Below you will find a list of commonly
used rail slang. While some may not
sound like slang, they are in the sense
that the rail version of the word
carries a different connotation from the
everyday meaning. Also, this is by no
means a complete glossary; just a
compilation of slang that is still used
to some extent today. So, if you're
ready, here we go.
This document in no way, written or
implied, reflects the management's view
or endorsement, nor does it imply a
policy change in NERR operations or work
order development. This document is just
information and intended for the fun of
the NERR brethren. No copyright is
enforced either. You can read it, copy
it, bend it, fold it, mutilate it, blow
your nose in it, or wipe your butt with
it. But only if you have fun with it.
The slang term is given first, with a
translation to the right of it. I've
include notes where these terms can be
used to help explain some of the things
MSTS does that are beyond our control,
or how to use the slang in an MSTS
- Lever that is turned to open or
close off air from one car to another.
- Temporary reassignment to another
division that may be short on hoggers
(see below for the meaning of that
term) or conductors. (a low seniority
car, bad order car
- Railcar requiring repair.
- An empty TOFC, COFC or double stack
"O", the brains, skipper, pin puller
bighole it, dump the air
- Emergency brake application.
- Loaded coal train.
- A train whose cars are assembled in
a particular order.
- Fellow operating department workers.
- A rail bridge where some supports
are above rail grade.
- Passenger train hauling company
- Person who inspects and repair
- Plural for the above. (Note: not
associated in any way with the
supermodel of the '90s.)
- Wood chip car.
customer service rep
- Converts a customer's needs to
traffic. Kinda like our work order
- Any train, no matter what the make
up or configuration.
cage, pig palace
- Livestock car.
- Same as "deadhead" but with a cab or
company crew vehicle.
hack, cab, head shed, brain shack
- Company headquarters.
- To move from home terminal to away
terminals or trains on the division.
Usually done by riding a train going
toward your desired on-duty point.
- Railcar with something dragging on
the ground; also refers to a dragging
- The bar portion of a coupler that
houses the knuckle.
- A switch that can be thrown from a
remote location, or manually by moving
a handle. (generally found in CTC
- A railcar with a malfunctioning
triple valve. This defect causes a
train to go into emergency any time an
automatic brake reduction is made.
Requires all train speed reductions to
be made with the dynamic brakes.
- Dynamic brake mode of a diesel
- A group of stand-by engineers,
conductors and brakeman that fill jobs
when the "pool" is used up. (Low
- Locomotive headlights, i.e.: dim
your eyeballs when you're entering a
- F#^*$%@ Rear End Device, Federal
Rear End Device. A flashing marker
attached to the end of a train that is
coupled into the train's brake pipe.
Signals from the FRED (such as the
brake pipe pressure on the rear of the
train) are then transmitted to the
leading locomotive via radio. Newer
FREDs can also transmit telemetry
- To proceed through a switch from the
point on in the connecting track.
FB7, FB8 - 70 ft and 80 ft bulkhead
flatcars. Note: Most Class 1 railroads
enforce a 40 mph speed restriction on
- A flat area created on a
wheel face by dragging the wheel.
- A detector,
usually located on long downhill
grades, which warns of cars with
(MSTS: can be a way of adding work on
long boring run thru's).
foamer, GERF (Glassy Eyed RailFan),
- A railfan (no
FOO - (F*@# old Orville)
- Screw what
the RFE or Trainmaster says. A meaning
of disrespect to a management decision
regarding a train movement.
- Federal Railroad
Administration, branch of government
that enforces, implements and dictates
- Tank car carrying petroleum.
get the air back
- Resetting a penalty application or
emergency brake application. Refers to
an automatic brake
- Switch engine.
greaser, flange oiler
- Device that
automatically adds lubricant to the
flange portion of a wheel. Usually
positioned at the entrance to sharp
curves. (A real headache when trying
to get a heavy train up a grade
heat kink, sun kink
- A condition that happens in long
welded rail sections. If there is not
enough rail gap to
allow for rail expansion the track
will literally develop a large kink.
