GooseyGoo Glossary. WordCloud


Welcome to the GooseyGoo dictionary of industrial history!

Some are quite funny, others are great for Scrabble and a few are just weird! 

Absolute block signalling

A British signalling scheme designed to ensure the safe operation of a railway by allowing only one train to occupy a defined section of track (block) at a time


Adhesion railway

The most common type of railway, where power is applied by driving some or all of the wheels of the locomotive.


Adit (noun) Add-it

An adit is a mining term for a man-made drainage tunnel, usually just big enough for a Cornishman to get down. It is gently sloped downwards away from the flooded level of the mine. This allows drainage by gravity on a continuous basis, which dewaters deep mines so that they can be worked. The greatest example of this is the Great County Adit in Cornwall.

Can be used to describe someone who is relentlessly pursuing an anti-social activity, but usually only in terms of industrial heritage, eg, “ee’s adit agin”



Ignore the pluralisation, it means the centre of a ship. Only pronounced correctly with a beard, so an inherently sexist term. Passable pronunciation can be achieved by females and juveniles if, a) out of sight and b) sporting a piratey / Poldarky accent.



A branch-line train consisting of a steam locomotive and passenger carriages that can be driven from either end by means of rodding to the regulator and an additional vacuum brake valve. The fireman remains with the locomotive and, when the driver is at the other end, the fireman controls the cut off and vacuum ejectors in addition to his usual duties

Beam (noun) beem

In the cotton industry, it is a roller on a loom. There are two types, a warp beam and a cloth beam.

In steam engine terms, it is the large cast iron structure that rotates by action of the piston, lending its name to the beam engine (see below)

Description of facial expression, semi-permanently fixed, on an industrial archaeologist emerging from a day long guided tour in some dark and damp underground mining levels. Will fade after a good sleep, but can re-emerge when posting images of the day on Facebook.


Beam Engine (noun)

Given to us by Thomas Newcomen in 1705 (ish), this type of steam driven engine is characterised by the big beam or bob pivoted in the middle which rocks like a see-saw to lift water. Improvements were made, notably by James Watt and Arthur Woolf and its employment was pivotal on the fate of deep lode mining, eg it couldn’t of happened without it. And that is what all the engine houses were built for!


Bell Bronze (noun)

It is a specific ratio of copper and tin; 78% copper, 22% tin, used for the casting of bells. This magic ratio was adopted because it gave the best sound. Bells were highly prized by religious types and monks were great bellfounders. They often cast the bells on site and evidence of furnaces are found in graveyards and even within the church walls! Which came first, the church or the bell? Quite often the bell!



No, they didn’t find the bells, they made them! Cast from bell bronze and used in churches, chimes and carillions. John Taylor and Co in Leicestershire were a bell founders dating back to the 14th Century. They even tuned the bells using true harmonics!


Bilge (noun)

Part of the underwater portion of a vessel; between the flat of the bottom and the vertical topsides.


Binnacle (noun)

The stand or case in which a ship’s compass is housed.


Blast Furnace (noun)

The blast furnace is the principal structure for an iron-smelting facility. It utilised forced air by means of bellows to increase the temperature in the furnace and created a liquid metal, unlike the former bloomeries.



A part of a steam locomotive that discharges exhaust steam from the cylinders into the smokebox beneath the chimney in order to increase the draught through the fire.


Bloomery (noun) Bloo-mer-ee

A bloomery is a furnace in which iron ore is reduced directly to solid iron and liquid slag with charcoal fuel. The key distinction of bloomeries is that they never produce liquid iron. For thousands of years, people produced iron in relatively small quantities using bloomeries. Indeed, the Romans manufactured all of their iron in bloomeries.

Example: I’m building a bloomery where the greenhouse used to be.


Broad Gauge

Track where the rails are spaced more widely apart than 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) (which is called standard gauge). Many early railroads were broad gauge, for example the Great Western Railway in the UK which adopted 7 ft (2,134 mm) gauge until it was converted to standard gauge in the 1860s – 1890s. Russia still has over 80,000 km (50,000 mi) of broad gauge (1,520 mm (4 ft 11 2732 in)) railroads. Broad gauge is also normal in Spain and Portugal (1,668 mm (5 ft 5 2132 in) Iberian gauge), in India (1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in) Indian gauge), as well as Ireland and used in some parts of Australia (1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) Irish gauge).


Bumboat (noun) (definitely not a verb)

A small boat used to ferry supplies to ships moored away from the shore.


Butt strap (noun)

A metal strap covering the butt joint between adjoining plates – simples!


