NEB&W Glossary - A

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This is intended both for novices and people outside the hobby, and for advanced modelers who just like to see derivations of words. If you don't know what a particular word means, ask, and we will try and post its meaning. And feel free to correct any definite you think we got wrong.

A end

The end of a freight car away from the hand brake, the "b" in "b end" probably standing for "brake".


A diesel that has a crew compartment and controls, and is intended for the first unit of a consist. A "B-Unit" has no such cab. There is no such thing as a "C-Unit" (there is/was a C-Liner, a type of diesel). There are "F-Units" and "E-Units", however, which are simply General Motors designations for some of their diesels.


Association of American Railroads. Originally the Master Car Builders' Association, then the ARA, which was reorganized in 1934 to become the AAR.

AB Brake

An improved brake developed in 1933, and all cars built from Sept. of that year on had to have these brakes. Several deadlines to retrofit all the older freight cars were bypassed, with the final deadline, 1953, being kept. However, as of 1949, there still were 23% of all cars with the older K brake.
The AB differed in two important respects from the K brake. The K brake had the triple valve, brake cylinder, and air tank, all as part of one casting. The AB had these as three separate components, and had the valve and cylinder as castings, but the air tank was welded. The air tank actually contained two tanks, one for normal application and one for emergency.

Abbott Labs

Hoover's Handbook said that Wallace Abbott, a family doctor, started the Abbott Alkaloidal Company in Chicago in 1888 to sell his version of a "time release pill". Over the years the company slowly grew, including supplying penicillin during WWII. Today it is one of the 500 largest companies in the world, the 6th largest pharmaceutical industry.
Sucaryl was developed in 1950 by Abbott, but taken off the market after the FDA indicated it might cause cancer in 1970.

Abbotts Dairies, Inc.

According to Moody's 1945 Industrial Manual, the company was incorporated in Maryland on Sept. 1927. Despite this, they seemed to have operated out of Philadelphia.
I don't know if the name came from the founder, the location, or maybe even something like the type of cow - not that I've heard of this type of breed, but who knows.
They didn't list any cars in '32, but in '35, they had 11 bulk milk tank cars with "A.D.X." marks. In '49, they were down to just four, and didn't list any in '53.


American Car & Foundry, created in 1899 from a group of car builders. For a centennial history of the company and the cars they produced, see Edward Kaminski's American Car & Foundry Company.

ACI Label

I think this stands for "automatic car identification". It was a system to use trackside scanners to read a bar code similar to that on groceries, and thus keep track of every loco and piece of rolling stock. It was made mandatory in 1970, but failed to work, as the engines and cars aren't washed enough and the labels got too dirty for the scanners to read. Thus it was discarded in '79.


Alternate center riveting. These were post-WWII cars that used thinner side sheathing of high-strength steel. However, intermediate posts were added to help stiffen the sides, creating an intermediate row of rivets in each panel.


There is an Actol Chemicals, Ltd. in Canada with one plant, in Delson, Quebec, making ammonium acetate, ammonium formate, chemically modified starch, and polyvinyl acetate emulsions.
However, I also found that "Actol" was a registered tradename in Canada, of Imperial Oil in Toronto, first registered in 1933 and expunged in 1994 for failure to register.


The ACF had a similar system to the New York Central's Flexi-van, called "Adapto" which was discussed in an article in the January 16 and 23, 1956 issues of Railway Age. Don't know if this system was ever actually used or not.


According to Hoover's Handbook, John Daniels started crushing flaxseed in 1878 to produce linseed oil. In 1902, he created the Daniels Linseed Company in Minneapolis. The next year, another flaxseed crusher, George Archer, joined the firm. In 1923, they took over the Midland Linseed Products, and changed the name to Archer-Daniels-Midland
During the '20's, the company conducted research into linseed oil, unusual for the time. In 1930, they acquired Commander-Larabee, the third largest flour miller in the U.S.


General American's specialized type of covered hopper, which blew air up through the lading to "fluidize" it and allow it to flow out of the car. (Name is a registered trademark of GATX.) This type of car made it practical to ship such commodities like sugar and flour, which tended to "cake" in a regular covered hopper. The first Airslides were introduced in July 1953, although I don't know of any leased to any railroads prior to '54.

