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Nostalgia & History > Mechanical Mfg. bumping posts

Date: 11/10/12 11:12
Mechanical Mfg. bumping posts
Author: Evan_Werkema

The 1921 edition of the Railway Track & Structures Cyclopedia describes two types of bumping posts marketed by the Mechanical Manufacturing Co. of Chicago.


The first was the Ellis bumping post, described in the text as "the first commercial post on the market." Indeed, a quick scan of patents online does not turn up any bumping post patent older than No.322815 filed by Elisha Ellis in 1885, though it's a little hard to believe there wasn't some commercial bumper available in the half century of US railroading prior to that (or did they just use piles of dirt, stacks of ties, or other piles of debris before that?)

322815: http://www.google.com/patents?id=PxRiAAAAEBAJ&zoom=4&dq=322812&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q=322812&f=false

One gets the impression that Ellis' design may have been inspired by the Civil War era railway sabotage technique known as "Sherman's neckties," where rails were ripped up, heated, and bent around a tree so they couldn't be reused. The tension members of the Ellis consist of the track's own stock rails bent up and around a wooden post, resting on a column that constituted the compression end of the design. The buffer head consisted either of a wooden block with a metal striking plate in the freight version or a metal-capped rubber block in the passenger version. The 1921 cyclopedia touts the Ellis as "simple in design, great in strength, long in life, and can be installed easily and quickly." The 1955 edition, published after the design was out of production, 'fessed up to a few of its drawbacks: "this design lost favor because it placed too severe a strain on the bolts of the rail joints ahead of the post, even though eight bolts were employed, so that there are relatively few units of this design left in service today." The simpler, even easier to install pyramid-shaped all-metal posts common today were already coming on the scene by the 1920's, but the use of the Ellis in prior decades was widespread enough that a few managed to linger on the Santa Fe into the 1990's (and for all I know, some may still be around today):

1. The "freight" version of the Ellis at Holly, CO, illustrating another weakness. The post would have been designed for cars with standard length drawbars, and I'm guessing an extended cushion drawbar hitting the post would tend to lift the rails ahead of the wheels as shown, despite the anchor clamps.

2. This half-buried Ellis protected the east end of Santa Fe's Pampa, TX depot in 1986.

3. The "passenger" version of the Ellis at Kiowa, KS.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/10/12 11:38 by Evan_Werkema.

Date: 11/10/12 11:16
Re: Mechanical Mfg. bumping posts
Author: Evan_Werkema

There were lots and lots of other bumping post designs that came after the Ellis, and I'm not entirely sure who came up with the first bolt-on, all-metal, pyramidal bumping post. The verbage cast into the head of the Buda Company’s No.75 freight bumping post claims a patent date of October 13, 1908, but doesn't give a number, and I sure can’t find a patent with that date online. This design patented in 1911 appears to be it:

986509: http://www.google.com/patents?id=0uZiAAAAEBAJ&zoom=4&dq=986509&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false

In any case, by the end of the 1910’s, Mechanical Manufacturing had evidently decided it was time to field their own version of a steel pyramid bumper. In 1919, Elmer Keebler (I kid you not) filed a patent which would become the basis for Mechanical Mfg's "Durable" line of bumping posts.

1348223 http://www.google.com/patents?id=dkZNAAAAEBAJ&zoom=4&dq=1348223&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q=1348223&f=false

The tension members were sections of rail and the compression members were U-channel, with a massive cast buffer head at the apex. By the 1950's the Durable designs were being produced and marketed by the Wasco Supply Company of Chicago, and their ad in the 1955 Railway Track & Structures Cyclopedia lists four models which differed only in the shape of the buffer head. I've only come across two types in the field, though the others probably did see production for specialized applications.

4 and 5. Patent 1348223 appears to show the Durable B, illustrated in the photos below at Amarillo, TX. Wasco's name was cast onto the opposite side of the head along with the patent number...though that number is 1815917 rather than 1348223 - see below.

Date: 11/10/12 11:26
Re: Mechanical Mfg. bumping posts
Author: Evan_Werkema

Patent 1815917 of 1931 illustrates what appears to be the Durable D, whose buffer head was considerably larger and shapelier than the B.

1815917 http://www.google.com/patents?id=OylSAAAAEBAJ&zoom=4&dq=1815917&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q=1815917&f=false

I've found some Durable B's on Santa Fe, but they seemed to prefer D's.

6, 7, and 8. This Durable D at Albuquerque has Mechanical Mamufacturing's name cast into the head, and curiously also has the Durable B patent number, 1348223!

The other posts in the Durable line were the E, with a spring-cushion head, and the F for "trestle and barge work and for inside installations." I've never come across either of those, but I keep looking.

Date: 11/10/12 12:19
Re: Mechanical Mfg. bumping posts
Author: MThopper

Very interesting "post".

Date: 11/10/12 12:33
Re: Mechanical Mfg. bumping posts
Author: wjpyper

Some great new ideas for bumpers on my layout. Thanks for posting.
Bill Pyyper
Salem, OR

Date: 11/10/12 13:54
Re: Mechanical Mfg. bumping posts
Author: rev66vette

Real interesting post.........

Date: 11/11/12 04:47
Re: Mechanical Mfg. bumping posts
Author: DrLoco

Thanks for this infomation, Evan...
ONly place I've ever seen spring loaded bumpers was at Chicago Union Station--and I have no idea who made them!

Date: 11/11/12 13:43
Re: Mechanical Mfg. bumping posts
Author: Evan_Werkema

DrLoco Wrote:

> ONly place I've ever seen spring loaded bumpers
> was at Chicago Union Station--and I have no idea
> who made them!

Western-Cullen-Hayes has what they call a Hayco "Shock-Free" Head that slips onto their bumpers and apparently also fits onto the Buda No.75. I've only come across a couple of them, including this one on the bumper that protects the end of the tail track coming out of the Oakland International Gateway at the Port of Oakland, CA. Why they wanted a cushioned head here in particular, I don't know. The bumper it is attached to is the Type WA, W-C-H's strongest standard model.


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