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Hobo Terminology



Lee Marvin as 'A' Number One, a scene from the movie "Emperor of the North."

Hobo Terminology

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

This list of words and phrases is in no sense complete. It is a work in progress. It grows larger almost daily. Many terms began in Hobohemia. The glossary is mainly to documente terms from the golden age of the hobo, from the1880's until World War One, and you may find some contemporary hobo, railroad and homeless terms as well.

Examples included from the following: Irwin, Godfrey (ed). American Tramp and Underworld Slang: Words and phrases used by hoboes, tramps, migratory workers and those on the fringes of society, with their uses and origins. With a number of tramp songs. New York: Sears Publishing Company. (no copyright date given), are labeled: Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.

Hobo, hoboes' and tramp dictionary, vocabulary, terms, terminology, slang, expressions, lingo, sayings, language, words, talk, phrases, jargon, & idioms.


Accommodation - A local freight train. It may also carry passengers.
Accommodation car - An old term for a caboose.
Adam and Eve on a raft
- Two fried eggs on toast. "Wreck 'em" if they are scrambled. "With their eyes open," if not.
Adventure - The encountering of danger, exciting and deangerious undertaking
Airedale - Someone who travels alone rather than with other tramps.
Alki - Alcohol.
Alley - A clear track in a railroad yard.
Alligator bait - Fried or stewed liver. Too costly now for hobos.
Amble, ambulate - "Walk at a leisurely pace" (because, one imagines, of its similarity to the word "amble"), to ambulate is simply to walk.
Ambulanters - The proudly proclaim themselves to be American Gypsies. They are families hoboing in wagons. They claim to be trading horses or moving from place to place. They often have a total absence of common household goods and sufficient equipment for camping. They have often a full stock of children who are absolutely illiterate. the are roving the land in search of employment. When asked what is their trade, they often answer a trade that takes no apprentice or formal training such as window washer.
American nomad - A hobo who has been across the nation many times.
Anchor - A pick. Companion tool of the shovel or banjo. See: Banjo.
Anchor plate - The metal plate which sits atop the face of a railroad tie upon which the rail is laid. Also called the tie and tie-plate.
Angel - A person who gives more than you expect. One who takes an interest without trying to reform you.
Angel food - A mission house sermon. A mission preaching about the Bread of Life.
Angelina - Punk or road kid acting as a hobo's companion.
A-No.1 (1) - A famous tramp who writes his name on everything like the later American GI who wrote "Killroy was Here!" Another hobo who also wrote his name on everything was everything like J. B. King. His real name was Leon Ray Livingston born in San Francisco, California in 1872, and took to the rails at age 11. He soon realized he was trapped in the life of being a hobo but realized that many young kids, both boys and girls would run-away and get killed on the trains. He spent much time giving lectures on the evils of running away from home a become a hobo. A-No.1 wrote books about his adventures. He was the greatest success story of someone who took to the trains and learned to be a hobo. A-No.1 would not admit it but he actually taught many people how to hop fright trains, because he spent much time trying to convince young people to go back home. From money from his books and lectures, he buys one way tickets home for these kids. His greatest success story was a young Jack London who when home to lead the straight and narrow live as an author. Many young hoboes may also have written this moniker on water tanks, and chalk it on box cars. He died in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1944. Also see: J.B. King.
A-No.1 (2) - In hobo lingo it means "number one man," and later it came to mean, that you are "all right (or okay) with me." The thumbs up sign, "A Number One."
"A-No.1 at Rest at Last" - The inscription that A-No.1 carved on his tombstone in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, by himself. The one place in the world that he loved the most in his travels. He left instructions that if anything should happen to him that he would be buried in Cambridge Springs. Many people who met him never knew his real name Leon Ray Livingston. According to popular folklore.
A-No.1 tramplife series - The series of 12 books written by A-No.1 (Leon Ray Livingston) relating the life of a tramp and warning young boys to keep off the road. These books are the best source of information of the life and adventures of A-No.1.
Anti-creep plate - Spring clips which snap onto the base of a rail and come up against the tie to prevent rail creep. Also called rail creep.
Apple knockers - Apple pickers.
Ash cat (1) - A locomotive fireman.
Ash cat (2) - An old term for a railroad fireman.
Auntie - Angelina grown older.
Automatic stop arm - Mechanical arm located on the wayside, in conjunction with a wayside signal, which causes an emergency brake application when a train passes the signal at danger and the arm is in tripping position.
Axle grease - Butter. Sometimes called plaster.


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Babe - A woman.
Baby - A person, can be said to either a man or a woman.
Baby lifter - A brakeman.
Back door bumming - To seek food at the back door to limit embarrassment.
Backslider - A weak person.
Bad actor - A dangerous person.
Bad road - A railroad line that would rather kill a hobo than to allow him to obtain a "free" ride.
Baldy - Generally an old man "with a high forehead."
Bale of straw - A blonde woman. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Balloon - A bedroll. A roll of bedding carried on the back, a bindle.
Balloon juice - Idle talk. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Balling the jack - A freight train which is rolling fast. Also see highball.
Balling the jack (verb) - To drive a train at a high rate of speed. They were balling the jack at the time of the wreck.
Bangtails - Racehorses.
Banjo (1) - A short-handled shovel.
Banjo (2) - A small portable frying pan.
Barber - To Talk. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Barnacle - A fellow who sticks to one job a year or more.
Barrel house - An establishment of ill-repute, where you can drink, gamble, and dance the night away safe from the eyes of authority.
Bathtub gon - A coal gondola with higher sides than an ordinary gondola. They are often equipped with a rotary coupler for roll dumping.
Batter - To beg.
Battered - To get injured or hurt.
Battering the stem - To beg on the main street or in public places.
Bazoo - A mouth. A term of derision. "Shut your bazoo!"
Beachcomer - A vagrant living on what they can find or beg around wharves and beaches.
Beach tramp - Originally a tramp was one who found a spot to live and build a shack on a beach (or sleeps on the sand) because the weather was generally good and warm. There was often a source of tossed out picnic food in trash cans and by fishing. They could wash off in the ocean but soap did not work in the salt water. Its easy to dig a hole and go to the bathroom. The one problem was that there was no fresh water to drink but often they did not drink water. The term became later applied to people such as surfers who began to hang out on the beach and whose life revolved around the beach, water, the surf and other young people. The surfing culture also would convert the term into "beach bum."
Beanery - A railroad eating house. Beanery queen is a waitress.
Bearing the blinds - It means to ride on the main car next to the passanger car or another car with railroad workers who don't know you are there.
Beat their way - To travel by trains.
Beat trains - To have ridden a train and not have gotten caught or killed.
Beefer - One who whines. Sometimes an informer.
Beggardom - One who makes a living at begging. Living in the world of being a full-time begger. Beggars formed guilds in medieval Europe which adopted their own cant lingo.
Beggar -"Beg" is one of those words which isn't derived from anything; it has always meant exactly what it means. Any person who won't work, and who lives by asking complete strangers for aid, is either lazy, mentally ill, or a saint. Don't assume you can tell the difference. See: Bum, cadger, scrounger, and sponger.
Beggars cards - These are cards and printed pieces of paper handed out by beggars asking form money. They are used so the beggar does not have to actually come out in public and be overheard begging for money or favors. This method is also used by the deaf, deaf and dumb, who cannot hear or speak. They often offer the stranger good luck and invite them to give what they want. This is one method of avoiding John Law.
Behind the eight ball - In a difficult position, in a tight spot.
Belly robber - A boarding boss who tries to save money on food.
B-end - The end of any fright car which has a hand brake.
Bend the iron - To To throw a switch
Benny - An overcoat. A vest used to be called a ben. A winter overcoat.
Bicycle tramp - A tramp who travels by bicycle. Sometimes they put lawn mower motors on the bicyle so they don't always have to peddle. They carry their belongs on the bicycle.
Biddles - Eggs. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Big four - A duck egg omelet.
Big hole in the sky - A westbound.
Big house - Jail.
Big ole - The fellow who tries to show the boss how strong he is. He'll do all your work if you praise him.
Big one, The - Death.
Big Rock Candy Mountains - Hobo's paradise, as described in song by Harry K. McClintock.
Big school or house - The state penitentiary. (the stir.)
Big sleep, The - Death (coined by Chandler).
Bill goat - A yard switching unit.
Bim - A woman.
Bindle (1) - A bedroll that contains all of the hobo's belongs. His in which a hobo carries all his worldy possessions. Bedding roll slung on the back. An old term signifying the bag in which a hobo keeps his belongings. Now, the bindle has been replaced with small suitcases or duffel bags.
Bindle (2) - A small bundle of items rolled up inside a blanket and carried over the shoulder or on the back; a bedroll.
Bindle punk (1) - A hobo or derelict hired to do rough or unpleasant work.
Bindle punk, bindle stiff (2) - Chronic wanderers; itinerant misfits, criminals, migratory harvest workers, and lumber jacks. Called so because they carried a "bindle."
Bindle stick - A walking stick, used by hobos, sometimes hand carved, and used to carry a bindle. The stick is also used to clear paths through dense brush or for protection. Oftentimes it is autographed as hobos meet one another during their travels.
Bindlestif - Hobo (stiff) with a bedroll (bindle). Hobo who totes a blanket and uses it wherever
night finds him. (Bindle is a corruption of "bundle")
Bindlestiff (1) - A hobo who carried his own bedroll (or "bindle"), and his mess kit, cooking supplies, and camping gear in a chuck sack. Respected and generally warmly welcomed by potential employers, since they were generally on the lookout for honest work.
Bindlestiff (2) - An American slang word from the German words "bundle' and 'stick'.  Many jobless Americans traveled the United States with their possessions tied in a blanket carried on a long stick. Those traveling by train or "riding the rails" were called hobo's, Kings of the Road or Bindlestiff's.
Bindle stiff (1) - A hobo who carries a bundle, usually containing shirts, socks, razor, etc.
Bindle stiff (2) - One who steals a hobo's bindle.
Bindle stiff (3) - A hobo.
Biscuit shooter - Camp waiter or hash slinger. Also a flunkey.
Bit or jolt - A term in prison. A long stretch is the opposite of a short term or sleep.
Bitch - A tin-can lamp with a shirt-tail wick. See bug. Also more recently a lamb or preshun.
Black bottle - Deadly poison allegedly given hobos in hospitals. Many hobos believe this bottle exists. It was used to kill the sick and the poor. The last place a tramp would want to go when he got sick was a hosiptal. There the doctors and the nurses would force him to drink from a mysterious "black bottle" which would kill them.
Black hole -A tunnel.
Black snake - A solid train of loaded coal cars.
Blackjacks - Fifty-ton Santa Fe coal cars painted black.
Blanket stiff - A western type of hobo who carries his bed. He is also called a bindle bum.See bindlestiff.
Blazer - A hot journal with packings afire.
Blind (1) - A person that you cannot make out who it is, and they may resemble someone you know.
Blind (2) - A blind curve where the engineer and the brakeman cannot see the other end of the train. An ideal place where a hobo can hop the train because of the curve the train has to slow down to a safe speed.
Blind baggage (1) - To ride the train out of sight, not to be seen. Such as riding inside of a boxcar. Riding on top of the cars, between then or on the rods, you can be seen.
Blind baggage (2) - Hopping a train and riding the foot board behind the coal car and in front of the first freight car (a baggage car on a passenger trains). Also riding outside on a passenger train. "Blind" because of reduce vision.
Blind, blind baggage (2) - The space between the engine an dthe mail or baggage car.
Blind baggage tourist - A hobo or a tramp that is riding for free as if he or she has a ticket.
Blind pig - A white liquor salesman.
Blinds - False door at end of baggage car. Hobo ridingplace.
Blinkey - A blind hobo, or one who is "practically blind."
Blinks - A tramp who pretends to be blind.
Blinky - One with poor eyesight. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Blowed-in-the-glass - Someone who was born to be a hobo.
Blowing in your jack - Losing, spending, or gambling away all our money.
Bo, boes - A slang term used to describe an experienced hobo. A term for a pal, "Hey, bo" Originally meant a natural exclamiation intended to surprise or frighten.
Bo chaser - A freight brakeman or railroad policeman.
Boes - A slang term for hobo.
Bogyman or bogeyman - A goblin, bug bear, a hobgoblin. A real or imaginary object of dread. The bogeyman comes in the middle of the night with his sack and steals bad children out of their beds and they are never seen alive again. Mothers said this rhyme to scare bad children at night that ended, "The bogeyman will get you if you don't watch out."
Bohunk - A Polish or other Slavic laborer.
Boil up - To cook one's clothes, or merely to wash clothes.
Bo monikers - See: Monikers.
Bone orchard - A graveyard. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Bone polisher - An unfriendly dog. A vicious dog. Also called a tailor's helper.
Boneyard - Any graveyard. Also refers to a hospital, or to a medical college where they practice on the bodies of departed hobos.
Boob, boobs - A simpleton.
Booby hatch - An insane asylum; a place designed to house people who are metnally unstable
Boodle - Cheap grafting, bribery money, loot, plunder, generally a term of the yeggs.
Boodle jail - A jail that may be worked for a good winter's lodging.
Boodle proposition - This is graft within the legal system. A judge sentences someone to a fine and a jail term, but they then turn around and let the person go knowing the person does not have the money to pay the fine. The judge gets paid for the sentence, the lawyer gets paid for the convection, the clerk of courts gets paid for the commitment, the arresting officer gets paid for the arrest, and the jail gets paid for each day of your sentence. So if you are not actually serving your sentence in jail they can all steal all the fees to make a living. As long as the same individual is not arrested too many times the system continues to work.
Book of rules - A rule book which governs all facets of railroad activity. Each railroad has its own book, which must conform to minimum Federal Railroad Administration safety standards.
Bootlegger - A train that runs over more than one railroad.
Boomer (1) - A drifter who went from one railroad job to another, staying but a short time on each job or each road. This term dates back to pioneer days when men followed boom camps. The opposite is home guard. Boomers should not be confused with tramps, although they occasionally became tramps.
Boomer (2) - A hobo who is always on the go. He has a travel itch.
Boomer (3) - A bridge builder.
Boomer (4) - A part time railroad worker.Bouncer - A mission employee who keeps men awake during services.
Boozehound - Drunkard.
Boston bum - One of those superior fellows, a high brow poser. Many of them do come from Boston or thereabouts.
Bottle wagon - An iron coal-car.
Bouncer (1) - A caboose.
Bouncer (2) - The strong man who throws the sleepers and drunks out of the mission. He is usually a mission stiff.
Bowery barometer - Curbstone philosopher from the New York main stem. General information bureau but not a highbrow.
Box - A boxcar.
Boxcar art - Hobo inscriptions of their monikers around handholds, and on inside walls of a boxcar.
Boxcar hobo - A hobo that rides in boxcars.
Boxcar tourist - A hobo.
Bozo - A person with no experience as a hobo, and does not know what they are doing. A person who is trying to get a story or a quick thrill.
Bracelets - Handcuffs.
Brake club - A three-foot hickory stick used by freight trainmen to tighten hand brakes. Sometimes called sap or staff of ignorance
Brakeman - The person who tends brakes on a rail car and assists in the operation of a train.
Branch line - A secondary line of a railroad, not the main line.
Bread line - A line of persons waiting for food to be given out as a charity.
Bread wagon - A horse drawn bakery cart or wagon.
Breshun - A young, inexperienced hobo, usually learning the ropes from an older
jocker.
Brethren of the Road - These are male members of the hobo clan.
Bridal chamber - A flop house where the guests lie on the floor. It is also a mining term meaning the miner's workplace.
Bridge snake (1) - A railroad switchman.
Bridge snake (2) - A structureal iron worker.
Broad or brod - A woman, generally young and oppoosite of bat or blister, which means an old woman.
Brother of the Wander Path - A wandering tramp who walks from place to place.
Browning sisters - The Angelina sorority. "He belongs to the Browning Sisters" or "to the Brown Family."
Buck (1) - A Catholic priest good for a dollar.
Buck (2) - My good old fellow, old buck which meant, bud or negro in Black-American slang. Bub means small boy or young brother. In the South the "Bubba" was used a nickname a white or a black person a negro. It meant my special or favorite negro. In Polish "Bubba" means grandmother or in Slavic it means old woman.
Bug - Same as bitch. These are lamps for the jungle.
Bug slinger - A switchman or brakeman.
Buggy - A caboose; rarely applied to other cars.
Bull (1) - Special agent (railroad security person usually driving white American cars and trucks) in around railroad yard charged with security and with catching hoboes. A railroad policeman. Also called flatfoot or gumshoe, but the distinctive railroad terms are cinder dick and 'bo chaser
Bull (2) - A railroad security guard who patrols the railyards. In the old days, they would normally just evict hobos. Nowadays they are more likely to escort hobos directly to jail.
Bull (3) - A slang for a railroad police officer or railroad detective.
Bull (4) - A non-union railroad employee hired to protect a railroad.
Bull artist - A hobo with the gift of gab. Becoming a parlor term.
Bull fight - A railroad worker trying to force a cow or steer of the railroad tracks.
Bull cook - Camp flunkey doing the heavy work for the chef.
Bull local - A local work train which stops frequently to cut out and pick up customer's cars. Also called a drag freight. It can also be a long or heavy train which moves slowly.
Bulls - Plainclothes railroad cops; uniformed police; prison guards.
Bum (1) - A non-migratory non-worker. A worthless or dissolute loafer who would rather beg than work for goods or services. Lowest in the "hobo hierarchy." It is a term of many meanings, but in its most authoritative uses it refers to the lowest of vagrants.
Bum (2) - One who begs or cons people on the street, trying to make a "fast buck." They are untrustworthy but not dangerous. The "con games" used are quite clever and deceptive.
Bum (3) - A tramp, vagarent, one who seeks of live off of others. To live or acquire by begging or scavenging. To loaf. From the German: Bummler, meaning to loaf.
Bum (4) - A term for a wandering mendicant has long since been re-appropriated, as in the song, "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum." As opposed to the guy who sits in the same spot every day asking for a
hand-out, the bum [from the German for "saunter"] roams freely throughout the city, the country, the planet: He is king of the road. See: Begger, loaf, and saunter.
Bum (verb) - To live by begging or sponge off other people. "Can I bum a dime off you?" A person who engages in bumming. In literary circles a person who drinks and wanders by riding trains. Also see hobo and tramp.
Bummper - American slang meaning of one who was a hobo, tramp, vagrant, or beggar, a person who lived by sponging off of other people.
Bumpers - Couplings between freight cars upon which hobos sometimes ride if there are no empties on the train. A narrow space on which to lay.
Bump gums - To talk about nothing worthwhile.
Bumpkin - An awkward rustic or country person.
Bumming a ride - To hitchhike or the process of hitchhiking.
Bundle tosser - Hobo harvest hand who pitches bundles or bouquets.
Bunk down (verb) - To hide in an end or an ice compartment of an old refrigerator car for safety. "Don't forget to bunk down heading into the yards."
Bunkhouse - A hobo term for a refrigerator car's end or ice compartment, which when empty provided a safe place to ride the train.
Bunkie - A tent mate.
Busting a gut - Your gut is your stomach area. To bust a gut is to engage in very hard physical labor so hard that you ache all over, even in your gut.
Butts - Cigarettes. The stem of a cigar picked up on the street.
Buy a drink - To pour a drink.
By the book - When railroad workers work exactly as prescribed by the Book of Rules, usually during periods of labor management friction or about hoboes getting a free ride on the train.
Buzzards' roost - A yard office.
Buzzer - Policeman's badge.


