Green’s Dictionary of Slang

railbird n.


1. a racetrack fan who stands next to the rails to get as near as possible to the racing.

[US]N.Y. Mercury Dec. in Ware (1909) 206/1: The ‘rail-birds’, as certain people are called who closely watch the work of horses on the race tracks, would do well to keep an eye on Tommy Ryan.
[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ Out for the Coin 87: In the person of the railbird next to me I discovered a friend, old uncle Henry Carroll.
[US]D.H. Clarke In the reign of Rothstein 92: His fast trials had been hidden so well, that even the rail birds and cockers knew nothing good about him.
[US]W.R. Burnett Dark Hazard (1934) 44: Rail-birds sitting on the fences of the back stretch, gamblers trying to keep the odds up.
[US]Chicago Daily News 4 Aug. 24/1: The Homewood rail birds, captivated by her unusually lengthy strides, decided to measure her prints [DA].

2. a fan or spectator who crowds round the rails that surround a big game in a casino, or other place of entertainment.

[US](con. 1930s) O’Day & Eells High Times Hard Times 36: LeNac cut out with this red-headed railbird he’d been romancing.
[US]E. Leonard Glitz 125: Could be a railbird, waiting to grab a few chips.
P. Asch Racetrack Betting 27: No one can be completely sure— not us, not you, and not the railbird who assures you with absolute certainty that ‘his’ jockey has just ‘thrown’ the last race.