CPR Decapod with a very weird light on smokebox.

859 views
16 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 3,290 posts
CPR Decapod with a very weird light on smokebox.
Posted by Miningman on Thursday, September 06, 2018 10:06 PM

What in the blazes is this forward facing light on this CPR Decapod? 

Visible in 3rd picture.

Does it have something to do with it's assignment as a pusher? 

Rear facing light on tender is CPR standard, but very old style, common on smaller older steam. 

Two views of 5761 assisting on the rear of a freight leaving Minnedosa, Manitoba. July 4,1955 
L.A.Stuckey/Bruce Chapman Collection 

While many people think of the prairies as being flat that is not the truth. There were many places requring assist engines to help freight trains up grades in the steam era. Minnedosa was in a saucer, requiring helpers in both directions. 

 

Last R3b 5762 CPR January 1918. Yard service Moose Jaw Tuesday, September 8, 1959 Robert Trennert 
Apparently the tender has been incorrectly stencilled at only 1850 gallons of oil rather than the official 2800 gallons. 
Water 7800 gallons.

  • Member since
    January, 2002
  • 3,534 posts
Posted by M636C on Thursday, September 06, 2018 11:48 PM

In England, the ex Midland 0-10-0 had an electric headlight which was intended specifically to indicate to the crew the distance from the train as it approached to push it up the "Lickey Incline".

This looks like it could be a headlight from a gas electric or similar vehicle but it might have provided a distance indication more clearly than a standard light.

I draw readers' attention to the movie "The Dam Busters" where the Wing Commander realised that he could use fixed lights as an accurate altimeter (while watching moving spotlights at a West End show.)

If this small light gave a narrower beam, it might have been possible to confirm the distance to the caboose ahead by when the beam just illuminated the edge of the car body.

Well that's my ideas, anyway....

They might have broken the headlight and be waiting for the proper replacement.

Peter

  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 3,290 posts
Posted by Miningman on Friday, September 07, 2018 7:47 PM

Thanks for that Peter. I thought perhaps it was a holdover from war time black out restrictions. However, I found this caption accompanying the exact same photo and it states " reducing glare". Now I speak English and know what 'reducing glare' means but in this context I do not know what it means. Is it because of its pusher assignment or yard duties and why would there be glare in doing this? 

Here is 5761 some years later equipped for yard service with footboards, special headlight to reduce glare and small tender. 
Revelstoke 9/1951 Bruce Chapman Collection

  • Member since
    September, 2011
  • 3,832 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Friday, September 07, 2018 10:31 PM

Perhaps it was to reduce glare into the caboose that would be immediately in front of the pusher.

  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 3,290 posts
Posted by Miningman on Friday, September 07, 2018 11:00 PM

Yeah that's the obvious logical answer but then why only this one particular locomotive and not something we see on all pushers everywhere? Also it's a very weird looking light, sticking way out and so tiny with a weird shape. It almost looks like a modern day LED array in a compact housing but that's impossible. 

NDG
  • Member since
    December, 2013
  • 791 posts
Posted by NDG on Friday, September 14, 2018 10:22 PM
  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 3,290 posts
Posted by Miningman on Friday, September 14, 2018 11:09 PM

Well I was wondering if anyone besides M636 had an interest in this. So  thanks NDG. The 2 photos of the strange light on other locomotives both state they were for better visibility due to fog conditions in Vancouver. 

Well that's fine and dandy but Minnedosa, Manitoba and Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan are a long way from Vancouver and certainly are not famous for fog conditions, cold and dry, long ways from bodies of water. Remains in the X-Files for me. 

M4a class 3400 first of 166 (3400-3565) of these durable engines,
a number of which lasted until the last years of steam. MLW 29863 10/1904 

Note the old style oil classification lamps (with blinders) converted to electric.
Note the tiny yard headlight designed to counter visibility problems for yardmen due to fog in Vancouver. See also 3449. 
Drake Street Vancouver September 28, 1941 Bud Laws Collection

M4e 3449 one of ten engines (3441-3450) built by CPR Angus Shops. #1465 6/1906 
Cylinders 22 1/2" x 28" boiler pressure 180 pounds per square inch. Tractive effort 37,400 pounds (36%). 

Note the unique headlight designed to counter visibility problems for yardmen due to fog in Vancouver

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 530 posts
Posted by Jones1945 on Saturday, September 15, 2018 5:32 AM
A little device ensured yardmen's work safety, judging from the pics, looks like they had a len with 6 inches diameterIdea
  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 3,290 posts
Posted by Miningman on Saturday, September 15, 2018 5:38 PM

So several captions and descriptions now refer to the strange little lights as being used for better visibility in fog but also for reducing glare  when used as a pusher and also something about switching. Also I'm pretty sure I've seen it referred to for use in blackout conditions during the war years. 

