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Posted by R. Berg on May 19, 2001

In Reply to: Gut answer. posted by M.Mazzucco on May 18, 2001

: : Why do we call those wooden or concrete supports for the rails 'sleepers'?

: Have you ever tried taking a nap on an Am-Track rolling full-speed on rails WITHOUT them?
: Just a joke of course, but possibly right?

I did a little dictionary work and found out that "sleeper" also applies to beams used in buildings and ships; sleepers are also called dormant timbers, dormant trees, or dormants; and the name "dormants" goes back to the 15th century. One meaning of the adjective "dormant" at that time was "fixed, stationary." Maybe the supports are called that because they stay in place.