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Origins: The Dummy Line - What's a dummy train?

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THE DUMMY LINE


Related thread:
Lyr Add: The Dummy Line (additional verses) (25)


Chris Seymour 02 Jan 01 - 09:50 PM
catspaw49 02 Jan 01 - 10:10 PM
Jon Freeman 02 Jan 01 - 10:11 PM
raredance 02 Jan 01 - 10:26 PM
catspaw49 02 Jan 01 - 10:30 PM
Joe Offer 03 Jan 01 - 02:20 AM
GUEST,Jillzington 01 Mar 03 - 01:57 AM
GUEST,.gargoyle 01 Mar 03 - 03:15 AM
pattyClink 01 Mar 03 - 10:38 AM
wysiwyg 01 Mar 03 - 11:03 AM
Jim Dixon 01 Mar 03 - 12:54 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 01 Mar 03 - 02:23 PM
GUEST,Q 01 Mar 03 - 03:28 PM
GUEST,Q 01 Mar 03 - 03:32 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 01 Mar 03 - 03:33 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 01 Mar 03 - 03:51 PM
GUEST,Q 01 Mar 03 - 05:04 PM
wysiwyg 01 Mar 03 - 05:08 PM
GUEST,Q 01 Mar 03 - 05:46 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 01 Mar 03 - 07:05 PM
GUEST,hummingbird 13 Apr 07 - 07:02 PM
Charley Noble 14 Apr 07 - 10:42 AM
GUEST,Big Harry 04 May 08 - 07:33 PM
GUEST 26 Aug 08 - 01:08 PM
Santa 26 Aug 08 - 05:51 PM
oldhippie 26 Aug 08 - 07:14 PM
Rowan 26 Aug 08 - 09:49 PM
GUEST,Rich Kirby 28 Oct 08 - 05:21 PM
Bill D 28 Oct 08 - 05:37 PM
GUEST,Jeff E 08 Nov 08 - 11:54 AM
GUEST,foxyfleur 13 Mar 09 - 11:10 AM
GUEST,leeneia 13 Mar 09 - 11:25 AM
GUEST,Coalminer5 04 Oct 09 - 10:03 AM
GUEST 04 Dec 09 - 07:43 PM
Joe Offer 05 Dec 09 - 07:01 PM
GUEST,BAD COMPANY 29 Nov 10 - 05:47 AM
EBarnacle 29 Nov 10 - 11:10 PM
GUEST,Thanks for the Silver Burdett Version, every 18 Nov 11 - 05:45 PM
GUEST,Tim Brown 13 Mar 12 - 02:31 AM
GUEST 08 Jun 13 - 08:42 AM
GUEST,leeneia 08 Jun 13 - 10:30 AM
GUEST,.gargoyle 08 Jun 13 - 09:13 PM
GUEST,Greg 23 Aug 14 - 03:20 AM
GUEST,SqueezeMe 23 Aug 14 - 09:04 AM
GUEST,SqueezeMe 23 Aug 14 - 09:11 AM
GUEST,blawsonh 28 Nov 16 - 02:07 PM
GUEST,Charlie 30 Oct 17 - 07:49 PM
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Subject: What's a dummy train
From: Chris Seymour
Date: 02 Jan 01 - 09:50 PM

I thought I'd posted this question to an earlier thread to do with the song "The Dummy Line," which many of us seem to have enjoyed hearing Michael Cooney sing. But I can't find my post, so I'm starting afresh. (Sorry if this makes double; I'm dealing with the sleep deprivation attendant on new parenthood, which gives me what a friend calls "baby brain"...

Anyway, I've learned a song that is not "The Dummy Line" that features a dummy train, which, like "The Dummy Line" refers to slowness...but I can't figure out exactly what a dummy train is.

I'll post the full lyrics when I can - here's a sample:'

Some people say the Dummy can't run
this mornin' this evenin' so soon
Some people say the Dummy can't run
My honey, oh my babe
Some people say the Dummy can't run
But I'm gonna tell you what the Dummy done done
She made all the switches by a half past one
Made a trip around the world before the setting of the sun
This mornin', this evenin' so soon

Thanks for any enlightenment...


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: catspaw49
Date: 02 Jan 01 - 10:10 PM

The only railroad lingo I am aware of referring to a "dummy" is an employees train, used in section work or wreck salvage to move the men on the job.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 02 Jan 01 - 10:11 PM

The previous thread is here.

Jon


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: raredance
Date: 02 Jan 01 - 10:26 PM

NOrm Cohen in "Long Steel Rail" lists several possible definitions of "dummy" which don't all refer to the same songs or versions of songs. One meaning is a train that carries railroad employees, another meaning is a locomotive with water condensers which eliminated the noise of escaping steam, yet another definition refers to the open front part of street cars being called the "dummy". The oldest versions of the song probably refer to the streetcars which are technically not railroads even though they run on rails. A song called "Riding on the Dummy" was published in 1885 by George Hagans of San Franciso. The lyrics an music credits are givne to Sam Booth and Frederick G Carnes.

rich r


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: catspaw49
Date: 02 Jan 01 - 10:30 PM

Good call there rich! The streetcar definition makes a lot more sense in terms of the song than anything else. I never recalled it being used with the word "train" outside of what I said and singly in regards to inmanned, enclosed "B" units. The streetcar idea is a LOT more sensical.

