Green’s Dictionary of Slang

rattler n.

1. as a vehicle.

(a) [early 17C–19C] (UK Und., also ratler) a coach.

(b) [19C] a cab.

(c) [mid-19C+] (also rattle) a passenger train or carriage of the train, esp. in phr. the rattlers.

(d) [mid-19C+] (Aus./US) a freight train or carriage of a train.

(e) [late 19C-1960s] (US) the Manhattan elevated railway; any urban cable car or streetcar.

(f) [1900s] (US) a police van.

(g) [1910s–20s] (US Und.) a tramp who rides on freight cars.

(h) [1910s–20s] any tram.

(i) [1920s] (US) an automobile.

(j) [1920s] a bicycle.

(k) [1920s+] the New York or London underground railway.

2. in fig. uses.

(a) [19C] a blow.

(b) [late 19C] something serious or impressive.

(c) [late 19C] an admirable person.

3. [mid-19C; 1920s] an amorous man; a promiscuous woman.

In compounds

rattler grab (n.)

(US Und.) a thief specializing in freight wagons.

In phrases

battle the rattler (v.)

[1920s+] (Aus.) to travel on the railways without paying.

jump the rattler (v.) (also jump a rattler, hop a rattler, jump the train)

[late 19C+] (orig. Aus.) to travel on the railway without paying.

mace the rattler (v.)

[1900s-20s] to defraud the railway, to travel for free.