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Cab - The crew compartment of a locomotive.
Cabbage head
- A person who has used so many drugs in a lifetime that physical recovery is impossible.
Cab-forward - A steam locomotive design that places the cab ahead of the boiler and smokestack, to prevent smoke asphyxiation in long Western tunnels.
Cabin car - A caboose.
Caboose - The end of train, a non revenue car.
Cacklers - White collar workers.
Cadger, cadging - The ancient art of imposing upon the generosity of others, is an essential skill for the would-be idler, since poverty is the easiest way to obtain a great deal of free time. "Mooching," when performed without squeamishness or reservations, cadging is both exhilarating and instructive. So long as a cadger (from the Scandinavian word for "huckster") is generous in turn (though not necessarily in kind), he ought not to be considered a deadbeat, freeloader, or sponger. See: Begger, and scrounger.
Cage - To beg or get by begging. A middle English term: Cadgear meaning peddler.
Cages - The cubicle rooms in the cheap lodging houses.
Cajun hobo - A hobo from Louisiana. A hobo who rides boxcars but prefers to be bare foot and eat food with a knife.
Cake eater - The nice boy of the town. Not used much by hobos.
Calaboose - The police station or the town lock-up. The jail (from "calaboose," which derives from calabozo, the Spanish word for "jail").
Call boy - A messenger who ran messages from the depot to the train crew and back.
California blankets - Newspapers when used to sleep on.
Call (1) - A hobo dish: Baked potato mashed with butter and served with liverwurst and onions.
Call (2) - Has come to mean listen to stories of adventure about such places as the road or the City. The Call of the City actually has slums and the Call of the Road has its own brand of danger and despair
The Call of the Road - See Wanderlust.
Camp - See Jungle.
Camp refrigerator - The old time tramps dug a hole when they first set up a camp, for refrigeration. Those holes used to keep food cool. When folks broke up camp, they not only cleaned
up, they left a little something in the hole for the next tramp who came along.
Candle eaters - A term sometimes used for the Russians.
Candy - Candy kid is the fellow who gets the good breaks. Candy job is the pleasant job. Candy team is the favorite span of mules in the outfit.
Can house - A bordello.
Canned heat - The use of intoxicants to fend off cold weather riding on freight trains. Also called tokay blanket and hump.
Cannon - a six-shooter.
Cannonball (1) - A fast freight train; also called a dicer.
Cannon ball (2) - A fast train. "The Wabash Cannon Ball" is the mythical hobo train that travels everywhere.
Captain (1) - A conductor; often called skipper. This title dates from Civil War days when some railroads were run by the Army and the conductor was in many cases a captain.
Captain (2) - A hobo salutation of the head man or big shot.
Cardboard soles - Thin, stiff pasteboard from cards, boxes, etc. used to cover holes in your shoes. During the Great Depression more than just hoboes and tramps used cardboard soles.
Card man - A union man or a hobo with a red I. W. W. card.
Carry the banner - To walk the street all night for want of shelter. Sometimes it is called to lead Bruno.
Car-seal hawk- A railroad policeman.
Casual - A person who has perhaps ridden only one train in life and has gotten away with it mainly because of luck rather than skill.
Catching or Caught the west bound - One who is dying or has died.
Catch out - Hop or jump on a freight train.
Cat house - A brothel, which is sometimes called a notch house.
Catter - A hobo who rides on platforms of cars, tenders of engines, and similar places.
Cat wagon - A brothel on wheels visiting the chaste villages of the middle west or following the harvest crews.
Catwalk - A plank walk on top of boxcars; sometimes called the deck from which comes the word deckorate.
Checker-board crew - A mixed gang of white and negro workers.
Cheese it - Put things away, hide.
Cheesy - To be filthy with dirt.
Cherry picker - A switchman, so called because of red lights on switch stands.
Chicken in the clay - Fowl rolled in mud for roasting.
Chronicker - An abbrevation of a "chronic hobo."
Cinder cruncher - A switchman or flagman.
Cinder dick (1) - a railroad policeman or detective.
Cinder dick (2) - See rail bull.
Cinder skipper - A yard clerk.
Cinder trail - The path the hobo or tramp walks.
Circuit rider - A drifter who has a steady income from Social Security of Veteran's benefits. They drift in a specific pattern from city to city, reaching their home base on the 1st of each month when their check is delivered to their post office box. Most often, the money is used for alcohol.
Chase for the train - The act of running to catch or hop a train.
Chow - Now a common word meaning food.
Chronicking - Begging from private homes.
Chuck a dummy - To pretend a fainting fit.
Circus - a railroad, as in go join the circus.
City bum - a tramp who hangs out only in the city and never leaves it.
City Tramps - They don't carry with them food, but condiments, plastic utensils, paper napkins and plastic bags.
Claw - A clinker hook used by fireman.
Clear track - A special over other trains that push them onto sidings so the train pass without having to stop.
Clown - A switchman or yard brakeman.
Clown wagon - A caboose.
Club - Same as brake club. Club winder is switchman or brakeman. A brakeman's club was usually his only weapon of defense against hoboes.
Coal heaver - A fireman, sometimes called stoker.
Coast beggars - Tramps who limit themselves to travel only to the cities of the west coast of America.
Cock-loft- Cupola of a caboose. Also called crow's nest.
Code of the Road - It demands that each hobo or tramp hide his identity under a road name, a moniker. The code of the Road is the unwritten laws by which hobo life is governed by.
C.O.F.C. - T.O.F.C - Container On Flat Car - Trailer On Flat Car.
Coffin nail - A term for cigarettes.
Coke head - A cocaine user, or snow bird.
Collar and shoulder style - Everything is put on the table and the hobo guest helps himself.
Combination stew - An ordinary jungle dish of vegetables and meat.
Combination train - A mixed passenger and freight local train. Is also called an accommodation, or peddler.
Come-on guy - A fellow who boosts things along on the job, for which the boss gives him on the sly a little more pay.
Comet - Trailing behind another tramp or hobo, one who tries to catch up.
Con - A con is a tubercular person. The con is the conductor on a train. An ex-con is a former convict.
Conchy - A hobo term for the State of Connecticut.
Con game - This refers to any kind of graft involving trickery.
Con man - A grafter or trickster. It may mean ex-convict.
Connect - To make a touch. The reward for good panhandling.
Consist - What a train is made up of.
Container - A modern term used by the railroad for the containers or truck trailer boxes used in intermotal transport on trains, ships, and barges. As in container freight.
Cookee - The second in command to the main stew-builder.
Corn - Bourbon (as in corn liquor).
Cornered - When a car, not in the clear on a siding, is struck by a train or engine.
Cornfield meet (1) - A head-on collision or one that is narrowly averted.
Cornfield meet (2) - A head-on train collision. Also called a head-on and prairie meet.
Coupling pin - A metal pin used to couple the locomotive to the tender together. It is used by railroad workers with a length of rope to knock hoboes off the rods. See the movie: Emperor of the North. Shack uses one against A-No.1 and Cigaret bouncing it against the gravel of the roadbed.
Cousin Jack - Generally refers to a Cornish miner, but, like the term Cockney, may be applied to any Englishman.
Cover with the moon - To sleep in the open. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Cow catcher - A metal frame on the front of a locomotive to remove obstructions from the tracks.
Cow cage - A stock car. Also called cow crate.
Cracker (1) - A contemptuous name for a railroad worker who works below or underneath a higher grade person. A slang term for poor southern white trash.
Cracker (2) - One who is lazy, brutal, inquisitive, intolerant, illiterate, ignorant, and of the lowest class.
Cradle - A gondola or other open-top car.
Creep joint - A whorehouse where the girls are pickpockets.
Crew Car - Another term for a caboose.
Crib - A caboose.
Crip, crips - A crippled person. A cripple.
Croaker or croacus - A member of the medical fraternity, a pill peddler.
Crook, crooks - A thief.
Crowbar hotel - A jail. Also known as a blue bar hotel or pokey.
Crum boss (1) - The man who builds fires in the bunk houses.
Crumb boss (2) - The designed chef in a hobo jungle.
Crumbs - Lice.
Crummy (1) - A caboose. Also called crum box, crib and many other names.
Crummy (2) - To be lousy with lice. Also refers to the caboose on a train.
Crums - What the hobo may get but never wants keeps: lice. Also called gray backs and seam squirrels.
Crum up - Same as boil up.
Cupid's itch - Any venereal disease. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Cupola - The observation tower on caboose. A small cabin on the roof of a caboose to afford a means of lookout for the train crew.
Cut-out (verb) - To drop off one or more freight cars for a customer on a siding or in a freight yard. I got cut-out in the middle of now where.


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Dangler - A hobo that rides suspended on rods of cars, trucks and brake beams.
Dark track - Track which has no signaling system.
Dashboards - Railroad employee coveralls.
Deadbeat
- See: Sponger.
Dead-end siding - A siding which leaves the mainline and doesn't come back to meet it at the other end.
Dead head - Heading straight for home with out stopping or making any side trips.
Dead head (verb) To move a new crew ahead of their train by auto and another train.
Dead one
- A drunken hobo. Also a hobo who has just spent all his money.
Dead picker - A yegg who robs a drunk or dead one. He kicks him first to see if he is dead to the world and then robs him.
Dead soldier - An empty whiskey bottle lying beside the road.
Deafies - A tramp who pretends to be deaf.
Deafies and dummies - A tramp who pretends to be deaft and mute.
Deck (1) - The top of a rail car. The catwalk on roofs of boxcars.
Deck (2) - The floor of a flat car.
Deck (3) - The roof of any railroad car (Freight and passenger). Term riding the deck.
Deck a rattler - To deck a railroad switchman or worker.
Deck 'em - To ride the top of a passenger train.
Deck her - To ride on top of the train.
Decked rattler - To ride on top of the train.
Decorate the mahogany - To buy the drinks; to line the bar with thirsty throats and brimming glasses.
Departure yard - The freight yard from which a newly-assembled train leaves. Usually a special yard in a large railroad freight yard.
Derelict - A social outcast.
Dick (1) - See Bull.
Dick (2)- A policeman. An older term for a railroad bull.
Dick or fly cop - A detective either in public or private employ.
Dingbat (1) - An old hobo who mooches off of other hoboes.
Ding bat (2) - A person who has no sense, often a railroad worker.
Ding bat (3) - A down-and-out hobo.
Dino - Out of date railroad equipment.
Dip - A pickpocket.
Dipsy - Workhouse sentence. See give him the works.
Discard artist - One who carries around or wears picked-up clothes.
Distillery tramp - A tramp who has been claimed by the booze.
Ditch a train - To get off a train.
Ditched - To be thrown off the train, to be caught without the money to pay the fare.
Dodger - A person who shirks his duties and evades his responsibilities neither for purposes of graft, nor out of fear, but simply out of a overwhelming distaste for labor.
Doghouse - A caboose or its cupola.
Doggin' it - Traveling by bus.
Dog robber - Boarding house keeper, sometimes a flunkey.
Donicker - A chamberpot found in the house, often a bedroom while the privy is in the back yard.
Dope - A drug user, or hop head.
Double-ended siding - A siding which leaves the mainline but comes back to meet it at the other end.
Double-header - Two engines or locomotives.
Double up - To travel in pairs, to move with a boy.
Doughnut Christians - Men who fake being saved only to get coffee and doughnuts sooner.
Doughnut philosopher - A fellow who is satisfied with the price of a coffee and feed. He does not object to the doughnut hole getting larger because it will take more dough to go around it. He is the original breadline optimist.
Down and out (1)- A term to describe the people living on the edge of life. In this class of people are clerks and waitresses, factory laborers, itinerant workers, beggars, hoboes and tramps. They also can include the working class of poor, the "underclass," because if they died, the world would not miss them and go on without them. These individuals are also called, down-and-outers."
Down-and-out (2) - Having no money or prospects for the future.
Drag (1) - A long, slow-moving freight train.
Drag (2) - Hobo term for the main street of the town, as distinguished from the main stem.
Drag turn- Work train - A train doing local delivery and pickups.
Drifter (1) - One who travels in no certain direction or path of travel.
Drifter (2) - A person who simply moves from community to community with no purpose in mind. They travel by any means available. Oftentimes they are people who are mentally ill but under no care. They usually have no relatives. They also are very likely to be alcoholic.
Drift a train (verb) To slow a train way down but it continues to roll forward while the brakeman runs out in front to throw the switch. The way the bastard drifts I have to run like a dog!
Drill - To walk the ties. It is much more comfortable to sit in a box-car and ride.
Drummer - A yard conductor.
Drunkard - A late Saturday-night passenger train.
Dry mission - A Mission which allows no one who has been drinking. Oftentimes, one must consent to a breath test to be admitted. If the test shows any alcohol whatsoever, the person is not admitted.
Ducket - A ticket, or a card good for a feed or a flop.
Dummies - A tramp who pretends to be mute. See: Deafies and dummies.
Dummy - A dumb or deaf and dumb person.
Dump or joint - Hobo hangout or gathering place. It also applies to a restaurant or flophouse.
Dutch - As in "in dutch" - trouble.
Dutch act - To committed suicide.
Dyed-in-the-wool hoboes - Hoboes who have years acquired knowledge and are accustom to the rough ways of the road.
Dyno or dino - A rock man who handles dynamite. On the Coast he is a front and back man who carries his blanket on his back like a western hobo and his cooking cans in front like an Australian tramp.


