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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Nineteen Below


Date: 01/07/22 06:07
Nineteen Below
Author: LarryDoyle

Woke up this morning and it's 19 below here in Minnesota. Makes me remember cold nights working the switching lead in the 1960's.

There were a lot of cars with roller bearings, but the majority had were officially called plain bearings, but nonofficially called friction bearings, and they earned the title in this weather. The oil would get so stiff the wheels wouldn't turn. A switch engine could only pull about 8 to 10 cars if they'd been sitting for awhile. Kicking cars, the cut would start down the lead, then quickly stop before the engine could, and the engine would run back into the cut!

-LD



Date: 01/07/22 08:09
Re: Nineteen Below
Author: Trainhand

I've never seen it that coldbefore,thank goodness! I do know in winter even with all roller bearing cars, you sit in a siding a couple of hoursand let the bearings cool ogg, the train will pull harder until they warm up. In south GA that would be 6-8 miles on most nights.
Sam



Date: 01/07/22 08:10
Re: Nineteen Below
Author: engineerinvirginia

LarryDoyle Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Woke up this morning and it's 19 below here in
> Minnesota. Makes me remember cold nights working
> the switching lead in the 1960's.
>
> There were a lot of cars with roller bearings, but
> the majority had were officially called plain
> bearings, but nonofficially called friction
> bearings, and they earned the title in this
> weather. The oil would get so stiff the wheels
> wouldn't turn. A switch engine could only pull
> about 8 to 10 cars if they'd been sitting for
> awhile. Kicking cars, the cut would start down
> the lead, then quickly stop before the engine
> could, and the engine would run back into the
> cut!
>
> -LD

Of course as the switchman we thought we'd freeze to death....whyizzit railyards are the windiest places on the planet!?



Date: 01/07/22 08:51
Re: Nineteen Below
Author: TAW

LarryDoyle Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Woke up this morning and it's 19 below here in
> Minnesota. Makes me remember cold nights working
> the switching lead in the 1960's.
>
> There were a lot of cars with roller bearings, but
> the majority had were officially called plain
> bearings, but nonofficially called friction
> bearings, and they earned the title in this
> weather. The oil would get so stiff the wheels
> wouldn't turn. A switch engine could only pull
> about 8 to 10 cars if they'd been sitting for
> awhile. Kicking cars, the cut would start down
> the lead, then quickly stop before the engine
> could, and the engine would run back into the
> cut!
>

In the B&OCT Chief's office, we had a table for rolling resistance tonnage equivalent to add to train tonnage, with a temperature adjustment for extreme cold.

TAW



Date: 01/07/22 08:56
Re: Nineteen Below
Author: TAW

engineerinvirginia Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

>
> Of course as the switchman we thought we'd freeze
> to death....whyizzit railyards are the windiest
> places on the planet!?

Towers with mechanical interlocking weren't all that great. A big coal stove could keep up, but when the towers were modernized with oil furnaces, the furnaces often couldn't keep up with the cold wind coming up through the machine. I worked B&OCT Harvey tower one night when the furnace was on rock & roll and the temperature was -12 in the tower. The only way to keep warm was to sit right on top of the register using my coat as kind of a tent to trap the heat. Not as bad as train or yard service, but certainly not a picnic.

TAW



Date: 01/07/22 09:47
Re: Nineteen Below
Author: LarryDoyle

We'd keep our pulls short, no more than 8 or 10 cars, and have the engineer run up the lead with 'em for quarter mile or so then shove back to the ladder, just to warm up the bearings a bit. Though frostbit was always a threat, the switchmen, clerks, and cartoads did have a coal powered shanty where we could take turns warming..  NW-2's, however were cold, and enginemen could rarely join us in our shelter.  They had a hot water heater on the engineers side . plumbed to the engine block and blocked the radiator shutters closed, but a 567 engine really runs cold, and the cab doesn't warm up much.  An ineffective electric heater had been added on the firemans side.  Many times I'd climbed into the cab only to find that it felt colder than outside.

-LD



Date: 01/07/22 12:05
Re: Nineteen Below
Author: tehachcond

   I've seen so many fantastic pictures taken at the west end of the Union Pacific Cheyenne yard of 4000 class "Big Boys" blasting out of town in the dead of winter.  I wonder how much their tonnage ratings on Sherman Hill were adjusted, if any, for the very cold weather.  No roller bearings back then on freight cars.

Brian Black
Castle Rock, CO



Date: 01/07/22 14:24
Re: Nineteen Below
Author: cewherry

In the summer of 1979 I had left the Southern Pacific and the warm climes of sunny
southern California, where I had been born and raised, for the great Pacific Northwest
and employment with Burlington Northern. I had made that fateful decision while on 
vacation in Seattle during the first week of that August which, as I was soon to learn, is 
absolutely the worst time of the year to make a life changing decision of such magnitude.

Ever since that move, I've referred to those precious few weeks of mid-summer in Seattle
as "a realtors dream time"; who wouldn't want to move there? The weather is at its best with 
blue skies, warm days rarely above 90, not a cloud around to spoil the mood. But I digress.

By early December I was well along in my engineer training and making my first student trip
over Stampede Pass between Auburn and Yakima. While pumping air in the yard at Auburn,
our conductor came into the cab and announced that today's trip would be shortened somewhat since
there had been a derailment a few miles west of Yakima and when we arrived at Ellensburg we were
going to leave our train and deliver the first three cars of our train, loads of ballast, to the
derailment site. As we departed Auburn I asked my engineer about the conductors remarks regarding
the work to be done with the ballast. He didn't seem to be concerned so I dropped the subject and devoted
my concerns to learning this piece of new railroad. It was now dark out and snow began to fall as we moved
eastward. I was glad to be wearing my down-filled coat.

