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Why were the insides of bells painted red?

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Why were the insides of bells painted red?
Posted by Trainman440 on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 11:37 PM

Simple question, why were the insides of some bells painted red?

 

Thanks, 

Charles

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Charles L.

Modeling the Santa Fe & Pennsylvania in HO!

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Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 3:51 AM

Hi, charles

If you are asking about present day, the one thing to consider is that every steam locomotive out there is a museum piece. So, kind of like going to a car show where every valve cover and differential cover is chromed, the folks that take pride in maintaining their locomotive like to add a touch of splash to their "machine". The admiring public expects it.

Now if you went back to the early part of last century you would probably have to examine a thousand or more engines before you found a red-painted bell. There were a few "prim and proper" locomotives that were dressed up, the B&O Presidents, Southern PS4 Pacifics in Virginia Green, maybe a handful of others. Post War most of the streamlined engines had the bell mostly concealed anyway.

 There was some discussion about it a while back here:

http://cs.trains.com/ctr/f/3/t/214023.aspx

 Some folks believe that the red was to show cracks, or so you could "see" when the bell was ringing (!) I can't buy into these theories. During the War copper was scarce and steel bells were cast. These were probably painted on the inside but I rarely saw them in any color other than what the boiler jacket and other accessories were painted.

 

http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=2506377

 

Occassionally a locomotive was "Decked out" for an excursion, a retirement "last run" or some civic assignment so the bell may have been given extra attention for these rare events. Then there's always that "hey, that looks pretty neat. I think I'll do that to our bells next time we spruce-up an engine" when the shop foremen gather for their Division meetings.

 My 2 Cents

 Maybe others have more information. 

Good Luck, Ed

 

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Posted by Trainman440 on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 5:51 AM

Wow, thanks for all the info Ed!

That makes more sense...

Charles

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Charles L.

Modeling the Santa Fe & Pennsylvania in HO!

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Posted by zstripe on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 6:12 AM

I believe bells were made out of Bronze, not Brass too soft of an alloy and would make a dull sound. Our models have brass bells simply because it is easier to cast.

Just My My 2 Cents

Take Care! Big Smile

Frank

 

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Posted by 7j43k on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 11:01 AM

gmpullman

 

 There was some discussion about it a while back here:

http://cs.trains.com/ctr/f/3/t/214023.aspx

 

 

 

In reading this, I noted that a guy says he saw "red painted" bells on the Santa Fe, in Texas.  

I suspect it's someone's idea of decoration.

 

Anyway, here's an example of a bell inerior painted red, though it's a horn bell:

 

 

Ed

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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 11:52 AM

Just a reminder - the question only relates to the inside of the bell. I don't know that a railroad ever painted an entire bell for any reason.

As I noted in the earlier discussion, I've seen references to bells being delivered from the factory with the interior painted red...basically just that's how the manufacturer made them, not that the railroad ordered them that way.

As far as why they were created that way at the factory seems lost to the mists of time. Could be the company applied red paint to the inside to aid in a final inspection of the inside looking for imperfections (which is why European railroad equipment had red wheels / drivers), or could be some sort of protective coating to help with the wear of the striker hitting the inside of the bell. It might not be paint at all, could be residue left over from the interior part of the casting mold - could be the interior mold was made of red clay similar to that used to make bricks? Maybe both the interior and exterior molds were made of the same material, and the manufacturer only cleaned and polished the outside of the bell?

 

Stix
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Posted by 7j43k on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 12:57 PM

wjstix

applied red paint to the inside to aid in a final inspection of the inside looking for imperfections (which is why European railroad equipment had red wheels / drivers),

I suspect this is not the case:

1.  US locomotives rarely had the rods painted.  The reason I've heard is so that cracks are easier to spot.  

Seems to me that a crack could happen under the paint and be small enough not to crack the paint.  Yet.  Thus the paint would obscure the problem, not demonstrate it.

 

2.  I admit to not doing an in-depth survey, but it appears to me that, on the rods, which were the biggest problem if a crack developed, the Germans painted only the "hollow" part of their I-beam style rods.  Cracks would develop first out on the corners of the rods, where they weren't painted.  As in the US. 

 

Here's a shot of a German steam locomotive.  Note that only the "center" of the rods are painted:

 

Note also that the running boards are painted red.  I seriously doubt they had problems with running board cracks.

 

Ed

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Posted by 7j43k on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 1:07 PM

Here, by the way, is a shot of one of the most beautiful steam locomotives:  the Southern PS-4 at the Smithsonian.  Knowing the museum's reputation, I am convinced that the locomotive is shown in its railroad paint configuration.  Note the red inside the bell, and also inside the headlight visor.  The latter would be of zero practical use, I think.

 

 

Ed

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Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 2:11 PM

wjstix
Just a reminder - the question only relates to the inside of the bell. I don't know that a railroad ever painted an entire bell for any reason.

Other than the steel "War-Time" bells I mentioned previously:

 NKP_703 by Edmund, on Flickr

 (The 703 was built by Alco in 1934, the builders photo shows it with a painted bell of unknown color)

 NKP_779 by Edmund, on Flickr

The 779 was a Lima build of May, 1949. Still, it had a painted bell.

The C&O Allegheny, 1601 at Henry Ford Museum has a painted steel bell, presumably accurate to its construction:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sjb4photos/31299569192

I'm beginning to wonder if the use of a steel bell was a Van Sweringen economy measure rather than a Wartime restriction. Every freight car on the road at the time probably had over 160 pounds of brass in the journal boxes alone.