Spaw


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Subject: Lyr Add: RIDING ON THE DUMMY
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Jan 01 - 02:20 AM

Hi - you'll find sheet music for "RIDING ON THE DUMMY" at The Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music (click). The cover has a picture of an early San Francisco cable car - it appears to have an open traction vehicle in front to grab the cable, and a closed passenger car trailing behind.
-Joe Offer-

RIDING ON THE DUMMY
(words by Sam Booth, music by F.G. Carnes, 1885)

1. Of all the ways of travelling
By coach or carryall
By steamer stage or railway car
The dummy bests them all;
A fat man stumbles on the steps,
And stands upon my toes,
Then flops over a lady's lap,
And almost breaks her nose.

CHORUS
Riding on the dummy, Glad to get a seat
With a jolly company, All looking gay and sweet.
Riding on the dummy, With the darling I adore,
And viewing hills and dales with joy, I never felt before.


2. One bright and sunny afternoon
From off the crowded street,
A lady stepp'd upon the car
But could not find a seat;
Oh! Take my seat, a gallant said,
Oh! Thank you sir, said she.
A sudden jerk, and down she sat
Right on a deacon's knee.

3. When near the park I whisper'd to
The angel just by me,
To take a stroll among the trees,
Their loveliness to see;
In flow'ry paths and grassy lawns,
We saunter'd up and down,
And vows of love did interchange,
Ere we came back to town.


Here are the Traditional Ballad Index entries on this song:

Dummy Line (I), The

DESCRIPTION: Concerning possibly the worst, slowest train in history, which comes "Across the prairie on a streak of rust." Passengers who complain are instructed to get out and walk, but point out that they are not expected until the train arrives
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1978 (_Sing Out!_, volume 26, #4, p. 34, a version from Joe Hickerson via Michael Cooney)
KEYWORDS: humorous railroading train
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Pankake-PHCFSB, pp. 254-255, "The Rummy Dummy Line" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen-LSRail, pp. 485-490, "On the Dummy Line" (the main text and tune are "The Dummy Line (II)," but there are selections from and discussion of this song)
DT, DUMYLINE

Roud #15359
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "On the Dummy Line (I)" (lyrics)
Notes: There is a song called "Riding on the Dummy," by Sam Booth & Frederick Carnes, published in 1855. It's not this song. See Norm Cohen's Long Steel Rail for a full discussion. [There is also another "Dummy Line" song; see "On the Dummy Line (II)" for discussion. - RBW]
Uncle Dave Macon's "On the Dixie Bee Line," about a Ford car, is a parody of this song. - PJS
File: DTdumyli

Dummy Line (II), The

DESCRIPTION: "Some folks say that the dummy won't run, Now, let me tell you what the dummy done, Left Saint Louis 'bout half past one, Rolled into Memphis at the seein' of the sun." Stories of riding on the Dummy Line, possibly without a fare
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1925 (Scarborough)
KEYWORDS: train travel
FOUND IN: US(So)
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Cohen-LSRail, pp. 485-490, "On the Dummy Line" (1 text plus fragments of several other "Dummy Line" songs, 1 tune)
Scarborough-NegroFS, pp. 244-245, "De Dummy Line" (1 short text, 1 tune); p. 239, "Railroad Song" (1 fragment)
BrownIII 435, "The Dummy Line" (2 short texts; "B" is a mixed text that seems to be mostly a "May Irwin's Frog Song (The Foolish Frog, Way Down Yonder)" type, with a "Some Folks Say a Nigger Won't Steal" verse)

Roud #11776
RECORDINGS:
Robert N. Page, "Ride and Shine on the Dummy Line" (Victor 21067, 1927)
Pickard Family, "On the Dummy Line" ((Perfect 12625/Banner 0744/Conqueror 7574/Oriole 1995/Challenge 882/Jewel 5995/Pathe 32546/Regal 10049/Cameo 0344/Domino 4585/Romeo 1357/Paramount 3218, 1930; Broadway 8150 [as Pleasant Family], n.d.)

Notes: This is rather a conundrum, because the texts of "The Dummy Line (I)" and "The Dummy Line (II)" have similar choruses, and most are fragments, and they've mixed a lot, as well as gathering a lot of floating verses; see Cohen for a discussion. In general, though, "The Dummy Line (I) involves an extremely slow train, while this one involves a faster, but perhaps strangely-managed one.
It appears, in the original version, that the trip was from Saint Louis to Memphis -- a distance of nearly 300 miles, implying (depending on the time of the year and hence the time of sunset) a speed between 40 and 75 miles an hour, quite good for a train at the turn of the twentieth century.
Scarborough's "Railroad Song" text (p. 239) is even stranger, because it has the train go from Saint Louis to Tampa in an afternoon. That's a distance of 900 miles, meaning that the train had to move at a speed of at least 125 miles per hour even at the summer solstice!
It may be that the Scarborough text confused "Saint Louis" (Saint Louie?) in the song with Saint Lucie, Florida, on the Atlantic coast almost due east of Tampa. That's a distance of about 125 miles, give or take a few river detours, implying a speed of 25-30 miles per hour. Hardly high-speed -- but not really Dummy Line numbers, either. Alternately, Saint Louis might be a variation on "St. Pete/Petersburg." In which case the speed is ridiculously slow. - RBW
File: ScNS139A

