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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Fred, Mary and Lucy--a tale of possible woe


Date: 03/24/20 14:03
Fred, Mary and Lucy--a tale of possible woe
Author: cewherry

American railroads first began using telemetry to monitor brake pipe continuity around, as I recall, the mid-1980's.
On the Bulington Northern the manufacturer of these devices placed on the rear and head end of trains was a 
company named Pulse and their "Trainlink" system consisted of two parts. On the head end was a device placed
atop the engineers control console that, among other things displayed the brake pipe pressure present on the rear
car. On the BN the original name of the device on the rear car was: "Pulse Rear of Train Marker/Transmitter (PRTMT). 
Now you just know railroaders are not going to embrace such a mouthful and soon substituted their own
name: "FRED" as an acronym for "Flashing Rear End Device". Others have substituted another word for Flashing and
I'll decline to comment on that. On the BN the original head-end device was called "MARY" and I have no idea why that is or if 
another acronym was was involved. Perhaps it had to do with FRED and MARY 'talking' to each other as in a marriage.


My understanding is Canadian railroads had already been using this technology for a few years before it came to America.
The Canadian experience, however, had one feature that was missing on the American model and that was the ability to
initiate a "Emergency" brake application on the train from the rear-end device, FRED. This was done by positioning an electrical
toggle switch built into the display on the head-end device. To my simple mind this ability seemed to be a 'no-brainer;
why wouldn't you want the ability to 'big-hole' your train, especially if the brake pipe had developed a blockage or partial
obstruction preventing it's normal functions. I'll leave it to others to fill in the gaps as to why the Americans did not have 
this capability.

A few years after the introduction of Fred and Mary, U.S. roads began using the Canadian style and, on the BN, "Mary" was
replaced by "Lucy", with the aforementioned toggle switch and FRED was replaced by the 'new and improved' model that 
would do as LUCY demanded.

One fine day I was aboard BN's hottest of the hot trains between Wenatchee and South Seattle. Our lead engine was equipped with
the 'new' LUCY/FRED equipment. It was not my first trip with this gear. In fact, I had had many trips with Fred and Lucy and had
observed the toggle switch beneath it's protective cover, had wondered how it would work but never had occasion to use it.
My curiosity got the better of me that day and after stopping the train on its receiving track, I asked the Utility person we were working with
to stand-by the rear car for a moment before removing Fred and departing the scene. After making my 20lb brake pipe reduction in preparation
to cutting off the power, I told the conductor to close the angle-cock on the power, I lifted the protective cover on LUCY's toggle and attempted
to move the switch only to find that the retaining nut that held the toggle in place was missing and the switch simply slid into LUCY!!.
The ability to place my train into emergency using the LUCY-FRED link was simply NOT available to me. 

Now, as some comedian once said, this was a fine kettle of fish! All this fancy safety gear and when you need it, you don't have it. As I was
taking my power back to Interbay the thought struck me that somebody needed to know about this. I walked into the Terminal Manager's office
and found a willing 'ear' in the person of Ron Hall, an engineer that had his seniority sold out from under him with the sale of the
Monett, Mo-Ft. Smith, Arkansas portion of the Frisco, and poured out my tale of woe to him. We both agreed there was no provision in place to test the
functionality of the FRED-LUCY ability to place a train in emergency in BN's rules. I told Ron that in the future I would ask the carman I was
working with on my air test, after linking LUCY and FRED and comparing brake pipe pressure readings to simply turn the angle cock where FRED
was and I would then 'trip' LUCY's toggle to see if the pressure went to zero. He agreed with that line of action and today this procedure is used,
somewhat modified to turning the angle cock ahead of the last car when using an air-turbine FRED.

I'm sure others probably had my questions or even experienced the 'disappearing toggle syndrome'. I'm just grateful that Ron was in the office
that day and took action to 'kick' the can up the chain; to a meaningful result.

Charlie
 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/24/20 14:54 by cewherry.



