Re: Photos: Poling Action
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See "Poling Railroad cars" -- http://industrialscenery.blogspot.com/2015/07/poling-railroad-cars.html
More than a few steam locomotives carried a pole on one side of the tender, as did some diesels. From the photos that I have seen, the pole would rest inside two hangers or brackets that were hung on the outside edge of the tender or the frame of a diesel locomotive. A few railroads had a "poling" car with two poles on each side and mounted on a hinge in the middle of the car so that a pole could swing out to be inserted into the poling pocket of the car to be moved - probably in yard switching.
To work optimally, the car to be moved needed a poling pocket. Unless using a poling car, the locomotive that was doing the pushing also needed a poling pocket. There is a photo in the above link showing a poling operation and not using a poling pocket on the car being moved.
The danger of a wooden pole suddenly shattering has been discussed elsewhere. Also, a pole could slip out of a poling pocket and become a missile. I am unaware of anyone using a metal pole, especially a solid metal pole in a poling operation to reduce or avoid that problem. I don't know what type of pole was used on a poling car.