Usually why speed restrictions are
on really hot days. One of these can
derail a train.
- Locomotives added to a train en
route to assist in climbing or
- High seniority switchman's job. His
job is to line switches into a
railyard all the way to the receiving
track or line out departing trains.
(MSTS: may be a way to explain how the
switches are magically lined all the
to a receiving track even in large
yards. Maybe NERR can adopt this
position for its vast array of
- Hogger who removes
power from inbound trains and/or adds
power to outbound trains from the
roundhouse or service area.
- An open or enclosed car that drops
its contents through a door or set of
doors on the bottom of the car.
Generally, covered hoppers are used
for grain or granular loads that must
be protected from the elements. Open
hoppers are used for aggregate (rock,
sand, ore, etc.) or loads that can be
exposed to the elements.
- Overheated or overheating wheel
bearing journal. A "hotbox detector"
will scan a train's journals for
- A yard where railcars are rearranged
by rolling down a hill into a series
- Hinged coupling portion on a
- A section of track with three or
more tracks branching of in close
- Two or locomotives coupled together.
- To take time off from work.
- To return to work i.e.: extra board, freight pool, passenger
- Head end (locomotive) telemetry
receiver. Black box with air pressure
gauge and various lights and
buttons located on top of engine
- Helpers positioned in the middle
portion of a train.
- Tank car carrying oil.
pig, pigtrain, TOFC
- Trailers on
- A small siding that holds only a few
- A group of engineers or conductors
that usually work mainline higher
priority trains. (High seniority)
- An agreement made between two or
more railroads to allow utilization of
each others locomotives. Can
also be an agreement between
management and the union for the
"pool" crews mentioned above.
power, hog, pig, battleship, unit
rear end helper
- Locomotive positioned on rear of
- railcar repair track...Repair In
Road Foreman of Engineers, RFE
in charge of engineers.
- Building either circular in shape or
square (modern version) where motive
power equipment is repaired
- Train owned by a non-union
affiliated railroad. (about the lowest
priority train in union crews eyes to
- Non-union railroad employee.
- A train that is transported in two
or more parts due to excessive length
short time rating
- The red zone on a diesel locomotives
amp gauge (measures electric current
in amperes). Running your train for
too long in this zone can
damage or shorten the life of a
- A train whose
railcars are in no particular order.
snake, reptile, railbender
- A switch, when trailed through, that
returns automatically to its original
stacker, double stack, COFC
Containers on flatcars.
stinger, shack, roughneck, groundhog,
pin puller, pin man, field man
- new engineer.
tallowpot, diamond hustler, fireboy,
bake head, coal heaver, bell ringer
- Where the yardmaster is located. A
building that allows full view of a
TPAD, Tons per axle dynamic
of total train tonnage divided by the
amount of functioning locomotive axles
dynamic brake mode. Note: TPOB & TBAD
are 2 figures that should be provided
the engineer any time the train
configuration is change or prior to
TPOB, tons per operative brake
term relating to how many tons your
train has per operating brakes on the
railcars. (Formula: Amount of total
train tonnage divided by amount of
railcars in your train; does not
power) The higher the TPOB number is
the harder it will be to stop the
- An electrical device (motor) that
turns the wheels of a diesel or
trailing point move
- To proceed through a switch from the
rear toward the point of the switch.
- A person in charge of
conductors. Also may make decisions on
train movements that require
- A rail bridge in which all of the
supports a below track grade.
V-switch, variable switch
- A switch that can be trailed through
without lining first; will stay in
was trailed through.
- Passenger train.
wagon, buggy, car
- Any railcar.
- A track that is connected to
another in a triangle shape that is
used to turn rail equipment or allows
to be entered from either direction.
- Two or more tracks where trains are
made up or rearranged.
