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SCLS Live Steam Railroading Glossary

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Beginning With: "S"
SADDLE First stop of freight car, under the lowest grab iron
SANDHOG Laborer who works in a caisson tunneling under a river, boring either a railroad tunnel, subway, or highway tunnel
SAP Same as brake club; also called the staff of ignorance. To set hand brakes is to sap up some binders
SAW BY Slow complicated operation whereby one train passes another on a single-track railroad when the other is on a siding too short to hold the entire train. Saw by is applied to any move through switches or through connecting switches that is necessitated by one train passing another
SAWBONES Company doctor
SCAB Nonunion workman; also car not equipped with automatic air system. (See nonair)
SCIZZOR-BILL Uncomplimentary term referring to yard or road brakemen and students in train service
SCOOP Fireman's shovel. Also the step on front and rear ends of switch engines
SCOOT Shuttle train
SCRAP PILE Worn-out locomotive that is still in service
SEASHORE Sand used in sand dome. Also applied to coal that is mixed with sand
SEAT HOG Passenger who monopolizes more than one seat in a car or station waiting room while others are standing. Such pests usually spread luggage, packages, or lunch over adjacent seats
SECRET WORKS Automatic air-brake application. Also the draft timbers and drawbar of a car, when extracted by force. If only the drawbar is pulled out, you say, "We got a lung," but if the draft timbers comewith it, you say, "We got the whole damn secret works"
SENIORITY GRABBER Railroad employee who is glad when someone above him dies, gets killed, is fired, or resigns, so he can move up the seniority list to a better job
SEPARATION The sorting of mail sacks and parcels within the storage car before transferring to trucks
SERVICE APPLICATION Gradual speed reduction, as contrasted with emergency stop caused by wiping the clock
SETTING UP Loading a baggage car with mail and parcels according to a prearranged plan to facilitate rapid unloading at various stations along the line
SETUP Four to six hand trucks placed in formation beside the door of a storage car to facilitate the separation of the mail and parcels being unloaded. Each truck is loaded with matter to be transferred to other trains or to the R.P.O. (Railway Post Office) terminal office
SHACK Brakeman, occupant of caboose. Shacks master is a conductor SHAKE 'EM UP-Switching
SHAKING THE TRAIN Putting on air brakes in emergency
SHANTY Caboose
SHINER Brakeman's or switchman's lantern
SHINING TIME Starting time (probably from old Negro spiritual "Rise and Shine")
SHOO-FLY Temporary track, usually built around a flooded area, a wreck, or other obstacle; sometimes built merely to facilitate a rerailing
SHORT FLAGGING Flagman not far enough from his train to protect it. (See drawbar flagging)
SHORT LOADS Cars consigned to points between division points and set out on sidings at their destinations. Also called shorts
SHORT-TIME CREW Crew working overtime but not yet affected by the sixteen-hour law. (See dogcatchers)
SHUFFLE THE DECK Switch cars onto house tracks at every station you pass on your run
SIDE-DOOR PULLMAN Boxcar used by hobos in stealing rides
SKATE Shoe placed on rail in hump yard to stop cars with defective brakes
SKIN YOUR EYE Engineer's warning to man on left side of cab when approaching curve
SKIPPER Conductor
SKYROCKETS Red-hot cinders from smokestack
SLAVE DRIVER Yardmaster. Also any rawhider
SLING MORSE Work as telegraph operator
SLIPS, CAR OR TRAIN OF Car or train of bananas
SLOW BOARD See board
SLUG Heavy fire in locomotive firebox
SLUGS A shipment of magazines, catalogues, or automobile-license plates in small mail sacks weighing approximately 100 pounds each
SMART ALECK Passenger conductor
SMOKE or SMOKE AGENT Locomotive fireman. Smoker is engine or firebox. Smoking 'em or running on smoke orders is a dangerous method, now obsolete, of running a train from one station or siding to another without orders from the dispatcher. You moved cautiously, continually watching for the smoke of any train that might be approaching you on the same track