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by BigDaddy on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 5:20 PM

My great uncle worked at the shops at Altoona.  Back then, there was no 5 day work week.  But Friday night was Friday night.  So when a worker showed up Saturday morning, having spent the previous night in certain business establishments associated with red lights, he let his buddies know by painting the inside of the bell red.

Well come on, it coulda happened that way.  Devil

 
 

Henry

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Posted by mbinsewi on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 5:31 PM

The OP doesn't offer a glue as to where he seen a bell with the inside painted red.  Maybe if he did, that might hold some answers as to why.

But for now, and until I learn different, I'm going with Henry's theory.

Mike.

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Posted by Bayfield Transfer Railway on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 7:51 PM

They aren't painted, they're red because of all the blood vessels.

Oh, you said the inside of BELLS.  Never mind.

 

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 OT Dean on Thursday, April 26, 2018 12:38 AM

I've also wondered the same thing, as I can't count the number of times I visited the Soo Line Ten-wheeler on display across the street from the north end of Frame Park, in Waukesha (later moved over to the old CNW depot off Grand Avenue.  I wondered the same thing at the time, as the inside of the bell was painted red--bu there was no clapper because, I suppose they didn't want kids climbing the fence and ringing it, disturbing the neighbors.  Those bells were, and are, loud!  I've also seen this on other lovomotives--on display, never in tourist service.

Deano

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Posted by BigJim on Thursday, April 26, 2018 7:53 AM

N&W K2

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, April 26, 2018 9:53 AM

The problem with tracking down a historical question like this is separating what was then from what is now. I could see a situation here where in say 1910 a company casts a locomotive bell for a railroad. Since the inside of the bell isn't polished and cleaned like the outside, the company applies some kind of coating to the inside of the bell to inhibit rust and corrosion...and happens to be reddish colored. In 1995, someone restoring the engine notices some traces of red on the inside of the engine's bell, assumes the bell's interior was painted red, so buys a bucket of red paint and paints the inside of the bell red. In 2018, someone looks at what is obviously red paint inside the bell, and asks "why were the inside of railroad bells painted red?"

It's kinda like 'why are barns painted bright red'? If you went back in time to 1850, you wouldn't find any bright red barns. The cost of paint was determined by the cost of the animal, plant, or minerals used to create the color, and bright red would be too expensive. Barns were painted iron oxide red - a cheap, durable paint made from naturally occuring red clay or dirt. In railroad fandom, we know the color as "boxcar red". When artificial paint colors came along, people were used to painting barns "red" (meaning the iron oxide red) so went to the hardware store and asked for "red" paint, only now they got a bright red.

Stix
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Posted by Trainman440 on Thursday, April 26, 2018 10:07 AM

The problem with the idea that the paint is used to detect cracks/ prevent rust or corrosion is that the bell is brass/bronze, not steel. Brass doesn't usually crack, but if it were to crack, it would split it half, instead of acquiring little fractures. 
Brass doesn't rust, neither does it corrode. It does oxidize, not that oxidation is a problem. 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Charles L.

Modeling the Santa Fe & Pennsylvania in HO!

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Posted by mbinsewi on Thursday, April 26, 2018 10:11 AM

OT Dean
I've also wondered the same thing, as I can't count the number of times I visited the Soo Line Ten-wheeler on display across the street from the north end of Frame Park, in Waukesha (later moved over to the old CNW depot off Grand Avenue.

I wish it was still there.  The station is a Mexican restaurant, I think the passenger cars, converted to dining areas are still there.  I'll have to check it out the next time I drive through.

Mike.

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Posted by oldline1 on Thursday, April 26, 2018 1:27 PM

It was more of a Company decision as to decoration rather than function. There is no functional benefit to red paint inside a bell.

Some roads painted them red inside and some didn't. The N&W K-2 in the photo was an exception on the N&W rather than the rule. Southern seemed to have it as a "standard" in their freight and passenger paint specs.

Steel bells were generally painted black  or yellow inside and out from photos I have seen. Was this for corrosion reasons? Who knows? I understand the majority of steel bells were replaced with bronze or brass bells when the material became available.  During the War some metals and other materials were strictly governed as to use by the government including brass and high alloy steels. Hence the steel bells and whistles like SSW 4-8-4's. Look at the N&W J side rods on the #605-610 built during the War. They were huge in comparison to the previous and latter engines of the class. A lesser strength steel was specified due to gov't restrictions. As soon as they could the N&W replaced them and added the streamlined cowls.

Journals made from steel would have been totally impractical so the use of brass was necessary and allowed. Bells don't need to be made of a needed metal and as long as they made noise they could be steel. Fortunately they were replaced as the sounds were very different due to the materials used.

Paint can indeed mask cracks in metal which is why painted rods were an exception. Cracks in bells don't neccessarily cause the bell to "split in half" as mentioned. Cracks generally start out small and develop into larger ones without being attended to. The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia was noted as having a much smaller crack that continued to grow with use until the bell was recast. The recast bell continued to crack and was retired.

oldline1

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Posted by maxman on Thursday, April 26, 2018 8:20 PM

oldline1
Paint can indeed mask cracks in metal which is why painted rods were an exception. Cracks in bells don't neccessarily cause the bell to "split in half" as mentioned.

What about the clapper?  Were they painted, or left as made?

Mabe the answer is in the following Copper Claper Caper video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgYbogp1Ha0

 

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