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  • He was a "spragger," whose duty it was to thrust a stick into the wheel of a loaded car to hold it; and he was a little chap, and the car was in motion when he made the attempt.

    King Coal : a Novel Upton Sinclair 1923

  • I was a spragger when I was ten years old, and I ain't been out of the pits so long that I've forgot the feeling.

    King Coal : a Novel Upton Sinclair 1923


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  • Can anyone shed light on this?

    October 2, 2008

  • Found this in OED, yarb: "1884 Times 8 Jan. 2/6 A 'spragger' is to be found on all mineral railways and tramways, his business being to 'sprag' the wheels when going down an incline."

    Sprag in this case meaning: "A stout piece of wood used to check the revolution of a wheel (or roller), usually by inserting it between two of the spokes. Also U.S., a rod or bar which can be dropped so as to prevent a vehicle from running backwards. More widely, any of several devices formerly fitted to motor vehicles to prevent them from running backwards down a hill."

    Who knew? :-)

    October 2, 2008

  • Brilliant, thanks rt. Sounds like rather an important job, actually.

    October 2, 2008

  • Yes. Important and dangerous!

    October 2, 2008

  • Confirmation from Michael Quinion's "Gallimaufry" (page 210):

    spragger, a man who inserted "lockers, scotches, sprags, or snibbles" (short billets of wood) into the wheels of a railway vehicle or mine tram to prevent its moving

    October 3, 2008

  • What a great phrase: "lockers, scotches, sprags, or snibbles"!

    October 3, 2008