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Earwig - A ear beetle, from a widespread belief that it creeps into the ear when you are sleeping on the ground or a dirty place. Then its hatched eggs, the worms eat your brain cells.
Easy mark - A hobo sign or mark that identifies a person or place where you can get food, money, or a place to stay overnight.
Eat snowballs
- To stay up North during the winter.
Economic argument - Soap-box talk about economics. Generally opposed to the religious argument called angel food.
Eight-wheeler - A box-car burglar, one who robs trains while in transit or while unguarded in a yard or station. A locomotive with eight wheels. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Emperor - A term of royalty. There are Kings, Queens and Emperors. An emperor is a tramp royal, one who can to any where and receives respect from other tramps.
Emperor of the North (Pole) - A 1973 film by director Robert Aldrich. Lee Marvin .stars as 'A' Number One, Ernest Borgnine as the train conductor Shack who would rather kill a hobo than allow him a free ride, and Keith Carradine as the young kid, Cigaret.
End bunker - The compartment at each end of an obsolete ice refrigerator car where blocks of ice were placed to cool the perishable freight.
Engineer (1) - The person or pilot who operates a train or locomotive.
Engineer (2) - The train crew member who drives the train (engine or locomotive) and is the crew's boss. Also see conductor.
Engine house - The area where off-shift locomotives are stored, inspected, repaired, maintained, and or refueled. Also known as a roundhouse.
Evil eye - Some people are supposed to have an eye for wishing bad luck. Panhandlers try to avoid such.
Exhibition meal - A handout eaten on the doorstep. The madam wants the neighbors to witness her generosity.
Extra - A regular freight train which runs as an extra train when sufficient overload business stakes up.
Extra gang - A crew that works on the railroad track.
Eye doctor - A panhandler who can catch the eye of his client and hold it without quailing. Also a pederast.
Eye opener - An early morning drink, often begged from the bartender when he opens up in the morning.


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Faded bogey - A negro acting as an informer.
Fagot or fag - A road kid with homosexual tendencies.
Fakir - A person who was part con man and part repairman. The best known was a mushfakir, an umbrella mender. Others sharpended sissors and knives.
Fall guy - The goat. The fellow who gets caught. In the world of crime he is one who takes the rap without squealing.
Fanner or fan - To be hit on the soles while sleeping on a park bench. To get a fanner is to be moved on by the police.
Fell out - To fall off a moving train.
Fink - A scab. One who takes a striker's job. Good hobos frown upon this practice.
Fireman (1) - A person who tends the fire or stoker on an engine or locomotive.
Fireman (2) - A train crewman responsible for firing a locomotive.
Fired off - Forced off a train to either walk, camp or wait for another train.
Fish - A jail term for new prisoners.
Fisheries - Missions along the main stem.
Flag, flagman - A railroad worker who manually signals presence and movement of trains.
Flagged - It may mean to be driven out of town, to be turned down or to be hailed by someone.
Flannel mouth - An Irishman. Sometimes called a chaw.
Flat (1) - Broke.
Flat (2) - A slang term use by graffiti writers for a box car without ridges on the the sides. Perfect for applying illegal graffiti by the medium of spray paint.
Flatfoot - A cop.
Flat busted - Completely broke; without any money.
Flicker - To faint or simulate fainting.
Flimflam - To swindle, hoax or to trick.
Flimflam man - A person who practices petty trickery or deception. They use nonsense and silly talk to con others out of their money or goods.
Flintstone Kids - The latest generation of hobos. More likely to have orange hair, skateboards, and fleece than scraggly beards and long wool coats. Also known as the nose ring nation.
Flip - To board a moving train. The word accurately suggests the motion used.
Flipped, flipping frights - Hoboes who jumped aboard without paying.
Flipping a rattler - To boarding a moving box-car.
Floater - A tramp who travels or wanders around. Same as boomer, only the floater is more
casual. To get a floater is to be turned loose by the judge. Also a dead body found in the water. Don't try and pull the body out of the water by the arm, the entire arm may come off.
Floaters - Hoboes.
Floating fraternity - Transients.
Fog - Steam.
Flop - To sleep or a place to sleep. To prone the body.
Flop house (1) - A cheap lodging house or any hobo hotel.
Flop house (2) - American slang for a cheap lodging house, especially one used by tramps.
Flop house (3) - A cheap transient hotel where a lot of men sleep in large rooms.
Flophouse News - A tabloid newspaper with " Hobo and Skidroad News" and "Bowery and Night-Life News."
Floppers - A tramp who pretends to have cerebral palsy or another muscle control disease.
Flunkey - Camp waiter. Always male. A woman is a hasher.
Fly-away - A deserter from the army or navy.
Foot board - The metal catwalk on locomotives and freight cars provided for walking, standing on and riding along with equipment.
Forty-fives - Monicker for navy beans, givers of energy.
F.R.E.D. - E.O.T. - Fucking Rear End Device, End Of Train device. A small blinking red light on the back of the last car of a train.
Freeloader - A hobo.
Free lance passenger - Hoboes or train riders.
Freeloader - See: Sponger.
Free Mileage Fraternity - These are Brethren and Sisters of the Road, who often practice blackmailing tactics and confidences often practiced only by man hoboes.
Freight, freights - A freight train.
Freight Train Riders of America (F.T.R.A.) - A member gang whose reputation is analogous to the Hell's Angels. The initials stood for Freedom Riders of America, or Freight Train Riders of America. The colors of the bandannas reflect three distinct F.T.R.A. factions, Grandinetti learned. Those who wear red mainly ride the rails across the Southern U.S. Blue means they stick to the old Frisco line across the country's midsection, and black belongs to riders of the so-called high line that runs from the Twin Cities to the state of Washington. Many FTRA members are Vietnam vets and ex-bikers; many espouse a racist ideology akin to that of the Aryan Nation. The black-bandana-clad high-liners, are the most violence-prone of the FTRA. A faction known as the Death Squad, enforces the gang's agenda, which ranges from acquiring extra ID to taking revenge on squealers.
Frisco circle - When a circle of hobos throw money in a pile and use the money to buy as much communal booze as possible. The old hobos used to make a ceremony of collecting money for the communal pot of stew by throwing it into a circle, which became known as the Frisco Circle, or just the Frisco.
Frisk or shakedown - To search. It usually means search by the police. But train crews also go through the hobos.
Fruit tramps - A migratory (itinerant) who usually follows seasonal harvests by freight train.
Frog or frog eater - A Frenchman. A Canadian Frenchman is a pea soup.
Frog - The static portion of a switch which allows the wheel tread of a railroad car to cross from one track to the next.
Front (1) - A whole layout of new clothes. "Put on a front."
Front (2) - A con to take people of their money or their kindness. Most every young tramp had a story about a sick, dying relative, or needing to get to the next town where a job was waiting.
Front (3) - Personal appearance.
Full timers - Tramps who ride full-time for fun, for work, or for their own personal reasons.
Fuzz tail - Name for unpopular fellow. He is also a ring tail. Such hobos are often under suspicion.


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Galvinizer - A car inspector.
Gams - American tramp slang for a girls legs.
Gandy dancer (1) - Railroad worker who laid sections of rail. So called because of the choreographed movements he made while levering a section in and smoothing down the gravel. A track laborer. Name may have originated from the gander-like tremulations of a man tamping ties, or from the old Gandy Manufacturing Company of Chicago, which made tamping bars, claw bars, picks, and shovels. A hobo (meaning that they travel in their work) track laborer, tie tamper and rail layer.
Gandy dancer (2) - A railroad track layer. Also called a stake artist.
Gandy gumbo - A hobo dish.
Gang cook - The designated chef of a track laying crew in the 19th century.
Gang up - To attack as a group.
Gaping - A sight-seeing tour to see if things are safe. Often the others will lay low while one goes to check things out and see it the town is "hostile" to tramps.
Gay cat (1) - A tramp held in contempt by fellow vagrants because he is willing to work if a job comes along.
Gay cat (2) - A tenderfoot among the hobos.
Gay cat (3) - A young punk who runs with an older tramp and there is always a connotation of homosexuality.
Gaycat or geycat - A slang term for a tramp or hobo who is new to the road. Gaycats were commonly in the company of older tramps, implying a homosexual relationship. The term dates to at least the 1890's. Gaycats were employed as lookouts while other hoboes committed crimes.
Gentlemen of the road - Hoboes that show signs of having been once white-collar workers.
Gentry - The leading natives of a place, the socially elect.
Get into the world quick - A child possessed of Wanderlust takes the first chance they can get to jump on a freight train.
Get the bell (verb) - A familiar term for orders or signal to depart. Get the bell, let's get outta here.
Getting by - deceiving someone. Also known as pulling over.
Ghosts - A tramp who pretends to be tubercular.
Ghost story - A plausible tale told to the housewife.
Gin mill - A hobo term for a speakeasy. The serve small quanities of spirits dispensed in pitchers and pails.
Give her the grit - A locomotive to usse sand on the rails.
Give him the works - To be given a job by a social agency, or sent to the rock pile by the judge.
Glad rags - Fancy clothes.
Glass jaw - A coward. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Glauming - Refers to crop gathering. We have berry glauming, apple glauming or knocking, cherry glauming, etc.
Glims - Spectacles, or a light.
Glyphs - This is not a talent, but it is somewhat magical. Hoboes had an intricate system of graffiti signs (you can see examples of it in the graphic on the main page) that they would leave to pass important information along to others who might pass that way. "Mean dog," "work available here," "this woman is generous with the handouts"- those were the types of tips and warnings usually communicated. In Knights of the Road, Knights of the Rail, there are also signs that point the way towards (or out of) the yonder, or that warn of haints or other dark forces. There might also be certain glyphs that are magical in their own right.
Go broke - To arrive somewhere. Also known as to blow in.
Go-getter - A hobo who worries the social workers by writing to or calling on the wealthy contributors.
Goldbricker - See: Dodger.
Goo-goo eyes, goo-goos - silly young men, idiots, perhaps those who are a little lovestruck.
Go with the birds - To go south for the winter.
Going by hand - To walk. Hiking to the next water tank.
Going on the farm - When a train goes on the sidetrack. Also a railroad term.
Gondola - A short-sided, open-topped car used to hold scrap or garbage.
Gonger - An opium pipe. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Good-dead - When applied to a criminal, much as the old frontiersman declared: "The only good Indian is a dead Indian." Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Googs - Spectacles. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Gooseberry bush - The clothes line. Gooseberries are the garments that adorn the line in the moonlight.
Gooseberry lay: -Stealing clothes from a clothesline.
Gooseberry picking - The act of a hobo who steals from clothes lines at night. They are called geese.
Goy - A hobo who can work the Jewish agencies. Plural, goyem.
Grabirons - The handholds provided on all railroad cars which allow workers (and hoboes) to hold onto cars which ascending, descending or riding the cars.
Grabs - A familiar term for grabirons.
Graveyard shift - Night work, usually in the small or late hours.
Graveyard stew - Hot milk and toast.
Grease balls - A low life who lives off of things left behind by others.
Grease the track (1) - Place grease on both rails so the wheels of the locomotive with spin and slow down the train on an uphill grade thus giving the hoboes chance to hop the train.
Grease the track (2) - To jump in front of a train. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Grease the track (3)- To fall off the underside of the train and die.
Greasy spoon - A railroad eating house. Bill of fare is colloquially known as switch list, fork is hook, butter is grease pot, hotcakes are blind gaskets, and beans are torpedoes.
Geese - Hoboes who prowl the night, these Waandering Willie most often steal from clothes lines.
Grifter - A petty swindler or confidence man. They may be one who operates a dishonest game of chance at a carnival or circus. They often drive a vehicle a stolen, unregistered, without insurance, not inspected and without a drivers license. When they become established to one place they may become squatters, often illegally connecting to utilities and other services. They take advantage of other people and that has become second nature to them in everything they do.
Grinder, grinders - Your teeth.
Grips - The bags trainman bring their personal belongs in for over-the-road work. Often black in color.
Guard rail - An extra section of rail placed inside the rail opposite a switch frog which prevents wheel flanges from taking the wrong path at the frog point.
Gumboat - Gallon-sized can used for cooking.
Gummy - A hanger-on. A bum who goes along with the crowd but never contributes. A sort of dead head.
Gump - A chicken or a piece of meat.
Gung-ho bull - A bull who takes his job seriously and apprehends hoboes, thieves and trespassers. Also see bull.
Gunnells or guts - The truss rods or trucks of the train where hobos ride.
Gunsel - A young boy.
Gypsy - A wandering dark-skinned Caucasian people believed to have migrated to Europe from India, and known to be fortunetellers, musicians, etc. Also called Romany. To live or wander like a gypsy. A person who lives on the road, constantly traveling.


