Re: What was a wheel stick used for?


I've collected a couple of steam-era brake clubs. Yes, brakemen could have used the busted handles from spike mauls and sledge hammers, but with a broken end I doubt a trainman would trust it. Broken handles were most often used as chocks to hold bled-off cars in yards or on sidings until a handbrake could be applied.

These brake clubs are made of hickory, and they look and feel very much like a baseball bat. They are about that size (36 inches or so) with one flatted edge on the portion away from the handle to keep it from sliding off of the brake stem. I've tried one of them on a stem winder brake, and they are quite effective and the right tool for the job.

Related story: In the 1980s I interviewed a 90-something who hired out as a trainman with the Lackawanna in 1908. Upon asking if he ever got hurt in train service, he recalled only once, riding the roof of a reefer having been kicked into a siding in Hoboken that was slightly downgrade. As he was pulling on his brake club to spot the car the chain broke and he fell off. Luckily, the brake wheel was on the trailing end.

....Mike Del Vecchio

-----Original Message-----
From: soolinehistory <destorzek@...>
Sent: Thu, Dec 15, 2011 11:15 am
Subject: [STMFC] Re: What was a wheel stick used for?

--- In STMFC@..., <tmolsen@...> wrote:


The stick you mentioned used by brakemen to tighten brake wheels were known as "brake clubs". Brakemen used them for leverage to turn the brake wheels when manually applying the brakes to control the speed of a car when cars were being flat switched or coming off the hump. These clubs were made of oak, approximately 24 inches in length and 4-5 inches in diameter.

Tom Olsen
Newark, Delaware
"4-5 inches in diameter"? That's kinda big to get one's hands around. I always figured that brake clubs looked like cut off sledge handles... in fact broken spike maul handles likely were a prime source of material.


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