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Is It The Snow Plow Or The Cow Catcher ?...

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Is It The Snow Plow Or The Cow Catcher ?...
Posted by marksrailroad on Sunday, May 27, 2018 6:38 PM

Hey gang. So what's the triangle thing called that's at the lower front of a locomotive. Is it a snow plow or a cow catcher ?.

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Posted by j. c. on Sunday, May 27, 2018 6:53 PM

the correct term is pilot.

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Posted by dknelson on Sunday, May 27, 2018 6:53 PM

It's called the "pilot," although popular parlance uses cow catcher.  Not all pilots are triangle things -- simple footboards are also pilots, and some pilots in the late steam era were not really triangle shaped either, such as the front of the Big Boy.

Dave Nelson

PS (edited post): Mark Twain told the story of being on a train so slow that he suggested to the conductor that the cow catcher should be taken off the front of the locomotive and be put on the back of the rear coach, because "at the speed we are going we aren't going to catch many cows, but there is nothing to prevent them from climbing up the back steps."

DN

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Posted by xboxtravis7992 on Sunday, May 27, 2018 8:04 PM

Well it depends on the pilot design too... Some pilots are really just footboards. My local steam engine display has a set of footboards with a small cowcatcher below the coupler: http://www.steamlocomotive.info/vlocomotive.cfm?Display=1713

When I think cowcatcher I think of those long slanted pilots like the old wild western 4-4-0's have. I really can't call many diesel pilots a "cowcatcher" although I have seen photos of some steam locomotive styled pilots having been installed on diesels such as: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mjscanlonphotography/38407581694 I would definetely call that pilot a 'cowcatcher' because of its slated design. 


Most modern diesel's in the USA have snowplows for a pilot. This is sort of to give them an all weather purpose use; when you have such massive systems as UP or BNSF a diesel might be running the Sunset Route or Southern Transcon one day; then charging through snow on Donner Pass the next. Versatility and adaptability has made it so that snowplows are the defacto pilot for most modern engines. 

However, before the modern era of mega railroads, a lot of lines had more specialized pilots. Southern or warm weather lines might just be a flat piece of cast metal, since there was no chance their locomotive would ever travel through snow. Other lines had special snow pilots that shops added before snow started... Western Pacific for example had some really cool snow plows they installed on engines in their Stockton shops for the winter, released on the system for the snowy season, and then removed again for summer: https://donstrack.smugmug.com/UtahRails/Dave-England-Photos/Western-Pacific/i-XXmbXXX/A

While we are talking crazy snowplows... lets not forget UP's shovel nose plows they put on some F-Units: https://donstrack.smugmug.com/UtahRails/Dave-England-Photos/Union-Pacific/i-PRkHsvX/A

TLDR: Just call it a pilot unless its clear that the design is meant to be a cowcatcher or a snowplow. 

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Posted by marksrailroad on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 10:32 AM

Okay. So if they're of no real use then why were they built so sturdy?...

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Posted by j. c. on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 11:42 AM

they have a real world use , the snow plow type can remove a modest amount of snow off tracks , the others can remove obstruction off track that might caues a derailmemt if it got under the locomotive , like tree limbs , cars and the likes.

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Posted by NWP SWP on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 11:46 AM

This one looks like it's ready for Donner!

https://donstrack.smugmug.com/UtahRails/Dave-England-Photos/Union-Pacific/i-PRkHsvX/A

Steven

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Posted by Eastrail11 on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 4:35 PM

marksrailroad

Okay. So if they're of no real use then why were they built so sturdy?...

 

They also act as protection for the traction motors, so I'm told, if obsticals like tre brances were to fall on the track, the plow would push them aside, not long ago, there was a thread of where a CN trains hits a few trees, maybe less than a month, but I can't seem to find it anywhere! Bang Head

~Eastrail

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Posted by j. c. on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 12:41 AM

check out this snowplow pilot.  

http://digital.denverlibrary.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15330coll22/id/70259/rec/1  sorry forgot how to make link clickable. humm works now but don't know how.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 8:05 AM

marksrailroad

Hey gang. So what's the triangle thing called that's at the lower front of a locomotive. Is it a snow plow or a cow catcher ?. 

One of the differences is era or time period.  What was often referred to as a cow catcher is the pointed assembly on the bottom front of older era steam engines, usually with bars mounted parallel and meeting at a point.

A snow plow is simply that, a snow plow which various railroads mounted on the front of typically a diesel engine.  Some steam engines had snow plows mounted - such as some of the narrow guage steam engines in the Colorado rockies.

Visually snow plows a fabricated usually from sheet metal but a cow catcher is comprised of parallel bars of usually metal.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

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Posted by dehusman on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 8:30 AM

Throwing around many different terms that overlap and that apply to different engines.  

The steam engines have a pilot.  Really early engines that had to contend with open ranges and un-fenced land had a large pilot meant to deflect animals or other objects from the tracks.  That's a "cow-catcher".  

