snow plows 
got the idea from watching a windmill. He saw how the 
windmill blades tossed snow 
around as it fell. Why couldn't 
blades at the front of an engine 
cut into drifts and toss the snow 
off to one side? Of course they 
could. Railroads began using 
powerful rotary plows. The 
whirling blades chewed the 
drifts away. Even in lower 
country, there's often plenty of 
work for the snow eaters to do. 

Tie- Kox e«. -^ 



The very first passenger cars were really stage- 
coaches with railroad wheels, and that's why we still use 
the name coach. Some old-time passenger cars had two 
decks. All the cars were fastened together with chains, 
so they banged and whacked each other when the train 
started or stopped. Sparks from the woodburning loco- 
motive flew back and set clothes on fire. Rails were 
only thin strips of iron nailed to wood. Sometimes the 
strips broke loose and jabbed right up through a car. 

In the beginning, an engine had no closed-in cab for 
the engineer and fireman. They didn't want to be closed 
in. It was safer to stand outside so they could jump off 
quickly in case of accident. Cows on the track often 
caused trouble. Then a man named Isaac Dripps in- 
vented a cowcatcher made of sharp spears. But farmers 
complained that it killed too many animals, so scoop- 


shaped cowcatchers were installed. The name for a 
cowcatcher now is pilot. 

The first headlight was a wood fire built on a small 
flat car pushed ahead of the engine. Later, whale-oil and 
kerosene lamps showed the way at night. 

Engineers were once allowed to invent and tinker 
with their own whistles, and they worked out fancy 
ways of blowing them. This was called quilling. People 
along the tracks could tell who 
the engineer was by listening to 
the sound of his whistle. Some 
great quillers could even blow a 
sort of tune. 

One engineer fixed his whis- 
tle so that people thought it 
was magic. Every time he blew 
it, the kerosene lights in the 
station went out! What hap- 
pened was this: The whistle 
made vibrations in the air that 
were just right for putting out 
the lamps. But they did the 
same thing to signal lights, and 
so the engineer had to change 
his tune. 


The first sleeping cars had rows of hard double- 
decker and even triple-decker bunks, with a stove at 
each end. Passengers brought their own blankets and 
pillows, and their own candles to see by. Nobody really 
slept much. 

Trains were uncomfortable — even dangerous. But 
people needed them, and they were excited about 
them, too. All over the country men built new rail- 
roads as fast as they could. Each new company built as 
it pleased, and trains owned by one company didn't 
run over another's tracks. Of course, that meant you 
had to change trains often — wherever one railroad line 
stopped and another began. There were no railroad 
bridges over rivers, either. So you got off and took a 
ferry across. 

One by one, men made inventions for trains, so 
that traveling became safer and more comfortable. En- 

gines began to burn coal instead of wood. A piece of 
wire screen in the smokestack stopped the flying sparks, 
although cinders came through — and they still do to 
this very day. Coaches and sleepers had softer seats, 
but they were still noisy for a long time because they 
had wooden bodies that creaked while the wheels clat- 
tered along. 

Thirsty travelers at first had to buy drinks from the 
water boy who walked back and forth through the 
train. Later, cars had a tank of water and one glass for 
everyone to use. The glass sat in a rack, and it had a 
round bottom so that it wouldn't be of much use to a 
passenger who was tempted to steal it. 

Lots of things about trains were different in the old 
days, but one thing was the same. They were just as 
much fun to ride in then as they are now. 



Here are more of the slang words 
that railroaders have made up: 
BALLING THE JACK — this is what 
they say when they mean a train is 
going very fast. Highballing means 
the same thing. 
BOOMER — a railroad worker who 
moves from place to place without 
sticking very long at any one job. 
There are still a few boomers, but 
in the old days there were thou- 

means fasten together the air brake 
hoses which run underneath all the 

CHASE THE RED — this is what the 
flagman says he does when he goes 
back with a red flag or lantern to 
protect a stalled train. 

CRACKER BOX — a Diesel stream- 
liner. Glowworm means the same 


CRADLE — a gondola or hopper car. 

DOODLEBUG — a little railroad mo- 
tor car that the section crew uses. 

DOPE — the oily waste that is packed 
in journal boxes. 

GARDEN — a freight yard. > 

GIVE HER THE GRIT — squirt sand 
onto a slippery track. 

GREASE THE PIG — oil the engine. 

HIGH IRON — the track that makes 
up the main line of a railroad, not 
switching track or station track. 

