A porter is a railway employee employed to assist passengers aboard a passenger train or to handle their baggage. The term is also used to refer to employees who assist passengers in the sleeping cars.
Railway porters in Australia
In Australia, a railway porter had various roles. A baggage porter assisted with luggage; an operating porter assisted with safeworking duties; a station porter assisted with general station duties; and a lad porter was a junior station porter.
Railroad porters in the United States
Until desegregation had its effect in the United States in the 1960s, the occupation of porter was almost the exclusive province of African American men. It was the Civil War policy of George Pullman, head of the Pullman Company, who wished to tap into a huge potential work force that was also non-unionized. This eventually changed with the organization of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters under the leadership of A. Philip Randolph. Until the latter 20th century the work included providing a variety of on-board personal services, such as shoe shining.
- Larry Tye, Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class, 2004, Macmillan, ISBN 0-8050-7075-3