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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Plugging the Brake


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Date: 04/27/20 21:43
Plugging the Brake
Author: railroadbill

In his 1994 book "Zephyr" Henry Kisor says:

-- "Some engineers, I learned later from one of their colleagues, "have a nasty habit of 'plugging' the ermgine brake." Pressing down the locomotive brake handle prevents the locomotive brakes from applying. Normally, in braking for a stop, the engineers allow the train brakes to apply, but press down the engine brake so that the locomotives will pull slightly against the load behind, keeping the slack between cars stretched out.
-- When the engine brake is then released, a loud blast of air follows. On runs requiring frequent use of the engine brake, the blasts become annoying. Hence "some engineers will press down the handle and put a plug of wood or a coin in the brake linkage io it stays down...
-- "Plugging the brake" nullifies a safety device, and that's a serious no-no for both Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Admistration. But it's apparently done all too frequently. Still another Amtrak operating crewman said he once described the practice to a friend who rebuilds engine brake assemblies in the railroad's brake shop at Beech Grove, Indiana. "He said, 'Is that why I find all the loos change in the brake assembly when it comes to the shop?' "

I haven't been able to find out any information about this by searching on the Internet.  Does anybody know if it's true or not ??



Date: 04/27/20 22:42
Re: Plugging the Brake
Author: cewherry

Short answer: True.

Your narrative includes some technical errors and I would be happy to go into the details in a PM that explain what
goes on during independent and automatic application of the locomotive brakes. But, as I say this 'plugging' does happen.
You could be bored to sleep or informed, I don't know your level of interest.

Charlie



Date: 04/28/20 05:33
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: eljay

Post your explanation to this thread, Charlie! Thank you.



Date: 04/28/20 06:27
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: Englewood

A story from an old Rock Island engineer who learned the hazard of
that early in his career.

He was working as a fireman in the days of F units on freights in the 1950's.
His engineer was the proud owner of a new thermos bottle which had been
shown off to the head end crew.  The hogger was quite delighted that he
could enjoy hot coffee all the way to Silvis.

Everything was fine until the train went into emergency.
The engineer had put a wedge in the independent at the beginning of the 
trip but unbeknownst to him it had recently fallen out.
The sudden run in of slack sent the thermos bottle off its perch on top
of the throttle stand.  That was the end of the bottle and hot coffee and
the beginning of a lot of ribbing from the head end crew

Get on the engine, put a brake shoe on the deadman's pedal, a custom made
wedge in the independent and a rag in the warning bell.  How could anything 
go wrong?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/28/20 06:34 by Englewood.



Date: 04/28/20 07:22
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: 3rdswitch

A track tie spike hole plug was perfect for keeping the independent brake bailed. Used almost exclusively while switching.
JB



Date: 04/28/20 09:15
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: Chico43

On the S-40-F Independent Brake Valve (24RL schedule), a dime or the wooden end out of a fusee placed between the bail hoop and the stop worked well and on the SA-26 (26-C schedule) it was a golf tee.



Date: 04/28/20 09:44
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: wcamp1472

Continuously pressurizes the ‘Actuating’ pipe on the MU’d
air brake connections, right?
With MR air, right?

I’ve never understood the reason for justifying that action... continuously jamming the independent... in ‘bail-off’ position.

W.

Posted from iPhone



Date: 04/28/20 11:18
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: cewherry

wcamp1472 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Continuously pressurizes the ‘Actuating’ pipe
> on the MU’d
> air brake connections, right?

The 'Actuating' pipe is not charged until the independent brake valve is depressed in the 'release',
through the 'application zone' or into the 'full application' positions of the SA-26 or S-40-F valves. 


> With MR air, right?

Right.
>
> I’ve never understood the reason for justifying
> that action... continuously jamming the
> independent... in ‘bail-off’ position.

Hows this; on longer consists, say 4 or more units, since the the actuating line is normally not pressurized, when a brake pipe
reduction is made, that reduction is 'felt' on those distant units at the rear immediately or nearly immediately resulting in a very
quick build up of brake cylinder pressure. If it is the desire of the engineer to not have any build up in B.C. pressure, when he 
depresses the independent brake valve handle in the 'Release' position all pressure entering the actuating line comes from
the lead unit and since that rise has to build in each unit, serially, the time lag before that rise is felt in the last unit's control
valve enough to 'actuate' those brakes off can be considerable and slack action may occur. 

To avoid this possibility some engineers choose to 'plug' the independent thereby keeping the actuating line fully charged at all
times, now there's one less thing to worry about, and you don't get your ears assaulted every time you release the downward
pressure on the independent brake valve handle; remember every pound of main reservoir air you sent back to give the pneumatic
signal to 'release' now has to come back through that same brake valve into your cab.  Thankfully modern locomotives have mostly
been modified to exhaust this actuating air downward below cab level. Is it any wonder engineers lined up to file hearing loss claims?

Another choice is to depress the independent handle sufficiently in advance of making a brake pipe reduction thereby having
the actuating line, as it were, 'pre-charged' when the 'pneumatic' signal to apply the brakes is received at the control valve.
But of course, this requires forethought on the part of the engineer and to this I will say no more.

Bottom line, it's a pneumatic 'signal' to actuate and we're dealing with volume and friction issues. 

Charlie



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/28/20 12:54 by cewherry.



