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Railroaders' Nostalgia > I hate to tell you this but....

Date: 03/14/20 05:48
I hate to tell you this but....
Author: atsfer

A post on Rose Hill Kansas reminded me of a memorable event there for me.   I was on a westbound train and had just pulled to the west end fitting my train in the clear to meet an east bound train which had DPU power and was about to pass us.   I had shut off the headlight since I was in the clear and then turned it on after the head end of the eastbound had gone by.   I noticed a lot of smoke, but, they had a couple of old BN units so I surmised it was due to that.   When the rear of the train went by me, I looked in my mirror and saw sparks coming out from under the two remote units.   That prompted my to call the eastbound with the dreaded words, "I hate to tell you this but" and related what I had seen.
      Rose Hill is about 30 miles from Wellington where the eastbound had originated.  The engineer, a good and competent engineer but human just like the rest of us, had forgotten to release the independent brakes on the both the headend and rear of the train, and so had gone all that distance with the brakes on the locos applied.  It could have happened to me.  They had to stop the train at the next station, the brake shoes were gone and the wheels and brake rigging were damaged too.   He was not suspended, he had a great work record, but it just wasn't his day.

Date: 03/14/20 07:43
Re: I hate to tell you this but....
Author: 3rdswitch

Yes, it happens. Similar but nothing bad happened. Back when desk top controls were still very new to me, I stopped our eastbound stack train above Verdemont crossover on the west side of Cajon Pass to pick up helpers as standard procedure. Power was either a quartet or trio of new 800's (C40-8W), it was the middle of the night. After helper couples on, release the train air and start back up the hill. Speed was not quite what we were making before the stop, asked conductor to keep watch while I checked the other units. The second I opened the back door the reason was very evident, I had not released the engine brakes. Since we had not gone far, after the release, we picked up a couple of miles per hour and all was well, except for maybe my glowing red face that took a while to go away.

Date: 03/14/20 07:54
Re: I hate to tell you this but....
Author: KCRW287

An engineer I worked with did the same thing, a non DPU, 3 on the head end, AC powered, and forgot to release the independent. He did this out of Des Moines to KC stack train that was rerouted account of a derailment some where between N Platte-KC. 18 condemned axles all the way to KC, I forget how much discipline he got, they had to go track ride looking for broken rails, also 3 more units, train sat for 24+ hours waiting for more power. Engineer wasn't going to say anything, conductor made him call the KC  shop to have someone look at the wheels, the rest is history. KCRW287

Date: 03/14/20 13:23
Re: I hate to tell you this but....
Author: tehachcond

   I was the conductor on a relatively short stack train out of UP East Los Angeles Yard with an engineer who had a well-deserved reputation for being kind of a dunderhead.  The lead unit was a GP60 with the old-style 26 brake valve.  He'd used the air several times near the yard, but when we were on green, we were nowhere near making the speed we should have been making.  I offered to go back and check the units, but he said he'd do it.  While he was gone, I crossed over to the engineers side to see what the lead unit was doing.  It was loading 100%, but then I noticed, lo and behold, he had a minimum set under the train that he'd forgotten to kick off!
  A minute or two later, back into the cab he comes.
   "Find anything wrong?" I asked.
   "No, theyre all loading."
   "Any particular reason you have a set under the train?
   He looked down and slammed the brake valve over to full release, and away we went.  He was quiet for a long time.  Usually, he was trying to tell me how smart he was.  Like a previous messege said, it could happen to anyone.

Brian Black
Castle Rock, CO

Date: 03/14/20 15:02
Re: I hate to tell you this but....
Author: cewherry

I was firing on an eastbound three unit cab-hop one night on Espee's Los Angeles to Indio line.
My engineer was a guy I had worked with only briefly, on a 'roustabout' down at El Centro in the Imperial Valley
of California and while he did very well on those 'valley' jobs, which primarily used only single unit switching class
locomotives, he was now clearly out of his element, lacking any recent experience over the Beaumont grade that
lay ahead of us. For some reason he decided to leave the Valley and bid in one of the pool engineers jobs that worked
this L.A.-Indio territory and I happened to be the unfortunate one to 'catch' him on what appeared to be his first trip; a cab-hop
to Kaiser Siding to pick up 100 empty ore gons and forward them down to Indio.

As we crested the slight grade at Stoneman, about 11 miles east of Los Angeles Yard on the Alhambra line, and dropped
down into San Gabriel the hogger made a minimum brake pipe reduction and actuated (bailed) off the engine brakes
that were called for by this application while, at the same time leaving the throttle in Run 4. With only the caboose brake
now retarding the engines, our
 speed continued to rise. He added to the 'set' and actuated again!. 
To his credit, he now realized something was amiss. I rose up and went over to his side and, mustering as much calm
as I could, suggested that the use of dynamic braking was the preferred method of train handling
in this situation....unless he wanted to set the crummy out at Kaiser for the car department to re-shoe.

The rest of the trip was uneventful and I attributed this aberration to his 'first night jitters'. We caught a 'shooter' for
our return trip out of Indio the next day and I never again worked with him.


Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 03/15/20 14:12 by cewherry.

Date: 03/14/20 15:39
Re: I hate to tell you this but....
Author: trainjunkie

During my time on the Alaska Railroad I had a few similar incidents but the worst one wasn't even my train. I was working a yard assignment in Anchorage in 2013. We were sent north to take some cars out to the north end of Elmendorf siding, tie them down, and run back light. So we did, secured the cars, ran out the north end of the siding and back down the main toward the yard on signal indication (this is CTC territory). At CP 1198, which is a crossover midway down Elmendorf, we get a diverging signal, meaning we would be going back into the siding. No biggie, we were light engine and the siding ended at the top of Anchorage yard anyway, our final destination.

