The "tipple town" is a byproduct of early railroads. Steam locomotives burn through coal at a prodigious rate, and in areas where railroad lines passed through long stretches of uninhabited area the railroad would need to put in coaling points. In order to efficiently load the tenders, coal tipples were built to swiftly 'dump' coal into the car. In order to operate the tipples, naturally, the railroad needed to hire and place personnel at the coaling points - if not to load the tender (the train crew could do that) then to load the tipple itself, maintain it, and the like. Where possible, watering stations were located alongside the coaling points, necessitating personnel to maintain the watering systems.

As a result, small towns sometimes sprung up along railroad lines where these services were available. The train would be stopped anyway, making it a natural station point. These towns were sometimes referred to as 'tipple towns' reflecting their raison d'être. They typically occurred every hundred or hundred and fifty miles along important rail lines. The Western United States and Australia both had numerous railroads which passed through territories desolate enough to spawn tipple towns.

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