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Railroaders' Nostalgia > The Railroading "Senses"

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Date: 09/02/23 06:41
The Railroading "Senses"
Author: RetiredHogger

The uninitiated would be surprised by what you can see and hear out there.

The sound of a coupler pin dropping.

The smell of a hot brake shoe.....or a sliding wheel. The SOUND of a sliding wheel.

The wheels on a locomotive "singing" when they are thinking about slipping.

You see things, without really looking for them, that are out of place. The examples are too numerous to mention.

My favorite memory is probably the sound the wheels on a six axle locomotive make when they are slapping jointed rail at 60 MPH. On a nice night, sailing along with the cab windows open. Good memory.

Anyone else?


Date: 09/02/23 06:51
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: gandydancer4

There's nothing like an EMD 645 in run 8 AND the smell of creosote ties. I'll probably die from lung cancer.

Date: 09/02/23 06:58
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: jdw3460

When I was a kid in about 1953, I smelled my last hot steam engine on the Santa Fe.  Then, in about 1986 I was in Alexandria, VA when N&W 611 rolled in with an excursion train.  The coal smoke was new to me, but that smell of the hot steamy locomotive awoke a sensory memory in me.  Then I caught it again on the C&T in NM in 2021.  It's funny how smells can be remembered.  Like skunk smell...........you never forget it.

Date: 09/02/23 07:09
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: AmHog

I could sit on my porch and listen to the clack-clack as cars went over the diamond nearby.

Date: 09/02/23 07:38
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: 3rdswitch

An awesome memory from Cajon Pass descending the original three percent grade between Summit and Cajon station in the cuts on a heavy train with full dynamics singing on a solid set of EMDs in the middle of the night.

Date: 09/02/23 10:37
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: x6924w

Somewhere along the line between being a fireman and working on the RR I lost my sense of smell. I miss the smell of diesel smoke, seems like it was always there. Creosote is another. The feel of a consist as units made transition when you could feel it comes to mind. Pulling out slack in a train. I worked around a hump yard and the sound of retarders and cars as they hit down in the bowl. Yelling terminal trainmasters, etc. 

Date: 09/02/23 10:55
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: Westbound

When I was a boy, traveling with my parents on the old 99 Highway in California with the single tracked SP mainline parallel and less than 100 feet away... Seeing that distant dark spot on the low horizon with a glowing light at its base. Not long after, there it was - a steam powered train passing by in all its power and sound!

Date: 09/02/23 11:09
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: hoggerdoug

Nothing better sound than an alarm bell on the lead loco, and then the silence as the unit shut down.  Or that odd surge or floating just before the train goes into emergency. The best smell was frying bacon on the caboose stove.

Date: 09/02/23 11:15
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: ln844south

Old wooden Depots on the L&N had a certain smell. Especially in the freight house.
The drawbridge tenders house on Blackwater draw in Milton, Fl. Had no electricty lighting. The smell on kerosine.
Smell of spinning drivers.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/02/23 11:25 by ln844south.

Date: 09/02/23 14:13
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: WM1977

In run 8 at 50 MPH and then the boom of a cylinder trying to go through the engine block, the alarm bell and then the silence.

Switching at the yard outside the terminal at 3 in the morning then listening to the coal train being pulled by 4 GP9s in run 8 as it works it's way through the curves approaching your yard.

Date: 09/02/23 14:45
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: train1275

I always sensed more by hearing and smell than by seeing.

Date: 09/02/23 16:22
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: wp1801

My Dad a fireman/engineer on the SP Portland division remembered the smell of the Port Orford cedar lining the tunnels on the coos Bay branch.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/02/23 16:22 by wp1801.

Date: 09/02/23 17:36
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: acl67-2

Screaming sound of a single SD45 bringing 64 loaded phosphate covered hoppers from Piney Point 
off the Tampa Southern around a 90 degree curve into Yeoman yard (Tampa) at 2:00 am.


Date: 09/02/23 20:18
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: JasonCNW

As a kid growing up next to the C&NW in Iowa I remember quite a few old smells and sounds too. Creosote and the smell of the old concrete block yard office at Boone. The sound of GP-7's as they throttle up kicking cars in the yard. Good times!

Posted from Android

Date: 09/02/23 20:53
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: goneon66

the smells of riding the hog cars into farmer john's on the midnight job................


Date: 09/02/23 22:10
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: roustabout

Living in a dorm at Oregon State U in Corvallis, watching SP train 706 to Toledo go by on a rainy night, smelling the diesel smoke and the odor of wet wood chips.

Many years later, I had gone to work for Willamette & Pacific and lived in north Corvallis.  On a good night, I could hear their Toledo Hauler whistling and acclelerating out of town, headed to Toledo.  Then, late in the night the Westsider could be heard, particularly when this one old-head SP engineer ran it.  He'd have it in run 8 all the way into town, up hill and down, pushing (really trashing) the speed limit (as he said more than once, 'It was good for 40').  I swear I could hear him coming through Adair Village all the way into town.

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 09/02/23 22:16 by roustabout.

Date: 09/03/23 08:35
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: alco244

i have a few, 1st, 4 unit set of SD40's pulling uphill into a 10 mph siding at -15F at sunrise in the 5th or 6th notch, perfect EMD chant, not the scream of the 8th notch, 2nd memory was visual, around midnight running a mty coal train with 4 ex-BN C30-7's, 2 cabs, 2 cabless, coming down a 12 mile grade, power braking in the 8th notch, with 20 ft flames coming out of the stacks, what a show.

Date: 09/03/23 08:47
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: goneon66

for a visual, w/b on coal lds in an sd70 mac at dawn looking at the rising sun's rays bouncing off off the rockies while enjoying a cup of coffee.  the sd70 macs running continuously in run 8 up towards the rockies sounded good too........


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/03/23 12:21 by goneon66.

Date: 09/03/23 09:26
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: acl67-2

An air start Alco cranking up inside Uceta engine house (Tampa), 1975 or so.
Several guys standing around jumped.  I think the hostlers would do that just 
to see the reaction. 

Riding Auto Train again in 1975 or so.  Waking about 02:00 to loud noise. 
Somewhere northbound in North Carolina on the left track.
Speedometer on bulkhead bouncing on 90mph, looked out the window. We were 
slowlty passing a pig train, trailers were swaying.  Gradually got up to the engines, 
3 EMD's belching fire out the stacks.  Same race probably happened every night, 
Auto Train and #176, a hot pig train.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/03/23 09:35 by acl67-2.

Date: 09/03/23 14:23
Re: The Railroading "Senses"
Author: Englewood

Every interlocking tower seemed to have its own smell.
They also each had a hum from the speaker or DS lines.
Different bells or buzzers that sounded when a train hit the approach circuit.

Nothing seemed quieter than a train that stopped in the plant after going
into emergency. It seemed like the whole world just got quiet.

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