PULL THE CALF^S TAIL — jerk the 
cord that blows the whistle. 

RATTLER — a freight train. 

SHOO-FLY — a track that is used only 
until regular track can be laid or re- 

STRING OF VARNISH — a passenger 
train. High wheeler is another nick- 


ashcat, 10 
Astra-Dome, 68 
backshop, 33-37 
bad-order car, 33 
baggage car, 78 
bakehead, 10 
ballast, 83 
banjo, 10 
barn, 10 
Big Liz, 83 
Big Wamp, 39 
bobtail, 31 
boxcars, 54-55 
brakeman, 10, 70, 28, 

brakes, 20 
bridges, 58 
Brotherhoods, 32 
CTC, 62-64 
caboose, 13, 16, 17 
call boy, 22 
car knocker, 34 
car retarder, 29 
car tinker, 34 
cattle cars, 49 
Centralized Traffic 

Control, 62-64 
cherry picker, 3 1 
circus cars, 57 
classification yard, 

"club down," 18 
compartment, 74 
conductor, 65 
couplings, 32 

cowcatcher, 86 
crum box, 17 
crummy, 17 
cupola, 17 
"deckorating," 20 
depressed center car, 57 
detector car, 84-85 
diamond pusher, 10 
Diesel locomotive, 

diner, 69-70 
dispatcher, 64 
division point, 24 
dog, 16, 78 
doghouse, 17 
dome, 21 
drag, 13 
duplex, 73 

Edaville Railroad, 81 
engineer, 9, 12-15, 21, 

43, 87 
fireman, 9-22 
flimsy, 16 
fusee, 18 
galley, 70 
gandy dancer, 82 
gondolas, 52-53 
grain cars, 54-55 
greenball, 44-47 
hand signals, 32-33 
head end, 76 
head-end crew, 13 
helper engine, 1 8 
"highball," 11 
hog, 10 

hogger, 10 
hoop, 14, 16 
hoppers, 52-54 . 
hot box, 42-44 
hotshot, 1 3 
hump, 26-28 
hump rider, 29 
icing machine, 45 
inspection pit, 28 
inspector, 29, 33, 34 
Iron Horse, 10 
journal box, 30, 42-44 
king snipe, 82 
link-and-pin, 32 
livestock cars, 48-49 
locomotives, 33-41 
Mikado, 41 
narrow-gauge trains, 

oldfashioned trains, 

"op," 9 
Owney, 78-79 
Pacific, 41 
parlor, 17 
peddler car, 47 
pig-pen, 10 
pigs, 49 
porter, 67 

Pullman cars, 72-74 
quilling, 87 
radio telephone, 28, 43, 

Railway Express car, 


Railway Post Office 

car, 76-77 
redball, 13 
reefer, 44-47 
refrigerator cars, 44-47 
roller bearings, 44 
roomette, 73 
roundhouse, 10 
running inspection, 43 
sand, 20-21 
sap, 20 

section crew, 82-83 
shack, 10 
sheep, 48 
signal flags, 18 

signal lights, 14 
slip-track, 37 
snake, 31 
snow plow, 85 
snow train, 75 
special cars, 56-58 
squirrel cage, 17 
station agent, 14-16 
stewardess, 65 
stinker, 43 
stock cars, 48-49 
stoker, 12 
streamliner, 65-74 
switch engine, 26, 28, 

switch, 25 
switchman, 31 
tallow pot, 10 
tank cars, 50-51 
teakettle, 31 
tell-tale, 61 
torpedoes, 18 
towerman, 26-28 
track-pan, 38 
trestles, 58 
train order, 16 
tunnels, 60 
Vista-Dome, 68 
waste, 42 
yard goat, 3 1 




^1 1^.--^-^=^.. 

Many railroading people helped to make this book. Here are some to whom the author 
and the artist want to give special thanks : Margaret Gossett; Inez M. DeVille of the Baltimore 
& Ohio Railroad; the late Lee Lyles of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway; C. J. Corliss 
and A. C. Browning of the Association of American Railroads; K. C. Ingram of the Southern 
Pacific Railroad; Eugene DuBois of the Pennsylvania Railroad; the staff in the President's 
office, Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen; Frank J. Newell of the Chicago, Milwaukee, 
St. Paul and Pacific Railroad; J. R. Sullivan of the New York Central Railroad; Howard A. 
Moulton of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad; and finally to Harry Hall 
of the New York, New Haven and Hartford, through whose good offices the artist and 
his children spent a memorable day on the Edaville Railroad. 


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