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Hack - A caboose.
Haint - A ghost.
Hand car - An old-fashioned railroad pushcart used to inspect track or travel over it by pumping up and down on a see-saw hand lever. The older pushcart was moved by pushing a long pole against the ground, much like a keel boat.
Hand out (1) - A parcel of food given out by the housewife. A lump.
Hand-out (2) - The hobo credo to never enter a house of a person when seeking food. The food was handed out the back door.
Happy Hooligan - The hero - antihero of a hobo comic strip of the dame name, popular at the turn of the century and drawn by Zim and Opper. Also see Weary Willie.
Harness bull - A policeman who wears a uniform.
Hash house - A railroad restaurant or lunch stand. A cheap restaurant.
Haywire - When everything is balled up. A haywire outfit is something that is all tied and patched together.
Head end - The front of the train. In front of or near the engine.
Header - A freight yard worker who aligns track for arriving and departing trains.
Head lamp - One or more high intensity white lights on the head end of a train, engine or locomotive.
Head light - See head lamp.
Hearse - A caboose.
Hermit - A hobo that travels by himself or sticks to himself.
Hey Bo - A vagabond's greeting.
Hide and seek - A hobo game practiced by traveling hoboes, now you see them, now you don't.
High-ball (1)- A train traveling at high speed. Signal made by waving hand or lamp in a high, wide semicircle, meaning "Come ahead" or "Leave town" or "Pick up full speed." Verb highball or phrase 'ball the jack means to make a fast run. Word highball originated from old-time ball signal on post, raised aloft by pulley when track was clear. A very few of these are still in service, in New England and elsewhere.
High-ball (2) A signal to start moving (forward).
High-ball (verb) - To order a train to start, go faster or proceed at full-tilt speed. He highballed it right past the station master.
High diver - A yegg who picks pockets.
High iron - The mainline track, so named because mainline track is made of heavier poundage and train stands higher off the ties than on yard track or spur lines.
High jacker - Yegg who robs hobos with a gun or by brute strength.
High line - A term for mainline track.
Highline (verb) - Hobo jargon for riding a fast freight train. The highline it down the track or highling it.
Hijack - A robbery.
Hillbilly, hillbillies - A person living in the backwoods or mountains of the Southern United States.
Hitch - Prison term or army term. Same as bit.
Hitting the grit - To be forced off a fast moving train.
Hitting the road - Getting back to riding the trains.
Hobby Hobo - A part-time hobo. A person who engages in hobo-like behavior (hopping freight trains, spending the night in hobo jungles) while on vacation from their full-time job and life. Also called: Weekend hobo.
Hobo (1) - A migratory (itinerant) usually unskilled worker. Most respected in the "hobo hierarchy." The hobo is "independent." Unlike tramps or bums, the hoboes are usually very resourceful, self reliant and appreciative people. They avoid long term work commitments, preferring to be free to follow the call of the open road when it comes.
Hobo (2) - From "Hoe Boy" after the itinerant 19th century farm laborers, who trainhopped with their belongings in a bundle tied to a hoe. The origin may be supported by a sentence that Barry Popik of the American Dialect Society found n the New Orleans Picayune of 19 August 1848: "A year's bronzing and 'ho-boying' about among the mountains of that charming country called Mexico,
has given me a slight dash of the Spanish."
Hobo (3) - The term is said to have originated on Burlington Route as a corruption of "Hello, boy!" which construction workers used in greeting one another. The highest form of the genus vagrant. The term "hobo" is thought to have derived from "homeward bound" soldiers or from migrant farm workers called "hoe boys." Others say that it is a corruption of a Latin term which means, "good man." A Civil War soldier may take years to work his way homeward bound. The soldiers utilized the growing infrastructure of the railroads to return home. In November 1889, The tramp has changed his name, or rather had it changed for him, and now he is a "Hobo."
Hobo (4) - A person who will work, but only until he has gained enough income or benefits to get what he desires. Once the goal has been met he moves on. They are usually honest and trustworthy. Hoboes travelled in order to work, tramps were professional wanderers and idlers, bums were stationary and survived on handouts and soup kitchens.
Hobo (5) - Someone who lives on the road, has lived on the road for a while, likes living on the road and intends to keep living on the road.
Hobo (6) - 19th century Americanism (origin unknown) for migrant workers who travels by freight trains. Perhaps from "Ho! Beau!" Ho, pretty or beautiful in French, a call of greeting between such workers, or "hoe-boy" then "ho bo" out of consideration for manliness. In literary circles a person who "works and wanders (by train). In reality anyone who rides freight trains. Also see bum and tramp.
Hobo, hoboes, hobos, hoboing - One who wanders randomly from place to place looking for temporary homes and jobs.
Hobo alarm clock - A hobo term for a remote controlled switch which when activated awakens a sleeping hobo and alerts him to the approach of a train.
Hobo apple - Hobo apple is not a hobo expression or a food, it is an apple with the core removed and filled with peanut butter.
Hobo belt - These are areas in which you tend to find hoboes, or where they hang out. Such as, along railroad likes, streams and waterways close to the railroad lines, etc.
Hobo bill of fare - Messages left often on water tanks telling newcomers information about the local area.
Hobo canteen - Made out of big gallon jugs, milk jugs and pop bottles used, but anything glass is an accident waiting to happen, and everything around a freightyard is metal.
Hobo Capital of the World - Chicago. The city was the railroad gateway between the east and the west. Hoboes and tramps came to Chicago. Ben Reithman set up the Hobo College of Chicago.
Hobo clan - These are members of the fraternity who share the common situation on life, that of having a career of being a hobo. They are the Brethren and Sisters of the Road.
Hobo clown - A clown in the made up of a hobo caught a lot of attention, what they really did was depict a way of life in America, and some people could relate to that. During the depression over 8,000 women & over 200,000 children rode the rails as well.
Hobo cocktail - Hobo cocktail is not a hobo expression but is Black-American slang for a glass of water.
Hobo code or rules - These are a set of unspoken rules that govern hobo gatherings. One, all pots lets should be clean for the next user. Two, no hobo was to rob or steal from a fellow hobo inside of the camp. Three, avoid angering the town's people who are a source of odd jobs and handouts. Four, Thievery is to be avoided, or at least kept to a minimum. Only an occasional pie, vegetables gathered from the garden, fruit from the orchard, a clean shirt from the clothesline. Five, breaking in to a house or threatening local people is a serious offense amongst hoboes, and can be punishable by death. Etc, etc. Other rules may be share work in camp, like volunteering to get water, gather firewood, share food for communal meals, etc. See: The outside world.
Hobo colleges - In 1912 James Eads How organized a series of hobo collages in many major cities. Mr. How believed that hobes were intellighent nad knew from personal experiece many economic and social realities that the outstanding thinkers of the time were writing about. They were not formal institutions of learing but lecture halls where hoboes debated issues with speakers and each other.
Hobo culture - Fundamentally the story of a hobo's life. The hobo's life on the rails by riding the rails embodies for him a distinct culture, a way of life. Riding the rails was and is certainly a dirtier more dangerous, uncomfortable way of getting around than hitching, and it was this culture than kept it popular. The day of the hobo is gone, perhaps forever. The hobo was essentially a wanderer. A free spirited human, who put his personal freedom ahead of hs desire for worldly gain. He was neither greedy nor competitive. The real hobo is purely and simply a wanderer at heart and enjoys this way of life. To work a few days and get a few bucks in his pocket to pay his way, then move on, is a hobo's idea of living in style. In the 1920's someone said, "the hobo works and wanders, the tramp dreams and wanders, the bum drinks and wanders." The hobo was keen to work and earn his way, the tramps move around, but the bums staying put.
Hoboett - A female hobo.
Hobo graveyard - The track side burial site of a deceased wayfarer, usually at or near the site of his or her demise.
Hobo habit - The wandering life of a hobo that is especially dangerous affliction of minors.
Hobo heart - People who share the same core beliefs and views that of the hobo or tramp. It is where your heart is, on the road or riding the rails. They all share the same share our stew and fellowship.
Hobohemia (1) - The universe of the hobo.
Hobohemia (2) - The part of the town inhabited by transients.
Hobo identity - Part of American culture and mythology, which romanticized the frontier and rugged individualism, as well as technological developments such as the railroad. As hobo culture developed an enormous amount of literature began to be published about hoboes by self-proclaimed hoboes.
Hoboland - A term used to describe life or living in the world of the hobo.
Hobo language - Hobos drew the symbols of this new language with chalk on sidewalks, or carved them into trees, walls or doors to help their fellow travelers. See: Hobo signs.
Hobo lifestyle - The philosophy and personal experience with riding the rails. A free spirit traveler.
Hobo luck - When a hobo hits a new town, he believes that if he is turned down at the first
place he goes to, his luck will be poor in that town, and vice versa.
Hobo marks - Graffiti inscribed on train cars, buildings and railroad stuctures by hoboes placing their nicknames in chalk. In Germany this is now almost extinct. See: A-No.1 and J.B. King.
Hobo moniker - See: Moniker.
Hobo News - A newpaper started by James Eads How with articls on social and politica issues along with puns and jokes.
Hobo nickel - Originally carved nickels made out of wood, then later hoboes used actual US Minted nickels or 5 cent pieces. See: Wooden nickels.
Hobo night hawks - Police who disguise themselves as hoboes and search the trains at night for hoboes. The dead give-a-way is a lantern or flash light as they open boxcar doors searching for hoboes.
Hobo proof - A railroad line that offers a reward to any hobo who can successfully ride their hobo proof railroad.
Hobo Road - Hoboes that are currently on the road at the present time. Some hoboes have done it in the past, but the time line has moved on and they are no longer on the Hobo Road at the present time.
Hobo signs (1) - Beginning in the 1880's up until World War Two, hoboes placed markings on fences, posts, sidewalks, buildings, trestles, bridge abutments, and railroad line side equipment to aid them and others of their kind in finding help or steering them clear of trouble. Usually, these signs would be written in chalk or coal letting others know what they could expect in the area of the symbol. The classic American hobo of the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries communicated through a basic system of markings, a code though which they gave information and warnings to their fellow Knights of the Road. Today hoboes communicate with cellular phones, and e-mail.
Hobo signs (2) - These were a a variety of cryptic symbols scratched on the gate or a residence or barnyard, or somewhere conspicuous in a rail yard. These symbols meant things like: Good place for a handout; you can sleep in this farmer's barn; doctor treats hoboes free; fake illness here; set-down meal given here; good chance money given here; work for a meal; hoboes will be arrested on sight; people who live here may treat hoboes violently; owner has a bad temper; religious people - be sanctimonious; kind woman; dishonest man - don't ask for work; bad bull -stay out of the yards; keep quit; poor water; get out of here fast; these people will help you if you are sick; police officer lives here; police watch for hoboes here; police do not bother hoboes here and a good jungle - make yourself at home.
Hobo stew - A stew cooked in a large pot made of small pieces of meat, potatoes, onions, carrots or other vegetables and herbs found in the area. Also see Mulligan stew.
Hobo stove (1)- They are made out of discarded 5 gal. buckets that were used to carry railroad spikes. With a good knife and a pair of pliers, you make a row of openings around the bottom like a can opener would, and flip it upside down and cut out a small door. Then you can scratch out a little ditch and set this over it and build a fire inside. Gets hot enough to cook on and at night you can't see the fire over about 20 foot.
Hobo stove (2) - Camping near a junkyard is a good thing. The single most useful item in building a stove is a refrigerator. The crispers can be made into stoves, the racks can be used over the fire, and the refrigerator itself, if it's got a good seal, can be used to smoke fish.
Hobo sub-culture - A culture, a fraternity among hoboes so much stronger than anything that ever existed among other groups. A distinct hobo sub-culture which emerged in the 1890's. A about 40 autobiographies written by hoboes between 1880 's and 1940's, A-No.1 being among the most famous and well known. An arbitrary definition imposed on hoboes in the creation of their sub-culture by some academics. Hoboes do not form hobo clans, tribes, traditions, or guilds. This is the reason that they have been forced to take up the rail because they belong to no other group. The term "hobo" as a generic term for any person who wanders though life. A lost soul out looking for something that you can neither chase down nor define who have been grouped together by others. Hobo sub-culture is not a subject taught in college and used in role-playing games. See: Hobo culture.
Hobo symbols - The symbols or signs were usually used one at a time. Each of these symbols
represents a particular direction or warning, such as "Beware of dangerous dog", "A kind lady lives here", "People here will give you food for work", "this is a safe place to camp", etc. While these crude symbols were almost humorous appearance, they served a deadly serious purpose. They helped travelers to find work, food, and safe shelter in a difficult, often dangerous world. See: Hobo signs.
Hobo tent - Most 'bo's got a tent or tarp. You can lose your equipment most any time out there, due either to misjudgement of a train, or of people you're around, so knowing how to make a tent or at least get a good ground cloth is good stuff to know.
Hobo ticket - To hop or ride a freight train that is the price of the ticket.
Hobo time line- (1) Charles Lever (the Tilbury Tramp), publishes in 1845, "Tales of the Trains," 156 pp. W.S. Orr, London. The first book written about Railroad Romance and by a hobo. (2) In 1877 Bret Harte publishes "My Friend the Tramp," the second story to idealize the wanderers of newly industrializing America, as opposed to the rural and agricultural tramps of earlier times. (3) A-No.1 and Jack London meet on the road in the 1890's, and then afterwards Jack London began writing books. (4) In 1907 Jack London publishes "The Road," and in the same year a chapter from that book "Hoboes That Pass in the Nights," appear in The Cosmopolitan. (5) Ethel Lynn, "The Adventures of a Woman Hobo," the first full-length book by a woman who was actually on the road in 1908. (6) A-No.1 gets married, has two children. Popular American folklore says that is later killed in a train wreck in Houston, Texas, and is buried in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania. (7) Jack London dies November 22, 1916. London a heavy drinker, many scholars believe he committed suicide. (8) A-No.1 (Leon Ray Livingston) book is published "From Coast to Coast with Jack London," is published in 1917 in its 1st through 5 th editions. People commonly think that the meeting between Jack London and A-No.1 was purely fictitious, but A-No.1 books were continued to be published and reprinted after his death. They were originally published by A-No.1 Publishing, Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, and then, the A-No.1 books were then published in Erie, Pennsylvania. (9) Jack London was not Skysail Jack. Skysail Jack was a hobo that he met on the road. Jack London's monica was Sailor Jack." Read the chapter "Hoboes That Pass in the Night," from his book "The Road" to get that straight. (10) Leon Ray Livingston gives up the Road after 31 years. He turns to the lecture platform when his traveling days were over to thousands of schools and churches on the same theme "Home is Your Best Place," died in Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1944.
Hobo Times - A publication that was published by the National Hobo Association.
Hobo union - A group of hoboes that have been crippled and disfigured hopping freight trains. Some tramps who had lost limbs or fingers had such monikers as sticks, fingers, lefty, or mitts.
Hobos versus Tramps - Some say hobos originally traveled to work, and tramps traveled for the sake of travel. Others say a tramp is a hobo west of the Mississippi and a hobo is a tramp east of the Mississippi. Others use the terms interchangeably.
Hobo walking stick - A hobo's is afraid of a big dog, dogstory, the carry a staff, walking stick. Many were carved and made into hobo art.
Hog - A locomotive.
Hogger - A term for an engineer.
Hoghead or hogger - The engineer. This is also a railroad term.
Hold down - To ride a great distance across the country without getting off to hunt for food, etc.
Hollowed out earth mound - A form of shelter built by tramps, and hermits. They would find a mount, or a bank, then dig a tunnel into the mound. Once inside they would open up the tunnel to create a room. They would brace it of using mine braces. Some of these would have stoves and stove pipe up through the mound to the outside. Some of these shelters looked like Victorian parlors inside with carpeting, etc. They were warm in the winter because underground, they remained a constant temperature all year around like a cave.
Home guard (1) - Local tramps who don't ride.
Home guard (2) - A fellow who always stays in town. Some live their lives on a single block in the main stem. One who doesn't travel but knows all the organizations and "angles" to bleed unsuspecting organizations or individuals of all the benefits they can obtain. If something is given to them, they will oftentimes sell the items on the street for cash.
Home guard (3) - The local people who can drive to and from work in their own cars.
Home guard (4) - In literary circles a person who drinks in freight yards. In the 19th century a vagrant who never left town. In reality today a garden variety drunk who hangs out in freight yards but never rides the trains out of town. Also known as hanger-on.
Honey dipping - Working as a shovel stiff in a sewer, or any kind of unpleasant shovel work.
Honor of old age - A recognition of the Patriarch as a leader.
Hooch - Liquor. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Hoodoo - Any thing that brings or gives bad luck. the jinx that brings bad luck.
Hooker - A drink of strong liquor, as in "It took a stiff hooker of whiskey."
Hooks - Getting caught by the hands of John Law. As in, they will get their hooks in you if you go into that town.
Hookshop - A brothel.
Hooligan - A young hoodlum, a petty gangster.
Hoosegow - Same as calaboose, jail. Often called a can. Also called the Hotel de (you add in the county name of the jail here) such as Hotel de Erie, for Erie Country Jail.
Hoosier - The natives, generally simple fellows. Also called yaps, hicks or rubes.
Hoodwink - To trick or deceive.
Hopins - Potatoes and vegetables.
Hopper - Covered grain car, also called a grainier.
Hopping - Riding the rails.
Horse-style - Any unfriendly hostile town to hoboes. Their way of saying: hostile style.
Host - The railroad line on which a hobo is riding.
Hot box - An overheated journal box which is not detected in time that can cause fires and derailments.
Hot freight yard - A freight yard which employs one or more gung-ho bulls. Also see bull and gung-ho bull.
Hotel-de-Tramp - A "register" of tramp monikers on a railroad structure such as a water tank. A hobo or tramp must climb the water tank to register his moniker to be considered allowed to stay in the Hotel-de-Tramp. See: Name-de-road.
Hot - A person is hot when he is wanted by the law. No hobo will travel with a man who is hot.
Hotbox - Overheated journal or bearing. Also called hub. This was a frequent cause of delay in the old days but is virtually nonexistent on trains that are completely equipped with ball-bearings. Trainmen are sometimes called hotbox detectors.
Hot squat - American tramp slang for the electric chair.
Hotshot - A train with high priority over other traffic. Fast train; frequently a freight made up of merchandise and perishables. Often called a manifest or redball run. A fast freight or passenger train.
Hot stuff - Stolen goods. Something that must be dropped.
Hotel de Gink - A charitable or a municipal lodging house. A series of residences where hoboes could eat, sleep, shave, and bath when times were tough. They were started by hobo Jeff Davis.
Hot train - Train with a high priority, usually heavily loaded with goods going to market. Other trains must often pull over at sidings to allow hot trains to pass.
Hot yard - Rail yard actively patrolled by unfriendly bulls.
House dog - A fellow who goes about hunting jobs, cleaning windows, beating carpets, etc.
How strong are you? - Meaning, How much money have you? If you have a pile you answer, "So strong, I stink."
Hump (1) - Low hill in a switching yard used for sorting cars by gravity. In the hole - Waiting at a rail siding, usually for a train with higher priority to pass.
Hump (2) - "Over the hump" means to cross the mountains to the West Coast. It also refers to the elevation in the freight yards for switching cars, a railroad term.
Hump (3)- A hunch-backed person.
Hump (4) - A term for a mountain pass which a freight train crosses over, often requiring warm clothing or other warmth-retention measures taken by wayfarers.
Hundred proof - Meaning whiskey of the purest.
Hunt a wampus - A wild goose chase. The wampus is a black cat with a white tail and it lives in the tall timber.
Hunkydory - Everything is fine.
Hut - a brakeman's shelter just back of the coal bunkers on the tender tank of engines operating through a tunnel. May also refer to caboose, locomotive cab, switchman's shanty, or crossing watchman's shelter.


