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What ARE those things?

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What ARE those things?
Posted by wobblinwheel on Sunday, April 08, 2018 1:46 AM

Behind the classification lamps? It seems on most of the Lima Berkshires, Northerns, and even the Alleghenys, there are these vertical, square "plates" located at an angle behind the class lights on the smokebox. On a video of one of the restored Berks (I forgot which one), the "plates" were actually shiny chrome, or something reflective like that. Anybody know what they are, why they're there? It seems, for sure, Chesapeake and Ohio, Nickel Plate, and Pere Marquet steamers had them...why?

Mike C.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Sunday, April 08, 2018 11:10 AM

Just a guess, but perhaps they're to block the class lights from the locomotive crew's view, so that they're not confused with other lights, such as those for signals.

Wayne

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Posted by 7j43k on Sunday, April 08, 2018 11:20 AM

I found them on the C&O 2-6-6-6 in the Ford Museum:

 

and

 

 

They look like wind deflectors to me--don't see what else they could be.  Note that they continue the angle and coverage started by the numberboards.

 

Ed

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Posted by 7j43k on Sunday, April 08, 2018 11:23 AM

doctorwayne

Just a guess, but perhaps they're to block the class lights from the locomotive crew's view, so that they're not confused with other lights, such as those for signals.

Wayne

 

 

I don't think so.  The only light that could be seen from the cab is an edge view of the side-facing lens.  And that is not blocked by the thingy, as shown in the lower photo.

 

Ed

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Posted by wobblinwheel on Sunday, April 08, 2018 1:26 PM

Come on, guys... don't fail me now! As the guy said in "Dirty Harry": "I gots to know"......"CLICK!"

Mike C.

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Posted by wobblinwheel on Sunday, April 08, 2018 1:49 PM

Would they do that much good as a deflector, being 50ft from the cab? Maybe they deflect soot from the lamps? Naw, that don't make a lotta sense either.... I was in the driver's seat of the H8 in the B and O Museum about ten years ago, I don't remember paying attention to them then. I was too busy having an "awe attack"... the firebox was bigger than the average motel room! Do y'all realize that these MASSIVE locomotives came about mostly because the Corporate bean counters didn't want to pay more people to drive MORE ENGINES..??

Mike C.

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Posted by 7j43k on Sunday, April 08, 2018 2:30 PM

Don't like that one, eh?

How about they're flag holders?  Here's a shot with NKP running with what appear to be white flags at that location:

 

 

 

Ed

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Posted by wobblinwheel on Sunday, April 08, 2018 3:21 PM

You might be on to something there. Maybe instead of using an actual "flag" (as in attached to a pole), these things have multiple-colored covers to take the place of a flag? A "signal" method of some sort...? I think it's interesting, none the less... To see different colors involved does bring up a good point! Maybe the "reflective" ones I saw in a video were actually white... and I think it was the 765...

Mike C.

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Posted by 7j43k on Sunday, April 08, 2018 3:37 PM

The flags would be either white to signal that the train was an "extra" (unscheduled train) or green, to signal "a section following"*.  If there is neither, the train is a scheduled train.

They are a daytime version of the lit classification lights you see in the photo of the Allegheny.

 

Ed

 

*Trains were sometimes run in more than one "piece", called sections.  Thus, train #1 might have a first section and a second.  The point of the green signal is to warn employees that they must not assume that the entire scheduled train has passed--there's more coming.  And act accordingly.  If a train had three sections, the first two would show the green signals.

 

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Posted by wobblinwheel on Sunday, April 08, 2018 4:46 PM

I think we may have figured out what those things are. A "rigid flag"! I knew it was going to be interesting... have you read about what the British used for classification? Now that seems bizarre, since for some reason, the Limeys didn't use lights on steam engines, except for little oil lanterns, and their "placement" on the front of the loco told a story... somehow they didn't give a hoot that they couldn't see a foot in front of them in the pitch dark!

Mike C.

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Posted by NHTX on Sunday, April 08, 2018 5:06 PM

      Those things are suspiciously like the metal signal flags used by a number of railroads.  White for extra, green for a following section.  Northern Pacific was another user of these devices and, like NKP, placed them next to the class lights.  Some roads used perforated ones, and a few roads even used them with diesels.