Ajax Hand Brake

Ajax was a Greek hero in the story of the Trojan War.
The company by this name claimed to have been making hand brakes since the mid-'20's, but didn't advertise in the '28 Cyc. The earliest notice I can find of them is in the '31 Cyc.
Lewis E. "Gene" Green said that either the Ajax Hand Brake Company was founded in 1922 (Railway Mechanical Engineer, December 1929, page 761, obit. of C.B. Moore.) or 1925 (125 Federal Reporter, 2nd Series, page 487, Moore v. DeGuire). (He is inclined to go with the 1922 date, but can't document it from a third source.)
He also said that Ajax's first brake, model 13039, was produced from May 1926 to July 1926, according to the Ajax-Consolidated Co.'s Ajax Hand Brake Identification Chart 14276, (undated).
This appears to have been the most common type of geared hand brake. In '37, about 10% of all freight cars had Ajax (back when most would have had vertical "stem-winders"), by 1940, perhaps 15%. As of 1946, Ajax claimed to have supplied about 2/3rds of all the geared hand brakes then in use.

Alberta Heritage

Following the 1979 purchase of some 2,000 covered hoppers by the Canadian Wheat Board (a government agency), both the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan each purchased 1,000 cars.
The Alberta Government didn't list any freight cars in 1978.
In 1985, they had an even 1,000 covered hoppers. Of these, 477 were marked "ALNX", and were apparently owned by (or leased to) the CN. The other 523 cars were marked "ALPX", which were owned/leased by/to the CP. No home point was given.
In '90, they were down to 994 cars.


According to their web site, the company started in 1902 as Northern Aluminum Co., a subsidiary of Alcoa (Aluminum Co. of America). In 1925, they changed their name to Aluminum Co. of Canada, Ltd., and three years later Alcoa decided to divest itself of any subsidiaries outside of the U.S. In '87, they officially changed their name to Alcan Aluminum Ltd.

Alternate center riveting

Abbreviated "ACR". These were post-WWII cars that used thinner side sheathing of high-strength steel. However, intermediate posts were added to help stiffen the sides, creating an intermediate row of rivets in each panel.


American Locomotive Company, created from a number of loco builders at the turn-of-the-century. Their main plant was in Schenectady, NY.


According to The Chemical Process Industries, aluminum is possibly the most abundant metal in the world. However, it binds so tightly to form its compounds, it wasn't until 1825 that it was produced as a metal. (Aluminum is so reactive that it would easily corrode, except that its oxide clings to the surface, thus forming a molecular protective layer. With iron, the oxide flakes off, exposing new material for attack.)
At first aluminum was sold for $100 a pound, and this precious metal was used to cap the top of the Washington monument. By 1886, the price had come down to $8 a pound, when Charles Hall in Pittsburgh developed the "Hall process", using electricity. It took awhile for the electrical industry to be able to furnish the gigawatts of power needed, but by 1893, the price was down to $2. (The energy costs represented about a third of the total production costs.) By WWI, Hall's company had brought the price down to 15 cents a pound and it continued to fall. In just the decade from 1943 to '53, consumption doubled.
Hall formed the Pittsburgh Reduction Company in 1888, and the name was changed to the Aluminum Ore Co. in 1907. Despite the Pittsburgh location, Alcoa had facilities in Niagara Falls, being the first industrial user of the hydroelectric power generated there, in 1893. In 1910, they introduced aluminum foil (the key to this product was the low cost).
(By the way, "foil" comes from Latin "folium" meaning "leaf", both natural and as in "gold leaf". The root also gave us "foliage" and "folio".)

Allied Full Cushion Trucks

This was introduced by the Allied Railway Equipment Co. in early 1941, used mainly on express box cars and most notably on troop sleepers. They are easy to spot.

The AAR outlawed them in 1959, although I think a number of roads had bad experiences with them and switched them out a few years prior to this.

Aloha Shake

According to Paul Graf, a lumber company in Aloha, WA had 10 Evans box cars leased to them to carry cedar shakes for roofs and siding. (My dictionary doesn't give a derivation of this meaning of "shake", only the "tremble"-type meaning. I thought maybe it was some corruption of shack/ramshackle or shaggy, but on reconsideration, the term also means a fissure in the earth, so the concept of splitting, as in splitting a log to make shakes may the source.)
I think this company was actually the Aloha Lumber Co. out of Pacific Beach, WA. There was also the Aloha Timber Co., which ran a 25 mile standard gauge logging company in the Aloha and Pacific Beach area in the 1920's and '30's.


This is the name of a casting resin, which on our club layout, is used to make freight and passenger cars, building parts, and detail parts. For more information, see Alumilite's Home Page.

American (Standard)

A 4-4-0 locomotive, basically the standard wheel arrangement of American locos during the entire 1800's.

