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LYRASIS IVIembers and Sloan Foundation
TRAINS AT WORK
By Mary Elting
DAVID LYLE MILLARD
3ARDEN CITY BOOKS GARDEN CITY, NY
Copyright 1947, 1953 by Duenewald Printing Corporation.
Lithographed in the United States of America.
SAM IS A FIREMAN:
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.
TOP OP CROSS BAtCt.
MEANT *'CL6*^«. TRA^CK
BLACK BALL, RUN
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
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.
UNSCRAMBLING THE TRAINS
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
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.
LOOKING OUT OF- INSPeCTORi
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
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
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
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-
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
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.
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
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
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
C F^ ^
'»*t^3>»fc^ I--I A f«i*«H?»^vJL^i*''»<»>*'J=vlsU^«H°>\Jl[
SANTA FE 6000 DIESEL
NEW H AvV EN E P M-
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
QyijiiHaj' -t^ Hi">\!y qy
NEW YORK CENTR/VL HUD&ON
CAtMA.OIP>N PACIFIC MIKADO
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.
UNION PACIFIC ^^OftTHeR.^4
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
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
Some fruits, such as ba-
nanas, have to be inspected on
the road to make sure they are
s_ ^ not spoiling. The inspectors are
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.
TO MARKET, TO MARKET
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
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.
HOPPERS AND GONDOLAS
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
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-
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.
^ ^ • »'
ODD SHAPES AND SIZES
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
TRESTLES, TUNNELS AND THINGS
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.
THE CAPTAIN AND THE CARS
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 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
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
OR. PERSONS ON Te.fv.CK-.
(^&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
AT THE HEAD END
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.
NARROW GAUGE TRAINS ■''
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!
ALONG THE TRACKS
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
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
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
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-
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-
BUCKLE THE BALONIES — this
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-
bad-order car, 33
baggage car, 78
Big Liz, 83
Big Wamp, 39
brakeman, 10, 70, 28,
caboose, 13, 16, 17
call boy, 22
car knocker, 34
car retarder, 29
car tinker, 34
cattle cars, 49
cherry picker, 3 1
circus cars, 57
"club down," 18
crum box, 17
depressed center car, 57
detector car, 84-85
diamond pusher, 10
division point, 24
dog, 16, 78
Edaville Railroad, 81
engineer, 9, 12-15, 21,
gandy dancer, 82
grain cars, 54-55
hand signals, 32-33
head end, 76
head-end crew, 13
helper engine, 1 8
hoop, 14, 16
hoppers, 52-54 .
hot box, 42-44
hotshot, 1 3
hump rider, 29
icing machine, 45
inspection pit, 28
inspector, 29, 33, 34
Iron Horse, 10
journal box, 30, 42-44
king snipe, 82
livestock cars, 48-49
peddler car, 47
Pullman cars, 72-74
radio telephone, 28, 43,
Railway Express car,
Railway Post Office
refrigerator cars, 44-47
roller bearings, 44
running inspection, 43
section crew, 82-83
signal flags, 18
signal lights, 14
snow plow, 85
snow train, 75
special cars, 56-58
squirrel cage, 17
station agent, 14-16
stock cars, 48-49
switch engine, 26, 28,
tallow pot, 10
tank cars, 50-51
train order, 16
yard goat, 3 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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