It didn't really "catch" cows, it deflected them.  There were "pilots that caught things, they were mostly used by trolley lines and were designed to catch people.  It was a hinged screen rectanguler screen in front of the trolley.  When they hit a person the person would fall toward the trolley and into the screen, which would rotate horizontal with the person on top, "catching them". 

As engines got larger, the need to deflect things with a big long pilot became less, they weighed so much they could just push stuff out of the way.  The pilots became shorter.  The intent was a the same, to prevent objects from reaching the wheels of the engine.  They just didn't need a 10 ft long  thing to do it.  There are Federal regulations that require a pliot and set minimum standards for how cfar above the rails it can be.  It has no bearing on the shape or styling, just that it has to be there and how of a gap there can be above the rail.

Engines that did switching needs someplace for the brakemen/switchmen to stand and ride on the engines while switching and moving.  So "foot boards" were added as places for them to ride.  Switch engines operated at slow speeds and rarely on the main track so they tended to have flatter pilots with a footboard all the way across the front.

Diesel engines, switchers and road switchers, have a "pilot sheet", a flat metal plate across the front of the engine that does exactly the same as the cow catcher as the pilot, it deflects stuff and tries to prevent it from going under the wheels of the engines (trees, cattle, rocks, cars, people, etc.)  Diesels used to have footboards, but they were outlawed as unsafe, so they no longer have them.

Later steam engines and streamlined diesels have pilots whose shape is mostly cosmetic, but the function is still the same, to deflect objects.  The curved pilot of the F unit is designed that way because its pretty.  Same with those big cast metal pilots on modern steam.  It made them look sexy.

Snowplows are a different thing.  They were originally add ons that were put on engines.  Some diesels had them built into the pilot sheet.  On most diesels they were a permanent add on, bolted to the pilot sheet.  The pilot sheet was still required by law, the snowplow was an add on option requested by the railroad.  The vast majority of snow falls are less than a foot, so for 90% of the country a typical snowplow will do the job.  Its only on that very small amount of the railroad mileage in western mountains and upper reaches of the US that get so much snow that a typical snowplow is uneffective.

Dave H. Painted side goes up.

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Posted by xboxtravis7992 on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 4:19 PM

NWP SWP

This one looks like it's ready for Donner!

https://donstrack.smugmug.com/UtahRails/Dave-England-Photos/Union-Pacific/i-PRkHsvX/A

 

 

Probably for use on the line from Pocatello to Butte, maybe the Yellowstone branch if it was still in service at the time the photo was taken; or the wild wind drifts of Wyoming. The UP really wouldn't have been running on Donner Pass before 1996; unless it was run through power on the joint City of San Francisco train the SP & UP ran together.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 7:34 PM

dehusman
It didn't really "catch" cows, it deflected them.

.

The term "Cow Catcher" to me always sounded like it should be a net or funnel that actually trapped the cows.

.

I'll bet that even at moderate speeds that large sturdy triangular pilot would not really deflect a heavy cow, probably "cow obliterator" wouild be a better term but would not sound as good in children's books.

.

Anyway, these pilots are like bumpers or I.C.C. bars on heavy trucks, they are there to protect the machinery that is vulnerable to road debris, or prevent anything from getting under the vehicle.

.

-Kevin

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, May 31, 2018 6:25 AM

SeeYou190

I'll bet that even at moderate speeds that large sturdy triangular pilot would not really deflect a heavy cow, probably "cow obliterator" wouild be a better term 

-Kevin

 

If the so called cow catchers deflected the cow out of the path of the train, that is a lot less obliteration than what I read about in Alaska.  The geeps that traveled in winter would literally run mooses over and by the time the caboose cleared the scene, there was a lot of carnage between the rails. 

The moose tended to prefer walking the tracks when the snow was deep since they were plowed regularly by the trains.  The problem of hitting and running over moose was so bad at times the carcass would derail freight cars.  The engineers would often get out on the front porch of the diesel when they came upon a moose and reach down with their snow shovel to try to "steer" the moose off the tracks.  AFAIK, Alaska RR never added any kind of moose catcher onto their diesesl, at least not as of the Article I read in Pacific Rail News magazine around 25+ years ago.

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Posted by NWP SWP on Thursday, May 31, 2018 9:05 AM

I was watching a video about the Rio Grande narrow gauge division, they were traveling through a cow pasture and a few bovines were on the tracks, the engineer tried whistling to scare them off, all but one did, the one remaining almost outran the train till its legs got caught by the ties and the plow grabbed him, the vultures had hamburger by the end of it.

Steven

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, May 31, 2018 9:57 AM

Important to remember that "cow catcher" is a colorful 19th century slang term for the locomotive's pilot. AFAIK it was never used officially by anyone in the industry, nor was the pilot actually specifically designed to catch cows. The pilot was there to clear any moderate-sized debris off the tracks.

