The 42nd Parallel:

The brakeman said they’d have to get the body off the train. They laid him down flat in the ditch beside the ballast with his hat over his face. Mac asked the brakeman if he had a spade so that they could bury him. so that the buzzards wouldn’t get him, but he said no, the gandywalkers would find him and bury him. He took Mac back to the caboose and gave him a drink and asked him all about how the old man had died.

“Gandy dancer” as wiki has it (here), a railway worker responsible for track maintenance. The “ballast” is the bed of gravel they lay the track on. (wiki).

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