railroad terminology

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Well-Known Member
I had to google the word "venerable" because I see it used to describe old engines, now I understand.

I might start referring to myself that way...I'm not old, I'm venerable, lol


Been Nothin' Since Frisco
Here is some I didn't know until I hired out:

I dig your video, DJ. I'm not sure where you work, but I can tell you don't work for BNSF or UP. ;) Just for some perspective, here's my take on your terms from a BNSF piglet's point of view:

I've never heard "outlaw" as you use it, but I'd recognize what it meant right away. Here in Texas we are "dead on the law" or "we've gone dead."

The way you use "deadhead," as a verb meaning "to travel in a company van," is how we use the word "limo," also as a verb. Additionally, we use "limo" as a noun to describe the van we're riding in, though they are far from the limo most people think of. As far as deadhead is concerned, we only "deadhead" when we are making a paid trip where we are not working but are only traveling as a train crew either in a van, on a train or on Amtrak. A dispatcher might order us to "tie the train down in Smith Siding and limo to the hotel" but not "deadhead to the hotel." Deadhead for us is the entire trip, not the portion completed in the van.

I've never heard or used 707 so I figure that must be a non-GCOR railroad thing. BNSF and UP use the term "Form B". You talk to the MOW foreman and get talked through his Form B limits. It differs from BNSF to UP, but sounds very similar to how you've described 707. If I heard it for the first time, I'd wonder why you were talking about an old airliner.... :)

For crew members going in between coupled equipment, where you use 3 step, we use "going in between" and the engineer responds "BNSF 1234 set and centered for the conductor, over." We omit the gen. field switch and instead only center the reverser and fully apply the independent brake. When I encounter UP and KCS crews, I hear them say, "going into your/the Red Zone" around here instead of saying "going in between."

EOT is sometimes called an EOT, mostly it's ETD (End of Train Device, End of train Telemetry Device) or FRED (Flashing Rear End Device). My brother works up north and they call the ETD "Fred" and the HTD "Mary," as in, "Fred and Mary are talking to each other," which must be uttered during the comm. test. Also, another term for dumping the air used commonly here is "plug it."

Highball - I also hear it and use it as your first definition, but I've never heard it used to described track gangs or MOW workers. We use it commonly as your last example, "highball that setout" or "highball the mill" (don't spot that industry).

Ah yes, foamer. Long ago I heard it as an acronym for Foaming Over At the Mouth Excited Railfan. Used constantly, along with other derogatory terms like "drooler" or "terrorist." Like you, I don't know why it's okay to work for an airline as a pilot or mechanic and be a plane junkie but if you even think about steel wheels any time other than when doing your job you must have a screw loose. It is what it is and I keep my mouth shut.

Some bonus terms:

Making a joint: on the railroad, to couple cars or engines together. Can be heard on the radio as "Foreman has your point from the ground, back up ten cars to a joint." Also, "...back up ten cars to couple up/a coupling/a hook."

On a rollby inspection, "Fred's hanging" on a conventional train and "Porch light's burning" on a DP train. My favorite one came from an old head just before he retired, "all dark no sparks, northbounder!"

Finally, "piglet" - that's a student engineer, as in not yet a hogger/hoghead. And hogger or hoghead? That is the engineer, who were so named because they'd have to stick not only their head out of the window, but also part of their body, to be able to see hand signals for moves in the yard. When the engineer would turn his head, his entire upper body would move with it, like a hog trying to turn his head.

It's a whole different world out here. Funny thing is, my wife and kids have heard my stories so many times even they know what I'm talking about now. :)


Well-Known Member
you had me laughing.

That was some funny stuff! I work for CSX in Pa, Ohio, MD, and it is funny how lingo can change depending on RR. One time we had these temp transfers come up from the south, and when I said "c'mon back 5 cars for a tie", he thought someone placed a railroad tie on the rail. LOL. That fred and mary i never heard. What I like to say is when I hit the eot emergency toggle, I say "fire one!" and if it works, i say "target destroyed!". Makes me laugh. Be safe out there!


Been Nothin' Since Frisco
I'm going to steal that "fire one... target destroyed!" line. That is brilliant! :D

One time I worked a yard job with a Cajun fella from Louisiana. It took the entire shift to finally figure out what he was saying. Turns out it actually was English. Here's my version of his car counts:

"Foe. Chree ubbum. Toomuh. Laaaah twun. Stoppem owna chree oh sem."


"Four. Three of them. Two more. Last one. Stop 'em on the 307."

He's a hell of a switchman but I got nervous unless it was on hand signals.

Jim 68cuda

Active Member
Here's my version of his car counts:

"Foe. Chree ubbum. Toomuh. Laaaah twun. Stoppem owna chree oh sem."


"Four. Three of them. Two more. Last one. Stop 'em on the 307."

He's a hell of a switchman but I got nervous unless it was on hand signals.
I know its not railroad related, but that reminds me of a time when I was driving my '68 Barracuda 340-S through Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, and stopped at a traffic light. An elderly gentleman was at a gas station close by, filling up the tank of his new Land Rover. He called out to me, "Owncha bur sum rub op dum tar." I was a few miles down the road before I figured out he was saying, "Why don't you burn some rubber off those tires."

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
I was wondering if there were any "railroad terms" that you heard but didn't know what they mean.
I know trains are "ordered" and crews are "called", but both are "tied up". Individual crew members are "marked up", and "laid off".

How about "sharp shooting"?


Been Nothin' Since Frisco
Sharp shooting is placing a bump on a pool turn or an extra board in a position that is projected to have a good outcome for the person placing the bump. That could be an easy train, a deadhead, or a day or days off.


Well-Known Member
This thread is funny.

I worked with a guy who was from Louisiana, and couldn't figure out what a demnear was.

turns out..

Those cars dem near 100 feet away.
Those cars, them are nearly 100 feet away.


New Member
Funny... I work for CSX, but never heard "outlaw" used before. Usually instead we'll hear something like, say... I'll be sitting in the Yardmaster's office, he's watching the screen and will say something like "697's dead at 5 and he's not even at Monroe yet. Y'all might have to go drag him in."

Let's see, some other stuff... we just call the OBWO "the box" instead of "xbox" or "game boy".

I don't remember "pig train" mentioned in the video... no, it's not a train hauling pigs, it's an intermodal. Short for "piggyback train" because the containers are "piggybacking" on the intermodal cars.

Hmm, what else... "the hole". Might be heard in the context of a yardmaster saying something like "Hey Y102, when you bust off in 5 track close the hole so Rick can grab it from the north end". Basically he's saying to close the angle cock on the south end where I'm working so that when they couple up on the north end, they don't have to walk down X number of cars to close it themselves so the train can build air.
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New Member
Hey guys,

I work for NS. We use a lot of the same terminology, 3 step. We use. To have Form B now there Form Y.

We use EOTD "end of train device" HOTD respectively.

We use "for a tie" a lot when coupling.

Our trainee conductors are called cubs, or pumpkin heads because of the orange hats they wear.

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