What is a...?

Railroads use many unique names and terms which are not common to daily life. Some of these terms are carried down over 180 years of railroad development. Here are a few:

Cattle Guard. A cattle guard was a wooden framed device which was constructed at a highway or farm crossing of a railroad. The slats on the guard prevented cattle or horses from entering the railroad track/property (but it allowed them to cross using the road).

Flag Stop. A flag stop was a location where passenger trains were given permission to stop to pick up or drop off passengers. These were usually small towns and many didn't have a depot or station agent.

HotboxA hot box is an overheated wheel journal.  The journal is located in a box which protrudes slightly from the wheel assembly.  The box, which normally has a cover over it, is filled with "waste", which is oil-soaked to keep the journal cool.  An overheated journal is a serious situation, because a hot axle can fail, and break.  Hotboxes often caught fire, and smoked or sparked.

Iron Man. An Iron Man is a device, about 15 feet tall and mounted into a concrete base at the side of the track near a signal station.  The device has at least two arms which swing up to a horizontal position.  These arms hold folded train orders in a string.  When the train passes by, the engineer and conductor grab the train orders by putting their arms through the strings.  This way, they can get their train orders without stopping.

Running Wild. Running "Wild" was a situation when a train was given permission to operate between the schedules of regular trains on a route listed in the timetable. Around 1895, this term was replaced with running "extra" or running "irregular" for freight trains and running "special" for extra passenger trains. [PHTH/4-11-1895]

Torpedo. A torpedo is a device which is strapped to the top of a rail.  When a train drives over the torpedo, it emits a very loud "bang" which can be heard over the noise of the engine, and signals the engineer to stop immediately.  Torpedo's are generally placed by the flagman when protecting a train ahead.  Torpedo's are about 2" x 2", red, about 3/4" high, and have two lead straps attached which hold it to a rail.  The torpedo has discs inside and are filled with detonating powder.  The Torpedo was invented about 1874.