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Posted by NHTX on Sunday, April 08, 2018 5:30 PM

   British rights of way were and still are fenced, unlike here in the U.S.  Level (grade) crossings were guarded by crossing watchmen and eventually by automatic devices.  A British level crossing was protected by gates that completely blocked off access to the tracks until it was train time.  This was done to keep livestock, people and vehicles off of the right-of-way.  Then all four gates would be swung 90 degrees to block the roadway, until the train had passed.  This made it possible to operate without headlights similar to ours, or in that famous fog and rain of theirs.

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Posted by wobblinwheel on Sunday, April 08, 2018 7:33 PM

It still seems very weird to drive ANY vehicle at night and not need to see ANYTHING in front of you! Those little oil lamps they used provided no USABLE night time illumination at all! If you had just collided with something on the track at high speed, wouldn't it be nice to know WHAT IT WAS??

Mike C.

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Posted by dehusman on Sunday, April 08, 2018 7:45 PM

NHTX
This made it possible to operate without headlights similar to ours, or in that famous fog and rain of theirs

I guess they don't have trees or rocks in Great Britain.

Dave H. Painted side goes up.

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Posted by NHTX on Monday, April 09, 2018 3:27 AM

    Our British cousins also operated their steam locomotives with cabs of less than half the fore-aft depth of ours.  How about no pilots other than a thin metal bar just in front of the wheel tread?  No bells?  How about "unfitted stock" --cars with nothing more than a manually operated handbrake that could only be applied once the equipment had ceased to move.  As a matter of fact most of Europe and places under their influences operated the same way--even in fog and rain--with just those tiny oil lamps for "headlights".   If anyone remembers the visit of the "Flying Scostman" 4-6-2 to the U.S. back in the 1960's, the three things it had to have added to operate under steam on American rails were headlight, pilot and bell.  Its a different world beyond our shores.

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Posted by 7j43k on Monday, April 09, 2018 6:22 AM

NHTX

If anyone remembers the visit of the "Flying Scostman" 4-6-2 to the U.S. back in the 1960's, the three things it had to have added to operate under steam on American rails were headlight, pilot and bell. 

 

And air compressor?

 

Ed

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Posted by wjstix on Monday, April 09, 2018 12:52 PM

I beleive by the 1920's or '30's using metal "flags" instead of cloth or fabric (or whatever) ones was pretty common. The rules said a train had to show 'flags during the day, and colored lights at night' (or some wording like that) to show if it was an extra train, or if there was a following section. Remember before the 1950's engines generally didn't use their lights during the day.

Stix
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Posted by wobblinwheel on Monday, April 09, 2018 1:14 PM

I think the likelihood of "frivolous lawsuits" against the railway companies in UK was never an issue like it is here, either. The insurance companies "run the show" over here. Amtrak and Norfolk Southern are prime examples of that....

Mike C.

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Posted by NHTX on Tuesday, April 10, 2018 1:41 AM

     I can't recall an air compressor being added.  A complete train of British vacuum braked "coaching stock" was also brought over, to compliment and support the locomotive.  A knuckle coupler was added to the pilot beam to facilitate movement by American power if necessary.

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Posted by wobblinwheel on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 2:06 PM

I wonder what the British used for brakes? If not compressed air, where did they get the vacuum?

Mike C.

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 5:07 PM

The British famously adopted vacuum brakes (google Eames for some of the details) after a test in which the vacuum-braked test train stopped 'more quickly' than that with Westinghouse-style air.  (This was an artifact of construction, masked by the much larger cylinders necessary for atmospheric pressure to develop adequate retarding force)  It is perhaps a mistake to call these 'vacuum' brakes as they are air brakes that work with at most atmospheric pressure on the piston, necessitating much larger or longer brake cylinders than brakes using compressed power air.

If you google 'exhausters' you will get a good technical idea of the mechanical devices used to produce the vacuum; to my knowledge steam engines used a variety of ejector rather than a piston device comparable to a cross-compound air pump.

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Posted by Trace Fork on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 2:23 AM

Those are indeed brackets over which enameled plates were placed. C&O in particular was a minimalist road when it came to lighting, and classification lights were only used in hours of darkness. So if a train was classified as a first section, or an extra, green or white enameled plates respectively were mounted on these brackets during daylight hours. One must remember the trains were not lit up in the steam era like they are today. The ICC didn't even mandate daytime operation of headlights until 1956, although some roads, most notably SP, tended to use lighting at all times. 

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