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Ice (verb) - To place blocks of ice into the end or ice bunker of an old reefer car.
Ice-boxes
- A refrigerated box car. See Reefer.
Ice bunker - See End bunker.
Idler - A lazy person.
In heat - For a female animal (in this case, a dog), to be in heat is to be in a state of sexual excitement when she will accept mating from a male.
In hot water -To be in hot water is to be in trouble.
In the clear - A train is in the clear when it has passed over a switch and frog so far that another train can pass without damage.
In the hole - a train on a siding.
Indian Valley Line - An imaginary railroad "at the end of the rainbow," on which you could always find a good job and ideal working conditions. (Does not refer to the former twenty-one-mile railroad of that name between Paxton and Engels, Calif.) Boomers resigning or being fired would say they were going to the Indian Valley. The term is sometimes used to mean death or the railroader's Heaven. (See Big Rock Candy Mountains).
To jungle - Is up is to camp out fort he evening in the company of other like companions of the road.
Interloper - An outsider. Not one of the tramping fraternity.
In the hole, into the hole - A term for a train which is standing on a siding waiting for another train to pass, conduct business or repair an equipment failure. A train is in the hole.
Itineracy - Traveling, journeys. Following a planned route of travel. A detailed or record account of a journey.
Itinerant - Traveling from place to place, wander about without a lived home.
Itinerate - Traveling place to place.
Itineration - A circuit tour.
In transit - Riding the trains. In the summer the entire tramp fraternity may be said to be "in transit."
I-Wobble-Wobble - The I.W.W. whose nickname is "wobbles." I go after "slave wages." They take the lowest, most miserable labor that industrialism produces.


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Jack roll - To rob.
Jack roller
(1) - The "lowest of the low" and can be very dangerous. They will befriend a drifter who is drinking at a bar and paying for drinks with large bills. The jackroller will buy drinks for the drifter until the drifter can hardly stand. Once this has taken place, the jackroller will walk his friend home. The walk ends with a mugging, or even murder, as the jackroller walks away with money in hand. More often than not, it is never reported.
Jack roller (2) - A thief.
Jack rolling (1) - To rob a drunk.
Jack rolling (2) -Taking money from a man or a boy.
Jack Wanderlust - The evil spirit of unrest.that makes boys copy the ways of the hobo.
Jail bait - A girl below the legal age of consent for sex; an underage girl who tempts a man to sexual intimacy which is punishable by imprisonment
Jail bird - A fellow who brags about his vag record.
Jailhouse spuds - Waffled potatoes.
Jam nuts - Doughnuts.
Java - Coffee.
Jazz - Sexual intercourse. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
J. B. - A J. B. Stetson hat. Prized among hobos because the band may be sold for half a dollar.
J. B. King - A hobo who wrote his name J.B. King Esq. scrawled on boxcars the world like famous tramp A-No1.
Jigger - A strong solution of lye (paint acid) used by hoboes on sores.
Jerries - Men who work on the section gang. They do maintenance work while gandy dancers work on contract jobs.
Jerry gang - See gandy dancer.
Jerusalem Slim - Slang name for Christian god-man.
Jiggers - A common name given to tramps that others should "watch out!" for.
Jimtown - Jamestown, New York.
Jocker (1) - An experienced hobo, usually in a kind of master-apprentice relationship with a breshun.
Jocker (2) - A hobo who goes about with a road kid or punk. A protector or road father.
Jocker (3) - A road kid's teacher and companion, the relationship is often sexual.
Jockers - Male homosexuals who took on boys. Sometimes the relationship required the boys to beg in towns for food or money. It usually would begin with an older man assisting the boy with advice or food, and then would turn in to slavery that could last for months or even years.
John Family - A term is sometimes applied to the farmers, sometimes to the police and again to the yeggs.
John Law - A name for the police or the legal system.
Joint - The point in bolted-rail track or joint end where two rails meet and are bolted together. Joints cause the railroad's clickity-clack.
Joint rail - A hobo term for bolted rail track.
Jolt - A jail sentence.
Journal box - The point of contact between freight car tracks and axles where internal lubricants reduce friction heat and provide for a smooth ride. A source for grease used in hobo first aid.
Jugs - Banks.
Jungle (1) - Hobo's camp site. A hobo's summer home.
Jungle (2) - Hobo camp, usually set up in a hollow or windbreak. Close enough to the rails for easy access to the trains, but far enough away from town so they wouldn't be bothered by police or rail bulls. Many wanderers (hoboesand tramps) would settle for the night in groups. These areaswould be known as hobo jungles.
Jungle (3) - The hobo- tramp community center where they ate, slept, shared a common meal and stories of the road.
Jungle (4) - The place in or near a freight yard where hoboes wait for trains, rest, cook meals, read, sleep and congregate.
Jungle buzzard (1) - A bum who loafs about the jungle begging from the hobos.
Jungle buzzard (2) - These are low individuals who come into jungles at night and steal from hoboes.
Jungle cat - A hobo that knows how to move through the jungles, and the trains that is in charge and tougher than hoboes he encounters. He can take what any one, or any thing thrown in his path.
Jungle-out (verb) - To wait or sleep in a jungle., I was jungled out when the border patrol rousted me.
Jungled up - Eaten mulligan.
Jungle up - Many wanderers (hoboes and tramps) would settle for the night in groups. These areas would be known as hobo jungles. To jungle-up is to camp out for the evening in the company of other like companions of the road.
Junker or junky - A fellow who uses drugs, called junk.
Junkie - A drug user. A heroin addict.
Jumping a train car - Meaning to never go home again, like the life of a wander or a rover.


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Kangaroo court - A mock court held in jail for the purpose of forcing new prisoners to divide their money. A thief was stripped of all his clothing except his underwear and shoes. If the theif was on a train, he was told to "jump."
Keister - A suit case. Not often carried by hobos.
Kick - A pocket in the trousers.
Kick it apart - To lay out the details. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Kicks - Shoes. Also called slides.
Kid simple - A nickname for a silly, stupid, foolish young kid with no experience of the road.
Kid tramp - Another name for a young kid on the Road.
Killing time - Having nothing to do or no place to go.
King of the Hoboes - An unofficial title awarded by fellow hoboes to a hobo on the road.
King of the Road - A title given to celebrate the hobo experience on the open road, one who is best schooled and educated in the lifestyle of the hobo. The National Hobo Convention awards the title each year and crowns a new King of the Road. In the golden age of the hobo (1880 until World War 1) it was an honor given by an unofficial vote of the hoboes on the road, to someone who survived, the most experienced and respected hobo of them all. "King of the Road," is also the title of a song by Roger Miller's greastest hit. "Third boxcar midnight train, destination Bangor, Maine. Old worn out suit and shoes, I don't pay no union dues. I smoke old stogies I have found, short but not too big around. I'm a man of means by no means, king of the road."
Knight - A soldier of the "Road."
Knights of the Road or Knights of the Rail - Another name for a hobo.
Knock about - See: Bum.
Knowledge box - Country school house where hobos sometimes sleep.


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Lamb - A boy tramp or road kid. Boy companion of the wolf.
Lambs- An inexperienced young men or road kids.
Lambing - To herd sheep, a job avoided by respectablehobos.
Layabout - A person who is an idler.
Leather poke - A wallet.
Lee of a reefer - The ice-box in a refrigerator car.
Library - A cupola of caboose. Trainman occupying it was sometimes known as a librarian.
Library birds - Down and outers who loaf or roost in libraries.
Lighthouse - Stingy person. A procurer for a house of sin. Also one who is placed to watch for the bulls.
Limpy - A cripple. If he has a wooden leg he is peg.
Little Red Card - The membership card of the I.W.W. union. See Wobblies.
Little red wagon - A dump wagon.
Little school - A reformatory or house of correction.
Live off the fat of the land - The fat of the land is an expression that refers to having the best of everything. A place where the land is so "fat" you will need nothing else to be happy. A place where you can survive and prosper with out having to earn it, you just take what you need.
Lizzie tramps - The hitch-hikers and again to wandering families traveling in automobiles.
Loafer - From the German word for "land-runner," one who wanders around the countryside." Loaf, as a verb, is a back-formation from "loafer," and ought to be used to described someone who
travels around aimlessly.
Local - A trains that moves freight and materials on a short line.
Long haul trains - A long distance train, usually a minimum of 500 miles.
Looloo - A sexy woman.
Louse - A fellow who will steal the shoes of a hobo who befriends him.
Louse cage - a caboose.
Lowball - An old signal positioning of a ball on a mast. When the ball dropped down the mast this signified sow down or stop. Also see highball.
Lusher - A drunkard.
Lump - Food received at the back door; a handout.


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M. & C. - "Marmon and Cadillac," meaning morphine and cocaine.
Main guy - Same as captain. Refers to the person in charge.
Main stem - The chief hobo street in town.
Making a riffle - Same as to connect, to get the money.
Making the riffle - Succeeding. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Manana - The Spanish for "tomorrow." Means put it off and embodies the spirit of postponement.
Man-catcher - The shark's assistant who urges a job on the hobo - usually to fill a shipment of men.
Manifest - What the train is carrying. Fast freight carrying fruit or cattle.
Mark (1) - A mark is a person or place good for food, clothes or money, but not advice.
Mark (2) - A hobo sign, indicationg a person or institution willing to give food.
Master of the Road - A hobo or tramp who knows the ways of the Road. He is an insider.
Medium of exchange - Railroad workers demand such things as pipes, neckties, tobacco, shoes, knives, etc., in trade not to be put off the train.
Mickey Finn - A drink drugged with knock-out drops.
Midnight creeps - A freight car rolling silently though a freight yard (day or night) which can sneak up on an unsuspecting person too close to its track and cause serious injury or death.
Midnight Shoppers - People that climb aboard moving trains and throw merchandise off as the train proceeds. Some people consider them hoboes just because they board railroad trains with the intention of stealing merchandise. Thieves, gangs, and rail wanderers have simply moved from boxcars to auto rack cars, covered hoppers, and piggybacks. They think tracks and trains are public property and merchandise found in freight trains is free ride for anyone who can remove it. These crooks give bums a bad name.
Milk wagon - A horse drawin milk cart or wagon. They drip water from melting ice.
Mission stiff - Tramp who stays in a mission or homeless shelter most of the year. Man who gets "saved" for food and a flop. A "retired" hobo or tramp who "gives up the road" for various reasons. Often, one will be forced to become a "stiff" due to health or age, but for some, this is the first step toward self-sufficiency and these persons become a vital part of society.
Moll - A woman who pals with hobos. This term is not used much by the hobos themselves.
Monika - A hobo's nickname, how he is known to other hobo's.
Moniker - A hobo's nickname, how they signs his or her name. The hobo's informal name, his handle. They often tell a bit about the person, like where they are from and other information.
Moniker wise - To be known to other tramps by your moniker and because of that it gives you superhumal powers.
Monkey - To act like a monkey, the fool. To play or trifle, meddle, to go around without any idea of what you are doing.
Monkey chasers - West Indians or other Negroes from the tropics.
Montana bundle - A term for a hobo's traveling accessories when they are substantial. Often includes tools of the trade, many changes of clothing or footwear, and practically everything else the traveler owns. Also see streamliner.
Mooch - To beg, usually at back doors, or to steal.
Moocher (1) - One who steals or takes without paying.
Moocher (2) - A beggar. Also known as a gladhander, or a ballylooser.
Mooching (1) - A low form of begging.
Mooching (2) - The art of begging.
Moper - A bum who is even lower than a moocher.
Mop Mary - A scrub woman.
Mouthpiece - A lawyer.
Mud - Strong coffee mixed with weak milk.
Mud chicken - A term for a railroad tunnel worker.
Mug - A person's face.
Mulligan stew (1) - Stew made from the combined contributions of everyone who wants some. A group of hoboes gathered around the jungle fire can keep a pot of stew perpetually refreshed by each contributing one thing- a scrap of bacon, a half-biscuit, a withered carrot stolen from someone's garden. No matter how small or mean the contributions are, as long as they are freely given the stew will be rich, warming, and nutritious, and the pot will stay full until everyone who contributes has had his fill.
Mulligan stew (2) - A traditional railroad worker stew cooked in a large pot. Allegedly first concocted by a gandydancer named Mulligan on the Union Pacific Railroad while building the first transcontinental line in the 1860's. The stew consists of large chunks of beet, buffalo (when available) or hamburger, potatoes, onions, carrots, or other vegetables and seasonal herbs. Also see hobo stew and gang cook.
Munie - A term for a municipal lodging house.
Mushfaker - A go-about itinerant repair man. He may solder pots or mend umbrellas. Sometimes hobos follow the art.