2: Slang related to Train Movements:
These two commands are governed by the
direction of the controlling locomotive. So if
the cars are coupled to the front of the
controlling locomotive, "A-Head" would mean to
shove on the cars, and "Back" would mean to
pull on the cars. If the cars are coupled to
the rear of the controlling locomotive,
"A-Head" would mean to pull on the cars, and
"Back" would mean to shove on the cars. Dang,
I think I just gave myself a headache.
- This is the term given for a long reverse or
shove movement. Also refers to having to run
the locomotive backwards or long hood forward
or steam engine backwards (tender forward) for
a prolonged distance or period of time. Now I
really have a headache.
- To throw a switch into its other than normal
rail, bending iron
- Lining a switch for other than normal
air - To
close the anglecocks on both ends of a charged
cut of cars, thus not allowing them to not
have an emergency brake application when
- The action of a train shoving on a
locomotive(s), i.e. dynamic brake mode of
controlling or reducing train speed.
up - To
cause the railcars to run in.
- Close to coupling to a railcar.
cut 'em off
- To separate from.
- A car or group of cars in any train.
Means to separate the train X number of cars
behind the locomotive(s), i.e. "We're going to
cut behind the head 2 cars and go into the
To move the throttle lever down one quadrant.
To pull a car up to speed, then pin off, pull
power ahead into clear, then line switch
allowing the car to roll into the clear on its
own momentum. (MSTS: I have successfully
completed this move, but it takes a lot of
Westman, Northman, Southman
- refers to a train travelling in a specified
direction. i.e.: I'm putting you into the hole
for one Eastman. Translation: "I'm putting you
into the siding for one Eastbound train."
- Slow down.
- Act of allowing a train to move along under
its own momentum with no regard to stretching
- To pin off rear helpers or rear cars with
out stopping the train. (Common move in helper
- Any equipment that is not clear of an
up - To
couple together 2 or more cars at a slow rate
of speed until all the cars are coupled, i.e.
"OK, let's gather up all the rip cars and take
1, hang2, etc.
- Hold on to X number of cars and take them
with the locomotive.,i.e. "We're going to hang
the head three cars and go into the siding."
yard on it, pull 'er back
- Maximum allowable speed. Also, a "highball"
is a signal given the conductor when the train
is ready to depart.
To occupy the main track at a train meet.
- To couple to a railcar.
jack'n the throttle
- To move the throttle excessively causing
unwanted slack action. (MSTS: This action will
usually get you a damage freight notation on
your evaluation report, or worse yet a broken
knuckle on your train.)
'em - To
throttle up rapidly and the pin off the car,
allowing it to proceed under its own momentum.
'em up, air, makin' air, air time, bendin'
weenies, in between
- To connect the main air hoses between 2
make a hook
- Engineer makes the hook with no direction
from conductor; a light engine move; or the
act of coupling cars together.
The point in a train where the cars are
neither bunched or stretched.
P/U - To
retrieve a car or number of cars from a
general location, i.e. pick up all the cars at
- To bunch the train enough to release the
coupler locking feature. (MSTS: This movement
is required on front coupler hooks and coupler
off, pin two off, etc.
- To release a car or cut of cars and allow
them to continue on their own momentum.
off, poke 'em off
- To shove a car off the outside of a curve
from excessive buff forces.
- Put the train into emergency brake
- To pick up a car or cut of cars from a
specified location, i.e. "We're going to pull
2 cars from under the gantry crane at Bill's
- To return a car or cut of cars to a
specified location at the end of a switching
move. (adding or removing cars at the location
of the spot)
- To remove the brakes, or undo a brake
- To spot a car or cars to the repair track.
If more than one car, all cars are to be
separated by at least 3 feet.
- An inspection done on a moving train either
from the ground (MOW, yard crew, or "other"
railroad employee) or from a train traveling
in the opposite direction.
- To apply brakes to a car or train.
