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Questions about using air brakes in the early days

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  • Questions about using air brakes in the early days

    So obviously at the very beginnings of air brake service, there was a period when not all cars were equipped with them. I have been wondering how they must have been handled operationally then. I have no rulebooks that old, so I haven't read too much on the subject. I can only assume the trains were built with all the air brake equipped cars placed at the front of the train, regardless of their load status or destination. I wonder, did the caboose go between the equipped and unequipped cars? Or did they just close the angle cock at the end of the string of air brake equipped cars and call it good, with the caboose at the end of the train and the brakemen just handled the airless cars? For that matter, I wonder if cabooses were among the first cars equipped with air brakes, or among the last to be equipped?

    What about the "tons per operative brakes" rules? Did they even exist back then? Did any railroads have any special rules regarding trains made of cars with and without air brakes?

    Any resources you might know of on the subject, I'd sure be interested to see.

  • #2
    Sorry, I don't remember your real name. The airbrake equipped cars would of course go directly after the engine and air compressor. Non airbrake equipped cars followed, and the Caboose was the 'EOT device'. We've had to run on a private track with ancient non-airbrake equipment basically being towed. The Caboose is still at the end, however we had Radio communications between the engine and the Caboose. I can't recall ever doing this on FRA sanctioned track.

    I'm 'old' but I can't comment on the tons per operative brakes rules in the distant past.

    Take the red pill


    • #3
      You asked "tons per operative brakes". TOB means Tons per Operative Brake, you get that when you divide the number of tons in your train by the number of brake cylinders on the cars, usually 1 per car. Therefore an 18,000 ton train of 120 cars would have 150 tons per operative brake, on some railroads like the BNSF if you have a train over 100 TOB you are restricted to 45 mph. Of course this is more modern, not sure if back in the day they even cared. There never was a thing called OSHA back then.

      Louis L&R Western Railroad
      Pacific Northwest Logging in the East Coast


      • #4
        Of course, on cars without airbrakes, the engineer would whistle for 'brakes' and the brakemen would leave the caboose and start tightening the brakes on the manual brake cars...

        Modeling 1890s (because the voices in my head told me to)


        • #5
          Cars with air brakes on the head end, hand brakes on the rear. The engineer would whistle the apply brakes and release brakes signals to the brakemen. I f you see a picture of a train on a grade in the pre-air brake days there will be brakemen scattered along the tops of the cars.

          Tons per operative brake is a post 1990's thing. It didn't exist in the 1980's let alone the 1880's.

          There were all sorts of rules on what to do when you found part of your train missing or when you found part of a train on the main track.
          Dave Husman
          Modeling the P&R and W&N in 1903
          Iron men and wooden cars.
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