Tag Archives: railroad workers

John Henry was hammering

“John Henry was hammering on the right side, The big steam drill on the left, Before that steam drill could beat him down, He hammered his fool self to death.” —stanza 7 from one of the earliest written copies of the John Henry ballad, prepared by a W. T. Blankenship and published about 1900. He’s […]

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It throwed the lead mule way up on the hillside

“One time we were hauling long timbers for the railroad company. 30 ft. long and it required 2 cars to haul the timbers on, a car under each end and it was pulled with 2 mules, one in front of the other which was called a double team. “I myself was driving one of the […]

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The Swamp Rabbit engineer had to back up a mile to retrieve a lost cow-catcher

GREENVILLE OF OLD by Charles A. David Greenville News July 18, 1926 You may name your boy Percival, Algernon, or Montmoresst, but if some chap at school dubs him “Sorrel-top,” “Bully,” or “Buster,” the nick-name will stick and his real name forgotten. So it has been with this little railroad–its owners christened it the Carolina, […]

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It’s winter. Engineers, to the dog house!

During the early decades of the 20th century, hundreds of short-line railroad existed across the nation, and most all were regarded by the local people as their railroad. There was something appealing about the character of a little railroad that was trying to compete with the big lines, and usually the short line’s tiny locomotives […]

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Gandy Dancers

Before railroad work was completely mechanized in the 1950s, railroad calls were an everyday part of the track worker’s ritual. Most of these gandy dancers—the label applied to railway line workers who maintained railroad tracks and kept the rails straight—were African Americans who adapted the work call to railroad work. The term is said to […]

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