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"Generally, the human race avoids doing anything radical until forced into it."
- Frederik Pohl

Space Tramp  
  An old, slow spacecraft.  

"...The High Command hasn't announced what ship it is, but it must be a fast one - not a space tramp."
Technovelgy from The Invisible World, by Ed Earl Repp.
Published by Amazing Stories in 1940
Additional resources -

By analogy to "tramp steamer", referring to a ship without fixed schedule or scheduled ports of call. This kind of ship was also called an "ocean tramp".

Another example of the same expression, from They Never Came Back (1941) by Fritz Leiber:

HEY, YOU! What’s your business?”

Bart Harlan, standing on the cat-walk that circled the upper rim of the docking-cradle, did not immediately answer the shouted question. He clung to the thin hand rail, bracing himself against the sheets of rain which drove across the almost deserted landing field, and stared wearily down into the shadowy interior of the cradle. It was about the grubbiest looking space-tramp he’d ever seen. Its weblike outer skin of molybdo-barium meteorite cushionings was tarnished black, except where recent gouges revealed shining metal. One boarding grapple was badly bent; it would not quite fold back into the housing, and stuck out like a broken finger. The iso-quartz space ports showed no lights; they peered like dead eyes from behind the molybdo-barium interweave. A trip to the repair cradles was certainly in order; no space-ship inspector would ever 0. K. a tramp like that, unless the bribe was pretty steep.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Invisible World
  More Ideas and Technology by Ed Earl Repp
  Tech news articles related to The Invisible World
  Tech news articles related to works by Ed Earl Repp

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