American Beef Packers

Company was started in the Texas Panhandle in the early '70's, and was short-lived, as they went bankrupt in 1975. The bankruptcy was just after many farmers had delivered their entire year's output of cattle, but before they got paid, and the farmers lost over $20 million. This led to an amendment to the Federal Packers & Stockyards Act.
The assets were sold to Swift.

American Mineral Spirits Co.

Moody's Industrial Manual said this Cartenret, NJ company formerly owned a fleet of tank cars, but in 1932, they were sold to GATX, probably to be leased back to American Mineral Spirits as needed.

American Stores Co.

According to Hoover's Handbook, five Philadelphia grocers formed this company in 1917. The company didn't list any cars under its own name in 1924 or '32 (but of course may have leased cars). In Jan. '33, they were listed as a new addition with 10 40-foot reefers, with "A.M.S.X." reporting marks.
Walthers has a set, no. 1103, for a white car side with blue lettering. A thick border was around the entire side, with a diagonal slash on the right side and "Asco Milk" ("Asco" from the initials). This set had the North American logo, suggesting this scheme may only apply to when they leased from North American, probably before '38 (as afterwards, they would have run afoul of the billboard scheme).
The company wasn't list any freight cars in '49 or '53.
In 1979, the company was merged with Skaggs (started by one of the children of the founder of Safeway), but retained the American Stores name. By means of acquisitions, they operate a number of familiar-named stores (Jewel, Jewel Osco, Acme, Star, Lucky), and are one of the 500 largest companies in the world in 1991.

Andrews Trucks

Who was Andrews? Was this named after the sisters who made a name for themselves in swing music decades later?
This was a brand name of American Steel Foundries, and the name really refers to the truck sideframe. It was a cast steel frame but with a bolted-in journal. It may date back to 1892, although not really common at all until around 1910. All the USRA freight cars came with Andrews.
There are two key spotting features:

  • The manufacturer's label on the model truck package.
  • A strap on edge, like a portion of the archbar truck, below the journal. This can be horizontal, as on the USRA truck (and new Accurail model) or at an upward angle as on the Kadee truck.

Andrews trucks were outlawed in the mid-1950's.


Hoover's Handbook said the Bavarian Brewery was started in St. Louis in 1852, but didn't do too well until taken over by Eberhard Anheuser in 1860. Five years later, Anheuser was joined by his son-in-law, Adolphus Busch. The eagle inside the "A" was first used as a trademark in 1872.
In 1876, Busch and Carl Conrad created "Budweiser", a beer so named because it was brewed like beer in the Bohemian town of Budweis. In 1879, the company name was changed to Anheuser-Busch.
In 1913, Busch died, but his son, August Busch, took over, and managed to keep the company going during Prohibition by such spin-off products such as yeast, soft drinks, syrup, and even refrigeration units. In 1933, after repeal, Busch had a case of Budweiser delivered to FDR in a carriage pulled by a team of Clysdale horses, which have since became a company trademark.
Michelob was first brewed in 1896, and other brands followed - Bud Light, Busch, Carlsberg, Elephant Malt Liqueur, Master Cellars Wines, and O'Doul's. As of 1991, Anheuser-Busch was the largest brewer in the world, with 12 breweries in the U.S. alone. They have a 42% of the U.S. market share, with three (Bud, Bud Light, and Busch) of the top five beers.
The brewing company operated freight cars under its own name, as well as owning the St. Louis Refrigerator Company and the Manufacturers Railway.


Hard coal. From the Greek “anthrax” meaning coal or carbuncle.
A carbuncle comes from a red or burnt object, which in medicine is somewhat like a boil (red and painful like a burn), and in jewelry, is a garnet (a red mineral) cut into a rounded shape without facets. From the Latin root that gives “carbuncle” also gives us “carbon” (The disease anthrax causes malignant carbuncles.)
As deposits of organic remains decompose, they form peat, then lignite, then bituminous, and finally anthracite. Each step becomes purer and purer carbon. Anthracite requires heat and pressure, and I guess could be considered the metamorphic version of coal.
It is found only in very localized regions, particularly in Pennsylvania. Anthracite burns much cleaner than soft coal, so it was much preferred for home heating. Railroads that service the anthracite region, such as the D&H, used it as fuel, but since it also burns slower than bituminous, required a firebox with a greater surface area to produce enough heat. This wider firebox (called a Wooten) led to the camelback, with the engine cab moved forward astride the boiler.


Short protrusion on front (and sometimes rear) of diesels, to prevent objects such as cars, trees, animals, snow, etc. from being thrown through the cab windows when hit. (I think there was a similar term for trolley cars.)


