Helper stations.

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  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: GB
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Helper stations.
Posted by JanOlov on Friday, December 26, 2003 5:22 PM
Which were the better known ones?
Did the crews swap from helper service and
freight/passenger service?
What dictated the need for a helper station,
was it the grade itself etc, or the traffic the
railroad wanted to move.
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  • Member since
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  • From: Muncie, Indiana...Orig. from Pennsylvania
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Posted by Modelcar on Saturday, December 27, 2003 8:17 AM
....Jan: I just checked over here on this forum from TRAINS.COM. and read your question....Helper districts being the subject. I can list one important one for you on the "old" Pennsylvania Railroad....That would be on the east-west route up and across the Allegheny Mountain range starting at Altoona, Pennsylvania and continuing for about 12 miles to the summit near Cresson, Pennsylvania. Reason...Grade to attain elevation at summit. The max. grade to climb to the summit is about 1.8%. Almost all heavy trains in the past traveling west required helpers. I believe for any heavy train still doing the same route [Norfolk Southern now], needs the same assistance. East bound traffic required some help too [the heavy consists]....but grade wasn't as severe. The west bound traffic traveled around the famous Horseshoe Curve in making the climb too.


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Posted by AltonFan on Saturday, December 27, 2003 6:49 PM
Raton, New Mexico and Trinidad, Colorado, located at opposite ends of the Raton Pass were helper stations. If you go up to Goat Hill in Raton (where a giant "Raton" sign is located), you can still see where the roundhouse and turntable were in the Raton yard. (The famous passenger station is nearby.) When I visited Raton in 1986, lashups of geeps were on hand, I assume for helper duties if needed.

In steam days, a steam locomotive's weakest moment was when it came time to start a train. Railroad car draft gear were designed to help give the engine a "push" when starting. (If a steam engine could start the train, it could run with it, provided the boiler could produce enough steam as fast as the engine could use it.)


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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, January 01, 2004 3:57 PM You might find this page on the helper requirements on CSX's mountain subdivision interesting.The entire line from Grafton Wv to Cumberland Md is heavy-duty railroading at its finest.
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  • From: Shelbyville, Kentucky
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Posted by SSW9389 on Friday, January 02, 2004 9:55 AM
Helper, Utah to Soldier Summit Utah on what used to be the Rio Grande and is now the Union Pacific. Utah Railway also uses this line.
COTTON BELT: Runs like a Blue Streak!
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Posted by mvlandsw on Sunday, January 25, 2004 2:27 AM
Hyndman, Pa. westbound and Connellsville,Pa. eastbound provided helpers for trains going over Sandpatch on the B&O. Hyndman has been closed and helpers are run out of Cumberland, Md. westbound. Connellsville still provides eastbound helpers. Helper jobs are bid on like other operating jobs so the people may move from one job to another. Most helper crews return to their starting point at the end of their assignment so are desirable for someone who does not want to spend time away from home.
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, January 28, 2004 2:02 PM
and he notes -

One of the lesser known helper stations was on the New York Central. In order to get Chicago bound mainline passenger trains over Albany Hill, just west of that city, an 0-8-0 was employed as a pusher. It had a unique air operated coupler release and when the train crested the hill, the coupler pin was pulled and the train was allowed to proceed without stopping. The 0-8-0 would then run back down the hill to wait for the next westbound.

I don't know if this was used on streamlined trains but it was common on the heavyweights.
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, January 29, 2004 9:20 AM
Helper points were dictated by either a heavy grade or the need to maintain speed over a short distance. Sometimes the running district might be fairly level or easily managed by the road locomotives but getting out of a particular area limited the train length so a helper would be stationed there just to get the train going. Once moving the road locos had no trouble with the train.

The N&W during the latter steam days eliminated some helpers and increased efficiency and profits by adding the auxilliary water tenders (canteens) to the road engines. This eliminated many water stops which also increase the capacity of the train since stopping and starting was eliminated or limited. A steam engine could pull more than it could start so once moving that was the objective.

My understanding is that crews "bid" for jobs like passenger, hotshot freight, local frt & yard work by seniority and generally would stay with them until something better came up or they were promoted. Extra crews would pick up slots vacated by illness, business increases or time off by regular crews.

My favorite helper location was Blue Ridge grade on the N&W.

Hope this helps you.


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