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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Kerosene and fusees


Date: 01/09/18 08:44
Kerosene and fusees
Author: LarryDoyle

The recent thread on hand and lantern signals got me to thinking about signal appliances, and particularly about kerosene lanterns.

Day signals could be given with a bare hand or a gloved hand. Actually, while enginemen usually wore gloves, trainmen and switchmen preferred leather mittens, called "choppers", because if they caught on something you could slip your hand out of more quickly and easily than with a glove. The best ones were elkskin - lasted much longer than cowhide. If you were working more than about 10 cars from the engine, holding something in your hand made your signals easier to see - a switchlist folded in half, for example. Farther away and you might pick up a piece of cardboard to be seen better. An Employee Timetable in a red/orange plastic folder worked very well, especially in the morning when the bright sun was shining in the engineers face.

Fusees could be used day or night. Usually, when 30 or more cars were between you and the engineer. Night signals were used when signaling with a fusee, even during the day.

By the time I hired out in 1962, electric lanterns were the norm. A picture of my original lantern is below. These could be purchased from the Day Clerk, by payroll deduction. The short piece of wire twisted on the guard identified this one as mine. Batteries were supplied, free, and in the summer would last two or three nights service. In the winter, at zero or below, you might go through two or three batteries in a single shift!

Though kerosene lanterns had pretty much disappeared on most railroads at the same time as steam engines, they were still in use on the Q in St Paul past the mid '60's - probably right up to the merger. Switchmen and trainmen had gone to electric (though I will confess to having "played with" giving signals with a kero lamp). All the switchstands still had kero lamps to show switch position, dutifully filled daily by the section. Except for four power switches with electric light indicators at the east entrance to they yard. These were controlled by the Oakland Tower, as described by Marty Bernard.

The Carmen also used kerosene lanterns with blue globes to protect equipment when doing their inspections and light repairs.

Edit 1/14/17: Wooden cabooses used in transfer service also used kero markers.

The Q also had a peculiarity. They never adopted the Consolidated Code of Operating Rules, used by MILW, GN, NP, M&StL, SOO, and a host of other roads, but retained their own Burlington Lines Rules of the Operating Department. (As a result, I was tested on and qualified of both sets of rules in order to be able to work transfers outside our yard at Daytons Bluff.)

Q Rule 17 required, in part, "When an engine is running backward a white light must be displayed by night on the leading end. At night when standing or moving about yards, road engines without cars must display a red light on the rear."

This was interpreted as meaning that end cab switch engines at night carried and displayed two lighted kerosene lanterns, dusk to sunrise. These were hung on hooks, one on each side of the rear cab door. One with a clear globe one with red. I know I've seen pics of this, but couldn't find any this morning when posting this.

Kerosene switchmans lanterns had a wide flat wick, and burned with about a 1 1/2 inch yellow flame. Surprisingly bright, almost as much so as the electric lights that replaced them. They burned very steady, without flicker, and would burn with the lamp in any position - even upside down! Though drawings illustrating their use always show them being handled by the wire bail handle, in actual practice they were usually carried the wire cage surrounding the globe.

Another kerosene light that disappeared with the steam engine was the engineers torch, also illustrated below. These were used when inspecting running gear at night, and burned with a bright yellow flame about 6 to 8 inches tall.

-John Stein, aka Larry Doyle



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 01/14/18 18:48 by LarryDoyle.








Date: 01/09/18 11:59
Re: Kerosene and fusees
Author: krm152

Very interesting.
ALLEN



Date: 01/09/18 13:45
Re: Kerosene and fusees
Author: LarryDoyle

Here are some examples taken from a 1915 rulebook showing use of lantern signals. Note that he is holding the lantern by the bail handle in all illustrations except No. 6, where he is shown holding it by the cage.

Who's gonna be the first to tell me what is meant by Signal No. 5, "Train has parted"? I'll wager $1 that no one gets it, even though the rulebook writers of this, and other old rulebooks I've seen, thought it important enough to appear in the book.