After Anderson-Prichard purchased Kanotex in '52, they rebranded both their own and Kanotex's gas as "Apco" (from the initials of their name, of course). Apco marketed in the Midwest. In 1978, Apco was purchased by Total, and while a few Apco stations survive (c. 1997), most have since been rebranded "Total".

Apex Tri-Lok Running Boards

A type of steam era steel running board and brake step. Made of upright serrated strips in a grid. They were first shown in the '40 Cyc., but not the '37 one. (It wasn't until '32 that the ARA began to accept some metal running boards, so the Apex can't date much before.)

From a modeling standpoint, this would give a rectangular grid, which would look very close to a Blaw-Knox.

Arch Bar Truck

By far the most common freight car truck of the 19th century. Even as late as 1936, 29% of all cars were estimated to still have arch bar truck. Finally they were banned from interchange in 1941. Constructed of strap steel, it was easily fabricated in a road's home shops. However, vibrations had a nasty tendency to work the bolts loose, in which case the truck came apart with disastrous consequences. Also, where the holes were drilled for the bolts tended to make the steel a little more brittle, causing it to crack there.


Philip Danforth Armour was born in 1832 and died in 1901. He created Armour & Company in 1867. According to the Great Yellow Fleet, Armour Car Lines was established in 1883. In 1900, they operated a fleet of 12,000 cars, the largest by far of any private owned reefers at the time. In 1919, the Federal Trade Commission forced Armour to sell off their subsidiary, which I believe went to the nearly created Fruit Growers Express (formed to fill this vacuum.) By 1920, they were down to 5,088 cars.
Apparently it was famed industrial designer Raymond Loewry (as claimed in his book, Industrial Design), who in 1944 redesigned Armour's packaging, and introduced the rounded rectangular logo with a star in the upper right. The word "Star" (but not a star icon) was used for Armour's ham, bacon, and pure lard for the brandname back in the billboard era.
The first known use of the star herald on a freight car was on a steel reefer no. 1, built in October of 1948.
In '54, they extracted the word "Armour" (and its font) from inside the star logo and plastered it on the car side in billboard-size lettering.

Art Deco

The term came from a Paris exposition in the mid-1920's that featured decorative arts, but in terms of architecture, its most notable hallmark is the "set-back". Skyscrapers were rising so fast, and setting new height records overnight that cities, particularly New York City, decreed that additional floors could only be built if they were set back from the main wall. This creates a stepped pattern to the top of an element, either the building itself, or even a column on the side.
New York City had passed the first zoning law anywhere in the country, which said that the height of buildings were limited by the width of the street below. In most areas, it was a one-to-one ratio - a 60-foot wide street limited a building to 60 feet in height. In lower Manhattan, it was increased to 2-1/2 times the street width.
There was another style, "Art Moderne" (modern art), which used horizontal streamlined lines, rather than Art Deco's vertical lines and bas relief decoration, but in common use "Art Deco" is applied to any post-Victorian style up to the 1950's.
The name came from a 1925 exhibit in Paris, International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts ("Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes").

Arthur Farmers Elevator Co.

Company is named after Arthur, ND, and goes back at least to 1955, although they didn't list any freight cars until 1980. And between 1985 and '90, they ceased to run cars under their own name.


Normally, this would refer to a steam loco that had two sets of drivers (and pistons, valve gear, etc.) under one boiler. But some post-steam freight cars were built as an articulated covered hopper, two separate bodies with a common center truck, or similar rolling stock.

ASF A-3 Ride Control Trucks

American Steel Foundries (ASF) developed this truck in late '43. I don't know what the "A-3" stood for, but the "Ride-Control" was a series of wedges that dampened the oscillations, much like a shock absorber on an auto.
The A-3 truck became the most common type in the post-War period. Modelers also have used it extensively, as the Athearn so-called Bettendorf truck is really a crude ASF A-3 Ride Control truck.
This is one of the more subtle designs to spot. I look for a sort of upside-down Frisbee under the springs, although this is more of a hexagon than a circular pan.


Stones cut smooth on all surfaces, including the face. From the Latin “axis” for board or plank (which also gives us “axis”, a straight line about which sometime rotates, “axle”, but apparently not “ax”.) The opposite, to make the surface rough-hewn (but the sides still square so they fit together with a minimum of mortar), is “rustication”.


The first carrier control system, using radio signals (and vacuum tubes) developed by General Electric in 1964. It allowed up to five locos to be run independently of each other. It wasn't a commercial success and was withdrawn within a few years.

Atlantic Loco

The first notable loco of this wheel type (4-4-2) was used on the Atlantic City RR in 1896, used almost exclusively for high speed passenger service.