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Railroad Nicknames

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Some of my favorite nicknames for various railroad jobs are:

  • "Baby Lifter" - Brakeman. Maybe he helped carry babies on the train for their mothers? Not sure how that nickname got started.
  • "Bakehead" Nickname for the Fireman, because his head was so close to the fire box while he was shoveling coal.
  • "Big C" - The Conductor.
  • "Big E" - The Engineer.
  • "Boomer" - Itenerent railroad workers, always moving from one location to another.
  • "The Brains" - The Conductor.
  • "Brass Hat" - A railway executive (usually a division manager or higher).
  • "Bull" - Railroad detective.
  • "Carman" - A person trained in the craft of inspecting and repairing railroad cars.
  • "Conductor" - Traditionally, the railroad employee who walked up and down the aisles of the passenger cars taking tickets, etc. This term was sometimes teasingly used on Brakemen who had pencils sticking out of their pockets.
  • "Dead Head" - A railroad employee traveling on a pass.
  • "Dinger" - A Yard Master.
  • "Door Slammer" - What freight trainmen called passenger trainmen.
  • "Flagman" - The rear brakeman. To be a Flagman, the brakeman had to know how to read, so he could understand trian orders, which from time to time would be changed enroute. Most Flagmen were proud of the fact that they were Flagmen, which set them above their fellow brakemen that could not read.
  • "Foamers" - name given by train crews for people who gathered along the railroad tracks to watch adn wayve at trains.
  • "Gandy Dancer" - Name give to a railroad track worker. The name came from the Gandy Manufacturing Company in the 1800's who made a lot of track tools.
  • "Guinea" - A new worker or a worker who is not familiar with job requirements.
  • "Hoghead or Hogger" - A railroad engineer (locomotives were nicknamed "Hogs").
  • "Iron Bender" - A switchman.
  • "Lighting Slinger" - A railroad telegraph operator.
  • "Number Dummies" - Clerks who worked as yard checkers.
  • "Old Head" - Someone who does his job well.
  • "Piglet" - A locomotive engineer trainee.
  • "Skipper" - The conductor.
  • "Spotter" - A company employee charged with spying on other employees, especially in the old days when a conductor would collect cash fairs from passengers and sometimes did not turn in all the receipts to the company at the end of the trip.

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