Restored KATY Train

Railroad Workers


The conductor was considered the headman in charge. It was his duty to see to the overall operation of the train. He had to see that the various orders were carried out to the letter, that freight cars were picked up or dropped off at destination along the way. He had to get his waybills or bills of lading in order. He had to keep a log of everything that occurred along the trip and report any maintenance repairs which he found needed to be done.

On most long haul trips, it was necessary for orders to be picked up en route. The orders would be telegraphed ahead and if the station which received the orders was not a scheduled stop, the order papers would be attached by a order hoop to the order mast (a forked pole stuck in to a large timber) and as the train sped past, the conductor or the brakeman would extend his arm out a window and retrieve the papers, thus enabling the train to hurry on to it's destination.

On passenger trains, the conductor notified the engineer when tho begin. With ticket punch in hand, the conductor began to collect and punch the passenger's tickets. Making his way through the train, he would enter each coach and call out, "Tickets, please!" Ordinarily it would take him from five to twenty minutes to punch and collect them, depending upon the number of passengers in a coach. This was known in railroad language as "lifting transportation."

Each conductor had his own ticket punch, with a particular size and shaped design in the die cut. Some railroads have used hundreds of different designs, which were made specifically for their punches.

The individual design of each conductor's punch was as good as his signature, and it was so distinctive that the auditor of passenger receipts on any railroad could quickly identify the conductor who punched the ticket. He simply matched the design in the ticket hold with a record book of ticket punch designs.


The Brakeman was an understudy for the conductor. It was his duty to assist the conductor and keep their responsibilities running as smoothly as possible, just as it was the fireman's duty to understudy and assist the engineer.

In the early days of the railroad, one of the many duties of the brakeman on the passenger train was to fill the wood boxes at the end of each car, and to keep up the fires in the hungry stoves. He carried the key to the woodbox with him, so that chilly passengers could not throw extra chunks of wood in the stove when he was elsewhere. He also strung the bell cord across the cars, kept signal lamps and lanterns cleaned and filled, hauled the baggage from the station to the cars, twisted the brake wheels at the ends of the cars when the train was ready to stop and helped the conductor with the tickets when the coaches were packed. In between runs he helped to assemble the train and to clean it.

The freight brakeman had to climb the roof and run the catwalk from car to car to set the brakes by hand in all kinds of weather.

These men formed a close working bond and became almost like a separate, close-knit family. There really was a brotherhood of the railroad. Few trains have brakemen now.


The seat on the left-hand side of the cab belonged to the fireman, but his many duties did not often give hi a chance to sit on it. He, like the engineer, braved the summer heat and rain and winter snow and cold, in those early pre-cab days. On runs he did little else besides toss cord-wood to the hungry engine or help load the tender at wood stops along the route. The fireman paid farmers and other men who hauled the wood to the fuel stops and he used special tokens issued by the railroad for this purpose. These were redeemable at the railroad's office.

Whether the use of coal in later years made his job easier is a good question. Besides needing a strong back, a fireman also needed a certain degree of skill in tossing it evenly through the fire door and into the firebox. To keep the fire hot enough to suit the engineer, he shoveled many tons of the fossil fuel before the oil burner and the stoker appeared on the scene.

The fireman also was the man who crawled out of the cab onto the locomotive's running board as the train coasted downgrade, and edged precariously along the side of the hot boiler to fill the cylinder cups with hot tallow. This feat earned him his nickname of "tallowpot". However, nothing was too dangerous, and no work was too hard as long as he kept his eye on the cab's right-hand seat. Someday, in the orderly fashion of railroad promotions, that seat would be his.

Gandy Dancer

A Gandy Dancer was a track worker who got his name from his jing-like movements as he tamped the ties. They dug out old ties and replaced sections of the rail with all their tools and equipment scattered about them. Spiking down the rail with the maul, tamping town the ties with the shovel, took muscle and sweat. Section gangs are a thing of the past. Machinery is taking the place of muscle. "Track Machine Operators" is the new name for section crews. Many of the old tools used by the Gandy Dancers in the roundhouse and in the railroad shops during the steam era are no longer in use.

(from the Collector's Book of Railroadiana by Stanley Baker and Virginia Kunz)



Open year-round. Museum hours:
Monday - Friday 10 am – 3 pm

Admission to the museum is free.
Bring the whole family!

Special events and other hours by appointment only. Inquire at the Smithville Chamber of Commerce at [512] 237-2313 or email.


James H. Long Railroad Park and Museum
Main Street @ The Gazebo
100 NW 1st Street  |  P.O. Box 716
Smithville, Texas 78957