jerk-water (plural jerk-waters)

  1. (railroads, pejorative) A branch line train, using light equipment
    • 1918, Charmian London, Jack London and Hawaii, page 19
      The mail was brought by a tiny "jerk-water" bobtail dummy and coach run by one, Tony, from Pearl City, a mile away, to a station near the end of the peninsula.


  1. (US, colloquial, pejorative) Of an inhabited place, small, isolated, backward.
    • 1907, Charles Stelzle, Christianity's Storm Centre: A Study of the Modern City, page 103
      That seems to disappoint them, for every sociologist likes to go back to some jerk-water college and tell those who are in the sociological class how they had to get their information by pantomime."
  2. (US, colloquial, pejorative, railroads) Railroads with low traffic.
    • 1915, Daniel Jacob Hauer, The Economics of Contracting: A Treatise for Contractors, Engineers […], vol. II, page 212
      He had risen to the head of the greatest street car system in the world from the position of brakeman on a jerk-water railroad.
    • 1922, Edward Hungerford, Our Railroads To-morrow, page 297
      Can the keen-minded Mr. Willard at Baltimore be more anxious than the keen-minded Mr. Rea at Philadelphia to undertake the management of jerk-water branches in Connecticut or in Rhode Island or down on Cape Cod ?
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