The word gravy by itself was used prior to any attestable use of gravy train to characterise cushy situations. It is a shortening of the phrase riding the gravy train, rather than train referring to "a transportation vehicle that carries a number of people going the same way" or "to teach people".
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- (idiomatic) An occupation or situation that generates considerable income or benefits while requiring little effort and carrying little risk.
- Synonym: sinecure
- 1895. November 1895 (as quoted by Michael Quinion) Courier of Connellsville:
- Johnston claims that Reuben Nelson and another tall negro were in New Haven the night of the escape and that they broke into the lockup. Johnson further states that the next day Nelson laughingly told him that the New Haven lockup was 'a gravy train'. "
- 1970 December, Alex Poinsett, “Is There a Plot to Kill Mayor Hatcher?”, in Ebony, volume 26, number 2, Johnson Publishing, ISSN 0012-9011, page 146:
- Hatcher derailed the gravy train by consolidating City Hall operations into five general departments headed by three special assistants and two members of the Board of Works.
- 1949, William Van O'Connor, American Quarterly, page 38:
- Of course these foreigners want to come to America. Each and severally, they are thinking only of themselves. To them America is the land of the free ride; and they want to climb aboard the gravy train, even though that means abandoning their friends and neighbors, the ashes of their fathers and the temples of their gods, to a struggle to which they themselves are no longer equal.
- 1975. Pink Floyd. Have a Cigar (song):
- And did we tell you the name of the game, boy, we call it riding the gravy train.
- 2005, Kevin Craig, Hey Stranger! Letters from an All-American Loudmouth, →ISBN:
- Freeloaders are a prime example of the people that will repeatedly burn you if they have the chance. Those are the people that can see a nice person coming from a mile away. They'll only do for themselves when they are forced to. They would much rather find someone with a generous nature, and ride that gravy train till the gravy runs out.
- 2006, Freddie L. Sirmans, Can the Us Survive Doomsday, →ISBN, page 19:
- This whole gay marriage clamor is really about spousal and other benefits that this welfare state provider has made so enticing. It's only natural that everybody wants to get on a gravy train or ride a free horse. Why should it be any different for gay people?
- 2007, Jon Garate, A Party of One: A Political Parody, →ISBN, page 25:
- We are not really concerned about the Other, or Minor Minorities Everyone, including the lawmakers are looking at the Mexican immigration issue as one big monster. It is a monster, and it is the lawmakers and bureaucrats who created it. Free medical and schooling for illegals; Citizenship for babies of illegals; Free schooling; Free language education. On and on goes the gravy train. Who wouldn't bust into this country for the easy life.
- 2008, Christopher C. Horner, “Heretics, Speak Out”, in Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threads, Fraud and Deception to Keep You Misinformed, Regnery Publishing, →ISBN, Conclusion, page 340:
- It is clear that dissent can no longer be tolerated, and no one is above using their position—be it academic, governmental, political or otherwise—to stifle thought that frightens them or threatens to upset the gravy train.
- 2012, Andrew Holmes, The Painspotter's Guide to Broken Britain, →ISBN:
- For those lucky few who are able to graduate into the European Parliament, the opportunity to fill their boots continues at a new level. Not only do their allowances eclipse their salaray by three times, they can claim two fully furnished rent-free officies, more money for having an office in their consituency, a generaous daily allowance for food, taxis, call girls (or boys) and so on, And remember, no receipts are required, so it's spend, spend spend! This isn't so much the gravy train, but the express gravy train, and just like Eurostar, it runs a lot faster in Europe than in the UK.