Okay, anyone who thinks a “Hotbox” has anything remotely to do with smoking…is dead wrong. Its not smoking in your car, its not smoking in your restroom…heck, it has nothing to do with smoking anything, at all. The term has been around since the 1880s, and here is what it truly means:
A hot box is the term used when an axle bearing overheats inside a railroad car’s Journal Box. The Journal is a cast to the truck frame box in which the axle bearings were housed in. It used oil-soaked rags or cotton packing to reduce the friction of the axle against the truck frame. When the oil leaked or dried out, the bearings overheated often starting a fire or melting and locking up the wheel, causing a derailment or burning the train car if not detected early enough.
That…is a HOTBOX
"Ah blow the air, I see that boxcar's gotten a hotbox again."
"Look at that trail of smoke coming from the locomotive, looks like she has a hotbox"
"I told yah to oil the bearings...now we have a hotbox!