SNAKE Switchman, so named from the large serpentine letter S on membership pins of the Switchman's Union of North America. Sometimes called reptile or serpent
SNAKEHEAD A rail that comes loose from the ties and pierces the floor of a car; a fairly common accident with the strap-iron rails of a century ago
SNAP Push or pull with another engine. Snapper is the engine that does the pulling
SNIPE Track laborer. His boss is a king snipe
SNOOZER Pullman sleeping car
SNUFF DIPPERS Coal-burning engines that burn lignite (which, on the Missouri Pacific at least, is the same color as snuff)
SOAK Saturated locomotive
SODA JERKER Locomotive fireman
SOFT BELLIES Wooden frame cars
SOFT PLUG Fusible plug in crown sheet of locomotive that is supposed to drop when water gets below top of sheet
SOLID CAR A completely filled storage car containing sixty feet of mail and parcels, equal to a 100 per cent load
SOLID TRACK Track full of cars
SPAR Pole used to shove cars into the clear when switching. (See stake)
SPEED GAUGER Locomotive engineer
SPEEDER Same as pop car
SPEEDY Callboy
SPIKE A TORCH Throw a fusee
SPOT To place a car in a designated position. Also sleep, rest, or lunch period on company time. On the spot means an opportunity for railroad men to "chew the rag" or swap experiences. Unlike the same underworld term, on the spot has no sinister implication in railroad slang
SPOTBOARD Guide used by section men in surfacing or ballasting track in order to obtain an even bed.
SPOTTER Spy, company man assigned to snoop around and check on employees
SQUEEZERS Car-retarding system used in some railroad yards
SQUIRRELING Climbing a car
STACK O' RUST A locomotive that has seen better days
STAKE Pole used in dangerous and now rare method of switching. A cut of cars was shoved by a stake attached to the car immediately in front of the engine. This method was supposed to be superior to the ordinary method of "batting them out" because there was less wear and tear on drawbars and less damage to freight; but the human casualties that resulted gave more than one yard the nickname "slaughterhouse." Another meaning of stake is the money a boomer saved on a job so he could resign and continue eating regularly while looking for another job
STAKE DRIVER Any engineering-department man
STALL Space inside a mail or baggage car containing mail or parcels consigned to a certain destination and separated from other shipments by removable steel posts
STARGAZER Brakeman who fails to see signals
STEM Track or right-of-way
STEM-WINDER Climax type of geared locomotive. Also applied to trolley car without brakes because of the motion of its brake handle
STICK Staff used on certain stretches of track to control the block. It is carried by engine crews from one station to another. Now rare
STIFF BUGGY Specially designed four-wheel truck used for transferring coffins and rough boxes inside a station
STINGER Brakeman. Derived from initial B(ee) of Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, or perhaps from some brakemen's habit of arousing hobos by applying a brake club to the soles of their shoes
STIRRUP First step of freight car, under the lowest grab iron
STOCK PEN Yard office
STOCKHOLDER Any employee who is always looking out for the company's interests
STOPPER PULLER Member of the crew that follows the engine in switching
STORAGE CAR Baggage car or (in rush periods) Railway Express car containing a mixed shipment of parcels and mail sacks consigned to a certain terminal for sorting and rerouting to various destinations via other trains
STRAW BOSS Foreman of small gang or acting foreman
STRAW-HAT BOYS Railroad men who work only in pleasant weather
STRAWBERRY PATCH Rear end of caboose by night; also railroad yard studded with red lights
STRETCH 'EM OUT Take out slack in couplings and drawbars of train
STRING Several cars coupled together; also a telegraph wire
STRUGGLE FOR LIFE Existence in railroad boardinghouse
STUDE TALLOW Student fireman
STUDENT Learner in either telegraph, train, or engine service; an apprentice
SUCK IT BY Make a flying switch
SUPER Superintendent
SWELLHEAD Conductor or locomotive engineer
SWING A BUG Make a good job of braking. (See bug)
SWING MAN Same as middle man
SWITCH LIST Bill of fare at railroad eating house
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