Bronze Age

Dating roughly from 3000-1000 B.C.E, defined by the widespread use of bronze as a material for tools, weapons, and ornaments.


A railroad car attached usually to the end of a train, in which railroad workers could ride and monitor track and rolling stock conditions. Largely obsolete, having been replaced by the electronic end-of-train device (ETD), or flashing rear-end device (FRED).


Carding (adjective) Card-ding

Brushing the fibres of cotton or raw wool. It was often done with teasels and created straight, untangled strands, necessary for further processing.


Consolidation type


A steam locomotive with a 2-8-0 wheel arrangement


Coppicing (Adjective) Cop-issing

A systematic and cyclic chopping down of trees without killing the tree, to provide a continuous supply of timber. Broadleaved trees were preferred because of their higher carbon content, which produced more heat on burning. Coppicing ensures the regrowth of trees without planting and allows the selection of smaller-diameter wood, which is ideal for conversion to charcoal. The charcoal produced was fragile and couldn’t be transported very far (3-5 miles), so evidence of coppicing is often evidence of local industry, eg furnaces, glass works, potteries etc!


Crucible (noun) Crew-sibble

In metallurgy, when metals are smelted they are contained within a crucible. It is made of ceramics and has a much higher melting point than that of the metal, so doesn’t melt when the metal does. Damn useful!

Dead man’s handle

A safety mechanism on a train controller which automatically applies the brake if a lever is released. It is intended to stop a train if the driver is incapacitated. In some forms, this device may be pedal-actuated.


Die (noun) Dai

A die is used to cut a thread on a bolt and is often referred to as a tap and die set; because the tap creates the thread in the receiving hole. The fitting pair used to be made by hand bespoke to each job, but standardisation came along and sped things up somewhat!



A self-powered gasoline-electric passenger car used for small capacity rural commuter service. Also a British Rail Class 153 DMU.


Draw Kiln

A structure for continuously burning limestone. They were fed in the top in layers of fuel (wood, coal or coke), limestone and flux and the burn occurred in the centre of the kiln. The calcined product was drawn out of the bottom (through the draw hole) and thus the process was continuous. It can be considered to be the opposite of the Lazy Kiln, which was rarely used.


A bank, usually of earth but sometimes of stone, constructed to form a level or minimally graded trackbed for a line of railway needing to pass over a depression in the terrain or other pre-existing surface feature.

Feedwater heater

A device to preheat the water for a steam locomotive to improve efficiency.


Fiddle yard

In railway modelling, a concealed group of sidings used to provide more realistic operation in a limited space – whatever that means! It’s probably where enthusiasts can go to get all the fiddly bits done.



In steam locomotives, a chamber in which a fire is made to produce sufficient heat to create steam once the hot gases created there are carried into the adjacent boiler via tubes or flues.


Flare Kiln

Once considered to be cool, but now literally cool, the flare kiln is a structure built to burn limestone, ages ago. In a flare kiln, a bottom layer of coal was built-up and the kiln above filled solely with chalk. The fire was alight for several days, and then the entire kiln was emptied of the lime. Popular in a time when hair was grown long and a social freedom was being pioneered by the youth, based on the concept of free love and…..oh no, scratch that……popular even before spliffs and hippies!


Fresnel Lens (noun) Frey-nel Lenz

A Fresnel Lens is another example of French brilliance. It is basically a fat chunky lens, cut up so the that external angles are retained. Each section has its depth stripped away and the pieces ‘reassembled’. The result is, all the external angles of the dome (lens), but without the bulky thickness. A flat lens – brilliant. Many applications have been found, eg lighthouses, cameras, television screens, projectors and solar panels etc.


Funicular Railway (noun) fun-ick-u-lar

Totally fun, this type of railway is on a steep slope and the two carraiages are connected to each other by a cable, round a drum at the top. As one goes down, the other is dragged up! Some use water containers under the carriage to add the necessary weight  at the top, then release the water at the bottom, (like the one in North Devon). Neat!

Governor (noun) Guv-ner

A most supreme regulatory mechanism which spins two ball weights attached to a vertical ‘scissor’ mechanism. This pulls-up as the speed increases (and the weights pull outwards due to centrifugal force) and lowers or lengthens as the spinning slows. It has many applications, such as controlling the speed of engines by directly affecting the power delivery and for controlling the gap between millstones.


Grist Mill (noun)

It is a mill for grinding corn! If you get a bit of gristle, maybe it wasn’t ground-up enough?