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Bibiography
Go to the Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2009 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: GUEST,Jillzington
Date: 01 Mar 03 - 01:57 AM

I've loked for the music to the Dummy Line that I learned in grade school. Can't beleive all the different lyrics there are....the ones I learned.... Some folks say that the Dummy don't run. Come and let me tell you what the dummys done. She left St. Louis at half past one...and she rolled into Memphis at the setting of the sun. On the Dummy ..on the dummy line ....rise and shine. Rise and shine and pay your fine when you're riding on the Dummy on the Dummy Dummy line. Got on the Dummy didn't have my fare...conductor hollered what you doin there..I jumped up and made for the door...and he cracked me in the head with a two by four...(chorus)


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 01 Mar 03 - 03:15 AM

Jillzington - that is the version I also learned - in 3rd grade. Its a grand ol song.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: pattyClink
Date: 01 Mar 03 - 10:38 AM

We have a few VERY rural roads named "Dummy Line Rd" after some old rail line they ran near. If these were named after streetcar lines, I'll eat a locomotive.


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: wysiwyg
Date: 01 Mar 03 - 11:03 AM

Well, it's not too long a leap from thinking of a rail car carrying employees... to a trolley car carrying people going to work. Is a dummy someone who works a straight job for pay, as opposed to a wise old soul who has the sense to bum around?

~Susan


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 01 Mar 03 - 12:54 PM

I wonder if "dummy" is etymologically related to "deadhead."
    dead·head (dµd"hµd") Informal. n. 1. A person who uses a free ticket for admittance, accommodation, or entertainment. 2. A vehicle, such as an aircraft, that transports no passengers or freight during a trip. ... tr.v. ... 1. To pilot or drive (a vehicle) carrying no passengers or freight. .... adv. Without passengers or freight; empty.
In railroad use, I have heard "deadhead" used to mean a freight car belonging to the railroad that is being pulled empty, or an off-duty employee riding as a passenger on his way home or on his way to the place where his assignment will start. In both cases, the movement generates no revenue for the railroad; he/she/it is dead weight, so to speak.

This usage is much older than "deadhead" meaning a fan of the Grateful Dead.


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 01 Mar 03 - 02:23 PM

Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, The Only Historical Dictionary of Slang, Spanning Three Hundred Years of Slang Use in America, Volume I, A-G, J. E. Lighter, 1994, p. 676.



dummy n.

6.a. (see quots.).

1864 in OED Dummy… A locomotive with condensing engines, and, hence, without the noise of escaping steam. 1961 Kalisher R.R. Men 54: Back in them days…they had them cars didn't have air brakes on 'em. Dummies we call 'em. Well, five of 'em was the most you was allowed to have on your train. 1977 R. Adams (Lang. Railroader 50: Dummy a type of switch engine on which the boiler and running gear are housed.

b. a street car; (also) a railway car.

1865 J. Pike Scout and Ranger 337: We went to Chattanooga by railroad, riding on the General's "dummy" car. 1878-81 W. G. Marshall Through Amer. 264: The dummy cable car [is] peculiar to the Golden City. 1881 Duffus-Hardy Cities & Prairie Lands 83: Bleak windy space yawned between [our passenger car] and the car yclept "the Dummy" which was to carry us to Omaha. 1885 in N. Cohen Long Steel Rail 486: Riding on the dummy, glad to get a seat. 1946 Atherton My S.F. 231: Men and women standing precariously on the running boards of the "dummies." 1977 R. Adams Long Railroader 50: Dummy…A car running on its own power.

c. R.R. a short branch line or short train, as one that transports loggers or other work crews.

1894 in DARE . 1905 DN III 78: Dummy, n.   Short branch railway…Rare. 1908 DN III 78: Dummy… A small-sized locomotive engine, also the trail pulled by such and engine. "Are you going to Opelika on the dummy? 1912 in Truman Dear Bess 98: The dummy that brought me here was exactly on the tick but it ran so fast I didn't get much sleep. 1940 R.R. Mag. (Apr.) 43: Dummy - Employees' train. 1948 McIlwaine Memphis 19: Some folks say de Dummy don' run…/An' she rolled into Memphis at de settin' of the sun. Ibid 252 [ref. to ca1910]: After breakfast the flatheads piled on the cars of the log train on the spur railroad ("dummy line") and rode deep into the woods…to work. 1966-68 in DARE.




Sincerely,

Gargoyle


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Subject: Lyr Add: ON THE DUMMY LINE (from Norm Cohen)
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 01 Mar 03 - 03:28 PM

Lyric and music to "On the Dummy Line" in Norn Cohen, "Long Steel Rail," pp. 485-490. Surprised it isn't in the DT-Forum (?)
Can't do the music, but here are the lyrics, anyhow.

ON THE DUMMY LINE

Some folks say that the dummy won't run,
Now let me tell you what the dummy done.
Left St. Louis 'bout half past one,
Rolled into Memphis at the settin' of the sun.

On the dummy, on the dummy line
Ride and shine on the dummy line,
Ride and shine and pay my fine
When I ride on the dummy line.