Stix
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Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, May 31, 2018 12:22 PM

wjstix
nor was the pilot actually specifically designed to catch cows. The pilot was there to clear any moderate-sized debris off the tracks. Add Quote to your Post

Considering all the grazing pasture that early railroads traveled through, I would guess cows were among the debris needing to be cleared off the tracks so the slang probably did not come out of thin air.  There is a lot of colorful terminology from the "olden days". 

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, May 31, 2018 12:40 PM

I know for a fact that cows will not get out of your way.

.

I was working at "7Ls" ranch one day and there were a bunch of cattle on the road and they refused to get off. I nudged them with the truck, blew the horn, revved the engine, nothing. The just stood there. I sure could have used a wedge shaped pilot that day!

.

-Kevin

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Posted by BATMAN on Thursday, May 31, 2018 12:41 PM

I have seen some pretty old movies on You-Tube and elsewhere of cowcatchers in action. The locomotive always slowed down to a crawl when approaching cattle and other beasts of fine dinners, this allowed the infringing animal to be gently pushed to the side by the engine. A smaller 4-4-0 could be derailed by hitting a large beast at speed so unless caught by surprise, the crew would slow if possible.

This video clearly shows early hazards faced by the RR crews of the day.Smile, Wink & Grin

Brent

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Posted by Track fiddler on Thursday, May 31, 2018 9:31 PM

Interesting discussion

Plow

Cow catcher

Just my thoughts Big SmileWhistling

 P.S.   A slow speed of course. I like cows.  Wink

 

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Posted by Track fiddler on Thursday, May 31, 2018 10:00 PM

That was some funny stuff Brent. 

I liked it.

 

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Posted by Bayfield Transfer Railway on Saturday, June 02, 2018 7:31 PM

It's a snow catcher.

Or a cow plow.



...I'll show myself out...

 

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 Track fiddler on Wednesday, June 06, 2018 6:30 PM

Bayfield Transfer Railway

It's a snow catcher.

Or a cow plow.



...I'll show myself out...

 

 

Definitely the cow catcher

Funny Bayfield I guess I'll be right behind you

 Hold the door open for me I'll have to show myself out too

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Posted by ALLAN D DAHNCKE on Friday, June 08, 2018 1:16 PM

dknelson

It's called the "pilot," although popular parlance uses cow catcher.  Not all pilots are triangle things -- simple footboards are also pilots, and some pilots in the late steam era were not really triangle shaped either, such as the front of the Big Boy.

Dave Nelson

PS (edited post): Mark Twain told the story of being on a train so slow that he suggested to the conductor that the cow catcher should be taken off the front of the locomotive and be put on the back of the rear coach, because "at the speed we are going we aren't going to catch many cows, but there is nothing to prevent them from climbing up the back steps."

DN

 

dknelson

It's called the "pilot," although popular parlance uses cow catcher.  Not all pilots are triangle things -- simple footboards are also pilots, and some pilots in the late steam era were not really triangle shaped either, such as the front of the Big Boy.

Dave Nelson

PS (edited post): Mark Twain told the story of being on a train so slow that he suggested to the conductor that the cow catcher should be taken off the front of the locomotive and be put on the back of the rear coach, because "at the speed we are going we aren't going to catch many cows, but there is nothing to prevent them from climbing up the back steps."

DN

 

That's hilarious...

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Posted by ACY Tom on Friday, June 08, 2018 3:53 PM

Adults call it a pilot. A lot of children call it a cowcatcher in the mistaken belief it is a benign, humane device. It never was. 

Tom 

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Posted by BATMAN on Friday, June 08, 2018 4:30 PM

ACY Tom

Adults call it a pilot. A lot of children call it a cowcatcher in the mistaken belief it is a benign, humane device. It never was. 

Tom 

 

Unfortunately I have seen the results of interaction of trains and bear, moose and deer while hiking the C.P. mainline in the Rockies. It ruins your day I'll tell ya.

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

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Posted by Track fiddler on Friday, June 08, 2018 7:56 PM

Brent I feel your pain. I always hate seeing an animals life shortened, especially in the spring. 

I remember one time following the car in front of me. This rabbit ran out and was clipped and flipped. Just enough to make it suffer. What's worse than an animals life shortened, is an animal suffering.

I did the only Humane thing. I pulled over. It was heart-wrenching. I don't know if you've ever heard a rabbit in distress, they cry like a little baby.

The only thing to do was stomp on his head and put him out of his misery. Sad but the right thing to do.

Tongue TiedSadOops - SignOff Topic Track fiddler

P.S.  Zoom in and look for the dead seagull. I don't know if he swooped fast around the bridge pier and didn't see the train or was deaf and just didn't hear it. Regardless kind of sad.

 

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Posted by jeffhergert on Friday, June 08, 2018 9:32 PM

I was reading a recrew report for the railroad I work for.  (It's a report giving a brief reason why a train had to be recrewed on line-usually because of hours of service.)  The individual listings are written up by someone in the dispatching center.  Recently, one train was delayed leading to a recrew because a concrete crossing pad worked itself loose.  It became jammed, according to the person reporting the cause, under the locomotive's cowcatcher.

Jeff 

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