I have been puzzled for some time about references to the Rock Island Dummy Line. References to the dummy line are often found in histories of Beverly and Morgan Park, but the term is not explained. What is now known as the Surburban line that served the communities was originally called the "dummy line".
Now, as a Mount Greenwood Hood I am happy to call my fellow alumni from Beverly/Morgan Park dummies. But I still wanted to know about the origin on the name.
The map above is part of the development map of Washington Heights in 1874, and shows the Dummy Line (aka Suburban line of the Rock Island).
Click below to see the full map
Wikapedia has the following about railroad "dummies".
A steam dummy or dummy engine, in the United States of America and Canada, was a steam engine enclosed in a wooden box structure made to resemble a railroad passenger coach. Steam dummies had some popularity in the first decades of railroading in the U.S., from the 1830s but passed from favor after the Civil War. In Europe, locomotives of this type were described as Tram engines.
It was thought that the more familiar appearance of a coach presented by a steam dummy, as compared to a conventional engine, would be less likely to frighten horses when these trains had to operate in city streets. Later it was discovered that it was actually the noise and motion of the operating gear of a steam engine that frightened horses, rather than the unfamiliar outlines of a steam engine.
Many steam dummies were simply locomotives enclosed in coach's clothing, but some combined an actual railroad coach in the same body with the locomotive, creating an all-in-one vehicle that was a predecessor of later self-propelled railcars, usually powered by electricity or petrol.
Photos of other "Dummies"
"Nearly 80 dummy lines ran in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Most were short lines that connected suburbs to a central city. For example, a six-mile line linked Independence and Kansas City."
"Accounts vary, but the term “dummy” apparently derived from the silencing equipment on the steam engines so as not to alarm horses. Regardless of the term’s etymology, Warrensburg’s little train was called ‘The Dummy’."
Excerpted from Dummy Line dummyline.org
The Ridge Historical Society explains the Dummy Name as follows:
Sounds like a reasonable explanation. But I think we Mount Greenwoodites will still refer to our Morgan Park / Beverly friends as "dummies".