Got on the dummy and I had no fare,
Conductor yelled, "What you doin' in here?"
I jumped up and I made for the door,
She cracked me on the head with a two-by-four.

Chorus:

Oh, the dummy rolled down that twenty-nine hill,
Blowed the whistle with a mighty shrill.
Stuck his head out the window, look' down the track,
You oughta seen the little dummy ball the jack.

Chorus(2)
Sung by the Pickard family.


Click to play


Cohen writes: "In the oldest text of The Dummy Line" the word dummy is used in Randolph's sense- to mean part of a streetcar. Therefore it might not be considered a railroad song although streetcars do run, literally, on rail roads. The song obtained by Randolph in manuscript copy from an Arkansas woman who heard it sung in the 1890s. It can readily be identified by the chorus:
Riding on the dummy, glad to get a seat,
With a jolly company, all looking gay and sweet;
Riding on the dummy with the darling I adore,
Viering hills and dales with joy I never felt before."

"The song was published in 1885 by George W. Hagans of San Francisco under the title 'Riding on the Dummy,' with words and music credited to Sam Booth and Frederick C. Carnes, respectively copyrighted in 1885, no. 26351)" Haven't looked, but American Memory should have the sheet music, since a copy is in the Collectio of the Library of Congress.

"The less widely known one begins:
Across the prairie on a streak of rust," - In the DT.


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 01 Mar 03 - 03:32 PM

Yep, Joe Offer already posted the Booth-Carnes 1885 lyrics above. Not the one we knew as kids as Jillzington and Gargoyle say.


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 01 Mar 03 - 03:33 PM

LONG STEEL RAIL – The Railroad in American Folksong Cohen, Norm, University of Illinois Press, 1981, p 486-89.

Dummy Line – defined.

The term dummy line has several different meanings and likewise refers to several completely distinct songs. The Dictionary of American Slang glosses the term as a train carrying railroad employees. In Australia, according to A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English it meant the baggage car of a Melbourne tram. The Oxford English Dictionary cites an 1864 usage meaning a locomotive with water condensers, from which there was no noise of escaping steam. Folklorist Vance Randolph notes that in "the early days" the front part of California streetcars was open, and called the dummy. The standard references on railroad, hobo, and tramp slang to no mention the term.

Rail historian Archie Robertson suggested that the common version of this song originally referred to the one-mile-long Augusta Railroad of Augusta, Arkansas. This company was incorporated in 1918 to take over the assets and franchises of the insolvent August Tramway and Transfer Company. The latter railroad had been built in 1887 by the people of Augusta to give them a connection with the Saint Louis and Iron Mountain – under rather amusing circumstances. As Clifton E. Hull relates in his history Shortline Railroads of Arkansas, Hull accepts Robertson's attribution of "The Dummy Line" to the Augusta Railroad; this cannot be the origin of the verses, however, as fragments of the song were collected as early as 1913 by folklorist E.C. Perrow. An attribution to the earlier "Augusta Tramway and Transfer Company would be at least chronologically possible, but the geographical references in the text (see st. 1 of the version transcribed here) lend no support to this suggestion either; the one-mile-short-line is nowhere near Memphis or Saint Louis.

In the oldest text of "The Dummy Line" the word dummy is used in Randolph's sense – to mean part of a streetcar. Therefore it might not be considered a railroad song, although streetcars do run, literally, on rail roads. This song, obtained by Randolph in manuscript copy from and Arkansas woman, who heard it sung in the 1890's, appeared frequently in pocket songster of the 1880's. It can readily be identified by the chorus:

Riding on the dummy, glad to get a seat.
With a jolly company, all looking gay and sweet;
Riding on the dummy the dummy with the darling I adore,
Viewing hills and dales with joy I never felt before.

This song was published in 1885 by George W. Hagans of San Francisco under the title "Riding on the Dummy," with words and music credited to Sam Both and Frederick G. Carnes, respectively (copyrighted in 1885, no. 26351).

Quite different from the above are two other dummy songs. They share the same chorus, but the other stanzas are distinct. The less widely know one begins:

Across the prairie on a streak of rust,
There's something moving in a cloud of dust;
It crawls into the village with a wheeze and whine,
The two o'clock flyer on the dummy line.

Other stanzas elaborate on the image of the slow-moving railroad train.

The best-know dummy song, a representative version of which is transcribed here, seems to be more common in black than in white tradition. It is invariably coupled with additional, thematically unrelated verses that differ from one text to the next. The earliest recovered reported in print date from early in this century, but the an gauge and style of the verses coupled with the "dummy" stanzas invariably suggest an origin on the minstrel stage thirty or forty years earlier. This is the song referred to in all the bibliographic citations other than Ford, Randolph, and the second version in Harbin.

The first two stanzas and chorus of our version are the constant part of the various texts; the final stanza, reminiscent of "Casey Jones," does not occur elsewhere. Other verses generally supplement the two-stanza-plus-chorus "dummy" fragment with stanzas that have nothing to do with the railroad. For example, the version recorded by Robert N. Page includes these verses:

You oughta see my father's beard, how it grows,
The other day he went to shave and cut off his nose;
Slapped it on right upside down,
And every time it drizzles now my father nearly drowns.

