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MOW (Maintenance of Way), Speeders, Inspection Cars
& Gandy Dancers

Model of a Handcar (pumper)
Click to see the photo gallery

Gandy dancer is a slang term used for early railroad workers who laid and maintained the tracks in the years before the work was done by machines. As "maintenance of the way" workers, gandy dancers used sledge hammers to drive spikes, shovels or ballast forks to move ballast (roadbed material), large clamps called "rail dogs" to carry rails, and ballast picks or tamping bars to adjust the ballast. The same ground crews also performed the other aspects of track maintenance, such as removing weeds, unloading ties and rails, and replacing worn rails and rotten ties. The work was extremely difficult and the pay was low but it provided work for the newly arriving immigrants at that time.

To inspect the line and to get materials to where they were needed for repairs the gandy dancers used a variety of hand powered cars as well as road vehicles converted to run on the tracks. Click th photo above to see the photographs we have collected of vehicles which were used on the railroads along the Mendocino Coast.