Monday, January 16, 2006

"On down brakes"

... from the good old days ...

I might have told you when I hired out in May 1955, we still had some 1904 and 1905 men working. The oldest "brakies" on the "seni" lists said, necessarily, the cars with "the Westinghouse" were all on the head end of a freight train and those withou air brakes were on the rear end. Some freight trains were mostly without operable air brakes. Thus, the engineer would whistle "down brakes" (o o o o o o o o) when he wanted to stop, say, to head in to a siding for a meet at the end of track authority. The head, swing, and rear men would run along the car tops tightening the staff brakes with their "staffs of ignorance" (brake clubs). Too tight and the car wheels would pick up at low speed and slide flat and "walk" (ker plunk, ker plunk). Too loose and the point would run past the heading-in switch thereby violating track authority for a while, until brakes could be released and the train backed under flag protection, usually by the conductor. While "lapping authority," the head end had to be protected by the "tallow pot," who made a spot fire and, then, left the cab with a flagging kit, because the "brakies" were busy.


[from the R&LHS Newsgroup.]


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman"

Fred's "Down brakes" reminds me of my one experience as a brakie on a non-air brake equipped train. At the Nevada State RR Museum, when we run "Inyo" around the pike (generally on 4th of July weekend), we drag the old V&T box car behind it for what it can contribute in the braking department. Coupling up was my one opportunity to relive the days of coupling with link and pin – done very carefully for sure. You have to get clear out of that eyeball-to-eyeball connection with the engineer to get in between the box car and the tender, holding that link (with a brake club!) at just the right level while the engine moved back ever so gently. And then I rode the trip standing on top of the box car ready to wind up the brakes at the toot-toot-toot-toot, while the fireman tightened up on the tender brakes. There was only about a half hour of that, but it was enough to give me some connection with the boys who rode up there day and night, in all kinds of weather. It was not a particularly secure perch in which to contemplate the co-effecient of friction between rubber sole and painted wood running board.

Three cheers for the air brake!


[from the R&LHS Newsgroup.]

1/18/2006 5:25 PM  

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