Author Topic: Gravity Switching - A Grave Mistake  (Read 14330 times)

Ed Lecuyer

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Re: Gravity Switching - A Grave Mistake
« Reply #15 on: May 14, 2014, 09:56:40 AM »
Hi John,

Apology accepted. No harm done. We all learn from each others questions.

That said, the topic of using gravity switching at the WW&F Museum (now or in the future) is closed. Discussion may continue about historic use of gravity switching on the original railway, or at other operations.

-Ed
Ed Lecuyer
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john d Stone

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Re: Gravity Switching - A Grave Mistake
« Reply #16 on: May 15, 2014, 09:06:25 AM »
Now that we have smoothed our ruffled feathers, Ed suggested a further discussion on gravity switching. There is a big difference between a "static drop" and a "flying switch".
A "static drop" is a rather bland move in which the grade is utilized to get cars in or out of a siding at a facing point switch. One location I used to do this was at Butler Lumber Company, a pallet manufacturer in Chase City, Va, on the Southern Railway's R&M branch. The cars were ancient bulkhead flats, with high brakes and friction journals, 50 feet long. The siding was trailing point south on a southbound descending grade. The loads were to be routed north through Keysville, Va, where they would be picked up by train #145, the nightly "thru freight" from Richmond to Danville, ultimately destined for Chrysler Corp. somewhere. The R&M local, 21-22 ran south to Durham, NC M-W-F, returning north Tu-Th-Sa. We would switch this customer both directions, leaving the loads on the lead on the southbound leg. Northbound, we would set the loads north of the switch on the main. The engine and the brakeman and conductor would go back down in the plant to spot the empties, while the flagman would reline the switch for the main, climb up on the car(s) and release the brake, riding down to the joint with the rest of the train whilst controlling the speed with the hand brake. Don't forget to line it back for the siding for the engine!
A "flying switch" is a rather exciting maneuver, occasionally too exciting, which I've been party to many times in the past. We never referred to it as a flying switch. In the dirty south we called it "jerking it by". It requires precise timing and a competent crew. If done on an ascending grade, it gets real dicey. My least favorite place to perform  this move was at the Bear Island paper mill in Doswell, Va. At this time, I was working as an engineer for the RF&P. Bear Island was always jammed with cars, no convenient place to run around them. We would shove the loads of paper to the far south end of the plant wind em' up just as fast as I could get out of a slippery GP-35, give the brakey slack for the pin and race ahead into the mill track. If everything went as planned, the conductor had just enough time to flip the switch, letting the cars down the lead. The track was fairly flat, the problem was the weight of those 60 foot cars, sometimes up to ten of them. Getting a good swing on them was near impossible, given the space available. More than once, just a tiny hand brake would be overlooked on one of the cars, the cars would roll to a gentle stop, trapping the engine. At these times, the mill's power plant crew would graciously give a strategic shove with their big front end loader and we could get on with our work. Don't try this at home!

John
« Last Edit: May 15, 2014, 12:34:42 PM by John Stone »

Wayne Laepple

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Re: Gravity Switching - A Grave Mistake
« Reply #17 on: May 15, 2014, 09:52:26 PM »
I have been reading a neat little book over the past few days,  "Little Old & Slow, the life and trials of the Peach Bottom and Lancaster Oxford & Southern railroad" by the late Ben Kline. It tells of the trials and tribulations of a 26-mile three-foot gauge streak of rust in southern Lancaster County, Pa. that makes the WW&F seem like the Boston & Maine. Anyway, it is revealed that on the last westbound passenger train of the day, the engine would be cut off the train at Dorsey, where the turntable and enginehouse were located. The conductor and brakeman would release the hand brakes on the coach and combine and the two cars would coast about a mile to the end of the line at Peach Bottom. Sounds pretty simple, except that it was downhill all the way, with part of the grade at 3 percent, and the line ended about 25 feet from the Susquehanna River! Fortunately, no one ever got a bath due to a runaway train.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2014, 08:09:21 AM by Wayne Laepple »

john d Stone

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Re: Gravity Switching - A Grave Mistake
« Reply #18 on: May 16, 2014, 10:21:12 PM »
Perhaps, with that kind of operating practice, the L.O.&S should have added "& Navigation Co." to its' name, just in case the hand brake failed.
It's hard to believe that road was conceived as the eastern division of a coal hauling narrow gauge trunk line from the Broad Top mines to Philly!
Judging by the amount of Canadian license plates I see on I-95, they probably should have narrowed their track by a foot and pointed it towards Quebec.
They might have made it! Maine Central never went into PA!

