Alternative forms Edit
it's not the whistle that pulls the train
Boasting and loud talk should not be mistaken for the work that produces real achievements; bravado is no proof of action.
1956, James Reston, "Washington: It's Not the Whistle that Pulls the Train," New York Times, 1 July, p. E8:
“In the words of the nursery rhyme,” says Mr. Green, “‘
it isn't the whistle that pulls the train.’”
1962, American Flint, American Flint Glass Workers' Union, vol. 62, p. 17:
Until then, remember, don't brag,
it's not the whistle that pulls the train.
2005, Eve-Lyn Woodard, Resounding Echoes, ISBN 9781594679308, p. 113:
The shiny aluminum body of the 1928 Peerless race car with its rumble seat and purchase price of 50 dollars must have put Kenwood in a boastful mood because Grandma Proper immediately stated, “Kenwood you must remember that
it is not the whistle that pulls the train.”
Usage notes Edit
This expression was used as the title of a children's song recorded in 1954 by
Kitty Kallen. 
^ “Kitty Kallen's first kiddie record, ‘It's Not the Whistle that Pulls the Train’ and ‘I'm a Little Teapot,’ will be released by Decca shortly.” ( The Billboard, 18 Sept. 1954, p. 14.) Last modified on 3 January 2012, at 18:45