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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Tricks of the trade


Date: 01/06/20 02:16
Tricks of the trade
Author: RGTower

When I was starting out as a rookie conductor trainee, the Terminal Superintendent threw me in the freight pool between Philadelphia & Baltimore. I trained with a different crew almost every trip.

Most of the junk trains stopped in Wilmington, DE to pickup/ set off, as well as Bayview, A yard, or West Baltimore.

One particular conductor had a great method for making set offs when there was no utility man available, and he was unclear if the track would hold the set off. Freight cars come in all different lengths from 40’ to 85’, so you couldn’t always assume a track holds “X” amount of cars.

As we would approach the yard on the main, this particular conductor would go into the first aide kit and get the surgical tape and tape 2 ten minute fusees together. This would increase the burn time to roughly 20 minutes.

As our train passed by the set off track, he would light the 20” fusee at the clearance point and toss it on the ground (the train never stopped moving).

The train would continue pulling to the opposite end of the yard, we would bail off on-the-fly and pull the train by to make the cut. As the conductor was checking the numbers, I’d line up the ladder and position myself at the electrical lock crossovers from the yard to the main.

After the conductor made the cut, he would light a 3rd fusee and wedge the butt of the fusee into the coil spring of the leading end of the shove move on the same field side of the 20” fusee he previously dropped on the opposite end of the track.

As he would shove the 40-50 car set off down the track, he could gauge when the rear end was nearing the clearance point when the 2 burning fusees came together. This trick worked great and saved a lot of walking at night in foul weather or when we needed to make a hot move with a large setout with a 1-man ground crew.

I learned a lot from a lot of those old B&O conductors. Thanks CBK, DLW, JJB, MAS, LJG, and BHW.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/06/20 02:46 by RGTower.



Date: 01/06/20 08:14
Re: Tricks of the trade
Author: trainjunkie

I'd like to do that today just to give the resident weed weasel a heart attack. LOL!



Date: 01/06/20 11:16
Re: Tricks of the trade
Author: hoggerdoug

Couple of torpedoes 3 cars lengths inside the clear mark worked well.
Doug



Date: 01/06/20 11:30
Re: Tricks of the trade
Author: atsfer

except they took the torpedoes away from us now!



Date: 01/06/20 11:44
Re: Tricks of the trade
Author: engineerinvirginia

atsfer Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> except they took the torpedoes away from us now!

probaby because we found good uses for them!



Date: 01/06/20 11:44
Re: Tricks of the trade
Author: Drknow

Torpedos were a great tool. That’s why we don’t have them anymore.

Posted from iPhone



Date: 01/06/20 11:47
Re: Tricks of the trade
Author: Railbaron

I think it's interesting how many people are chiming in about using torpedos to determine the end of a track - sounds like it was pretty widespread. Been there, done that, myself. 



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/07/20 07:21 by Railbaron.



Date: 01/06/20 11:52
Re: Tricks of the trade
Author: trainjunkie

The new quiet/safety cabs made torpedos obsolete. You can barely hear them go off from inside the cab. The other uses for them were, of course, unauthroized...depsite their usefulness.



Date: 01/06/20 22:24
Re: Tricks of the trade
Author: Fredo

But they sure were a lot of fun Mike.



Date: 01/07/20 09:40
Re: Tricks of the trade
Author: ExSPCondr

A torpedo was a great way to get some sleep when you were following another train waiting to get in the yard.   Pull up right behind the train stopped ahead, and put  a torpedo on the rail in front of the rear truck on the last car of the train ahead, kick back and go to sleep.

When the train ahead pulls up, BANG, you wake up and follow him ahead.  This works well until one of two things happens.  Either you are first out, then somebody has to stay awake and watch the signal.   OR the brakeman on the caboose ahead doesn't like being jolted awake by the explosion under him and takes the torpedo off after the following train's brakeman gets back on his engine and closes his eyes.



Date: 01/09/20 14:27
Re: Tricks of the trade
Author: tehachcond

ExSPCondr Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> A torpedo was a great way to get some sleep when
> you were following another train waiting to get in
> the yard.   Pull up right behind the train
> stopped ahead, and put  a torpedo on the rail in
> front of the rear truck on the last car of the
> train ahead, kick back and go to sleep.
>
> When the train ahead pulls up, BANG, you wake up
> and follow him ahead.  This works well until one
> of two things happens.  Either you are first out,
> then somebody has to stay awake and watch the
> signal.   OR the brakeman on the caboose ahead
> doesn't like being jolted awake by the explosion
> under him and takes the torpedo off after the
> following train's brakeman gets back on his engine
> and closes his eyes.
> G 

   One time, we were sitting at Main Line Tower waiting to get into the A Yard of Southern Pacific's Los Angeles Yard.  Another train pulled up behind us and stopped a couple of car lengths behind us.  The conductor nad I played possum, and sure enough, the head brakeman on the train behind us, sneaked up behind us and put a torpedo under our caboose.
   I lett him get settled down on his own engine, and I removed the torpedo and placed it BEHIND our caboose. After awhile, we started moving into the yard, and to the guy behind  surprise no lound "Bang!  He must have been scratching his head as to what happened, until his own engine hit the gun meant for us!
   We all got to the yard office about the same time and my ill-concealed  smirk gave me away.

Brian Black
Castle Rock, CO



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