Underground Railroad Secret Codes

Supporters of the Underground Railroad used words railroad conductors employed everyday to create their own code as secret language in order to help slaves escape. Railroad language was chosen because the railroad was an emerging form of transportation and its communication language was not widespread. Code words would be used in letters to “agents” so that if they were intercepted they could not be caught. Underground Railroad code was also used in songs sung by slaves to communicate among each other without their masters being aware.

These are the most commonly used code words and their meanings:

Agent Coordinator, who plotted courses of escape and made contacts.
Baggage Fugitive slaves carried by Underground Railroad workers.
Bundles of wood Fugitives that were expected.
Canaan Canada
Conductor Person who directly transported slaves
Drinking Gourd Big Dipper and the North Star
Flying bondsmen The number of escaping slaves
Forwarding Taking slaves from station to station
Freedom train The Underground Railroad
French leave Sudden departure
Gospel train  The Underground Railroad
Heaven Canada, freedom
Stockholder Those who donated money, food, clothing.
Load of potatoes Escaping slaves hidden under farm produce in a wagon
Moses Harriet Tubman
Operator Person who helped freedom seekers as a conductor or agent
Parcel Fugitives that were expected
Patter roller Bounty hunter hired to capture slaves
Preachers Leaders of and spokespersons for the Underground Railroad
Promised Land Canada
River Jordan Ohio River
Shepherds People who encouraged slaves to escape and escorted them
Station Place of safety and temporary refuge, a safe house
Station master Keeper or owner of a safe house


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Category: Underground Railroad