-John






Date: 01/09/18 14:16
Re: Kerosene and fusees
Author: 4451Puff

LarryDoyle Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------


> Who's gonna be the first to tell me what is meant
> by Signal No. 5, "Train has parted"? I'll wager
> $1 that no one gets it, even though the rulebook
> writers of this, and other old rulebooks I've
> seen, thought it important enough to appear in the
> book.
>
> -John

Just a guess, but so the head end knows when "We're on the move back here", & can leave town knowing his train is in one piece, & continue acceleration without busting a knuckle or drawbar?

Desmond Praetzel, "4451 Puff"



Date: 01/09/18 14:19
Re: Kerosene and fusees
Author: LarryDoyle

4451Puff Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> LarryDoyle Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
>
>
> > Who's gonna be the first to tell me what is
> meant
> > by Signal No. 5, "Train has parted"? I'll
> wager
> > $1 that no one gets it, even though the
> rulebook
> > writers of this, and other old rulebooks I've
> > seen, thought it important enough to appear in
> the
> > book.
> >
> > -John
>
> Just a guess, but so the head end knows when
> "We're on the move back here", & can leave town
> knowing his train is in one piece, & continue
> acceleration without busting a knuckle or
> drawbar?
>
> Desmond Praetzel, "4451 Puff"


Nope, sorry.



Date: 01/09/18 15:00
Re: Kerosene and fusees
Author: trainjunkie

It's a pre-Westinghouse air brake signal. Literally, part of train is missing.



Date: 01/09/18 16:43
Re: Kerosene and fusees
Author: UPNW2-1083

LarryDoyle Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Here are some examples taken from a 1915 rulebook
> showing use of lantern signals. Note that he is
> holding the lantern by the bail handle in all
> illustrations except No. 6, where he is shown
> holding it by the cage.
>
> Who's gonna be the first to tell me what is meant
> by Signal No. 5, "Train has parted"? I'll wager
> $1 that no one gets it, even though the rulebook
> writers of this, and other old rulebooks I've
> seen, thought it important enough to appear in the
> book.
>
> -John

Probably that the train has come apart (i.e. uncoupled).-BMT



Date: 01/09/18 19:39
Re: Kerosene and fusees
Author: LarryDoyle

trainjunkie Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> It's a pre-Westinghouse air brake signal.
> Literally, part of train is missing.

PM your snail mail address and you get $1.

Actually, use of the signal lasted much longer after the air brake - probably to the time of WWII.

The very first air brakes, straight air, were only effective on about four car trains, and were totally useless in case of a break-in-two. The first widely used automatic brake was effective on trains up to about 15 cars, and the K brake used from the 1890's thru the 1930's lost effectiveness on trains over 40 cars. It wasn't until the AB brake was introduced that trains of up to 150 cars could be reliably controlled with air brakes.

But yet, we all know that longer trains than that were operated. So, how did they do that?

The answer is that they ran "part air trains", in which the air hoses were coupled on the front 40 cars (K-brake) and the rear portion of the train depended upon the front portion to control it! If a train "parted", that is broke in two behind the portion with active air brakes, the crewmen on the rear started applying hand brakes. The front crew might not even know about the break-in-two, until word could be telegraphed ahead to warn notify the head end with a "train has parted" signal.

That's also why it was so important for trains at a meet to actually see the markers on the rear of an opposing train before leaving a siding.

-John



Date: 01/09/18 19:46
Re: Kerosene and fusees
Author: trainjunkie

LarryDoyle Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> PM your snail mail address and you get $1.

John,

I enjoyed playing. Please keep your buck, or donate it to your favorite cause, grandkid, buy a cup of joe on me, whatever.

I had heard from someone that this signal came to be prior to the advent of air brakes, but I did not know how long it lasted. Interesting stuff and, fortunately, something I don't have to worry about out there today.

Cheers!



