From Daily Mail news website,

Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said this week that he sees Donald Trump's tweets at the same time as everyone else – after the president-elect posts them.

'He drives the train on this,' Spicer replied when asked by former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs if the GOP communications head knows what Trump plans to tweet.

Spicer said 'I do not,' when Gibbs followed up and asked if he got to see the tweets ahead of time.

I do not understand clearly what is meant by "drives the train on this".

It does not seem to be about drivetrain (of an automotive vehicle) or the phrase "run/pull the train"

My guess is that it somehow connects to the fact that Trump tweets a lot. So what is it exactly?

  • 2
    It is the driver who is in charge of a railway locomotive.
    – Mick
    Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 19:14
  • 2
    The way I understand it is that the driver of a railway train (or even of a train of horse carriages) determines when the train stops & starts and where it goes, and all the passengers on the train have no choice but to go where the driver takes them.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 19:16
  • Although, i’m sure not what the speaker intended to imply, but taking the train metaphor further, the train is on a predetermined path, not selected or designed by the driver. The driver has no control over where the train is going, only on when it goes and how fast.
    – Jim
    Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 19:34
  • 3
    For U.S. listeners, there is also an unmistakable (though no doubt unintended by Spicer) echo of the Grateful Dead's updapted folk lyric about the legendary trainman, Casey Jones: "Drivin' that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones you better watch your speed!"
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 19:44
  • 2
    In my comment above, "updapted" should either be "updated" or "adapted"; I couldn't decide between them, and "updapted was the result.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jan 8, 2017 at 20:34

2 Answers 2


"He drives the train on this"

He is the train engineer (engine driver in BrE), and he decides when to start the engine and when to stop. He posts whatever he wants, whenever he wants to, and doesn't have to hear the GOP communications head first.

"on this" = when it comes to tweeting

  • 1
    It may be worth adding in a non-American alternative to the term train engineer. Perhaps it’s just me, but I’ve never heard that before (I’ve only heard train driver, engine driver, locomotive driver, etc.), and my immediate thought when reading this answer was that engineers don’t have a say in when the train starts and stops—they just build it. Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 18:20
  • @JanusBahsJacquet done.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 18:28
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    @JanusBahsJacquet This is an old one from grammar school times: what kind of ears are required by a locomotive?
    – Centaurus
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 18:32

To be "in the driving seat" means to have control over something. I think "He drives the train on this" would be an extension of this, implying that he controls this situation and that other people have to go along with it. A train passenger does not decide when the train moves.

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