A Dictionary of Occupational Terms Based on the Classification of Occupations used in the Census of Population, 1921.
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Sub-order 1.—Builders, Bricklayers, Stone and Slate Workers; Contractors

577.—Platelayers; Railway Undermen

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ballast and sand loader, ballast man, ballast train man (railways)
an underman (q.v.) specially deputed with others, forming a small gang, to load trucks with ballast and sand, to travel with trucks and to shovel out ballast etc. to permanent way gangs along line; obsolescent.
bank rider (railway)
North East of England, an underman (q.v.) who rides tip truck full of coal or ballast, usually former, down inclines to storage tips or to waiting ship and applies brake at bottom of incline; obsolescent.
see platelayer (mines or quarries).
bridge tarring labourer (railway)
an underman (q.v.) deputed to coat various parts of steel or wooden bridge with protective covering of hot tar or mixture of hot tar and pitch; uses long handled tar brush; obsolescent.
chairer (railway)
an underman (q.v.) who places "chairs" in position on permanent way ready for laying rails; obsolescent.
clay burner (railway)
digs clay on bank of railway1 cutting or embankment, to harden clay for prevention of land slips; mixes crushed coal or breeze with clay and sets on fire; tends burning to ensure that it takes place evenly, obsolescent; cf. clay burner (building) (581).
drainer, drainman (railway)
an underman (q.v.) who attends to cleaning and repair of drains on permanent way; obsolescent.
electric track labourer (railways)
an underman (q.v.) who works on maintenance or re-laying of track with live electric rail; obsolescent.
fence loader (railways)
an underman (q.v.) who loads fencing timber on trucks; obsolescent.
ganger (railway)
under control of district inspector (700) (q.v.), is in charge of a gang of men maintaining a length of permanent way, or renewing permanent way, or carrying out heavy earth works; responsibilities include seeing line is kept straight, that keys do not drop out, that space is allowed for expansion of metal; that rails are kept packed-up but not too high (engine funnels must clear arch of bridges); that drainage is effective; that hedges, banks, etc., are tidy; sometimes is drafted in charge of a small gang for incidental work in connection with above, as occasion demands, e.g. gang conveying ballast to other permanent way gangs; arranges duties of sections of gangs and sometimes, especially in small gangs, himself works with the gang; cf. foreman platelayer (561).
gang man, gangsman
general terms for any underman (q.v.) in any gang on permanent way.
leading man, first (railways)
see sub-ganger (railway); obsolescent.
lengthman (railway)
an underman (q.v.) in a gang engaged on maintenance of a specific section, i.e., length, of permanent way; obsolescent.
lengthman, first (railway)
a subganger (q.v.) in charge of gang engaged in maintenance work as distinct from re-laying; obsolescent.
look-out man (railways)
an underman (q.v.) who, by rote, is stationed near a gang of undermen working on permanent way, to warn them with horn or whistle of approaching trains; regulates pace of trains by signalling to drivers with coloured flags, duties normally performed by flagman (railway) (709) (q.v.).
maintenance man (railway) ; permanent way, labourer, permanent way man (obsolescent) railway labourer
an underman (q.v.) engaged in permanent way gang doing maintenance as distinct from relaying work; cf. relayer (permanent way).
packer (railway)
an underman (q.v.) who packs ballast under and between railway sleepers to make foundation of the rails stable and level, obsolescent.
packer, leading (railway)
a subganger (q.v.) in charge of a gang of packers (q.v.); obsolescent.
permanent way man, permanent way labourer (railway)
see maintenance man (railway).
platelayer, railway platelayer
see underman ; obsolescent.
platelayer (mines and quarries)
(i) blocklayer; lays surface tramways and sometimes roadways;
(ii) road layer, road setter; lays and keeps in repair rails for haulage system from working place to shaft.
platelayer, leading (railway)
see sub-ganger (railway).
platelayer, road (tramway) ; rail layer (tramway)
engaged on laying and maintenance of road tramway, keying and bolting rails and tie-bars in true level and alignment, laying and fitting switches at points, or removing and refitting sections as necessary, cf. underman.
rail layer (tramway)
see platelayer, road (tramway).
railway labourer
see maintenance man (railway); obsolescent.
relayer (permanent way)
an underman (q.v.) engaged in relaying gang (as distinct from maintenance gang, cf. maintenance man) mainly engaged in building permanent way; laying sleepers, metals, etc.; sometimes engaged by railway company on casual basis and ultimately transferred to maintenance gang on permanent basis, or, is a permanent worker temporarily transferred into a gang doing relay work.
road layer, road setter
see platelayer (mines or quarries).
sewerman (railway)
one of a gang of undermen (see underman) who work on sewerage system of railway company; digs new trenches or opens old one; descends mangrates and inspects condition of sewer; clears stoppages; obsolescent.
sub-ganger (railway) ; leading platelayer, leading surface man, first leading man (railways)
assists ganger (railway) (q.v.) in supervising work of permanent way gang; take charge of sections of gang and is responsible for execution of jobs, where so deputed by ganger; or, where working directly under scrutiny of ganger, directs undermen and himself works with gang.
surfaceman (railway)
see underman ; obsolescent.
surfaceman, leading (railway)
see sub-ganger (railway).
tunnel repairer
an underman (q.v.) engaged on tunnel repairs; obsolescent; cf. underground labourer (581).
underman (railways, not in signal box) ; platelayer, railway platelayer, (obsolescent) surfaceman (railway)
a worker in a permanent way gang supervised by ganger (railway) (q.v.); in addition to navvying, duties include surfacing permanent way with fine ballast, laying and boring sleepers, bolting chairs to sleepers, keying and bolting sections of rails, laying and fitting switch levers at points, maintaining, by means of pick and shovel, level and alignment of permanent way bed, loading sand and ballast, by shovelling into trucks to provide ballast for other gangs using same, cleaning and repairing drains on permanent way, fencing, ditching and loading timber therefor, acting as flagman (709) or look-out man (q.v.) as occasion demands; if newly engaged in gang, as casual worker doing chiefly relay work, graduates to maintenance work where greater permanency is ensured.

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From: A Dictionary of Occupational Terms Based on the Classification of Occupations used in the Census of Population, 1921,
Ministry of Labour, 1927. Digitised by Peter Christian, August, 2016.   This text is in the Public Domain.