I've got a brother by the name of Bill.
He was in the battle at Bunker Hill.
Fought a hard fight for a better life (?).
It's a blame sight harder where Bill is now.

I've got a gal down in Mobile.
She's got a face like a lemon peel.
She got a wart on the end of her chin.
She said it is a dimple, but a dimple turns in.

I have found only three 78 rpm commercial recordings of the dummy song. The version transcribed here was performed by the Pickard Family in 1930 for the American Record Corporation. The earliest recording, made in 1927 by Robert N. Page for the Victor Talking Machine Company, was one of two selections he recorded; it is not possible to determine from them whether he was black or white. The third item, made in 1949 by the Jester, is a version of the song given by Ford.

The 78 rpm discography also includes Uncle Dave Macon's parody on "The Dummy Line," a song about the automobile, and Vernon Dalhart's imitation of Uncle Dave Macon's recording made in 1926, predates both the Pickards' and Page's. One other 78 rpm hillbilly recording, "We're Riding on the Dummy Dummy Line," which Bill Cox cut in 1929 for the Starr Piano Company, was never released, and therefore it cannot be determined which dummy song it was.

A version a correspondent sent me several years ago is choice because of the inclusion of several railroad-related stanzas that are not widespread:

Well, a man was walking ahead the train.
Oh, the whistle blew and it blew again.
The feller hollered, "I don't care how much you blow.
I ain't a-comin' back because you're too darned slow."

There's a hobo got on the train one day,
Said he'd like to ride, but he couldn't pay.
The captain said, "According to the railroad law,
I'm gonna punch your ticket, or I'll punch your jaw."

Now the Dummy train met a cow one day.
She was standing right on the right of way.
Well, shovel in the water, boys, and give the coal.
The cow she went and skinned up a signal pole.

Down in Arkansaw, where the trains go slow,
There's a big tornado began to blow.
It blew so hard, it blew the Dummy off the track,
And then it turned around again and blew it back.

For the upper berth, there's a dollar due;
For a lower berth, well, they charge you two.
The upper berth is lower, and the lower's high.
We'll all be walking on our uppers by and by.

Your humble servant,
Gargoyle


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Subject: Lyr Add: DUMMY LINE (from Bascom Lamar Lunsford)
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 01 Mar 03 - 03:51 PM

The Frank C. Brown Collection of NORTH CAROLINA FOLKLORE, The Folklore of North Carolina Collected by Dr. Frank C. Brown during the Years of 1912 to 1943 in Collaboration with the North Carolina Folklore Society of which He was Secretary-Treasurer 1913-1943 –General Editor Newman Ivey White – Duke University Press – Volume Five, 1962, "The MUSIC of the FOLKSONGS" Minstrel and Negro Secular Songs # 435 "The Dummy Line" p 291.

"The Dummy Line," Sung by Bascom Lamar Lunsford, Turkey Creek, Buncombe County. No date given. The singer told this writer he had known the song given below since 1898. In 1925, he gave it to Professor Gordon. For a similar beginning of the chorus cf. III 226, No. 189; also TNFS 244-5.

Some folks say that a dummy can't run, Sugar Babe.
Some folks say – a dummy can't run, Sugar Babe.
Git on the dummy, din't have no money.
They hit me on the head with a two by four.
Not a-goin' to ride on the dummy no more, Sugar Babe.

Way down yonder in Pazquotank, Sugar Babe,
Way down yonder in Pasquotank, Sugar Babe,
Way down yonder in Pasquotank,
The bull frogs jump from bank to bank, Sugar Babe.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 01 Mar 03 - 05:04 PM

The popularity of the Pickard Family version (American Record Co. master)is attested to by its many releases:
Perfect12625, Banner 0744, Conquerer 7574, Oriole 1995, Challange 882, Jewel 5995, Pathé 32546, Perfect 12625, Regal 10049, Cameo 0344, Domino 4845, Romeo 1357, Paramount 3218, Broadway 1850 (Norm Cohen, "Long Steel Rail").
No wonder their lyrics are remembered.

The lyrics in Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs, Song 511, vol. 3, pp. 277-278, add little to what appears here and in the DT.
Mrs. Maggie Morgan, Springdale, Arkansas, 1942 ("heard the song in the 90's").
Riding on the Dummy

Of all the ways of traveling, by coach or carryall,
By steamer, stage or railway car, the dummy beats them all;--

What follows is the same as the text of the Booth-Carnes song of 1885, posted by Joe Offer.

Randolph says this version was printed in the "Merchant's Gargling Oil Songster, Lockport, NY, 1887, p. 32, "By permission of George W. Hagans... San Francisco, CA, who will furnish words and music for 25 cents, sample copy."
He then remarks that the front part of streetcars used in California in the early days was open and was called the dummy.


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: wysiwyg
Date: 01 Mar 03 - 05:08 PM

Gargoyle, can we have links to these?

Thanks,

~Susan


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 01 Mar 03 - 05:46 PM

Different music is shown for "On the Dummy Line," as sung by the Pickard family (in "Long Steel Rail" p. 485), "The Dummy Line," Lunsford (in Brown vol. 3, p. 291), and the published sheet music for the 1885 Booth-Carnes song (link by Joe Offer).


