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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Pre-radio mountain comm. between steam engines and helpers


Date: 01/18/21 19:12
Pre-radio mountain comm. between steam engines and helpers
Author: jdw3460

I am familiar with Tehachapi Pass when it was SP/ATSF and Cajon Pass with ATSF/UP.  I have always wondered how steam engines and steam helpers communicated in the mountains in pre-radio days.  Of course, everyone says by whistle or lantern signals.  But, in the mountains, the lead engine could be on the opposite side of a mountain (perhaps through a tunnel) and, with the noisy operation of a steam engine anyway, I can't believe that whistle signals were much help, if any.  The big question is, after the lead engine takes water and the train moves forward, does the mid-train or rear helper take control of the air brakes so the helper can stop at the water crane?   I knew a hogger or two who had trouble spotting the tender at a water crane, with or without a train.  Or, maybe I'm underestimating the distance a train working up Tehachapi Pass could go before needing water.  Those were the days when the Santa Fe (and I don't think the SP) had such a thing as an auxiliary tender.  I would think the same problem occurred when one train went in the hole to meet another train.  The lead engine sees the signals, but isn't it kosher for the helpers to start shoving before the lead engine starts pulling when the train departs?  I suppose most of the time the helper was added on the point in steam days but I have seen pictures of heavyweight passenger trains on Raton Pass in New Mexico/Colorado with helpers mid-train and rear.  But there were fewer tunnels and a shorter train than freights.  If there is an old hand around that can describe the routine, thanks in advance.
Joe Watts
Blissfield, MI



Date: 01/18/21 19:58
Re: Pre-radio mountain comm. between steam engines and helpers
Author: ATSFSuperChief

Rear end and mid train steam helpers watched the brake line pressure. When it was high, meaning brakes totally released would shove at full throttle using Johnson bar to regulate valves. When brake pressure started to drop, meaning brakes coming on, would reduce throttle. Certainly the crews had their procedures totally discussed before departing. For water stops possible whistle signals would also be involved. For starting up on grades sure the helpers would be pushing harder first, then head end would bring power up. Corrections are very welcome and appreciated. I am modeling Raton Pass during steam and diesel era and will be doing a lot of steam helpers with sound so have done some research.

Don Allender



Date: 01/19/21 09:13
Re: Pre-radio mountain comm. between steam engines and helpers
Author: cewherry

A couple of sources come to mind. Go to Ed Gibson's website: Wx4.org, and find the Sheldon Perry collection of employee timetables. Tim Zukas also 
has many employee timetables viewable there.

Find this 1941 San Joaquin Div. timetable; http://wx4.org/to/foam/sp/maps/perryETT/1941-06-29SP_SanJoaquin162-SheldonPerry.pdf

Go to page 12, "Miscellaneous", Item 1.; here you will find the answer to many of the questions you pose.

Any of the steam-era timetables of SP's San Joaquin Div. (prior to about 1955) will give details you're seeking.

If you haven't done so already, find a copy of John Signor's "Tehachapi". In it he describes operations over the 'hill'.

Happy reading,

Charlie


 



Date: 01/20/21 15:58
Re: Pre-radio mountain comm. between steam engines and helpers
Author: mapboy

Here's a thread about the subject-  https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?10,3875138,3875154#msg-3875154%3E
It was annoying to SP crews that stopped for water at Woodford, only to have an ATSF freight with FT diesels pass them up.

mapboy



Date: 01/21/21 07:08
Re: Pre-radio mountain comm. between steam engines and helpers
Author: engineerinvirginia

Here's a devilish way to get a mid train or end of train locomotive spotted for water.....when the crew operating said locomotive eases under the standpipe....dump the train.....it will stop....



Date: 01/25/21 12:24
Re: Pre-radio mountain comm. between steam engines and helpers
Author: johnsweetser

jdw3460 Wrote:

> I am familiar with Tehachapi Pass ...

> The big question is, after the lead engine takes water and the train moves forward, does the mid-train or rear helper take control of the air brakes so the helper can stop at the water crane?

That's not how it worked taking water at Woodford on Tehachapi Pass. The first helper spotted next to a water column, then the lead engine was cut off and went forward to the easternmost water column at Woodford while the rear helper or helpers cut off and backed with their portions of the train to the lower water columns.

Cewherry wrote:

> ... find a copy of John Signor's "Tehachapi." In it he describes operations over the "hill."

Unfortunately, Signor's description in the book of the watering procedure at Woodford in steam days was incorrect.

Posted from iPhone



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 01/25/21 13:21 by johnsweetser.



Date: 01/25/21 12:27
Re: Pre-radio mountain comm. between steam engines and helpers
Author: PHall

johnsweetser Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> jdw3460 Wrote:
>
> > I am familiar with Tehachapi Pass ...
>
> > The big question is, after the lead engine takes
> water and the train moves forward, does the
> mid-train or rear helper take control of the air
> brakes so the helper can stop at the water crane?
>
> That's not how it worked taking water at Woodford
> on Tehachapi Pass. The first helper spotted next
> to a water column, then the road engine cut off
> and went forward to the first water column, then
> the rear helper or helpers cut off and backed with
> their portions of the train to the lower water
> columns.
>
> Cewherry wrote:
>
> > ... find a copy of John Signor's "Tehachapi." In
> it, he describes operations over the "hill."
>
> Unfortunately, Signor's description in the book of
> the watering procedure at Woodford in steam days
> was incorrect.
>
> Posted from iPhone

So was there a difference in how the SP did it and how the Santa Fe did it?



Date: 01/25/21 13:09
Re: Pre-radio mountain comm. between steam engines and helpers
Author: johnsweetser

No. Same procedure for both roads.

A 1942 SP San Joaquin Division timetable stated that the first helper on a train spots for water at Woodford. In the Steinheimer article about Tehachapi in the Jan. 1977 Trains, a retired Santa Fe engineer explained how the Santa Fe did the same thing in steam days.

This all was described in greater detail in a thread from five years ago, "Watering at Woodford, CA" (the link provided here by "mapboy" has a second link that may go to this thread but my dumb iPhone won't go to the second link).

Posted from iPhone



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 01/26/21 09:24 by johnsweetser.



Date: 02/09/21 22:12
Re: Pre-radio mountain comm. between steam engines and helpers
Author: johnsweetser

The link for the Watering at Woodford, CA thread is at https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?10,3876781,3880242



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