S/O - To
leave a car or cut of cars in a general
location, i.e. "We'll S/O the head 10 cars at
Excessive unwanted run in and run out in your
Where two trains pass each other with out
either train having to come to a complete
stop. This is cool when it happens, a sign of
- To position a car or cut of cars at a
specified location, i.e. "We're going to spot
these cars under the gantry crane at Bill's
- To pull on the train to remove all slack.
- To pull a car or cut of cars off the track
on a curve.
- To run through the siding in a meet or when
the main track is out of service or occupied.
tie your train down, tie 'er down
- To secure your train or locomotives for a
prolonged period of time. This move consists
of applying the locomotive brakes, minimum
train brake application of 20 psi, center and
remove the reverser, open the generator field
switch, dim or extinguish the headlights, lock
the controlling locomotive's doors, and apply
a sufficient number of handbrakes to prevent
unwanted movement of the train.
The place where you are going to secure your
locomotive at the end of your work day.
- Apply the handbrakes on any car or engine.
- To secure your locomotive at the end of your
up a notch
- To move the throttle lever up one quadrant.
- To make a hook at an excessive speed usually
considered above 4 mph on railcars, 2 mph on
motive power, passenger equipment and
hazardous cars or cars carrying delicate
- wing 'er,
grab some air, pinch it down
- Set brakes on a moving train.
3: General slang:
bar - 2
pieces of steel used to hold rail joint
train's a leaker
- Excessive air leak.
- The lever that, when pulled or pushed,
allows all the air in a cars air tanks to vent
off, thus releasing all brakes except
bleed the air
- To remove all the air from a car's brake
system by pulling the bleed rod.
- Employee on a division for a short time, an
employee who moves around a lot either within
a specific railroad or from railroad to
railroad (MSTS: NERR has a lot of Boomers.)
- Special agent, patrolman or police officer.
- Railcar or cut of cars whose air reservoirs
have not been bled off.
- Cupola on a caboose.
- Pull hard on while your train brakes are
- A car or cut of cars whose air reservoirs
have not been charged, i.e. contain no air.
- All motive power units facing the same
full head of
Even in the modern age of diesels, this term
still means to pull with everything the
locomotives got, i.e. your locomotive's making
good power and pulling well.
- Means all the cars in your train have all
reservoirs charged to the full pressure of the
automatic brake valve. (Usually, freight = 90
psi, Amtrak/passenger = 110 psi)
- Flare. A device used to flag protect trains
gag my hopper
- I leave this one up to you. I have no idea
what it means. My guess is a statement of
go pound salt
- Go to hell. Get outta here.
go to beans
- Eat lunch.
- Mainline or high speed track.
hook, big hook
- A crane used for re-railing derailed
- High speed priority train.
lay down some
Apply sand to rail.
on the ground,
on the rail
- Car wheels are positioned properly on
pullin' the pin
- To retire.
- Light engine move.
- Top of rail.
- (MOW Term) Rails or ties depending upon how
it is used.
- To trail through an improperly lined switch
and then reverse through it causing the train
to go down 2 separate tracks (translated:
tie 'er up
- To secure the locomotive at the end of your
- A device, placed on top of the rail, that
explodes when run over, providing an audible
noise, used prior to unforeseen speed
- To get screwed as in "The agreement between
the union and management has got us stuck out
on Track 7".
- Pull hard on your train.
Due to the
extensive list of steam lingo, I have included
below the website for this area. The list is
several pages long, and you can print the
glossary from the website. Since the NERR does
have steam power, I encourage everyone to check
out the website.
Jeremy Levish (aka
Taz) - Thanks for the lists, they helped a
lot. Didn't realize how much I forgot in 3
Brian Element (aka
elementb) - Thank you for allowing me to share
this with the rest of the brethren, and for
putting it where they can find it. Also for
your patience concerning the multiple emails
containing updated versions.
All the people
associated with the NERR for giving me a hell
of place to play. You can't hide. I know who