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 01 Mar 03 - 07:05 PM

WYSIWYG - Your postings to this thread led to the not too long a leap from thinkingthat the dummy-train is something YOU are riding on.

The ONLY immediate net/link for my postings on this subject is this MudCat Music Discussion Forum. I have cited the sources; they are in my library.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: GUEST,hummingbird
Date: 13 Apr 07 - 07:02 PM

Thank You. I am a music teacher and I like to give references to my songs and historical settings when I can. I looked in many places online to find info for the third grade version in your comments... that I am doing with my third graders. Your answers and comments were the most understandable as a whole, though not definitive - as is the 'dummy line' itself, I think. I like the version where it scared the animals and horses because of the noise of it cutting through farmlands. It works well with the train listening section that follows that has chickens and horses going wild - anonymous composer.
This is what I got online:

Definitions of Dummy Line on the Web:
a term used in railroad logging to describe railroad tracks that did not connect communities nor seem have any direction to them. Also called spur or tram lines.
www.longleafalliance.org/teachers/teacherkit/glossary.htm

another entry from online
The "Dummy Line"
In 1886, the Whitefish Bay Railway Company laid tracks which zigzagged through "Cementville" to connect to the city with the area that would be incorporated as Whitefish Bay six years later. The first trip of the railway's 12 ton locomotive, pulling three passenger coaches, did not bode well for the new company. The noisy engine terrified livestock and draft horses along its route, incurring protests from the owners of overturned wagons. In an effort to solve the problem, the company mounted a life size wooden horse onto a flatcar and coupled the car to the front of the engine to act as a calming vanguard. This experiment became known as the "Dummy Line" and continued to serve the area until 1898, when the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company extended its service to Whitefish Bay and took over the route. http://www.villageofshorewood.org/train.htm


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: Charley Noble
Date: 14 Apr 07 - 10:42 AM

The term "dummy line" was also used in Maine to describe the temporary railway lines that were used to transport workers from town to the lumber camps and back again.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: GUEST,Big Harry
Date: 04 May 08 - 07:33 PM

I ran across this looking for something else. In logging, a steam engine mounted on a suitable carriage was used to pull logs with a cable for several hundred yards. The logs were then loaded onto rail cars and hauled to the mill. The rails were referred to as a dummy line, and rural county roads were often built in the roadbed after the rails and ties were moved.

The cable engine was known as a "donkey engine" and sometimes as a "dummy engine," probably because of the similarity of the words donkey and dummy.


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Aug 08 - 01:08 PM

Thank you Charlie Noble. Your explanation makes a lot of sense for the number of "Dummyline Roads" we have in our area, which was logged for the pine timber and used to have lots of active railroads. The huge beautiful loblolly pines are mostly gone now, as are the railroads, but we still have lots of roads named Dummyline and a few papermills/chemical plants.


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: Santa
Date: 26 Aug 08 - 05:51 PM

Slightly adrift, but can I refer you to British railway practice, and Stanley Accrington's song which mentions "the Delph donkey", referring to a local train.

In the modern RAF, Donk is slang for an engine, as in "That Tonka's donk is duff." No prizes for anyone who understands it, and my apologies for hijacking the thread, but it did sem to have run its course.


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: oldhippie
Date: 26 Aug 08 - 07:14 PM

Charley,
There was a famous "dummy" train in Maine in the 1880-1890s, that ran from Old Orchard to Camp Ellis, with a stop at Ferry Beach. The return trip was done in reverse, as there was no provision to turn around.
OH


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: Rowan
Date: 26 Aug 08 - 09:49 PM

Five and a half years ago Gargoyle posted (inter alia)
"In Australia, according to A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English it meant the baggage car of a Melbourne tram."

As one who grew up in Melbourne I am curious (and somewhat surprised) about the notion that Melbourne trams (what North Americans would call a "streetcar") might have a baggage car. I was familiar with various aspects of the history of Melbourne trams (most of the lines still had the slots for the cable grippers; buggers for bicycle wheels and the tracks were no better) but all the trams I was aware of were for carrying passengers around the city and suburbs, as they still are. "Specialist" trams for carrying baggage or freight were nowhere mentioned or alluded to by anyone I knew or read.

The only "specialist" tram vehicles I ever saw or knew about were cleaners that cleaned out the tracks in the road surface and they only seemed to run in the early morning before the regular services started at sunup. It's possible the "dummy" term applied to such vehicles before my time but I never heard or saw it so used.

When I saw the thread title I confess to a fleeting thought. In Oz, the things parents put into their infant's mouth to quieten them (what North Americans call "pacifiers") are called "dummies". The image of a whole freight train with its payload consisting of dummies was quite entertaining.

Incidentally, the reference to temporary railway tracks through areas being logged reminds me of another etymological variation from Oz, where most of them had the rails made of timber and were known as timber tramways. Some were miles long and thus had a small locomotive pulling the train rather than a "donkey engine" which was a term usually applied only to a stationary (and steam powered) engine.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: GUEST,Rich Kirby
Date: 28 Oct 08 - 05:21 PM

I found this thread doing a search for the term "dummy" in a railroad context as I am researching a song called "The Dummy" that my grandmother sang. Lo and behold, there was the song in the very first post from Chris Seymour in 2001. Chris, the singer you must have heard was Addie Graham (1890-1978) who lived in Magoffin and Breathitt Counties in eastern Kentucky. She recorded it on an LP "Been A Long Time Traveling" that Appalshop's June Appal label released in 1978. We are putting it on CD, hence my present research. I'll be glad to email you an mp3 of the cut if I can figure out how.

