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WORDS & PHRASES IN GENERAL USE WITH POSSIBLE RAILROAD ORIGIN
(Including common expressions that are actually railroad metaphors.)

Many common English expressions are actually technical terms relating to older technology – but the origin is often forgotten as the meaning of the phrase evolves.

Can you document that any of the following guesses actually derive from railroad terminology (or that they do not) – or can you suggest others?

express, express line

backtrack

just the ticket

fast track

railroaded

derailed

make the grade

don't/to get sidetracked

on the wrong track

on the right track

One-track mind

off track

living on the wrong side of the tracks

whistle stop tour

Letting off steam

popping off

blowing smoke

blowing your stack

tunnel vision

light at the end of the tunnel

streamlined

depot

keeping/staying on track

bells and whistles - "The Central Pacific company had thirty locomotives gayly decked ranged on the city front, and at the signal of a gun announcing the driving of the last spike on the road the locomotives opened a chorus of whistles, and all the bells and steam whistles in the city joined." May 10, 1869.

that's the ticket

chugging along

hell on wheels

Sabotage - "the practice by striking French railway workers of cutting the sabot [metal shoe] that held railroad tracks in place. The word appears in English in 1910 and early use specifically refers to the French railroad strikers."

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