Pusher (railway station attendant)

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Rush hour at Ueno Station, 2007

A pusher (oshiya (押し屋?) in Japanese) is a worker who pushes people onto the train at a railway station during the morning and evening rush hours. When they were first brought in at Shinjuku Station, they were called "passenger arrangement staff" (旅客整理係 ryokaku seiri gakari?), and were largely made up of students working part-time; nowadays, station staff and/or part-time workers fill these roles during morning rush hours on many lines.[1]

It becomes difficult to shut the doors when the number of passengers is over 200% of a train's capacity, but pushers are often stationed on platforms when trains are at around 120% capacity,[citation needed] as they also help to organize passengers.

The term oshiya (押し屋?) is derived from the verb "osu" (押す?), meaning "push", and the suffix "-ya" (?), indicating "line of work."


The steps undertaken in the work of pushers include:

  1. Before the train enters the platform, they perform safety checks.
  2. When the train arrives, watching the passengers get on and off the train.
  3. Just before the train departs, they guide passengers who cannot find the space to get onto the train to a door where there is more room.
  4. When the doors close, they check that no passengers or items of baggage are stuck in the doors.
  5. If any passengers are trapped, they go to push them.
  6. When they have finished their area, they go to help in another area. At this point, if the straps of a bag, particularly a rucksack, are trapped, as the doors do not open immediately, it may be difficult for the owner of the bag to get off the train. Pushers watch especially carefully for this. They also do the work of a "puller-off" (剥がし屋 hagashiya?), pulling off passengers who try to get on too late, or when the train is too full.
  7. After the doors have closed, they hold up a flag, hand, or lamp to signal the conductor or driver that it is safe to depart.

Pushers in New York City Subways[edit]

In the biographical movie Sergeant York, George Tobias plays the character "Pusher" Ross, a soldier from NYC. In the film, "Pusher" has to explain his nickname to Alvin York. "Pusher" describes how he pushes passengers onto the crowded subway cars during rush hours. The story takes place during WWI which establishes that "Pusher" was a subway pusher in NYC prior to 1918. The movie was produced in 1941. Assuming no big exaggerations or unfounded historical foulups, that means that the NYC Subways had pushers prior to WWI.

In the Bugs Bunny cartoon Hurdy Gurdy Hare, Bugs dons a conductor's cap and pushes a gorilla while saying, "push in, plenty of room in the center of the car!", pausing to tell the audience "I used to work on the shuttle from Times Square to Grand Central". The cartoon was copyrighted in 1948 and released in 1950.

A New York Times article from August 8, 1918 mentions the new shuttle service and guards (and police) trying to direct and push crowds onto the correct trains.[2]

There may be better evidence of pushers on the NYC Subway System from the early 1900s into the 1950s (or later) but the above examples are almost certainly based on factual and topical popular culture of the period.


  1. ^ Mito, Yuko. 定刻発車 (Teikoku Hassha). pp. 113-118. Tokyo: Shinchosha, 2001.
  2. ^ "DROP SHUTTLE PLAN AS SUBWAY CRUSH BECOMES A PERIL". New York Times. August 3, 1918. pp. 1 (continued on page 7).  http://search.proquest.com/docview/100122723