The width between the inner faces of the rails


Gunnis (noun)

A mining term for an open void left after ore has been removed. It is the result of a vertical deposit of ore that has been worked-out. Some drain and are effectively gaping holes, others fill with water. There is a mining town in North Cornwall called Gunnislake.

Hawse Eye (noun)

This has absolutely nothing to do with the ability to judge men and make an assessment on their solvency; it is much more useful. It is a tubular metal fitting in the bows of a vessel, through which the anchor cable passes.


Hawse Pipe (noun)

An iron casting located at the bow and occasionally in the stern of a vessel with hawse holes, through which the cables run.


Heald (noun) hee-all-d

A part of a weaving loom. It separates the warp threads to form the gap or shed which the shuttle whizzes through.

Hot Blast

Hot blast is a process of preheating the air blown into a blast furnace. The hot flue gas from the furnace  is stored in a fire-brick lined vessel with multiple chambers, then air is blown through the hot chamber. The technique improves efficiency by considerably reducing the fuel required. It was invented by James Beaumont Neilson in 1828 and patented for iron furnaces, at the Wilsontown Ironworks in Scotland.


Hulk (noun)

An old ship converted for a variety of uses for which it is not required to move under its own power. Often described as “incredible“.


Hurst (noun)

A sturdy timber frame. It can support the millstones in a corn mill or the hammers in a forge mill.

Jenny (noun) Spinning Jen-nee

Invented by James Hargreaves for the cotton industry in 1764, the Jenny was a revolutionary spinning machine. It was one of the key developments in the industrialisation of weaving.


Jubilee type


A steam locomotive with a 4-4-4 wheel arrangement.

Keel (verb)

An action performed by a boat or ship when it leans over on its side; to keel over.  Also known to happen with joy, rather involuntarily, to industrial heritage hunters stumbling across ruinous limekilns in ancient coppiced woodlands.


Keel Bar (noun)

A metal bar forming the keel (lengthewise structure along the base of a ship) of a metal vessel.


Kibble (noun) Kib-ball

A bucket used in mining. A distinctive barrel shape and super tough, it was attached to chain or rope and hauled up the ore, and maybe the odd child down!

Launder (noun) lawn-der

A man-made trough, usually of leaky timber, that leads water (head-race) onto a waterwheel.


Lazy Kiln

A rarely used limekiln – can’t be bothered to describe it.


Lode (noun) low-d

This is a geological and mining term. It is the deposit of material that occupied an existing fissure (gap) or created the space under force. The gooey material fills the gap and then solidifys. This vein of material is often mineral-rich and what the miners are after! They hunt the desired lode, pull out loads of the lode and leave a lode-shaped hole!



A structure in the roof of a mill that projects out from the building to allow the hoist to winch up sacks clear of the mill and give protection from the weather.

Mule (noun) Mew-al

The Mule was a spinning machine invented by Samuel Crompton between 1775 and 1779– a cross between a spinning Jenny and a Waterframe!


Mogul type

A steam locomotive with a 2-6-0 wheel arrangement.
Mountain type

 A steam locomotive with a 4-8-2 wheel arrangement.

Narrow gauge

Railway track where the rails are spaced less than 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) apart, often found in mountainous terrain where the cost savings of building a smaller railroad can be considerable.


Naves (noun)

Naves radiate from the centre of a water wheel and attach the wheel shaft to the arms. They have to be strong and are usually made of iron. Sometimes thay are all that remain!

Overshot (noun)

A configuration of waterwheel where the launder delivers the water (head race) to the waterwheel at the top and reaching over towards the front. This allows the weight of the water to fall in the wheel buckets at their highest point maximising the rotational effect. The water soon falls out into the tail race, as the buckets reach their lowest point, leaving the rear side of the waterwheel nice and light. Other configurations are breastshot, undershot and pitchback.

Pacific type

 A steam locomotive with a 4-6-2 wheel arrangement.


Pig Iron (noun)

Pigs and sows are the casts of elongated bulk quantities of liquid iron intended for further finery. They are described as such because of their resemblance to piglets suckling a mother pig.



The moving component in the cylinder of a steam engine or internal combustion engine that translates into motion the force exerted by pressurised steam or quickly-burning fuel.


Penstock (noun)

It relates to the delivery of water to a waterwheel or turbine. It is a sluice gate or hatch that regulates the flow.


Post Mill (noun)

A type of windmill consisting of a timber-framed body, which contains the machinery and carries the sails, rotates about the head of a massive vertical post. So the whole structure turns for the optimum wind flow about a central post.

