Salem, Massachusetts, will be getting a new commuter train station with additional parking capacity.  Site preparation for the parking deck has uncovered the foundations of the Salem roundhouse.  The article helpfully explains what a roundhouse is.
The roundhouse is a remnant from the steam locomotive days. It was a large brick building with a turntable in the center, surrounded by a dozen stalls where locomotives were repaired and stored at night.

The locomotives were driven onto the turntable, which would rotate, allowing the trains to pull into a stall. The building had a coaling tower and water tank. At night, workers called "hostlers" fed the boilers to keep the steam engines running.
The noun, hostler, originally referred to the stableman who made sure that flesh-and-blood horses were not put away wet after being ridden hard. The iron horse required similar care and feeding.

It's unfortunate that relatively few turntables have made it onto preservation railroads.  There's drama in bringing a steam locomotive out of its stall, balancing it on the turntable, then turning it to move to the ready track and thence to station or yard.

The archaeological report Massachusetts will receive promises to be of use here, as a model Salem engine terminal is part of the model railroad still a-building down cellar.


Dr. Tufte said...

More people may know the word "ostler" than "hostler".

Both mean a guy who takes care of the horses at night at the inn. That's why the latter looks a little like "hosteler".

But people may know "ostler" because that's the obscure variation used by Tolkien in a poem from The Fellowship of the Ring

Stephen Karlson said...

Sounds like the Cockney pronunciation, and I may have encountered it in some piece of English literature in high school.

I wouldn't be surprised if Great Western drivers and firemen based at Old Oak Common (London) didn't refer to the 'ostler, guv'nor.