But where does the song come from? Help, internet friends. Addie couldn't remember where she learned it, but it was during the time when a railroad (the Ohio & Kentucky) was being built through her section. The construction crews were African American and she learned several bluesy songs from them, and perhaps this one as well. Is this song part of the black song tradition? Is this another piece of evidence of the black-white interchange that many believe helped shape "old time" music? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

The Dummy in eastern Kentucky


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: Bill D
Date: 28 Oct 08 - 05:37 PM

I saw a snail go whizzing past
A guy said "my, this train is fast"
Said I, "Old man, that may be true
But the question is, What's it fastened to?"

I said to the brakeman, "can't you speed up a bit?"
Said he, "You can walk, if you don't like it"
Said I, "Old man, I'd take your dare
But the folks don't expect me till the train gets there."


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: GUEST,Jeff E
Date: 08 Nov 08 - 11:54 AM

We had a "Dummy Line" which ran through part of our county called the St Francis Dummy Line. It carried rough timber from the St Francis river to the town of Marmaduke, Ar where it was cut at the sawmill. I suppose it probably carried workers to the river also.


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: GUEST,foxyfleur
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 11:10 AM

Some folks say that the dummy don't run
come let me tell ya what the dummy done
She left St. Louis at half past one
and she rolled into Memphis with the
settin of the sun

On the dummy line, on the dummy line,
rise and shine
rise and shine and pay your fine
when your riddin on the dummy
on the dummy, dummy line

(This is the way I learned this song as a child in the early 60's from an elementary school music book)


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 11:25 AM

Americans of today are familiar with railroads and with streetcars, but in the past there was a class in between - the interurban lines.
These are remembered, if at all, in the names of roads where they once ran.

It seems to me that the songs about the dummy line fit nicely with an interurban line. They would go well with someone from the Union Pacific, let us say, sneering at a little company.

Meanwhile, I agree with those who know of a Dummyline Road, etc, that didn't go far and that carried employees. That's apt as well.


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: GUEST,Coalminer5
Date: 04 Oct 09 - 10:03 AM

Does any one but me remember another verse? Maybe my elementary school teacher in the 60's made it up.
Some folks say that the Dummy won't run
come and let me tell you what the Dummy done
She left St. Louis at a half past two
and I walk into Memphis before the Dummy rolled through


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Subject: RE: What's a dummy train
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Dec 09 - 07:43 PM

I taught elementary music for 6 years in the 1990's We sang the song with the chorus "On the dummy, on the dummy line, rise and shine and pay your fine when you're riding on the dummy, on the dummy, dummy line." (that's how I remember it) I believe our book was published by "Silver Burdett", cir. third grade edition, and probably printed in the 1980's.

I remember the footnotes saying that the Dummy Line was a slow moving train pulling some flat bed cars that farmers could use to move produce to market. The train moved at a pace slow enough so that you could load your products without the train stopping. Here's another verse referenced in an earlier post the boys in my class especially liked.

Got on the Dummy, didn't have my fare
Conductor said, "What'cha doin' there?"
I jumped up and made for the door
And he cracked me on the head with a two-by-four!

Enjoy!


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Subject: ADD Version: The Dummy Line
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Dec 09 - 07:01 PM

Sounds like a lot of people learned this song from Silver Burdett school songbooks. Here is the complete Silver Burdett rendition:

THE DUMMY LINE

Some folks say that the Dummy don't run.
Come and let me tell you what the Dummy's done;
She left St. Louis at half past one,
And she rolled into Memphis at the setting of the sun.

CHORUS
On the Dummy, on the dummy line,
Rise and shine, Rise and shine and pay your fine,
When you're riding on the Dummy, on the Dummy Dummy line.

I got on the Dummy, didn't have my fare,
Conductor hollered, "What you doing there?"
I jumped up and made for the door,
And he cracked me in the head with a two by four.
(CHORUS)

I hopped off the Dummy and I lit on the track,
Dragged my feet and scraped my back.
I cam to life and slung my dogs,
Looked for sure like I'm on the hog.*
(CHORUS)

Some folks say that the Dummy don't run.
Come and let me tell you what the Dummy's done;
She left St. Louis at half past two,
But I walked to Memphis 'fore the Dummy came through.


*Down on one's luck

Source: Music Now and Long Ago, pp78-79 - Book Three of the Silver Burdett Music for Living series, 1956, (California edition 1958)

Click to play

The tune in the Digital Tradition sounds like "Casey Jones" to me, as does the one from Norm Cohen's Long Steel Rail - Click to play. This one is quite different.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dummy Line - What's a dummy train?
From: GUEST,BAD COMPANY
Date: 29 Nov 10 - 05:47 AM

YOU MUST BE FROM SOUTH GA THATS THE SAMEWAY I LEARNED IT IN 1965 2ND GRADE


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dummy Line - What's a dummy train?
From: EBarnacle
Date: 29 Nov 10 - 11:10 PM

I remember Priscilla herdman doing a version of this about 30 years ago. She also included a verse about a woman who complained to the conductor that she was going to have a baby and needed to get to medical care. The conductor replied that she should have known better than to board the train in that condition. She replied that she wasn't pregnant when she got on.