At around MP 119 a large sweeping right-hand curve starts and the tracks pass under Vandenberg Drive, which is a road on Elmendorf AFB. As we start into the curve we see the headlight of the oncoming QAP empty gravel train pop out from under the overpass on the main. The QAP normally runs 1x1, so one SD70MAC on the front, and a DP SD70MAC on the other end (see the pix, not the same exact train but shots of the QAP for reference). The crew had just come on duty and departed the gravel lead in Anchorage Yard just moments eariler so it hadn't traveled far when we met it. 

Since we were still moving nobody got off to roll it by but being on the inside of the curve gave us a pretty clear view of it as we passed each other. The rear of the QAP had cleared the yard by this point and was picking up speed when we saw the rear DP come into view. What a sight it was. The smoke pouring off the wheels of the rear truck would have put a James Bond smokescreen to shame. I grabbed the radio and told them to bring their train to an easy stop and by then the smoking DP passed us and filled our cab with acrid brake smoke. 

When they got stopped, we stopped and backed our yard engine up along side the DP and I got on the ground to inspect the ailing 70MAC. It didn't take but a few seconds to find a tightly wound handbrake. We had no idea why. We had a standing rule to not secure hadnbrakes on attached and conditioned DPs. But I was able to kick the brake then do a thorough inspection of the wheels and shoes and while the shoes were worn and the wheel a bit blue, no sliding occurred so there was no shelling or flat spots. At this point we figured it had been parked at MP 115 and we were at about 118 so it had only gone about 3 miles, and only a little of that was at more than 10 MPH.

Anyway, we got clear, gave the QAP a clean bill of health and they were back underway in no time. It was fortunate that we were there because not only did we prevent a lot of damage to that unit, and possibly the track, but that was an 86-car train and it was sitting on a busy crossing on the base with cars backed up for about a mile on each side. If the QAP conductor would have had to walk back, it would have been a much longer delay for those folks on base. 

Date: 03/15/20 13:44
Re: I hate to tell you this but....
Author: LocoPilot750

I used to escape the KC- Wellington pool sometimes, and hide out on the engineers extra board at Topeka. It was also called the "pusher board" because the Red Rock coal trains out of there had some grades to deal with south of Topeka. It was a laid back, low income existence, but it was easy, about all I did was push a few coal trains a week to Emporia, and come back lite. Sometimes, we'd push a 2nd train when we got done with the first one. Anyway, I came to work one day, and had a 4 axle 7410 or 8610 class GE, and a BN GP38 to push with. The GE was just out of the shops and had totaly rebuilt trucks, new wheels, shoes, motors, everything. We made a routine trip to Emporia and back, tied up and went home. There was another coal train on the line up during the night, but I wasn't rested yet, and they called somebody else for it. I did catch yet another one later on in the afternoon. I went out to inspect that same power and sign the daily cards, and I could smell hot brakes as soon as I stepped out in the cold evening air, even though it had set there all afternoon, and nothing was hot. I looked at the brand new brake shoes and wheels on that lead unit, and they were worn down to the backing, and some beyond that, into the brand new brake heads. I looked at the 2nd units and it was the same way. I called the mechanical guy, he came out to see if he could just change the shoes, but decided they both had to go to back to the shop, nothing to key new shoes onto in several places. I called the DS and bad ordered the engines, and he had us grab a couple of MAC's off the Tecumseh coal train that were tied down north of 4th street, and use them. I never talked to the other engineer about what happened, but apparently he'd never released the independent all the was to Emporia, and maybe had them applied on the trip back too, who knows. He was operating from the GE, with his headlight on, facing the track behind the train, and somehow never noticed what must have been clouds of smoke in the headlight, and maybe sparks in his mirror off the 2nd unit much less the smell, and apparently the Conductor didnt either.

Posted from Android

Date: 03/15/20 14:11
Re: I hate to tell you this but....
Author: mundo

Thanks for the stories.   Ed

Date: 03/16/20 06:17
Re: I hate to tell you this but....
Author: atsfer

When I was still working as a switchman, one winter I was bleeding cars in the dark and came up to a hopper car and my glasses instantly fogged over from the hot brake shoes on a car that someone had failed to release the handbrake on.

Date: 04/10/20 13:33
Re: I hate to tell you this but....
Author: mleland

In 2003 or 2004 my parents and I took a road trip to Yellowstone and Glacier NPs. We also did a fair amount of railfanning along the way. We were driving west to Missoula MT and heard the ML report they were done with a pickup at Garrison and heading east for a meet with a passenger special. We had pulled to the side of US12 just west of Dave Gulch to setup for the EMD mostly SD-45 show with manned helpers on the rear. At about the mid point of the train we noticed large amounts of blue smoke coming from 3 or 4 box cars. We only had a short time to figure out how to get the attention of the helper crew. We were just above the train height and easily visible already. I held my nose and pointed at my shoes as the helpers got close. We were confusing enough to get the crew member on our side of the cab to open the cab window probably to yell something at us. When he opened the window, the smell of the brake shoes was still very obvious. He got the window open and almost immediately closed it while grabbing the radio to tell the head end to stop. The offending cars were stopped near the road so we drove back to them to see what was wrong. All cars had their handbrakes applied. The crew member who walked back to the cars, thanked us for getting their attention as the "big boss" was on the train that was meeting them at the next siding. 

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