By the way, Wayne. Where did you find that book? Is it still in print?

John
« Last Edit: May 16, 2014, 10:23:20 PM by John Stone »

Wayne Laepple

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Re: Gravity Switching - A Grave Mistake
« Reply #19 on: May 16, 2014, 10:52:08 PM »
The LO&S did have a "marine division." It operated a ferry across the Susquehanna River to connect with its Middle Division at Peach Bottom, York County. That division eventually became part of the Maryland & Pennsylvania (Ma & Pa) and was standard gauged.

There are apparently a handful of copies left. I got mine at the Sloanco Historical Society, PO Box 33, Quarryville, Pa. 17566. 

john d Stone

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Re: Gravity Switching - A Grave Mistake
« Reply #20 on: May 16, 2014, 11:32:43 PM »
Thanks, Wayne. Maybe I can widen my narrow gauge library with a copy! My only current reference to that pike is the chapter in the "Ma & Pa" and one picture in "This was Railroading".

John

Richard "Steam" Symmes

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Re: Gravity Switching - A Grave Mistake
« Reply #21 on: May 24, 2014, 03:52:41 PM »
Years ago in the 1970s while volunteering on the Wolfeborough Rail Road, I saw them "pole" a car on an adjacent siding using the #250 steam locomotive.  They didn't even use a real pole; just an old tree branch they picked up alongside the tracks.  It kind of bent as they began to shove the car, and everyone stepped back a bit, but it did work. Only time I ever saw a car poled.

Richard Symmes

john d Stone

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Re: Gravity Switching - A Grave Mistake
« Reply #22 on: May 25, 2014, 11:12:30 PM »
I don't know that I've ever poled a car (actually, I never thought they had opinions) though in 37 years, I've done some off the wall stuff. That's one practice, while very common in the past, is best left there! In the early CSX days, we had a crew unsuccessfully drop eight loads of paper by their engine on the C&O Piedmont main. The cars hung up, trapping the engine. Poling seemed like a wonderful solution, so a stout looking old tie was located and the very experienced crew proceeded to pole. It would seem these cars did have an opinion, which was, "no old rotten hunk of wood is going to shove us around!" ( Is this starting to sound like a Thomas adventure? ) The tie splintered, a sideswipe ensued and much embarrassment was had. Fortunately, no one got hurt and the cars stayed on the rail. Strangely enough, no one got fired. In fact, the conductor later became a Trainmaster, and a very good one, at that!

So, even if you have a ten foot pole, don't push cars with it. Or, don't touch poling with a ten foot pole.

Pete "Cosmo" Barrington

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Re: Gravity Switching - A Grave Mistake
« Reply #23 on: May 25, 2014, 11:43:39 PM »

So, even if you have a ten foot pole, don't push cars with it. Or, don't touch poling with a ten foot pole.
How about a 6' Lithuanian?

john d Stone

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Re: Gravity Switching - A Grave Mistake
« Reply #24 on: May 25, 2014, 11:48:19 PM »
No, I believe the rule states, nothing abutting the Baltic.

Pete "Cosmo" Barrington

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Re: Gravity Switching - A Grave Mistake
« Reply #25 on: May 26, 2014, 01:00:43 AM »
No, I believe the rule states, nothing abutting the Baltic.

The NERVE!!  :D

john d Stone

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Re: Gravity Switching - A Grave Mistake
« Reply #26 on: May 26, 2014, 07:56:55 AM »
Well, maybe a crew was Russian a Pole and had a bad Finnish!