I also recall reading a variant on the same story in Farley Mowat's book, The Boat that Wouldn't Float.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dummy Line - What's a dummy train?
From: GUEST,Thanks for the Silver Burdett Version, every
Date: 18 Nov 11 - 05:45 PM

For some reason, the song popped into my head today--and I'm 57! But the SB version is word for word what I remembered. Such fun!


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dummy Line - What's a dummy train?
From: GUEST,Tim Brown
Date: 13 Mar 12 - 02:31 AM

My mother's family (The Cranks of Oklahoma) continues to sing this song at our yearly family reunions. We sing a version that starts each verse slowly and speeds up to simulate the rhythm of a train. The chorus is omitted in our family's version of "The Dummy Line." Our version is titled "The Dummy Song."

The Dummy Song

Some folks say that the dummy don't run but don't you believe it.
Some folks say that the dummy don't run but don't you believe it.
Some folkds say that the dummy don't run
But let me tell you what that dummy done done.
It left Sicilania 'bout a half past one
Went around the world before the rising of the sun
In the Hooray
In the Hooray

So I got on the dummy didn't have no fare this morning.
Got on the dummy didn't have no fare this morning.
Got on the dummy didn't have no fare
Conductor says "What you doin' in here
He grabs me by the arm and he drags me to the door
Hits me on the head with a big .44
Oh I ain't gonna ride that dummy no more!
In the morning, in the morning

Where is Sicilania? Please help me out on that one. The family sings other songs that come from around the turn of the century, so perhaps this version is more typical of that time.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dummy Line - What's a dummy train?
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Jun 13 - 08:42 AM

I know this is an ancient thread, but I thought I could add a little clarity. A dummy line is a rail line with just a single run of track with no switches; therefore no sidings, no loops, and no need for a switch man or conductor. The engineer simply drives to one end, stops, then reverses to the other end: it could be run by a dummy. The fact that the train runs 'backwards' half the time may also be the reason it's called a dummy. Such lines were frequently used for servicing single industries to shuttle materials and employees. Typically they were narrow gauge (smaller) trains and they were often poorly maintained, often considered temporary (especially in logging situations). Though I don't know much about trolleys, I assume that the term dummy might be applied to point-to-point lines with no turntables or loops, so the trolley simply reverses for the return trip.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dummy Line - What's a dummy train?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 08 Jun 13 - 10:30 AM

Bill D: Love your clever verses, posted 2008.

Guest: thanks for reviving this thread. And for the info.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dummy Line - What's a dummy train?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 08 Jun 13 - 09:13 PM

Dear Guest of 08 June 13 - 08:42.

I believe you are right-on 100%....

However,.....PLEASE

Give a reference for the source of your knowledge.

Sincerely,

Gargoyle



> Without references .... this forum is nothing more than a cat's fart in the Wyoming wind.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dummy Line - What's a dummy train?
From: GUEST,Greg
Date: 23 Aug 14 - 03:20 AM

A "Dummy Line" usually refers to the practice in the 1800s and early 1900s of lumber companies using railroads to bring logs to the mill. These were also known as "tap lines". These lines usually had grandiose names, but went nowhere. Google the book "Dummy Lines Through The Longleaf" by Gilbert H. Hoffman.


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dummy Line - What's a dummy train?
From: GUEST,SqueezeMe
Date: 23 Aug 14 - 09:04 AM

Tenuous connection with the original post, but for a more modern interpretation of the term "Dummy train", from today's Telegraph, (23rd August 2014):

"Dummy commuter trains carrying police officers have been hauled out of retirement to tackle increasing numbers of yobs and vandals on Britain's railways.
The Q Trains will carry police officers who can leap out to tackle trespassers as part of an undercover operation to target crime hotspots on the rail network."

Full article here

Could be a new song in there somewhere....


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dummy Line - What's a dummy train?
From: GUEST,SqueezeMe
Date: 23 Aug 14 - 09:11 AM

Whoops. Seems the url is too long for the Blue Clicky Maker.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/11041256/Q-Trains-carrying-police-to-be-deployed-to-tackle-rail-vandals.html


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dummy Line - What's a dummy train?
From: GUEST,blawsonh
Date: 28 Nov 16 - 02:07 PM

Oh little Willy all dressed in sashes Fell in the fire and was burnt to ashes Pretty soon the room grew chilly But nobody came to stir up Willy

On the dummy line, on the dummy line Rain or shine or pay my fine Rain or shine or pay my fine Run Run Run on the dummy dummy line


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Subject: RE: Origins: The Dummy Line - What's a dummy train?
From: GUEST,Charlie
Date: 30 Oct 17 - 07:49 PM

Horse and a flea and three blind mice
Sat in the corner, shootin' dice,
Horse got up and sat on the flea
and the flea said "Oops! There's a horse on me!"

Met a woman, name was Jill
Had a face like a lemon pill....

As a child (mid 1950s) this was a Camp song which also had hand claps:

"Dummy Line..." [slap your thighs], "Dummy Line" [Clap your hands]
and so on


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