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Nail - To hop a train.
Nailed - To successfully have hopped a train.
Names-de-rail - The hobo moniker, date, route and direction of hoboes traveling along the road.
Name-de-road - To carve your hobo moniker, date, route and direction of travel on such things as water tanks, and other structures where others would see it. It also is done in side jail cell walls to indicate that were an inmate there.
Newcomer - A hobo who has only recently arrived.
Newspaper beds - Sleeping on a bed and covered with newpapers.
Nickel note - A five-dollar bill.
Night scavenger - Someone who empties trash-cans for food and other useful items. A hobo who has transfered from railyards to urban alleys.
Night walkers - These are people who police believed do not belong to the area and have no means of supporting themselves. They were often whipped and banished from town or sent to a workhouse
Noch - Hebrew shelter for homeless men. From hochnosis orchim, which means a place to make welcome. They treat you fine if you know how to get by the gate.
Nose bag - A lunch handed out in a paper sack.
Number 10 gunboat can - A number 10 can used for brewing coffee, cooking, urinating of defecating in.
Nuttery - A hospital for the insane. Also a nut factory.


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O. B. U. - One Big Union. The ideal of the soap boxers.
Obeys - Post offices.
Ocean tramp - A type of tramp that travel from place to place by ocean travel. Often they get jobs working on commercial vessels, working as part of the crew. When they land in port they shortly get the urge to travel once again. It may not be for the love of salt air on their faces because often they have hard working jobs below deck. Perhaps being on land makes them feel connected or tied down and they may simply love the feeling of open water below their feet.
Odd fellows - A fraternal symbol meaning three doughnuts and coffee.
Often just "bull"- A security agent hired by the rail companies to keep the yards clear of tramps and hobo's.
Off-shift - A locomotive which is not in service.
Oilcan train - A train made up of mainly or exclusively of tank cars.
Old timers - These are experienced hoboes, who have been on the Road, and know the ways of the road.
Organ grinder - A profitable begging device, a barrel organ, that uses a trained monkey.
Old airedale - An old hobo who's spent his whole life on the road. Airedales seldom ride the trains at that age, instead walking wherever they go.
One-eyed bandit - A term for a boxcar with one door open and the other one shut.
On the hummer - Being on the bum but not down and out.
On the bum - Living the life of a vagrant.
On the fly - Getting on or off a freight train which has slowed down but not stopped. Also called "on the run."
On the road - Pertaining to a lifestyle whose adherents are on an extended trip or have no permanent home.
On the uppers - Being on the bum and nearly down and out.
Open-air navigator - A hobo riding freight on top.
Open Road - The system of railroad rails that can take you any where you have a mind to go or travel. As in the call of the "Open Road."
Opposing train - A train which approaches your train in the opposite direction.
Oscar - To walk away. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Ossified - To get arrested.
Outside world, The - Any one not living in the world of Trampdom. It has its rules and regulations or code of ethics involves relations with the outside world. See: Hobo code or rules.
Overland - A long distance train or a train used for traveling long distances.
Over the road - Any track outside of the yard limits.


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Packing the mustard - Carrying the hod.
Padding the hoof - Going by foot. A practice good hobos avoid.
Paddy-sticks - Usually sledgehammer handles carried by shacks.
Palooka - A roving boxer who lives in the past.
Pan, panning - To beg on the street, some times with a J. B. Stetson felt hat.
Pariahs of Society - A social outcast.
Panhandle - To beg on the street.
Paul Bunyan - A chronic, but none the less interesting, liar.
Pay station - A social welfare agency that gives out money. Very rare.
Pay streak - To have a job that pays well.
Pearl diver - A dishwasher.
Peanut farm - A workhouse where the inmates crack stones.
Pea soup - A french Canadian or Canuck. Often a lumber jack.
Peddler or bob tail - A short local freight train.
Pedicant - A young haughty or nasty male bitch.
Peg - A one legged person.
Peg house - A place where, if the hobo wishes, he may meet Angelina.
Pennsylvania salve - Apple butter.
Petticoat hobo - A female hobo.
Peoria - A thin soup. Generally potato water with salt.
The philosophy of tramping - Is a Ttramp's code of ethics.
Phoney man - A person who peddles cheap jewelry.
Picture frame - The gallows. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Pie card - One who hangs around and lives on a remittance man or some other person with money.
Pie in the sky - One's reward in the hereafter. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Piggyback - A flat train car that holds trucks or containers.
Pig's vest with buttons - Sow belly, or any fat bacon.
Pig train - A piggyback train, one composed of flat cars carrying truck trailers.
Piker - A hobo or tramp who walks.
Pile driver or Java - Coffee, but good strong coffee.
Pill peddler - The camp doctor. The label may fit any M. D.
Pin-money - An allowance of money or money to be able to pay for minor incidental expenses.
Pisshouse - A jail.
P. K. - The principal keeper of the little school.
Pimp stick - A cigarette. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Pinched - To be jailed.
Pin puller - A brakeman or switchman.
Playing the spoons - Some hoboes have learned how to read a man's fortune in the rhythm of a pair of spoons. These spoon men are usually old Airedales who have left off riding the crates... they stay by the fires in the camps and jungles, tapping out the future against their knee in exchange for a half-can of beans or a strip of jerky.
Pogey - The workhouse. Sometimes the poor farm.
Points - The movable portion of a switch which allows the flanged wheel tread of a railroad car to cross from one track to the next.
Poison - A woman who is poison is one who can only mean trouble, especially to a man. Also can be your favorite drink.
Poke - A leather wallet. Also a gin mill.
Poorhouses - A public run establishment maintainedas a dwelling for paupers.
Poor roads of travel - These were the turnpikes of America after the Civil War. It was easier to walk the railroad tracks, and then these train men discovered it was easier to ride the train than walk the tracks. In Great Britain the hoboes had formed guilds that majority of the professional vagrants were taking lessons in jumping on and off moving freight trains. By 1875, in the United States, the general felling was that it was everyone's inborn willingness of every American to help a man in unfortunate circumstances. There was no reason to keep the tramp off their trains, and by 1880's it was accepted by railroad companies as an unavoidable nuisance upon the railroad's property.
Possesh - Road kid. The hobo's boy companion.
Possum belly (1) - To ride on top of a passenger train. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Possum belly (2) - The boxes under passenger cars where hobos sometimes ride.
Possum drunk - Playing drunk to obtain information.
Potatoes and with it - A western jungle dish.
Potter's Field - A burial ground for the destitute ans the unknown in unmarked graves.
Pound your ear - To sleep in a bed.
Power - The engines powering the train.
Prairie meet - When two trains meet head on in head on single track mainline wreck. Also see cornfield meet.
Private varnish - A privately-owned beautifully appointed passenger car which can be leased or rented to individuals or companies.
Prize Tramps - These are hoboes and tramps who have learned the stock and trade of the Road.
Prushin - A young boy on the road.
Preshun - Same as punk or possesh.
Profesh (1) - Short for professional hobo or tramp.
Profesh (2) - An experenced hobo, sometimes a criminal.
Prone the body - To lie down and rest.
Proper tramp - One who follows the code of the Road.
Punk (1) - A road kid. Often used in derision.
Punk (2) - Bread. Southern bread is called pone.
Punk (3) - A young boy discarded after a sexual relation with an older hobo, also called bread, fairie, or fag.
Punk and Gut (1) - Bread and cheese. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Punk and gut (2) - Bread and sausage.
Punk and plaster route - Traveling among the Pennsylvania Dutch.
Pusher - The straw boss. One in charge of the job.
Pushes - A gang.
Pussyfooter - A railroad policeman.
Put the boots to - To have sexual intercourse. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.


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Queer - Crooked, criminal. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.


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Raggedly man - A person who wears torn or worn clothing into rags. Wearing worn, frayed, or shabby garments. A person of rough or uneven character or aspect.
Ragman, rag picker -
One who gathers and sells rags, and other junk for a living. The rag man would go through the neighborhoods in his horse drawn wagon, singing, "Rags! Rags!, Got any rags today?.........."
Railroad bull - A railroad policeman. See Bull.
Railroad cop - A railrad policeman. See Bull.
Railroad dick - A railroad policeman. See Bull.
Railroad or road flare - Road signal torches or lights. Engineers will even give them to you. Made of phospherous They'll start wet wood on campfire fire in the rain. They will keep man or beast out of stricking distance for about 10 minutes. They are hot enough a drop of it will go clear thru whatever it lands on. They can be used to bring water to a boil for coffee or soup, and they make a good firestarter
Rail rider - A person, most generally a hobo, who rides freight trains, usually illegally. Some know the engineers and are able to ride in the engine com-partment rather than in a box care or grainer.
Railroaded - Haven ridden or used to make reference to when some one rides a train.
Railroad fever - A malady for tramps call the victims of which there is no remedy. They are unable to settle down anywhere, and they must be constantly riding the trains. Only death ends their roaming of hopping the freight trains. A sickness that even A-No.1 had that he could never cure himself of but wanted to prevent others especially young kids. The only cure or rest was death.
Railroading - Not a railroad workers term but it means to take up riding the trains by hobos.
Railroad spike - Not a term but the actual object carried by many hoboes, to keep the railroad yardman from closing the door on them, which could result in him freezing to death or suffocating, as some freight cars were pushed into the rail yard and out of use for weeks at a time. Hoboes some times painted the tips or heads a color so they could identify as theirs.
Rail tramp - See: Tramp.
Ramble - To ramble (a Middle English for "roam") means to wander for pleasure, without a fixed destination.
Rambler (1)- A through freight train.
Rambler (2) - Another nickname of A-No.1 Leon Ray Livingston.
Rambler (3) - A hobo who rides passenger trains.
Rank cats - The lowest of the genus bum.
Rat crusher- A box-car burglar. See "eight-wheeler". Probably from the "rattler" or fast freight train in which the "rat crusher" finds his loot. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Rattler (1) - A fast train, same as cannonball. In the West a box-car. A train.
Rattler (2) - A railroad worker that if you get too close they will bite (back).
Rattler (3) - Riding decked, or laying flat spread eagled atop of one of the cars of a train.
Rattler (4) - A freight train comprised mostly or completely of empties which rattle down the track at high speeds.
Rattlers - A hobo who ride freight trains.
Rattle the hocks off her - to drive a freight train at high speeds causing the freight cars to shake, rattle and to roll.
Rat workers - They are box car burglers.
Razor back - A circus roustabout. Also an Arkansas hog.
Reading the rails - By hunkering down and putting your hand on a rail that's still warm from a train's passage, you can sometimes divine something about the train that just passed, or about a specific person on it, or about the places the rails eventually lead to.
Read your shirt - To examine your clothes for crums.
Rear-on - The opposite of a head on collision, where one train plows into the rear of another.
Red ball - A fast fruit train. Good for long rides.
Recriders - Tramps who take short recreational trips.
Red card - I.W.W. membership card. See Wobbly.
Red cross - Morphine. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Red lead - Ketchup. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Redline - To condemn or scrap an old freight car.
Reefer - A refrigerated box car. Like many another railroad term it also belongs to the hobo's lingo.
Regional railroad - A smaller than a Class 1 line haul railroad which serves a specific region of the country.
Regular freight - An over-the-road freight train of average length and speed which makes fewer business stops than a drag freight.
Re-ice - To replace melted ice in an ice reefer.
Remittance man - A hobo paid by his family to stay away from home.
Ride the cushions - To ride in a passenger train.
Ride the bumpers - Riding a freight car by straddling its coupler with one's legs. No longer popular by hoboes and not safe.
Ridin' 'em high - Traveling on tops of boxcars.
Riding the cushions - Riding de luxe in a passenger train.
Riding the deck - Riding any railroad car on the roof. Not safe.
Ridin' the rods - An old-time hobo practice, now virtually obsolete. The hobo would place a board across truss rods under a car and ride on it. This was very dangerous even in pleasant weather, and the possibility was ever present that you might doze, get careless, become too cramped, or lose your nerve-and roll under the wheels.
Riding the blinds -To ride a train by swinging onto the vestibule at the front end of the baggage car, usually just behind the engine tender. This practice was deceptively dangerous; if the train "slacked off" while you were trying to squeeze through to the vestibule, the cars would come together and crush you in an instant.
Riding the rods (1) - To ride a train by lying on a board set across the truss rods underneath, or sometimes just hanging on for dear life. Not as common by the 1930's, since train cars were no longer built with truss rods.
Riding the rods (2) - Riding a freight car underneath the floor of the car atop one of the car's structural tie rods. No longer possible in modern railroad cars.
River rat - Someone who spends their life around the rivers and waterways. They would rather travel from place to place using inland waterways and rivers for travel. Also some one who lives in shacks, house boats, etc. along the rivers and waterways.
The Road - Living the life of a hobo.
Road bums - Another name for hoboes.
Road burn - A modern term, a state of mind one slips into after being "on the road" too long.
Road dog - Someone who hops trains. Someone who calls the road home, such as a hobo.
Road grime - The dirt, grease, and grit which railroad equipment accumulates over time. The hoboes often become covered with it.
Road-kid (1) - Young person who belongs to a gang.
Road kid (2) - A boy apprentice among the hobos. A young hobo.
Road kid (3) - One who is not versed in the ways of the Road, an apprentice.
Road kill - A dead animal found on the road. A dead animals in general.
Road news - This is information about what is happening on the Road. This is spread from the campfire, word of mouth, and by information left in hobo signs and monikers.
Road sisters - Woman who lived a genuine hobo existance.
Roadsters - A name for hoboes or tramps (young and old) who travel the road.
Road wisdom - Having enough knowledge to survive on the Road.
Robbing the mail - Snatching food and milk delivered at the doorstep early in the morning.
Rock and roll - A resonant rocking of cars which pass over a low joint, further damaging the underlying ties and ballast.
Rock pile - A place, town or county lockup that puts prisons to work on the rock pile.
Rod - The metal struts underneath the floor of old freight cars, etc., which provided for structural integrity.
Rods - The underside structure of a freight car.
Roll (1) - To roll means to rob a sleeping drunk.
Roll (2) - A wad of money.
Rolling a train - A hobo canvassing a train for prospective freight cars to ride, for a crew, inspecting a passing train for equipment or cargo problems
Rolling stock - All of a railroad's engines, freight cars, cabooses, and other equipment which rolls on a railroad track.
Roll in the sawdust - In the barrel house, now extinct, they put sawdust on the floor for the convenience of the drunks.
Roll out - To bed down for the night - by rolling out one's blanket or sleeping bag.
Romany - A man, a husband, a gypsy. The indic language of the gypsies.
Roofers - A hobo who lay stretched out full length upon the metal roof of a passenger coach.
Roof walks - Wooden catwalks down the center of old boxcar roofs, used by 19th century brakeman to run from boxcar to boxcar in set and release hand brakes.
Romany rye - A person not a gypsy but who associated with gypsies, speaks their language.
Round house (1) - A round building with a turntable in the center for housing and switching locomotives.
Round house (2) - An area where "off-shift" locomotives are stored, inspected, repaired and refueled. "Round" because the housing was built around a turntable to turn the engine around facing the right direction. The warn engine house was also used to keep the locomotives pipes for freezing in the winter when they were idle.
Roughneck - A freight brakeman.
Rove, roved, roving - To wander from place to place. to roam over, through, or about. The act of roving, a ramble.
Rover - One who roves.
Rubber hobo - A hobo that travels across the country in a rubber tired automobile, usually an older vehicle.
Rubber tire hobo - A term for a hobo who travels by motor vehicle rather than by train.
Rubber tramp - A tramp who owns a car, usually rusted out and undependable. They spend a lot of energy begging for gas money, but also provide transportation to other cities to bums, hobos and tramps for a fee. In a sense, they become a nationwide "taxi" service for transients.
Rum dum - A drunk.
Run the line (verb) - To ride freight trains. That old bo's been running the line since the time you were knee-high to a grasshopper.
Rustling the bums - Searching a freight train for hobos. In bygone days it was common practice for trainmen to collect money from freight-riding 'bos, often at the rate of a dollar a division.


