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Personally I'd never heard of the term and always called such locos crocodiles. Camel-baclk I presume simply because it had a hump in the middle

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steeplecab
The term originated in USA at the turn of the 20th century.

As to origins, the best I can come up with would be the dictionary definition of steeple, maybe because it looked like a tower rising from a sloping roof or the pantograph looked like a spire - who knows.

stee·ple
   [stee-puhl] Show IPA noun, verb, -pled, -pling.
noun
1. an ornamental construction, usually ending in a spire, erected on a roof or tower of a church, public building, etc.
2. a tower terminating in such a construction.
Origin:
before 1000; Middle English stepel steeple, tower, Old English stēpel tower.
 
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