We see it in several classes of engines in vastly different areas of the country. 

So perhaps this was this a CPR thing because I do not think it was a widespread practice elsewhere in railroading. Did this strange little light have a name... must have had an inventor.

Still an X-File.

  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 3,290 posts
Posted by Miningman on Saturday, September 15, 2018 9:08 PM

Nice work NDG ,,,more questions, nothing solved however. Two photos show the light scewed off to the side and all show the light in addition to the traditional smokebox centered light. These lights must have produced a very concentrated narrow beam. Strange looking though. 

Put it all together so far and we get 1) used in switching 2) less glare 3)  good in fog 4) blackout conditions 5) courtesy to caboose when pushing 6) possibly used for measurement ....( communication with mother ship? so maybe still an X-File )

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 6,239 posts
Posted by Overmod on Saturday, September 15, 2018 10:21 PM

Interesting to compare this with the special 'fog light' on the PRR T1s (the purpose of which is still not well established by the T1 Trust).

I suspect the issue of 'glare' might be more important to the yard or other workers facing the locomotive than back reflection to the operating crew.  Otherwise why retain the full headlight for tender-first moves...

I notice that most of the pictures showing different positions of these lights all seem to be dated in the early wartime period (1941-42) which to me strongly enhances the idea that some of this is blackout lighting.  On the other hand the absence of hoods or visors for the small lens would not jibe with that.

Be interesting to see a color picture (or find out from someone who ran them) to see if the light were an unusual color, like yellow.

  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 3,290 posts
Posted by Miningman on Sunday, September 16, 2018 12:30 AM

Thanks Overmod. This picture however is 1951, with the strange extension. It's sister engine, the colour picture, a Decapod,  is in 1959 in Moose Jaw, Sask. but I'm not sure if it has the same headlight. There has to be one casual reader from Moose Jaw on the Forum... next time I'm down that way I'll stop by the yard office and someone might be able to get in touch with an old timer. 

Here is 5761 some years later equipped for yard service with footboards, special headlight to reduce glare and small tender. 
Revelstoke 9/1951 Bruce Chapman Collection

Someone invented this light thingie because it appears all over the place in the West and on several different classes of locomotives. Don't think they would be worried about black out conditions in Revelstoke , or anywhere in Saskatchewan or Manitoba. It almost looks like a camera but that's a nutty supposition. 

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 530 posts
Posted by Jones1945 on Sunday, September 16, 2018 10:49 AM

Overmod

Interesting to compare this with the special 'fog light' on the PRR T1s (the purpose of which is still not well established by the T1 Trust).

It is quite unbelievable for me that even The Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society didn't have a firm answer for that. I remember some K4s also had such "fog light" above the Keystone plate. Speaking of Headlight of PRR, I only know that they had a tradition to place the headlight above the smokebox door and the Keystone plate since 1930s, Q1 was the best example to show how they took this tradition so seriously from alter the original design to modify the bullet head to place the Keystone plate above the bullet head. Anyway, I don't want to digress.

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 530 posts
Posted by Jones1945 on Sunday, September 16, 2018 10:55 AM

Thank you, NDG. Those are some very odd arrangement of Headlights in those pictures, I find it very interesting. If the enginner could ajust the brightness of the headlight, why place an even smaller fog light right in front of it but not under it. 

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 6,239 posts
Posted by Overmod on Sunday, September 16, 2018 11:14 AM

Jones1945
If the engineer could adjust the brightness of the headlight, why place an even smaller fog light right in front of it but not under it.

Because when the small light is used, the large headlight is removed (but its bracket is retained) -- which indicates to me that the small light is considered a replacement for special duty.  Some of the pictures indicate a 'small' light box that would not interfere with either installing a conventional headlight or with the beam from that light ... so allowing a given 'yard' locomotive to serve as road power when needed with minimal tinkering.

Part of the mystery is why there is a white rectangular panel at the top (which may be part of why the enclosure is a 'box') when there is already a lighted numberboard of greater size on the locomotive.  I think we need to find an example of this device, or clear close-up photography, to see what it did.  (Surely there are railroad drawings of it somewhere; there certainly are for the T1 fog light...)

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 530 posts
Posted by Jones1945 on Monday, September 17, 2018 6:35 PM

I thought they were trying to create a shadow or indirect lighting effect in front of the engine by placing the smaller light in front of the bigger headlight. This is something I never see before.

SUBSCRIBER & MEMBER LOGIN

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

FREE NEWSLETTER SIGNUP

Get the Classic Trains twice-monthly newsletter