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Sagebrush philosopher - A gabby fellow from the West.
Sallies - Salvation Army hotels and industrial workshops.
Salve eater - A snuff-chewing Swede. He is also a roundhead.
Saly tramp - A tramp who uses only the Salvation Army establishments. They know their rules, requirements, policies and locations. Seldom will they use the services of other organizations.
Sap - The policeman's persuader. To get sapped means to be clubbed by the bulls.
Saps - A blackjack used by railroad bulls to beat hoboes.
Saunter - To walk in a slow, aimless, leisurely way. A Middle English word for "walking about musingly"; it is derived from the word "saint," as holy men were thought to spend much of their time in this manner.
Saw-by - When two freight trains meet on a single track mainline and one too long for the siding has to go into the hole, the shorter train passes the near tend of the longer train which is clear on the siding. While the shorter train approaches the far siding the longer train snakes through the siding and clears that end for the shorter train.
Scalawag - A worthless person or scamp.
Scamp (1) - A rogue, or a good-for-nothing.
Scamp (2) - Like "bum" and "loaf," this obsolete verb meaning "to roam about idly" has come to be a pejorative descriptor for any footloose and fancy-free person.
Scenery bum - A term for a voluntary hobo.
Scenery bums - These are hoboes who had money, so they avoided begging, they did not stay around long amd so they got off the road well before the fridged winter.
Scenery cruiser - A boxcar with two doors open.
Scissor bill (1) - Hobo who believes he can become President one day. He never gets next to himself, or anyone else.
Scissor bill (2) - A strikebreaker.
Scissor bill (3) - A knife and scissor sharpener or thief.
Scrape the mug - To shave. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Scrape the pavement - To get a shave. Also to get tossed out of a building.
Scrapers' school - A barber college where students practice on hobos.
Scrappy - Aggressive; fond of fighting and arguing.
Screw your nut - To get wise to yourself.
Scoffing - To eat. To scoff regularly means to miss no meals.
Scrounger - From an Old English word meaning "wander about idly," a scrounger is one who gets only what he needs, and only when he needs it, by foraging, scavenging, or cadging. Although it's become synonymous with sponging, scrounging is actually a noble art.
Sea food - A sailor.
Second nigher - A hobo refused entry into a rescue mission.
Second hand - An over-the-road railroad track repair worker.
Selling pencils - Begging for handouts, generally because you've lost your legs in a train- hopping accident.
Sell it to me - Trying to make me believe.
Set-down - To eat with your feet under the table. The reverse of the handout.
Sewer hogs - Ditch diggers.
Shack - A brakeman, occupant of caboose. Shacks master is a conductor. A railroad term.
Shack fever - Tired feeling that comes in the spring. It is also called itching feet.
Shacks - The brakemen.
Shackles - Soup. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Shakedown - The same as frisk.
Shanty - A hastily built shack or cabin, a ramshackle dwelling.
Shanty man - The same as gyppo contractor.
Shanty queen - The wife of the shanty man. Any woman around a camp.
Shanty town - A group of ramshackle dwellings, often hastily built structures, and just placed randomly in the environment.
Shark (1) - A man who sells jobs to the hobos. His assistant is called a man catcher.
Shark (2) - A dishonest operator of a slave market.
Shatting on the uppers - To be broke, penniless or clean.
Sheets - Newspapers for a bed.
Shellacker - Booster or promoter who puts on the varnish.
Shifty - A thief.
Shine (1) - A black hobo, also known as a dingy.
Shine (2) - A Negro. Also called a burr head.
Shiner (1) - A brakeman's or switchman's lantern.
Shiner (2) - A ten-cent piece.
Shiv - A straight razor. A blade but never a safety razor.
Shop master - A railroad employee who oversees the work of shop workers. Also see shop worker.
Shop worker- A "non-railroad" freight yard worker who builds, rebuilds or repairs rolling stock, such a machinist, electricians, sheet metal workers, boiler workers, blacksmiths, painters, pipe fitters, and their apprentices.
Shoo fly - A railroad detour, when a track is built around some obstacle. Also means to avoid passing through a town if the police are hostile.
Short line railroad - A very small railroad with track from 1 to 150 miles in total length. Many are owned by a mine or manufacturing company.
Shuttle bum - A hobo that uses a transportation system to get from one point to another. May have originally applied to an out of work, itinerant textile worker.
Side-door Pullman - A box-car, a closed car. A boxcar used by hobos in stealing rides. Hobo's home en route.
Sister of the Road - A woman who has a nomadic life and a career as a hobo. Often she has taken to the Road in search of a baby she had given up or her missing man.
Sitdown - An invitation to the kitchen table.
Skinner - A worker on construction jobs who drives the mules.
Skinners - A mule driver.
Skinner's delight - A hobo jungle dish.
Skipper - A conductor.
Slippery - An engine which is too light for the load its hauling. Also see wheel slippage.
Sketch of a comb - A hobo sign, that shows the teeth of a comb, which means "beware of a dog that bites tramps."
Sky-pieces - A hat or hats.
Sky pilot (1) - A highbrow preacher. Not one of the mission kind.
Sky pilot (2) - A mission-house preacher.
Slave market (1) - That part of the main stem where jobs are sold.
Slave market (2) - A employment agency.
Sleep - A short term in the workhouse or jail. To be buried deep is a long term.
Slob sister - A moocher who weeps to his clients.
Sloughed - To be arrested; pronounced "slowed."
Slow order - An order requiring engineers to reduce speeds over bad order track.
Slow order track - A railroad track which is in bad order. Engineers are ordered to reduce speeds over this track until it is repaired or replaced. See slow order.
Slum - A derisive term for an uninviting stew or slumgullion.
Smell from the barrel, bottle or bag - To have a drink.
Smoke - A strong liquor. Denatured alcohol.
Smoke and headlight rule - A primitive railroad signaling system which contains none. The engineers are required to watch for approaching trains' smoke by day or headlights by night to avoid meetings. See cornfield meet and prairie meet.
Smoker - See hotbox.
Smoke wagon or gat - Same a gun. Rarely carried by hobos.
Smoky hole - A tunnel.
Snag - This is anything (metal straps, loads, wood or wire, etc.) hanging off the sides of a freight car which could hit and injure someone walking or standing nearby. A brakeman's and hobo's headache.
Snake - A railroad switchman. Hobo and railroad term for switchman. A snake is more friendly than a shack to the hobos.
Sneaky Pete - Cheap wine.
Snapper rig - A second-hand suit of clothes.
Snipe - A section hand or jerry. A section boss is a king snipe.
Snipe or navy - The butts of cigarettes and cigars.
Snipes - Other people's cigarette butts (O.P.C.B.)
Snipe shooting - To hunt for snipes in the gutter.
Snowbirds (1) - These are hobos who travel South looking for a warm place to roose until the arrival of spring.
Snowbirds (2) - A junker, or a person who uses drugs.
Soapboxers - One who always has a story to tell.
Soft soaping -The art of oratory.
Son of Adam -A hobo willing to do a chore for a handout.
Song and dance - To give the madam at the backdoor an interesting and entertaining argument.
Spearing biscuits - To fish food out of garbage cans.
Spider - A small frying-pan with a long handle. It may be an improvised one.
Spider web plan - To more out in an ever growing larger circle as in searching for a friend.
Spittoon philosopher - A hanger-on about the gin mill or along the curbstone, but an opinionated fellow withal.
Splinter belly - A man who works on bridges and trestles.
Spot (verb) - To position a freight car at a desired location. The brakeman always spots a car dead-on target.
Spotter - A late 19th century and early 20th century railroad employed bull whose job it was to infiltrate railroad unionization efforts and identify the perpetrators for blackballing. Also see bull.
Spur line - A track of roughly 5 miles in length or longer which is classified as nether a mainline nor a siding. Spur lines often load to a nearby company, plant, forge, mill, mine or other large railroad customer.
Squatter - One who settles on a piece of land or in a building without title, ownership or payment.
Stack of bones - A cheap hash-house dish, mostly boiled spare ribs.
Stack train - A train made up of mostly flat cars or well cars, loaded with standardized shipping containers, sometimes "double stacked". Also known as inter modal freight.
Staggered rail - Joint rail which is staggered, laid to one joint is midway along the solid rail on the other side of the track, minimizing resonant rock and roll and reducing track and ballast damage. See rock and roll.
Stake (1) - Earned money or wages.
Stake (2) - Money in the pocket after leaving the job. The pile.
Stake artist - A railroad track worker. Also see gandydancer.
Stake-man - One who only works long enough to get a "stake" and then go off on a trip again.
Stake pockets - They are pockets on the sides of flat cars which upright wooden stakes are fixed into to prevent loads from shifting sideways or falling off a car.
Stamp collectors - Tramps who travel from town to town collecting food stamps along a circuit.
Stamp tramps - Tramps who ride between multiple cities, collecting food stamps at each stop. New restrictive food stamp policies have greatly reduced the number of stamp tramps.
Standard gauge - A track gauge of 4 feet 8 1/2 inches (1435 mm), adopted throughout many industrialized countries.
Steller hobo (1)- A hobo who sleeps under the stars, under the astral blanket.
Steller hobo (2) - An outstanding in the field of being a hobo or tramp, such as A-No.1. See: A-No.1.
Stem - A street.
Stemming - Panhandling or mooching along the streets.
Sterno - A dangerous alcoholic drink made by heating sterno can.
Sterno drunk - A transient who drinks steno, cheap wine, shoe polish or anything else he can get his hands on. Also see stern stove.
Sterno stove - A hobo's portable cooking stove. Usually fueled with steno, an alcohol-based flammable which was often imbibed when money was short.
Stew builder - A hobo camp cook, a kitchen mechanic.
Stew bum (1) - A hobo that hangs out with other hoboes in a jungle.
Stew bum (2) - A booze fighting bums that never leave the stem.
Stew bum (3) - An old hobo wasted by alcohol.
Stiff (1)- A hobo worker. Any kind of hobo worker. There are harvest stiffs, bridge stiffs, hospital stiffs, and many others.
Stiff (2) - A tramp.
Stir - A state prison. The big house or big school.
Stirrup - A metal step shaped like a flat "U" which is affixed to the underside of each end of both sides of a freight car, used to step onto and off of the car.
Stool pigeon - An informer, a rat, one who betrays to the police. See bull and spotter.
Straight and narrow - The way to eternal life and salvation. A term often used by A-No.1. Also to lead a clean life and stay off the tracks.
Strap-down - To secure a load on a flat car by use of flat metal bands, or cable tightly strapped around the load. To strap-down the lumber before the load gets loose.
Streamlined jack roller - A hobo thief who travels light. Also see streamliner.
Streamliner - A hobo who travels light or with next to nothing (or nothing).
Street Arab - One who travels mainly by the use of the open road or uses streets as a main means to get one one place to another.
Stinker - A hotbox.
Stirrup - The first step of freight car, under the lowest grab iron.
Stock pen - A yard office.
Stogy - An inexpensive cigar.
Streamlined (1) - Traveling with little gear.
Streamlined (2) - Travelling light with little to no baggage or gear. Streamliners are often mistrusted, since other tramps expect them to mooch.
Streamliners - Hoboes who ride fast trains for no better reason than to satisfy their wanderlust, and who carry nothing they can't fit in their pockets.
Streamlining - Traveling without a pack, extra gear or bedroll.
Street urchins - Abandoned children living on the streets.
String-lining - The tendency of cars toward the middle of the train to jump the inside rail on a curve because the head end is pulling harder than the rear end travel. Absent a break-in-two string-linings leads to derailments.
Sub-ballast - The bottom layer of crushed rock, lava, slag or shells upon which the top ballast is poured and the track is laid. Also see top ballast.
Sudden takeoff - A stationary freight car or string of cars suddenly jointing into motion, by collision and coupling by a car, string of cars or an engine causing serious danger to a person on a car.
Summer hobo - Not really a hobo term, usually a college student that is homeward bound for vacation.
Submarines - Doughnuts. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Sun times - Over 50 different time settings throughout North America before the adoption of Standard Time in 1883. Local times were over 100 different time settings throughout America and Canada, by regions, communities and railroads, before the adoption of Standard Time in 1883.
Surfing - Riding on the tops of rail cars while they are moving (a good way to get killed. Rarely done by veteran tramps unless they must get to another car).
Swamper - The person who cleans out the bar-room.
Sweet back - A hobo sheik who is only sampling hobo life.
Switch - A section of railroad track which allows a train to change tracks. A danger to anyone walking along the track in a line or freight yard which catches a foot by wedging or movement of remote switch tracking when a train suddenly comes along.
Switch engine - See billy goat.
Switching - The process of moving a car or train from one track to another, or assembling or reassembling the consist of a train.
Switch leader - A freight yard track which leads from one yard track to the next and connecting many tracks together at its switches.
Switchman - A freight yard worker who assists in assembling of trains and alignments of tracks as ordered.
Switch stand - A manual (hand-thrown) or automatic (power-thrown) mechanism located at the points end of a switch. This mechanism throws switches from one track to another by means of the operating rod.



