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SCLS Live Steam Railroading Glossary

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Beginning With: "B"
BACK TO THE FARM Laid off on account of slack business. When a man is discharged he is given six months twice a year
BAD ORDER Crippled car or locomotive, often called cripple. Must be marked at night by a blue light when men are working around it
BAIL IT IN Feed the locomotive firebox
BAKE HEAD Locomotive fireman. Also called bell ringer, blackie, and many other names scattered throughout this glossary
BALING-WIRE MECHANIC A man of little mechanical ability
BALLAST Turkey or chicken dressing
BALLAST SCORCHER Speedy engineer
BAND WAGON Pay car or pay train from which wages were handed out to railroad employees
BANJO Fireman's shovel; old-style banjo-shaped signal
BAREFOOT Car or engine without brakes. (Many locomotives built in the 1860's and 1870's were not equipped with brakes except on the tank)
BARN Locomotive roundhouse, so-called from the building in which streetcars are housed
BAT THE STACK OFF OF HER Make fast time, work an engine at full stroke
BATTING 'EM OUT Used generally by switchmen when a yard engine is switching a string of cars
BATTLESHIP Large freight engine or interurban car, or a coal car. Also a formidable female, such as the landlady or a henpecked man's wife
BEANERY Railroad eating house. Beanery queen is a waitress
BEANS Meet orders; lunch period
BEAT 'ER ON THE BACK Make fast time; work an engine at full stroke
BEEHIVE Railroad yard office
BELL RINGER Locomotive fireman
BEND THE IRON Change the position of the rust a switch. Also called bend or bend the rail
BIG BOYS Special trains for officials
BIG E Engineer, so called from the large initial on membership buttons of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers
BIG FOUR The four operating Brotherhoods: Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, Order of Railway Conductors, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers
BIG HOLE Emergency application of air-brake valve, causing a quick stop. Big-holing her, the same as wiping the clock, is making an emergency stop
BIG HOOK Wrecking crane
BIG O Conductor; so named from first initial in Order of Railway Conductors. Sometimes called big ox and less complimentary terms
BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAINS Hobo's paradise, as described in song by Harry K. McClintock. (See Indian Valley Line)
BINDERS Hand brakes
BINDLE STIFF or BLANKET STIFF Hobo who totes a blanket and uses it wherever night finds him. (Bindle is a corruption of "bundle")
BIRD CAGE Brakeman's or switchman's lantern
BLACK DIAMONDS Company coal. Diamond cracker is a locomotive fireman
BLACK ONES Railway Express refrigerator or boxcars having no interior illumination pressed into mail service during the Christmas rush
BLACK SNAKE Solid train of loaded coal cars
BLACKBALLED black-listed, boycotted
BLACKJACKS Fifty-ton Santa Fe coal cars painted black
BLAZER Hot journal with packings afire
BLEED Drain air from. Bleeder is valve by which air is bled from auxiliary reservoir of a car
BLIND BAGGAGE Hobo riding head end of baggage car next to tender, where no door is placed; commonly called riding the blinds
BLIZZARD LIGHTS Originally the lights on either side of the headlight that served in emergency when the oil-burning headlight blew out. Now they indicate the train is nonschedule or extra
BLOOD Old-time engine built by Manchester Locomotive Works. Mr. Aretas Blood being the builder's name
BLOW 'ER DOWN Reduce water in a locomotive boiler when carrying too much
BLOW UP Use the blower to increase draft on the fire and thereby raise the steam pressure in the boiler. Also quit a job suddenly
BO Hobo. Bo chaser is freight brakeman or railroad policeman
BOARD Fixed signal regulating railroad traffic, usually referred to as slow board., order board., clear board (for clear tracks) or red board (stop). Do not confuse this with extra board or spare board, colloquially known as slow board or starvation list, usually containing names of qualified train or enginemen not in regular active service who are called to work in emergencies. These names are listed in order of seniority, the man hired most recently being the last one called to service
BOBTAIL Switch engine
BOILER ASCENSION Boiler explosion
BOILER HEADER Man riding in engine cab
BOILER WASH A high-water engineer
BOOK OF RULES Examination based on facts in rulebook
BOOKKEEPER Trainman who makes out reports; flagman
BOOMER Drifter who went from one railroad job to another, staying but a short time on each job or each road. This term dates back to pioneer days when men followed boom camps. The opposite is home guard. Boomers should not be confused with tramps, although they occasionally became tramps. Boomers were railroad workers often in big demand because of their wide experience, sometimes blackballed because their tenure of stay was uncertain. Their common practice was to follow the "rushes"-that is, to apply for seasonal jobs when and where they were most needed, when the movement of strawberry crops, watermelons, grain, etc., was making the railroads temporarily short-handed. There are virtually no boomers in North America today. When men are needed for seasonal jobs they are called from the extra board
BOOTLEGGER Train that runs over more than one railroad
BOWLING ALLEY Hand-fired coal-burning locomotive. (A fireman throwing in the lumps of coal goes through motions that resemble bowling)
BRAIN PLATE Trainman's cap or hat badge
BRAINS or THE BRAINS Conductor; sometimes called brainless wonder, a term also applied to any train or engineman or official who does things his fellows consider queer
BRAKE CLUB Three-foot hickory stick used by freight trainmen to tighten hand brakes. Sometimes called sap or staff of ignorance
BRASS A babbitt-lined blank of bronze that forms the bearing upon which the car rests. To brass a car is to replace one of those bearings
BRASS BUTTONS Passenger conductor on railroad or streetcar line
BRASS COLLAR or BRASS HAT Railroad official. Term may have originated from gold-braided collar of conductor's uniform and brass plate on his cap
BRASS POUNDER Telegraph operator
BREEZE Service air
BRIDGE HOG Bridge and building carpenter of the old school antedating steel and concrete
BROKEN KNUCKLES Railroad sleeping quarters
BROWNIES Demerits. This system is traced back to George R. Brown, general superintendent of the Fall Brook Railway (now part of the New York Central) in 1885. He thought the then current practice of suspending men for breaking rules was unfair to their families and substituted a system of demerit marks. Too many demerits in a given period resulted in dismissal. The Brown system, with many variations, has since been widely adopted by the railroad industry. A superintendent's private car is called brownie box or brownie wagon
BUCK THE BOARD Working the extra board. (See board)
BUCKLE THE RUBBERS Connect air, steam, or signal hose
BUG Telegraph instrument or trainman's or switchman's light, which is also called bug torch. Bug may also be a three-wheeled electric truck that carries mail and baggage around terminals
BUG LINE Telephone connection between engine house and yard or telegraph office
BUG SLINGER Switchman or brakeman
BUGGY Caboose; rarely applied to other cars
BULL Railroad policeman. Also called flatfoot or gumshoe, but the distinctive railroad terms are cinder dick and 'bo chaser
BULL PEN Crew room
BULLGINE Steam locomotive
BULLNOSE Front drawbar of a locomotive
BUMP Obtain another man's position by exercising seniority. When a crew is deprived of its assignment, as when a train is removed from the timetable, its members select the jobs they wish from those held by others with less whiskers
BUMPER Post at end of spur track, placed there to stop rolling stock from running onto the ground
BUNCH OF THIEVES Wrecking crew
BUST UP A CUT To separate the cars in a train, removing some that have reached their destination, assigning others to through trains, etc.
BUTTERFLY Note thrown (or handed) from train by an official to a section foreman or other employee, so called because it may flutter along the track, although it is usually weighted down when thrown from a car
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