Date: 04/28/20 11:54
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: Chico43

What Charlie said and:

One way that I know of to appreciate the "plug" is to go back to the days before they started piping the brake valve exhaust down thru the floorboards was to spend an entire trip listening to the big blast of MR air every time you had to bail off. Each unit in the consist requires 3 seconds of acutation to effectively bail it off. On a 4 unit consist that equals 12 seconds of actuation and the longer you held that handle down the louder the exhaust was when you let off of it. If you look back and see a little whisp of brake shoe smoke from around the trailing unit, you didn't do it right.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/28/20 11:58 by Chico43.



Date: 04/28/20 14:34
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: WM1977

Plugging the brake; brake shoes, air hoses and flagsticks on deadman pedals; tape covering alerter lights, plugging up speaker holes, I've seen just about all of it, none of it good. But one time I saw something that made me speechless. A locomotive was written up for a light out in the Alerter box mounted above the front window. Now what makes this really interesting is that the hole in the back of the alerter box where the speaker is was plugged up with paper deadening the sound. Huh? The light doesn't work and you can't hear the alerter when it sounds off. How does that work? I guess the engineer used his "automatic alerter reset function" while running. Really, I have no idea how the engineer worked this.



Date: 04/28/20 16:22
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: railroadbill

Great!  Thanks!



Date: 04/28/20 16:23
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: railroadbill

Perfect!  Thanks!



Date: 04/28/20 17:58
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: NSDTK

Newer GE motors will alarm and disregard the command to bail the brakes if you hold the independent down too long.



Date: 04/28/20 19:07
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: cewherry

NSDTK Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Newer GE motors will alarm and disregard the
> command to bail the brakes if you hold the
> independent down too long.

That's right! I had forgotten about that feature of the newer electronic air brake systems, 'Knorr' and who else?
And they are found not only on GE's but EMD's as well. And you actually pull-up on the lightly sprung collar built
into the independent handle. Thanks!

Charlie



Date: 04/28/20 22:01
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: MP683

I was going to post above - but yes the electronic brakes will complain doing this. I found this out one day when i was contemplating setting air for awhile following another train before ascending a hill (timing lights and listening to them).

I kept my hand on the independents in the Bail position. I guess after 30-60 secs, it hated me.

Alarm bells, unit alarm and AB info all
Came up and I thought I had an air brake computer fault. In forget the exact message, but it was to the jist or independents may be malfunctioning or unavailable yada yada. After I released it went away pretty quick.



Date: 04/29/20 06:31
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: LocoPilot750

I havent run a modern locomotive since I retired almost ten years ago. With solid consists of electronic air brake equipped engines, why is the activating feature still operated with air anyway ? Why isn't it handled electronically through the MU cable, as well through the air line if there happens to be an older unit in the consist ?

Posted from Android



Date: 04/29/20 07:48
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: engineerinvirginia

LocoPilot750 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I havent run a modern locomotive since I retired
> almost ten years ago. With solid consists of
> electronic air brake equipped engines, why is the
> activating feature still operated with air anyway
> ? Why isn't it handled electronically through the
> MU cable, as well through the air line if there
> happens to be an older unit in the consist ?
>
> Posted from Android

We there is still a J relay valve but a  magnet valve activates the bail off feature, graduated application is done with a rheostat that reads the handle movements...so it is electronic....and compatible through the MU cable with other units which may or may not be electronic. If you plug regular or electronic independents these days it will show up on the download but now also the have an electronic nanny.....and you may get a call on the radio from the mechanical desk..."your independent brake seems to be stuck in actuating mode....you wanna stop and check that out for me?"



Date: 04/29/20 11:45
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: LocoPilot750

When I'd get cut back firing, I'd work with the older heads, a different one each round trip. Two things many of them did really agriivated me. Many of those guys would set the automatic, then only bail off enough for the lead unit, and then wonder why the slack was running in, or why the brakes on a big consist were starting to smoke. Some insisted on pumping the independent down and release over and over, never holding it down long enough for pressure to build up on the rear unit, same results. The other thing was pumping air for no reason. Ignoring the MR gauge completely, some would automatically go to R4 to rev the engine, even though the train was already charged, the compressor was unloaded, and the MR gauge was reading 130 psi+. And, would just leave it like that until the Carman called and asked for a set. I've even seen it done with electric compressors.

Posted from Android



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/29/20 15:10 by LocoPilot750.



Date: 04/29/20 13:37
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: cewherry

I know exactly what you mean, Dennis. Saw the same behavior my entire career. Old habits die hard.
Or put another way, bad habits once learned are sure had to break.

Charlie



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/29/20 13:39 by cewherry.



Date: 04/29/20 19:51
Re: Plugging the Brake--request
Author: KskidinTx

I was visiting with a woman once whose ex-husband had worked at the roundhouse.  She told me that he came home one evening and said they had found something not correct on an engine.  They were going to report it until they found out I had brought in the power.  They thought I was a pretty good guy so they didn't say anything.  All I could think of what it could have been was the independent  blocked down with a dime.  In retrospect I don't think I was even promoted at that time.  I was probably the fireman but may have been operating the power into the roundhouse.  Anyway, my point is that getting along with other people, especially fellow employes, can have great rewards.

I never did block down the 26 independent as it was so easy to depress and was located right by your left hand.  Now the old 24 RL "may" have been a different story.  They were much harder to depress and many of them were not located in a location that made them easy to bail off.  Dennis, in reading your post about what some of the engineers you worked with did got me to thinking I must have worked with some of the same engineers. Sure glad you didn't pick up any of their bad habits.  Ha.

One of the good engineers we both worked with shared that he had been faulted for flat spots once on power that he brought in from Abilene.  They accused him of not bailing off the independent when applying the train brakes.  He was sure upset over it as he "always" kept the bail blocked down.  But he couldn't use that for his defense.

Mark 

 



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