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Western Railroad Discussion > Question about Train Defect Detectors

Date: 08/17/02 17:44
Question about Train Defect Detectors
Author: cdub

I would like to know when hot box and dragging equipment detectors started appearing on mainlines around the country. The reason I ask this is that I have been looking thru some UP employee timetables from the late 70's, and they don't list any detector location information, like what employee timetables contain today. Logic tells me that increased emphasis was placed on installing defect detectors after the cabooses were phased out.

Date: 08/17/02 17:59
Re: Question about Train Defect Detectors
Author: Gabbyh1

Out West the Santa Fe started using Hot Box & Dragging Equipment Detectors as early as 1970., maybe sooner. On the old Kingman District, the first detectors were designed so that the rear-end crew would see a light ( it showed you which side and then a number would light after you passed it indicating the axle count. Those were soon superceded with radio talkers and life has not been the same since.

Date: 08/17/02 18:13
Re: Question about Train Defect Detectors
Author: nikonman

The Erie-Lackawanna had hot box detectors as early as 1974.


Date: 08/17/02 21:35
Re: Question about Train Defect Detectors
Author: powerbraker1

We had hotbox detectors that were also dragging equipment detectors on the MP DeQuincy Division when I made the swap from the ATSF to the MP in 1972. Two had axle count indicators, as well as revolving beacons and indicator lights. Four had just indicator lights, but the axle count was transmitted to the dispatcher, and he would call us on the radio to give us the axle count! Here is the explanation of the indicator lights from our timetable:

1. White light on equipment house illuminated: System on. (The engineer would say "White light on the hotbox detector." The conductor on the rear would say "White light.")

2. Left OR right yellow light flashing: Hot journal detected on side indicated. (The conductor would say "That'll do! Yellow light on the right side!")

3. Red light illuminated: Dragging equipment. (Again, we stopped and checked it out. It was usually those darned bands hanging out of the empty boxcars.)

For those hot box detectors with axle count indicators, if the defect was not located near the axle indicated, we were required to inspect the entire car and 5 cars on each side of the car indicated by the axle count.

A favorite rules test was to turn out the hotbox detector System On light. That meant we had to stop and inspect the entire train.

Bob C

Date: 08/17/02 22:49
Re: Question about Train Defect Detectors
Author: CShaveRR

Your original comment tying the appearance of detectors to the disappearance of cabooses is correct in a way...that's pretty much when the modern talking detectors came on the scene. But I know that some railroads had detectors as far back as the 1960s...they'd activate a graphic display in the dispatcher's office, and his interpretation of the graph is what you went by.

Back before the talking detectors on CNW, there were detectors, followed by a display of lunar lights controlled by the dispatcher. If he liked what he saw on the readout, he'd clear the signal, and the crew would see three vertical lunar lights. Otherwise, they'd be horizontal, and the crew would stop the train and contact the dispatcher for details (which side, axle count). Then it was walking time! The timetables mentioned detector location and where the crew was expected to stop its train. This was in the early 1970s.

Date: 08/18/02 06:15
Re: Question about Train Defect Detectors
Author: richmp412

On the Santa Fe Transcon the first detectors were installed between 1962 and 1965 cant remember exact date. This would have been on the old Illinois Div. K.C. to Chicago.

Date: 08/18/02 10:14
Re: Question about Train Defect Detectors
Author: wildebeest

On the SP, I know hotbox detectors were installed at least as early as 1966 or '67. These were, of course, the kind of detector that had an indicator that the rear end crew looked at, and then radioed "Highball the detector" to the head end if everything was OK.

The reason I remember that there were detectors back then is that on at least one "Wildflower Special" to the Tehachapis, the dining car set off every detector we passed, and the crew had to stop and check every journal on the train every time. This particular trip ran so late that the crew got back to LA after 15 hours and 59 minutes of service!


Date: 05/19/17 19:31
Re: Question about Train Defect Detectors
Author: jdw3460

The hot-box detectors of the '40s and earlier were telegraph operators, station agents, track workmen, etc. holding their nose when the conductor went by on the crummy.

Date: 05/19/17 19:54
Re: Question about Train Defect Detectors
Author: jointauthority

I'm glad you waited 14 years to share that.

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