Different varieties[edit]


  • (“high-profile high-priority” sense) From a routing system on the Santa Fe Railroad within the early 1900s. Quick freight trains which have been to obtain precedence routing have been marked with placards depicting a crimson disc, and have been referred to as “crimson ball” trains.



crimson ball (plural crimson balls)

  1. Used apart from figuratively or idiomatically: see crimson,‎ ball.
  2. (legislation enforcement, slang, US) A high-profile high-priority case which attracts political or media consideration.
    • 2005, Dreyer, Eileen, Sinners and Saints, St. Martin’s Press, →ISBN, OL 3424112M:

      The one exception to that edict was the Eighth, the French Quarter district, since any murder on the core of the vacationer space was such a possible crimson ball.

  3. (cricket, journalism, metonymically, uncountable) first-class cricket, as distinct from restricted overs cricket (or “white ball”)


crimson ball (not comparable)

  1. (rail transport) Of or associated to precedence freight or the trains that carry it.
    • 1905 August 18, “The Frisco System of Dealing with Time Freight”, in The Railroad Gazette, quantity 39, quantity 7, web page 158:

      Perishable freight, carloads of package deal freight or merchandise, oils, and so on., are designated as Purple Ball freight.

    • 1910 August, Pancoast, Chalmers L., “Purple Ball System of Dealing with Freight”, in Santa Fe Employes’ Journal, quantity 4, quantity 9, web page 28:

      A particular crimson ball card, which is a familar sight to each employe—the massive crimson ball on the white card—is hooked up to each automobile of crimson ball freight, one on all sides, by the agent on the crimson ball billing station. A particular crimson ball envelope accompanies every automobile to its vacation spot.

    • 1939 November, “Conserving the Iron Horse on Time”, in Common Mechanics[1], quantity 72, quantity 5, ISSN 0032-4558, web page 157A:

      The crack passenger trains common fifty-four miles an hour over that stretch, the “crimson ball” freights common twenty-seven, and the way in which freights eighteen miles an hour.


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