Date: 01/09/18 21:56
Re: Kerosene and fusees
Author: cewherry

LarryDoyle Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> trainjunkie Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > It's a pre-Westinghouse air brake signal.
> > Literally, part of train is missing.
>
> PM your snail mail address and you get $1.
>
> Actually, use of the signal lasted much longer
> after the air brake - probably to the time of
> WWII.

My 1943 Pacific Electric rule book shows the "Train Has Parted" signal but parent Southern Pacific's book of the same year has omitted that illustration.
However SP did include a whistle signal, three long sounds, indicating "Train Parted". My next SP book, 1951 shows neither hand signal or whistle signal for the
train parted situation so your WWII time frame seems about right, at least on these two roads.

Charlie



Date: 01/13/18 09:46
Re: Kerosene and fusees
Author: Howard_P

Why were K brakes ineffective beyond 40 cars?



Date: 01/14/18 14:36
Re: Kerosene and fusees
Author: LarryDoyle

Howard_P Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Why were K brakes ineffective beyond 40 cars?


Beyond 40-50 cars the quick action portion of K brakes was not reliably propogated, resulting in a quick application on the head end only.

Also, the feed groves were sized such that a full charge of a car from 0 to 70 lbs could be made in 70 seconds. (It's 8 minutes on modern brakes.) This results in the head end quickly releasing from an application and sucking up air delaying release on the rear.

The brakes on a long train were reportedly especially liable to stick after an emergency application, and the rear brakes on a long train were liable to stick after a very light application.

-John



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/14/18 14:50 by LarryDoyle.



Date: 01/14/18 15:31
Re: Kerosene and fusees
Author: LarryDoyle

cewherry Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> LarryDoyle Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > trainjunkie Wrote:
> >
> --------------------------------------------------
>
> > -----
> > > It's a pre-Westinghouse air brake signal.
> > > Literally, part of train is missing.
> >
> > PM your snail mail address and you get $1.
> >
> > Actually, use of the signal lasted much longer
> > after the air brake - probably to the time of
> > WWII.
>
> My 1943 Pacific Electric rule book shows the
> "Train Has Parted" signal but parent Southern
> Pacific's book of the same year has omitted that
> illustration.
> However SP did include a whistle signal, three
> long sounds, indicating "Train Parted". My next SP
> book, 1951 shows neither hand signal or whistle
> signal for the
> train parted situation so your WWII time frame
> seems about right, at least on these two roads.
>
> Charlie

The three longs whistle signal would have been used in one of three ways.

1) If I was engineer at a meet, and did not see the markers on the rear of an opposing move at a meet, I would first take action to stop my train, then would sound the whistle signal to notify the other trains head-end crew that they have a problem and they needed to fix it. Or,

2) If I was engineer and became aware that I'd had a break-in-two and lost part of my train, I'd sound the whistle to notify my rear end crew that WE had a problem and WE needed to fix it. I would not try outrun it. Better off to immediately slow to a stop, so that if and when it hits us the impact won't be as severe.

3) If I was engineer and saw someone else give me a handsign that train has parted, I would acknowledge that I saw his signal.

-John



Date: 01/16/18 20:24
Re: Kerosene and fusees
Author: MRS11813

The time is June 1971 Fort Eustis, Va. Part of my issued equipment as a conductor, engineer was a clear and red U.S. Army band new kerosene lantern, Safety book, Rule book, Time table and operators manuals.

Who would think, but if you ran out of batteries kerosene may be an option.








Date: 01/31/18 17:49
Re: Kerosene and fusees
Author: Operator-Fairmont

My grandfather hired out on the B&O in Fairmont, WV May 9, 1943. I asked him sometime in the 1990s (he passed in 1999) if he had ever used a kerosene lantern on duty and he told me "only once". So at least around here, electric lanterns went back that far. He said the "hayburner" was the white lantern off a steam engine and he had to use it because he dropped his electric and busted out both bulbs! I have a photo of him taken probably around 1946 and he is holding an electric lantern that looks like one of those "Conger" reproductions of 30 years ago.

He always preferred the Star lanterns as opposed to Adlake...I still have his last two Star lanterns, one in barely used condition!



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