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Big Boy as a switcher

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Big Boy as a switcher
Posted by SouthPenn on Sunday, May 07, 2017 9:46 PM

I just noticed that the Big Boy locomotives had pole pockets ( push pockets ) on them. I just can't imagine using a Big Boy as a switcher. Wow.

South Penn
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Posted by Autonerd on Sunday, May 07, 2017 10:14 PM

Stranger things have happened. Like the time I brought an F40PH in Amtrak Ph III paint to a friend's op session, on his ATSF branch line set in the summer of '64. All the more so because my assignment was a local freight. He did say "Run what ya brung"...

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Posted by ACY Tom on Sunday, May 07, 2017 10:17 PM

It's not likely that UP would set out to use a Big Boy as a switcher; but every road engine can be called upon to set out a car or perform some unusual move that could conceivably involve poling.

Tom. 

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Posted by Bayfield Transfer Railway on Sunday, May 07, 2017 10:18 PM

Yeah, what Tom said.  I think it's mostly a case of "If we don't have 'em, you KNOW we're gonna need 'em..."

 

 

Disclaimer:  This post may contain humor, sarcasm, and/or flatulence.

Michael Mornard

Bringing the North Woods to South Dakota!

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Posted by gmpullman on Sunday, May 07, 2017 10:40 PM

Generally, the railroads bought what the builders offered. The builders bought what the suppliers offered.

If General Steel Castings manufactured pilots that could be used on many varieties of locomotives, they would sell more. The added cost of stocking "with or without poling pockets" was probably not worth considering. Although I notice the "Deflecting Pilot" (below right) is sans-poling pockets. I believe these were favored by the CB&Q, maybe others.

 

Standardization leads to economy. If several classes of locomotive share the same, interchangeable parts, many fewer parts need to be stocked and chances of having the needed part on-hand will get your engines back on the road faster.

Even railroads that "home-built" their locomotives would often favor "off-the-shelf" parts for the above reasons.

Regards, Ed

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Posted by "JaBear" on Sunday, May 07, 2017 10:46 PM

It's not the footage I was actually looking for, and while not a Big Boy, there is a large Mallet switching...

Cheers, the Bear.Smile

"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

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Posted by wjstix on Monday, May 08, 2017 8:13 AM

The assumption that only switch engines had poling pockets is very wrong. Switch engines would rarely need poling pockets to do yard switching.

The purpose of poling was normally to move a car on a parallel track to the one the engine was on, where for some reason it was difficult and/or a lot of additional work to get the engine on the same track as the car...like moving a mis-spotted car on a side track where there are other freight cars already blocking the siding. Things like that most often happened at some remote location 'out on the line' and not in a freight yard.

Besides, many railroads frowned on (and eventually banned) poling, so if it were going to be done it would be out in the middle of nowhere, not under the nose of management in a yard.

I suspect UP in the 1940's just ordered all it's engines to have poling pockets.

Stix
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Posted by gmpullman on Monday, May 08, 2017 3:55 PM

In THIRD RAIL territory, no less! Don't slip!

Only a 20 second glimpse but a good look into the operation.

Regards, Ed

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Posted by DS4-4-1000 on Tuesday, May 09, 2017 6:23 AM

Many railroads would keep a newly overhauled locomotive close to the shops for a day or two to shake out any problems.  So a Big Boy switching or on a local is not a stretch of the imagination.

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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 12:18 PM

IIRC hump yards and Mallet / articulated engines came into railroading about the same time in the early 20th century, and several railroads bought early Mallet engines to work pushing cars 'over the hump' in a humpyard...not that UP was one of them, but it would qualify as an example of an articulated "switcher".  

Stix
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Posted by ACY Tom on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 8:15 PM

Yes, Mallets were sometimes used as hump engines. NYC had some 0-8-8-0 Mallets that were used at large yards such as Elkhart, and on at least one location on their subsidiary P&LE. B&O owned the first Mallet in the US. When it was retired from mainline service, it spent some time working the hump at Willard. I believe C&O and N&W and others also used small drivered Mallets this way.

However, the Big Boy was built as a single expansion engine with large drivers, making it a terrible choice for a hump assignment. If it ever happened, it wasn't common.

Tom 

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Posted by Maine_Central_guy on Thursday, May 11, 2017 6:48 AM
very dangerous.
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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, May 11, 2017 7:51 AM

Yes, I can't imagine a Big Boy or Challenger ever being used in hump service. They were designed to haul long trains at track speed, and were even used on passenger trains sometimes. The railroads that bought Mallets / articulateds for hump service generally bought earlier 'drag freight' type engines with small drivers that would limit their speed to 20 mph or less.

Stix
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Posted by dknelson on Friday, May 26, 2017 5:35 PM

On the general subject of poling and poling pockets on steam locomotive pilots, this last weekend I saw a number of steam locomotives at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union IL and also saw the current status of the Chicago & North Western 4-6-0 #1385 (circa 1907) at a machine shop in Middleton WI.  The 1385's pilot has the standard two poling pockets at the front of the cast pilot, but a Union Pacific 2-8-0 at the IRM's steam repair shop has poling pockets on both sides of the pilot, so 4 poling pockets total.  I had never seen that before, or at least never noticed it before.   Other steam at IRM that I looked at had the usual 2, not 4, but I did not get a chance to examine every steam locomotive in their collection -- they have over two dozen. 

Dave Nelson 

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Posted by 7j43k on Friday, May 26, 2017 6:29 PM

Back to the Big Boy.

I can imagine one with a train with some stock cars on the front.  And I can imagine running out the stock hours and having to water them.  Out near Nowhere Wyoming.  So the loco switches the cars into some pens.

Maybe.  Just maybe.

 

Ed

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Posted by rrinker on Saturday, May 27, 2017 9:02 PM

 I think the other Ed, GMPullman, has it. One tends to think oof steam locos as these complete custom designs for each railroad, but that's from from the exact truth. You had companies like GSC supplying major subassemblies to the builders - every builder didn't have foundries turning out every single part of the locos they built. It wasn;t really an operation where raw metal went in one end and a finish loco came out the other - raw metal went in, along with various pre-fabbed subassemblies, like those GSC pilots. The same castings were used across a variety of locos so they just made them all the same. I don't think there was any specification that required poling pockets on the Big Boy - just the casting the specified which was most appropriate for freight service happened to have them, so there they are. Used or not.

 Note that GSC was jointly controlled by Alco and Baldwin. They also aquired Commonwealth early on, and these plants made all sorts of locomotive parts, including complete one piece beds with cylinders integrally cast. These went into many Alco and Baldwin locos over the years. And many home-built locos as well. Not to mention rolling stock parts which they also cast.

                                 --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by NHTX on Sunday, May 28, 2017 2:28 AM

    I tend to agree with all of the preceding posts and wish to add the following reasons the use of a Big Boy as a switcher on a common basis would be impractical.  First is the weight.  Most track visited by a switcher is not built or maintained to support the weight of such large engines.  Most railroads, even today restrict where 6 axle diesels can be used, usually main tracks, passing sidings, and some industry tracks built to handle the high capacity cars now in use.  The firebox of the Big Boy would be two to three times the size of an engine more suitable for switching.  That means a much, much higher fuel consumption making it a very expensive switcher.  Add to that the fact that 4-8-8-4 was meant to get out on the high iron and haul freight at 70mph between water stops while a switcher barely exceeded 20 or 25mph and had many periods of sitting idle.   did it EVER happen?  Maybe, but definitely not on a regular basis. 

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