Thursday, February 22, 2018

Locomotive Nicknames

Early in our railfanning careers, we approach our new-found fascination of trainspotting with fervor and unabashed enthusiasm! If we stick with it, for decades even, we run the risk of becoming unenthusiastic, jaded and may adopt a been-there-see-that, world-weary attitude. But let's keep it positive. This time of year reminds me of my 41 years of data-recording which began in the wintry cold of February, 1976 (L.C. Gagnon photo):
I had a vague idea what an A-unit, B-unit, F-unit or GP-9 was, from model railroading. But when it came time to organize and record my early cold-hands observations in a practical way, I had to label each page on which I listed the number, date, direction etc. Each page held numbers of a type of locomotive - I didn't record the train's entire locomotive consist together. So I came up with wacky terms like Fatties, Fakies and Roadies. Hey, I was 12. A legend for my own reference on the back of my first scribbler notebook for observations:
Here are some original green-ink and pencil listings. Sorry about the exposure - the problem with pencil lead is that it 'lightens' with time and page-flipping. Initial pages of Fakies and Roadies:
The first Fatties page. I originally started with symbols to connect locomotives from each train, but soon adopted an alphanumeric system!
Do these look like Fatties to you? Check out those safety cabs. Revolutionary at the time, state-of-the-art today:
Ooh, VIA! Seems like I started grouping RDC's in with B's! Alphabet soup!
Loyal Trackside Reader Elijah Hall from Saskatchewan emailed me about Black Widows and Thundercows. Whaaaat? I found out that Elijah had also come up with nicknames for some of his favourite locomotive types. Of course the Black Widow was a characteristic CN scheme introduced in 1961. Overall black with a large CN logo, this scheme was superseded by CN's striped freight scheme applied to safety cab units. Black Widow alert! Portage la Prairie in 1978 (below). By 1986, nary a Black Widow. All Stripeys!
I am definitely not a 'locomotive person'. Too many designations, numbers and letters, dashes or no dashes. There we go again, letting the devil get in the details and losing track (pun intended) of the big picture. Of course we should find observing and talking about trains fun! I can read it in the Beachburg Sub blog of Michael Hammond, as we learn more and share more of the trains they have known.

So in that spirit, Elijah and I have compiled our nomenclaturic naming conventions for select locomotive types. Elijah makes it even more specific, with certain sub-types. Fun!
Thanks to Elijah Warner Hall for his contributions, his enthusiasm and his patience while this post languished in the Trackside Treasure queue. So much stuff to blog, so little time and such a relaxed once-weekly publication schedule in this, Trackside Treasure's tenth year!

Running extra...

Fakie is also a snowboarding term!

Been watching the Winter Olympics. Here are my Top Ten Snowboarding Terms or Things You Would Not Admit to in Open Court:
10.Switch Nine Hundred
9. Pickpocket
8. Rusty Trombone
7. Stiffy
6. Tail Grab
5. Crippler
4. Backside Misty
3. Frontside Grab
2. Cross Bone
And the Number One Snowboarding Terms or Things You Would Not Admit to in Court:
1. Chicken Salad!
(Which in itself sounds innocuous, but check out the definition thereof: The rear hand reaches between the legs and grabs the heel edge between the bindings while the front leg is boned. The wrist is rotated inward to complete the grab.) Ouch.
But all the Olympics-watching doesn't mean there's nothing happening on my HO scale Green Mountain Lines. Here's a video of Rushing Through Rutland!


Michael said...

The only thing I can admit to when I was younger was a term I used when an engine led a train with the long hood forward. I used to call this the "pig nose way" since I thought the lights on the long hood resembled a porcine nose. So, if I was talking to a friend about this train, I would say, "There was a GP40 pulling the train the pig nose way." Hey, I was a kid!

Eric said...

Michael - Another great locomotive nickname! Whether we're kids or not, these locomotive nicknames will live on, resonating with railfans as we mature. Widely-accepted terms like Centipedes, Little Joes, and even The Empress of Agincourt persist. Due to geography, technology, railway lineage or just something someone coined trackside, these nicknames are gold!

Thanks for your comment,

Zartok-35 said...

Great post Eric! Thanks for spreading the gospel. I owe allot of inspiration to Jim Gilley the Grumpy Railfan, who made up several of his own nicknames for BNSF engines down in the states. Fatties is a good name, I might have to adopt it for Draper model locomotives such as the SD50F and SD60F!

Eric said...

Well, thanks to you and Jim Gilley for keeping this nickname thing alive, Elijah. We need to keep railfanning fun and not just a succession of model types, designations, wheel arrangements and arguments over all of it. Just getting trackside and seeing what's coming down the line is the main thing.

Fatties forever!