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Tallow pot - The fireman on the train. Also see ash cat and fireman.
Tally - Meaning, "I understand," or "Count me in on it."
Tamp up - To assault or beat. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Tank train - See oilcan train.
Tape - The tongue. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Tar paper shack - A crude shack or structure covered with tar paper to keep out the weather and the rain. This is the method used in the construction of many chicken coops. Some times in the winter to keep from freezing to death, residents would drap a blanket over a table, and sleep underneath the table all night with a candle burning.
Tear baby - A person who bums women or men with women. Often puts up a pitiful story, even weeps.
Telephone lineman - A railroad worker who installs, inspects and maintains railroad telephone equipment.
Temple of knowledge - A term for a caboose.
Tender - A steam locomotive's fuel car (wood, coal or oil).
Testify (verb) - To accept the pastors's call at a religious rescue mission to admit the error of one's ways and ask the lord to come into one's life. I have been drinking and running around for years and I ain't ashamed to testify that the good lord don't look any too kindly on it.
The big hook - A giant railroad crane used to clean up railroad wrecks.
The biscuits hang high - There's a scarcity of food handouts in a locality.
Thin ones - Small coins; dimes, nickels and pennies.
Throwing the feet - Panhandling.
Throw your feet -The same as stemming or panhandling.
Throw your guts - To squeal. To give information to the bulls.
Ticket - A board board about a foot or a foot and a half long, with a groove cut in it. The groove would fit down over the rod, and made a seat for riding the rods.
Tie pass - A fictitious permit from the railroad president to walk over the ties.
Tiger milk - Some sort of liquor.
Timber beasts - Loggers.
Timber wolf - A worker in the woods, a logger, or wood tick.
Tin cans - Used by hoboes as cookware and as drinking cups. Tin cans they use for fruits, you
know, the kind that are coated on the inside. They're safe to cook out of, without fear of poisoning, and about 3 in different sizes can make up a whole cookin outfit.
Tin horn - A petty sport hanging around the main stem. He is sometimes called a rustler.
Tinker - The itinerant mender of household utensils (tinker is a contraction of "worker in tin") come to be synonymous with "unsuccessful mender" and bungler. Someone would rather fiddle around than hold down a steady job.
Tin roof - A free drink. So-called because it is "on the house."
Tip the office - To warn a fellow hobo by giving some signal.
Toadskins - Paper money. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
To be on the nut - To be broke.
Togs- They are shoes.
Tomato can stiff - One of the lowest bums. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Toot the ringer - To ring backdoor bells.
Toppings - The dessert. Something toothsome to touch off a meal.
Touching hearts - Begging. Also known as panhandling, putting the rigging on, and putting the touch on someone.
Town clown - The village constable. The town policeman.
Train-hoppers - People who ride trains without paying.
Train-hopper's kit - Such things include ear plugs, goggles, gloves, cardboard, a board, etc.
Trainman - Any member of an over-the-road train crew. See engine man.
Train time - The clock tramps live by, characterized by train schedules rather than a 24-hour day.
Tramp (1) - A migratory non-worker.
Tramp (2) - A person who travels the land but is willing to pay his way through hard work. They will work for others as well as themselves. They are not afraid of hard work or long hours. They are very trustworthy and honest.
Tramp (3) - A poor wanderer, a vagrant or vagabond. A sexually promiscuous person.
Tramp (4) - One who travels aimlessly about, vagarant. To travel on foot, to hike. A walking trip. To use a cargo vessel that has no regular schedule but takes on freight and passengers wherever it can. From the middle German: Trampen.
Tramp (5) - In literary circles eulogizing the hobo a person who "dreams and wanders." In common usage a person who travels about by foot doing odd jobs or begging for a living, a vagrant. In reality a minuscule yet notable minority of Americans seeking a better way of life. East of Chicago hoboes supposedly work, West of Chicago tramps works. Also see bum and hobo.
Tramp (verb) - To ride freight trains. I have been tramping for years.
Tramp art (1) - Art work made by itinerants and hoboes. Generally made out of wood and is carved making use of simple tools, such as a pocketknife. hoboes making pieces in exchange for room or a meal became the romantic myth for tramp art. Tramp art is usually made anonymously. The most famous tramp artists is Wilhelm Schimmel who create many folk art objects who worked in the Heishman's Mill, Carlisle, Pennsylvania area. He would use tossed pieces of yellow pine from the saw mill, and carve his art work in exchange for food or drink while sleeping under a nearby bridge or in a shed. His work has become faked because it demands such a high price. Although the term tramp art suggests a nomadic and nonsedentary tradition, tramp art is more related to railroad boxcars and the open road. Tramp art has existed solely due to the craftsmen's imagination and skill in using found material or objects and creating art out of them.
Tramp art (2) - In the late 1950's, the name "tramp art" began appearing in literature to describe what had previously been called "chip work." Tramps and hoboes made "tramp art" to barter for room & board. Tramp art began after the Civil War with decorating wooden cigar boxes. It was also made by Civil War veterans, soldiers and sailors in home for "infirmities of age," farmers, dairymen, railroad men and textile workers. Some crafters could hardly be described as tramps or itinerants as they owned homes, paid taxes, had jobs and enjoyed the hobby of "chip work." Tramp or hobo culture in the late 1800's & well into the tramps of the 1900's.  The hobo culture had a lot to do with railroads & developed it's own sign and spoken language, music, poetry, customs and rough justice system. 
Tramp directories - Water tanks where tramps would carve their monicas, dates, and courses of travel.
Trampdom - The world of the tramp, the entire tramp fraternity may be said to be "in transit."
Tramp essentials - They are: water is one of them, because if you're out it's the hardest thing to find. Every self-respecting tramp should carry a can opener, a knife, a spoon, tobacco, something to start a fire with. Candles are used to keep warm on wintertime trains. There's an amazing amount of heat cast by one candle, if you huddle in blankets around it.
Trampified - The way a boomer looked after being out of work a long time. His clothes were "ragged as a barrel of sauerkraut" and he needed a "dime's worth of decency" (shave).
Tramplife - Living the life of a tramp.
Tramplife series - See: A-No.1 tramplife series.
Trampology - To study and to investigate the tramp. Often they see the tramp problem and work to eliminate it but not the reasons that caused it in the first place. They only see it as transportation of beggars from place to place free of charge.
Tramp orations - Talks around hobo campfires are notorious for their exaggeration.
Tramp problem - The tramp problem might be a result of character flaws within the tramps themselves. Others saw the tramp problem only one of confinement and forced hard labor upon the tramps, and passage of "anti-tramp" and vagrancy laws. They are intent on eliminating trampdom without see that unemployment is a problem..
Tramp-royal - A experienced or well known tramp.
Tramps - Migrating non-working vagrants. A grade higher than scenery bums, dingoes.
Tramp traveler - One whose main occupation is to travel, a tramp.
Tamp up - American tramp slang for to assault or beat.
Transposed rail - Rail shifted from the high rail or low rail side of a curve or to a different location to prolong rail life.
Transient - The word "transient" is basically a work used to describe individuals who do not fit into other categories. When one gets to know a bit more about the individual, it can be determined what kind of transient he might be.
Transverse fissure - Minuscule cracks which develop within the railroad of a rail owing to impurities or air in the steel. Over rail life these cracks expand outward under intense usage, ultimately causing the rail to bread.
Trapeze artist - A hobo who rides the gunnells or rods.
Traveler - These are persons who are very similar to a hobo or tramp, but do not relate to being a hobo or tramp. They are usually antiestablishment much like the "hippies" of the 1950's and 1960's.
Traveler or traveller - A person who travels.
Tread - Wheel tread.
Trombenick - A Jewish hobo. They are scarce as hen's teeth.
Trombo - Refers to a hobo pugilist, or one who hopes to be.
Truck - The portion of the running gear on a freight car which connect the chassis to the wheel axles. Also called car truck.
Trunk route - Any major rail thoroughfare which connects distant regions.
Turkey - A bundle, a suitcase or a canvas bag.
Turned down - Refused a mean or handout.
Twist a dream - To roll a cigarette.
Two-bit (1) - Two-bit is American and Candian slang for worth next to nothing; cheap. Smalltime.
Two bits (2) - Twenty-five cents, a trifling sum in today's terms.


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Umbrella mushrooms - The itinerant umbrella fixers who travel around as hoboes or tramps.
Uncle Sam
- A railway Post Office clerk.
Undercarriage - That portion of a freight car underneath the floor or chassis.
Uneducated - The act of confessing something you should not or did not do, having no smarts.
Underscrub - This 19th century slang for an undergrown or insignificant person.
Underslung - To get underslung means to ride under a train and have the shacks throw things at you, or to have them drag a piece of iron on a string under the car so that, bounding up and down, it will punish you plenty.
Unit - A engine or locomotive.
Unit train - A train comprised of only one type of car which travels back and forth from one customer to another. For example a coal mine to power plant and then returns.
Urban underbrush - The term applied to homeless, street people, beggars, hoboes and tramps, people who are down and out.


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V - Five dollars. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Vag - A vagabond.
Vag or vag 'em - To be jailed or fanned out of town for being a vag.
Vagabond (1) - One who wanders from place to place without any visible means of support. A tramp who wanders aimless.
Vagabond (2) - A person without a perment home who moves from place to place. A wander, tramp or vagarent.
Vagrant (1) - A person without a settled home, vagabond or tramp. Many be one who wanders about or just has no place to go.
Vagrant (2) - One who wanders from place to place without a permanent home or livelihood. One who lives on the streets and constitutes a public nuisance, wondering from place to place, roving, moving in a random fashion.
Vagrant (3)- From the Latin for "wander," vagrant should be used as a romantic adjective for "undecided."
Vampires of the road - These are gangs that often stick to one railroad line. They rob from hoboes. They wear black shirts and slouched hats.
Varnish - A passenger train. Also see ride the cushions.
Vic - Convict. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.


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Wagon tramps - The families who travel in covered wagons or schooners.
Wallies - The town bums who never lose sight of the city walls.
Wander, wander, wandering - To move or travel about without destination or purpose, to roam or rove
Wanderlust - An impulse to travel. Comes from the German system of apprenticeship, where the apprentice has to leave his master midway in his apprenticeship and go off in search of a new master to complete his apprenticeship. There is a German children's song: "Das Wandern ist des Mullers Lust." Traveling or wandering by foot it the joy of the miller. Words to this song in German were put to music by Franz Schubert (1797-1828). A German quasi-scientific concept of compulsive person and popularized by some tramps that this affliction is inherited the from his mother. They are trying to conquer the call of the road. A notion widely discussed by modern scholars. On the addictive qualities of tramping, see also A-No.1 Leon Ray Livingston, "The Curse of Tramp Life," 4th ed. Cambridge Springs, Pa., 1912. A-No.1 was a reformer, a person who tried to reform others, even though he realized that he was trapped within the system and that he himself could not change.
Wandering Willies - A hobo. One who lives a very lonely, solitary lifestyle. This character or idea inspired Emmett Kelly to create his famous clown persona: Weary Willie.
Water-tank-wise - A gay-cat who has picked their moniker knowledge by memorizing the trade-marks of passing roadsters left at the Hotels-de-Tramp and other places where hoboes register their names-de-road.
Waybill checker - A railroad officer worker who verifies pick-up and deliver of freight cars.
Way car - An old term for a caboose.
Way train - A local work train which stops frequently to cut out and pick up customer's cars.
Weary Willie - Happy Hooligans sidekick in their manifold wanderings across the turn-of-the-century American terrain. Also see Happy Hooligan.
Westbound - A train a hobo dies on. Also see big hole of the sky.
Weasel - See: Scamp.
Wet head - A person who has consumed so much alcohol in a lifetime that physical recovery is impossible.
Wet handkerchief - The putrid smoke curled down in from of the engine after hitting the tunnel ceiling. A hobo trick of wetting a handkerchiefs for better air filtration. In spite of the wet handkerchiefs, a hobo would cough, gag and their eyes swould marted. Then not to mention that the heat was terrific, all they could do was to hang on and bear it. Hoboes and train crews would call it for the first timers, a baptism in Hades.
Wet mission - A Mission that will allow someone who has been drinking to be admitted as long as they are not legally intoxicated. However, any form of alcohol or drugs are banned while a guest at Missions around the country.
Wheel slippage - When a train's wheels slip on the rail, in place due to either to insufficient engine weight-to-tonage, excessive acceleration or snow, ice, grease, or water on the track.
Wheel tread - The smooth, nearly flat and high, polished surface of a freight car wheel which travels over the railroad.
Whiffler - A person who while away the hours. A delightfully foolish variant of fiddling around who watches the world pass by.
Whistle down - A short cadence of whistle blasts which signaled brakeman on moving trains in the 19th century to manually set hand brakes. Also see whistle up.
Whistle up - A short cadence of whistle blasts which signaled brakeman on moving trains in the 19th century to manually release hand brakes. Also see whistle down.
White collar - A businessman.
White cross - Cocaine. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.
Whiteline - A mixture of alcohol and water.
White mule - Old-fashioned white corn whiskey.
White puke - Muscatel.
Willies - The Good Will Industries of the Methodists.
Wind 'em up (verb) - To set hand brakes manually with a brake wheel and winding staff. The winding staff was also used to club hoboes over the head.
Wind that tramps the world - A tramp that has traveled around the world.
Wingey, wingy - A hobo with one arm or crippled arm. Also army.
Wino - An alcoholic, a person who drinks cheap wine. A person who begs or only works for that next drink. Those who drink the dago red wine of California.
W.P.L.J. s - White port and lemon juice, a favorite hobo concoction.
Wishy-washy - A person who can't decide which way to go or what to do.
Wobblie - A member of the I.W.W. union. See I.W.W.
Wobblies - Hobos who belong to the I. W. W.
Wobbly or Wob - Member of the International Workers of the World labor union. Often used strong arm tactics to recruit members.
Wobs - Wobblies, members of the I. W. W.
Wolf - Older hobo exploiting the road kid. An older hobo who preys on young hoboes. The pair is known as the wolf and the lamb.
Wood butcher - A carpenter. A hobo who can do odd repair jobs.
Wood chip gondola - A very high sided gondola used to carry wood chips, sawdust and other wood products. It is secured for wind loss by heavy netting across the top stills.
Wood tick - Same as timber wolf.
Wooden nickels - Carved wooden nickels was a common hobby among hoboes. Some of them were quite skilled at it and carried elaborate sets of carving tools with them, including tiny chisels, files, and clamps. They would trade these nickels for food, money, or a night's shelter. A few hoboes know the trick of imbuing these nickels with minor charms - luck, companionship, good traveling, etc. But the charm will only work for someone who accepts the nickel in fair trade, without knowing that it's magical. In 1913, a new 5 cent coin was minted, the "Buffalo Nickel:." It featured the profile of a large Native American's head on the front, and a buffalo on the reverse. Because the designs on this coin had such large figures on both sides, it allowed the hoboes a great deal of creative latitude. And did they ever take advantage of it! The Indians' head was transformed into soldiers, clowns, ladies and even past president's. The most popular subject was an ethnic person, usually wearing a derby and sporting a beard. These are referred to as "Hobo Nickels."
Woolies - Sheep. Going with the woolies means to take a job as sheep herder.
Work - when a train has to either pick up or set out cars on a siding, the train has work to do.
Working for God - The job of being a mission stiff. To be actively engaged around the fisheries or missions.
Work train - See drag train.


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X - An empty car.


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Yahoo - A hoosier who has no apologies for his ignorance.
Yard - An area where railroad trains are made up, stored or repaired.
Yard billy - See billy goat.
Yard dick - A private policeman of the railroads who makes it his business to keep hobos off the trains.
Yard foreman - A freight yard worker who supervises all aspects of yard operations within yard limits.
Yard limit - The two edges of a freight yard, delimited by yard limits boars or "Y's."
Yard limit board - A track side "Y" shaped sign delimiting the boundaries of a yard and the jurisdiction between a yard master and road master. See road master and yard foreman.
Yard man - A person or laborer who works in a rail yard.
Yard master - A railroad official having charge of a yard.
Yard office - The nerve center of a switching yard's operation. Often a single depot, equally often a tower or communications center.
Yegg (1) - A hobo criminal, usually one who made his living by stealing from working hoboes. Uncommon by the 1930's.
Yegg (2) - A turn-of-the-century moniker for a criminal hobo who preyed on other migrants.
Yeggs (1)- Criminals, or burglars. The crooks of Hobohemia; too mean to be bums and too lazy to be good tramps. The yeggs were the ones to be feared the most. They hopped trains in order to
rob banks, post offices and the railroads, but in ruthless fashion they also preyed on the hoboes, tramps and bums.
Yeggs (2) - These are criminals of the road, usually burglars and safecrackers. An individual is a yegg.
Y. M. C. A. - Meaning "You Must Come Across." The hobo expects nothing from the Y. M. C. A. that is not paid for.
Yonder walk - Usually, when you slip back out of the yonder, you wind up in more or less the same place you were where you slipped in. But a sharp hobo who knows his way around can slip into the yonder one place, and slip back out somewhere else.
Yuppie hoboes or recreational riders - They hop freights for the adventure, to seek inspiration, and as a respite from the tensions and stress of their everyday lives. The younger generation of riders includes artists, punks, and college students.


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Zebra - A 19th century slang for a convict's striped uniform; a convict wearing such a uniform.
Zook - A worn-out prostitute. Source: American Tramp and Underworld Slang.


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