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Workin' On the Railroad
the Section Gang's Perspective

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spikes, spike driver, tie plates, rail bolt and  clip
One of the all important hand tools of the section gang, the spike driver, seen here with an assortment of rail hardware, spikes, tie plates, clips, and bolts.

Workin' on the Railroad
The Section Gang's Perspective

If you have any stories or photos that you would like to post, please feel more than welcome to contact me.

Every railroad has to mantain the line 24/7 - this task falls to the Mantainence-of-Way crew also known as the "Gang."

We will always continue to add more stories as told by former employees of the Missouri Pacific, and any interesting information we come across.




The Job

First in order: a short description of the duties of the MoW Gang.

Foreman/Gang Boss - he's just what the name says

Section Gang - Section Crews or Section Gangs as they were commonly known, were responsible for a (large) section of track. They typically rode handcars (later motorcars) to look for and replace bad ties, tamp loose spikes, and tighten bolts.

Extra Gang - The crew of track laborers assigned to maintenance work at various points on a railroad right-of-way. These employees may live in camp (bunk) cars where they are provided lodging and meals at a nominal cost.


More terms:

B&B - Bridge and Building department

Boomer - Itenerent railroad workers, always moving from one location to another.

Dozer - Bulldozer operator.

Gandy Dancer - A track worker assigned to work on an extra-gang. The name came from the Gandy Manufacturing Company in the 1800's who made many of track tools.

Snipe - Track worker (section laborer).


Working on the Railroad



MoW Slanguage

Ballast - Gravel, slag or other heavy material used as a road bed to support cross ties and rails.

Blue Goose - A high-rail car used by management to get out of the office and look important.

Gandy dancers - a.k.a. pumpcars

High-Rail - A vehicle, usually a pickup truck, with small rail wheels used to carry maintenance workers.

motorized speeder

Jigger - speeder motorcar

Motor Car - a.k.a Speeder. A motor-driven railway inspection or work car which rides on the rails and is operated by maintenance of way employees to minimize time spent traveling while on duty.

MW - Maintenance of Way Department

Pusher - Team leader responsible for seeing that work gets done on schedule
OR a locomotive built to help trains up steep grades by pushing from behind.

Putt-putt - speeder motorcar

Road Bed - The foundation on which the rails and ties of a railroad are placed.

Speeder - small, low rail vehicle with gasoline engine used to transport work crews; sometimes known as a jigger, motorcar, or putt-putt

Sperry Car - Railroad car used by Sperry Rail Service to detect weakened or cracked rails.

Spreader - rail vehicle used to push gravel or snow away from the outsides of the rails

Weedburner - Flame thrower vehicle which rides on the tracks and is used to kill weeds along the track right-of way.

Work Train - A train engaged in company service for which no revenue is received.


Tools of the Trade

Hand tools:

Pry Bar - Long crowbar used to pull up old, damaged spikes from track.

Spike Driver - A sledge hammer, but designed with a longer, slimmer head to specifically seat spikes up against a section of rail.

Tie Tongs - Large tool, looking much like ice-tongs, used by workers to drag or carry individual cross ties.

Power tools:

Rail or Track Saw - large circular saw (replaced simpler hand-held saws) used to size individual sections of rail to fit into track.



Cross Tie - usually made of creosote treated lumber about 6'-8' long, but today concrete ties are becoming an increasingly popular alternative.

Rail Bolt - Used with rail plates to join sections of rail together.

Rail Clip - Placed under rail on either side of a cross tie to keep it from "wandering" over time.

Spike - Large nail driven through tie plate into cross tie used to hold rail sections in place.

Tie Plate - Placed between rail and cross tie, helps to keep spikes from becoming loose and crosstie from splitting.

Rail Section- Heavy section of iron that provides the actual "wheel to iron" surface of the railroad track.

Rail Bar - joiner bar inserted where rail sections join together, and bolted through both sections of rail.

Welded Rail - Long continous section of rail which requires no bolting together. Welds are used where the long sections meet.



This Site is Dedicated to those who ran the MoPac
and made her one of the greatest roads in the Nation.

MPRR Employee Feature Pages - Input from all former-MPRR Employees welcome!

Special Thanks to All the Former Missouri Pacific RR Engineers and Employees
who have contributed their lives to the Railroad and their unique knowledge to this site:

James Blagg MPRR Telegrapher-clerk, Concordia and Omaha Sub's, 1973-1987

Bob Currie MPRR Engineer DeQuincy Division, 1972-1990 (engineer 1973-1990)

Daryl W. Favignano MPRR Mechanical Engineering Dept. at St Louis, 1974-1986

Jay Glenewinkel MPRR/UPRR Crew Van Driver, 1992-1997

Nathan Griffin MPRR/UPRR, Hoskins Junction, Clute, Texas, 1975-Today

JD "Tuch" Santucci MPRR Engineer, Dolton and Villa Grove, IL , 1978-1985

Recommended Websites operated by former MPRR Employees:
Bob Currie's MISSOURI PACIFIC DeQuincy Division - MP Engineer
Hot Times on the High Iron by "Tuch" Santucci - MP Engineer
Missouri Pacific Railroad Memories by C.E. "Cliff" Satterfield - MP Superintendent
B.M.W.E. Union, Lodge # 0455/Missouri Pacific System Federation

MPRR Employees Service Forum - Devoted to sharing information of former MoPac employees. Feel free to post names or information of those who worked on the railroad -- former MP Employees are Welcome!

Help Save Lives
Operation Lifesaver


Railroad Clipart courtesy of
The Ultimate Railroad Clip Art Library


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 l Last Update to this page: 24 April, 2008
          All images & text 2000-2008 T. Greuter / Screaming Eagles, unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved.