Re: Caboose Signal Valves

Paul Hillman

Jim, Very beautiful stories and facts and history. Wish I could have been there too. Never got to work for a RR but applied to the SP twice. Always missed their hiring dates.
Thanks for all the details.
Paul Hillman

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, April 27, 2014 7:11 PM
Subject: Re: [STMFC] Caboose Signal Valves


To add to the answers about caboose whistle valves and as someone who rode cabooses for a living during the first 10 years of my career, it should be noted that use of the whistle, especially on long trains, was discouraged due to the fact that a small brake pipe reduction from the rear end could cause sticking brakes in the train.

Also, as noted by someone, many railroads had different components on their cabs in addition to the whistle and brake pipe valves.  For example, the B&O had a rod and lever attachment that allowed the conductor and/or flagman to close the angle cock from the rear platform of the cab as well as a chain that was connected to the operating lever and ended on the platform cross-rail.  These were used to cut helpers off on the fly, common on the B&O that used helpers extensively east or Pittsburgh (all the way to Philadelphia).  Other railroads required the rear-end train crews to get down on the steps to lift the cut lever, and lay down on the rear platform to close the angle cock. 

With regard to the brake pipe valves (both at the ends and inside near the cupola or bay window), these were used extensively in pre-radio days in order to stop a train if a defect was seen from the rear-end.  For example, sticking brakes, hot journal, shifted load, etc.  They were not used to put the air in the emergency position except when the reason for stopping the train dictated an emergency application.  Many crews liked to use the valve on the rear platform because it was not "stepped" like the ones inside the cab.  This was because the "stepped" valves were subjected to a greater effort in applying the brakes, and could result in an accidental emergency application.  Brake applications from the rear end were done for a number of additional reasons.  For example, when entering the receiving tracks at Potomac Yard, we would stop the train from the rear end as soon as we were in the clear because the RF&P wanted the trains as near the north end of the tracks as possible; also, our motel was right across a field from the north end of the receiving tracks, so the flagman had a short walk over to where we stayed.  Usually moves like this were known by the engine crew, so they would handle the train accordingly (i.e. slow down around the middle of the receiving track, refrain from using the automatic brake, etc.).

Jim Wolf
Belen, NM

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