Date: 03/25/20 10:20
Re: Fred, Mary and Lucy--a tale of possible woe
Author: cctgm

Charlie and now its a required part of the air test to make a FRED test. After the air test is complete close the rear angle cock and then it the switch to place just FRED in emergency if it is ok you reset the FRED and then go down the road.

be safe



Date: 03/25/20 12:29
Re: Fred, Mary and Lucy--a tale of possible woe
Author: Chili169

I'm guessing that the original version that didn't have the brake set switch was transmit only from the FRED. The FRED could transmit and not receive and the front end box could receive and not transmit. The next version featured two way communications.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/25/20 12:47 by Chili169.



Date: 03/25/20 13:17
Re: Fred, Mary and Lucy--a tale of possible woe
Author: cewherry

Chili169 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I'm guessing that the original version that didn't
> have the brake set switch was transmit only from
> the FRED. The FRED could transmit and not receive
> and the front end box could receive and not
> transmit. The next version featured two way
> communications.

Correct on all 'guesses'.



Date: 03/26/20 09:24
Re: Fred, Mary and Lucy--a tale of possible woe
Author: LocoPilot750

I remember the very early use of the one-way rear end devices on the Santa Fe. We had one of the strap on devices on our radio, and had made a pickup at Emporia. Our train was quite a bit longer after we picked up, and I couldn't get a signal on the box, just "0". That meant a long walk for the brakeman or conductor who was really missing his caboose about now. Just then I had a real brainstorm, no doubt against the rules now, maybe even back then too. There was another train in the yard working too, so I called the engineer to see if he could help with our air test. I had him zero out his head end device and gave him the number of FRED to punch in. In a minute or two, he called me and said you're showing 80 pounds on the rear end, set 'em up". So I set the brakes, he saw the bp pressure drop on my rear car, told me to release them, watched bp pressure being restored, gave me a hiball, put his own number back in, and away we all went. No doubt against the rules now.

Posted from Android



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/26/20 16:54 by LocoPilot750.



Date: 03/27/20 18:06
Re: Fred, Mary and Lucy--a tale of possible woe
Author: 567Chant

My attitude about new technology -
Trust but verify.
Has saved my bacon a few times.
...Lorenzo



Date: 03/27/20 18:40
Re: Fred, Mary and Lucy--a tale of possible woe
Author: PHall

567Chant Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> My attitude about new technology -
> Trust but verify.
> Has saved my bacon a few times.
> ...Lorenzo

Works with old technology too.
Just because it's old doesn't mean it works any better then the new stuff.



Date: 03/30/20 12:01
Re: Fred, Mary and Lucy--a tale of possible woe
Author: engineerinvirginia

LocoPilot750 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I remember the very early use of the one-way rear
> end devices on the Santa Fe. We had one of the
> strap on devices on our radio, and had made a
> pickup at Emporia. Our train was quite a bit
> longer after we picked up, and I couldn't get a
> signal on the box, just "0". That meant a long
> walk for the brakeman or conductor who was really
> missing his caboose about now. Just then I had a
> real brainstorm, no doubt against the rules now,
> maybe even back then too. There was another train
> in the yard working too, so I called the engineer
> to see if he could help with our air test. I had
> him zero out his head end device and gave him the
> number of FRED to punch in. In a minute or two, he
> called me and said you're showing 80 pounds on the
> rear end, set 'em up". So I set the brakes, he saw
> the bp pressure drop on my rear car, told me to
> release them, watched bp pressure being restored,
> gave me a hiball, put his own number back in, and
> away we all went. No doubt against the rules now.
>
>
> Posted from Android

Actually you might could do something like that even today, IF it was a Class III test where you only need to see a reduction on the rear and see the air go back up signalling a release....of course if the head end still couldn't see it his box he has no communication so would be stuck running 30 mph....UNTIL he did get a reading. 



Date: 03/31/20 21:35
Re: Fred, Mary and Lucy--a tale of possible woe
Author: MP683

With today’s longer trains, we have had to put in EOT repeaters in areas with less than stellar radio reception. Same for DP trains - and now putting in EOT repeaters in DP capable engines.

For us the testing of the EOT is not part of the air test per se, but when linking the EOT to the head end you must be able to activate the emergency feature. You can do it with it on the knuckle for the engine and hooked up to the engine.

Granted, most of the time in a yard it may be done with the Carmen, but where I work the Carmen have already airtested the cars - we test the EOT while moving down a lead - hook up to the train, so our class 3 and off we go.



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