Quern (noun)

Not just a juicy Scrabble word, a quern is a pair of small diameter millstones (turned by hand) usually for grinding grain.


Quicklime (noun)

Produced from limestone by burning at about 1,000 °C (1,830 °F) in different types of limekilns: CaCO3 + heat → CaO + CO2. Remains very reactive until slaked (mixed with lots of water).

Race (noun)

Think ‘rat-run’ for water. It is the water channelled to or from a waterwheel. So you get the head-race and tail-race, fore and aft.


Rack railway, rack-and-pinion railway, or cog railway

A steep-grade railway with a toothed rack rail (usually between the running rails), used when adhesion is insufficient.
Runner (noun)

In a pair of grinding stones, the runner is the stone on the top that does the moving; so, upper millstone.

Saddle tank

A tank locomotive with the water tank mounted on top of the boiler like a saddle.



An essential ceramic container, used inside fuel-fired pottery kilns to protect pots from the flame.


Saggar Maker’s Bottom Knocker

A young person employed in a pottery to make the base of a saggar from a lump of fireclay, knocking it into a metal ring with a wooden mallet.


Scoop Wheel (noun)

The scoop wheel is a driven wheel used to raise water in land drainage. Lots of scoops attached to the wheel collecting and lifting water as it goes round.


Smutter (noun)

T’was an early grain cleaning machine. It sort of bashed up the grain to loosen the kernel. You found them associated with windmills mostly! It could remove the black spots of smut, a fungus which grows on damp wheat grain.


Stack (noun)

Another name for a chimney or flue. The taller the better in terms of draw! They were often ‘attached’ to a boiler house to remove the steam and gases, but often used as a ventilation system to provide breathable air underground for miners.


Standard Gauge

A gauge where the rails are spaced 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) apart—by far the most common gauge worldwide


Steeplejack (noun)

Fred Dibnah! The title of one whose job it is to scale, build, inspect and repair the stacks! If you aren’t familiar with Fred, then I urge you to youtube him!

Tackle (noun)

A generic name for a set of running gear; specifically an arrangement of rope and pulleys with two blocks, as in “block and tackle”.

Absolutely nothing to do with a Third Rail (see below) or rugby; or indeed wrestling or football, or ball games of any kind.


Throstle (noun) Throssel

A song thrush of the cotton mills! This spinning machine developed from the water frame and mule. It worked  cotton, wool, and other fibers, with a continuous action of drawing, twisting, and winding.


Third rail

An electrified rail that runs along the tracks, giving power to trains. Used mostly in subways and rapid transit systems.


Tuyère (noun) Toy-yair

Pipe that directed the air blast from bellows into a blast furnace for iron smelting. See Blast Furnace.


We’re talking waterwheels. The undershot wheels are powered by the water hitting their lower section, such as a tidal wheel sitting in a river.

Vacuum brake

A continuous train brake which is fail-safe in operation; the brake is powered by a vacuum from the locomotive but the application is actually by atmospheric pressure when the vacuum is released. Now largely superseded by the air brake.

Valve gear

The linkage mechanism that operates the valve for a driving cylinder, to alternately admit steam to the cylinder and then exhaust it when the piston’s stroke is nearly complete


Viaduct (noun)

Viaducts are those tall bridges with multiple arches, spanning valleys with trains on! When we think of viaducts, we think of the Romans but they didn’t call them viaducts – it’s  a ‘modern’ term! We derived viaduct from aqueduct!

Wallower (noun)

With regard to watermills, the wallower is the first gear driven by the pit wheel. If you are thinking windmills, then it refers to the brakewheel.


Water Frame (noun)

Credited to Richard Arkwright in 1769, the water frame was ground-breaking machinery for the cotton industry – a water-powered spinning frame.


Whim (noun) wim

A winding device used in mining. Early whims were horse-powered, but later they were powered by waterwheels or steam engines, including the most advanced Cornish engines. There would often be a pumping engine and a whim engine is close association to serve the mine below.



A largely superseded Level or Grade Crossing Warning Signal consisting of a swinging disc facing road traffic with a red light in the centre. The disc normally hangs straight down, but an approaching train will set it swinging from side to side, the red light will illuminate or flash, and a bell will ring.

‘X’ is a difficult one!

Yoke  (noun) – rhymes with joke (ha ha)

Centre of an egg and a bar or similar piece used in ships, the centre of which is attached to the rudder head. Yoke lines are attached to this and the rudder is turned by pulling on them.

ZZZZ, that’s quite enough of this nonsense….