Over the top we went and arrived at Ellensburg where about 6 inches of new snow was on the depot platform and
the temperature had dropped---greatly since leaving Auburn. The engineer and brakeman climbed off the power
and entered to station to await the conductor....who trudged the entire length of the train to join us.
I thought, to myself, wow; this guy is tough, he just walked a train length in freezing weather, and didn't even bat an eye!.
I stepped back outside and looked at the depot thermometer through the operators window....it read 5 below zero!
But wait...the best is yet to come.

We soon discovered that in order to deliver these three cars of ballast to the derailment site, we would have to 
run around them and, get this----shove them; some 22 miles to where the roadmaster would be waiting.
And that's exactly what both the brakeman and conductor did; they 'bald faced' those three open topped
frozen ballast cars the 22 miles, atop the load, with two only two lit fusees, in 5 degree below zero weather!! 
And to to top it off, in a blanket of fog which had now enveloped us. I know, I couldn't see either of their
lanterns--all I could see was a pink glow out there in the murky, frozen night.

Needless to say, I soon developed a new respect for these two trainmen. As we made that shove the only thought
that kept running through my brain was---these two guys must be crazy---we're all crazy to be doing this.
Turns out they actually were a few quarts shy of a full load---as later first hand experience bore out. 

Welcome to railroading in not the best of conditions.

Charlie





 



Date: 01/07/22 17:01
Re: Nineteen Below
Author: NSDTK

Ive noticed that even here in GA on  a 20 deg night, Cars that have been sitting long enough for the bearings to cold soak, Are hard to move till they warm up even wtih rollar bearings



Date: 01/08/22 01:20
Re: Nineteen Below
Author: aronco

My private car "TIOGA PASS" has made 17 trips across Canada since 2009 carrying the guards and security people for trainloads of military equipment moving between Medicine Hat, Alberta and Becancour, Quebec.  Until the last few trips, the shipments always occurred in November and February.  On one particular trip, the weather  was simply unbelievable for a California boy like me.  As we approached White River, Ontario, 300 miles North of Toronto on an Eastward move, the CP operations center called me and said they were going to yard our train at White River until the storm we were traveling in broke.  It was so cold the CP couldn't keep the trains moving and the air brakes would freeze up.  The temperature difference, inside to outside, was exactly 100 degrees!  Inside the car, with generator and heater working hard, it was 70 degrees.  Outside, it was 31 below zero F.  I told the CP folks we would be fine but that we would need fuel for the generator if we were to be there over 24 hours.  
About an hour later, a CP pickup truck with a "pony" tank in the bed drove up.  I assisted the fellow in fueling the generator, and once the pump started, we went inside of course, to wait.  About an hour later, the pony tank was empty, it's 80 gallons were in my tank under the railcar.  "Do you need more" he asked.  Yes, I think we should have another 100 gallons of diesel fuel.  By this time, it is about 10pm.  My God! it's cold outside.  "Well, I'll have to go get more fuel for you.  I'll be back in about three hours".
"Where do you have to go to get fuel"?
"I'll drive up to Timmons - about 70 miles.  Want to ride along?"
"No, thanks, I'll stay here"  My head was full of visions of icy roads, a blinding snowstorm or a blizzard or worse.
He was back just after midnite, and filled my car with another 100 gallons.  I sure respected that guy for driving that far in terrible weather.
One more tale of the weather - - On a Westbound trip in early March, we stopped at Chapleau, Ontario, in Northern Ontario, to fuel our engines.  Then, the train pulled up and stopped my car on the fuel facility, for fuel and water.  It was just after dawn on a bright, sunny morning, with the temperature hovering at -19F.  We had some trouble getting the water to flow thru the hose, but once we got it going, we stood alongside the car waiting for the tank to fill.  The fuel foreman was a very large, rotund fellow
with a round, pleasant face and round glasses.  He looked toward the sun in the early morning mist and remarked "Aye, tis a fine day indeed!  Why, it could warm up to zero today!
Those Canadians know cold!

Norm














 

Norman Orfall
Helendale, CA
TIOGA PASS, a private railcar



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/08/22 01:25 by aronco.




Date: 01/08/22 11:42
Re: Nineteen Below
Author: TAW

tehachcond Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>    I've seen so many fantastic pictures taken at
> the west end of the Union Pacific Cheyenne yard of
> 4000 class "Big Boys" blasting out of town in the
> dead of winter.  I wonder how much their tonnage
> ratings on Sherman Hill were adjusted, if any, for
> the very cold weather.  No roller bearings back
> then on freight cars.
>

Dim memory, I think we adjusted 15 tons per car on B&O when it was below zero.

TAW



Date: 01/09/22 15:11
Re: Nineteen Below
Author: trainjunkie

I worked a couple winters in Alaska on the ground. While it can get to 50 below, I never worked in anything less than -30°F. Even then, they didn't expect much of us. Run outside, clear a switch, make one move, run inside to warm up. Wash, rince, repeat. Lot's of brake warming, switch clearling, and cleaning out flangeways with locomotives and air wands. On the plus side, our yard jobs all had a helper when in the summer it was a 1-on-1 crew with a single ground guy which was exhausting even in nice weather.



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