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Cab-Forward Locomotives

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Cab-Forward Locomotives
Posted by gbcutter on Thursday, December 13, 2012 10:30 PM

As I understand it, the main advantages of a cab-forward were visibility and to keep the smoke away from the operators. The main dis-advantages were difficulty of getting coal or oil to the boiler and more dangerous in a wreck.

Now to my question; aren't most modern diesel locomotives essentially cab-forward? Since diesels don't have tons of smoke blowing over the operators, the only advantage remaining would be visibility, but even though the fuel is no problem, isn't the danger of the engineer being the first one to arrive at a wreck, still a concern? Or are modern railroads just that much safer?

Maybe a silly question, but I was just curious.

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Posted by Rastafarr on Thursday, December 13, 2012 10:35 PM

No, this is still a concern. That's why you see the 'Canadian Cab' on virtually all modern locos. The wider nose gives more room, true, but the whole thing is also made of thicker, tougher materials and is much better at taking a wallop -- say from an errant log or befuddled cow -- than the standard drop-nose short hood. A 100+ car unit train ain't stoppin' if Bessie gets in the way; that means protecting the crew from surprise encounters will always be a part of 1:1 railroading.

Stu

Titus Ore and Timber ca. May 1929

Sweet mercy is nobility's true badge.

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Posted by selector on Thursday, December 13, 2012 10:41 PM

It was so difficult to get coal to the boiler of the Southern AC series that the designers opted for oil that was heated, pumped, and atomized very nicely. Smile, Wink & Grin  Same for water, although minus the atomizing.

Diesels are inherently safer insofar as they don't have a fire in them or a boiler sensitive to the heat of the fire.  Otherwise, modern CTC or equivalent centralized control and communications makes railroading at the very least no more risky or inherently dangerous today than it was in 1939, and most would say it is considerably safter on a ton-mile/man-hour basis.

In a collision, I think it is a tossup.  The closer proximity to the point of impact in a short-nose forward diesel is matched by the probability of a lethal scalding due to broken sight glasses, broken piping, ruptured anything passing steam pressure from the boiler, etc.

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Posted by BF&D on Thursday, December 13, 2012 11:03 PM

selector wrote:

It was so difficult to get coal to the boiler of the Southern AC series that the designers opted for oil that was heated, pumped, and atomized very nicely

Actually, SP had officially been an oil burning railroad since 1903, and in actual use well before that.  California never had any extensive coal deposits, but oil was discovered in the central valley in the late 1870s, and even more in the Long Beach area in the 1880s.  And SP certainly didn't want to enrich UP for hauling coal from Wyoming or Utah.  They burned bunker oil  -  cheap and plentiful leftovers of pre-catalytic conversion refining processes  -  and the steam pipes in the tender tank heated the gooey bunker oil to 155 - 160 ° F.  This not only allowed better atomization, but also made it easier to move up the fuel line with just a few pounds of air pressure.

In reference to an earlier post, the primary reason for copying the Italian originated (Rete Adriatica, 1900) cab forward idea was because in 1908 the first of Baldwin's 2-8-8-2s nearly killed their crews getting through the 35 or so miles of wooden snow sheds.  The much improved visibility was just a bonus.  Although early crews were leery of being first on the scene of a RR crossing meet with a gasoline tanker, in fact the cab forwards had a better safety record than other SP steam.

Come visit the sole remaining cab forward at the California State RR Museum some Sunday afternoon and I'll be glad to show you around if I'm on docent duty that day.

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Posted by "JaBear" on Friday, December 14, 2012 1:50 AM

Gidday,  A link to some Cab forward information......

http://www.steamlocomotive.com/cabforward/

Talking about visibility ,while I have never had a cab ride on on a steam locomotive, when cleaning the cab on my avatar, an NZGR Ja 4-8-2, I often wondered about the actual visibility, especially at speed, when the fireman was busy shovelling, with little time to look down the left side of the boiler.

I suspect that it took some getting used to,sitting up front of a diesel for the former steam crews though I don't think anyone was upset about not having to shift large amounts of coal and maintaining the water levels in a boiler on grades. In fact I'm lead to believe that "Deadman Devices" were fitted because of the boredom.

Cheers, the Bear.

"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 tomikawaTT on Friday, December 14, 2012 2:05 AM

Deadman devices predated diesel prime movers by several decades on electric locomotives and EMU.  The only reason nobody ever fitted one to a steam loco was that there wasn't any practical way to do it.

Several railroads (N&W for one) ordered their first batches of road switchers long hood forward, feeling that the distance and the bulk of the prime mover added to crew safety - and visibility was no worse than that out of a steamer.  Not until 'cab to the rear' became an extra-cost option did they join the low nose/front cab ranks.

Pennsy took their P5 electrics from box cab design to 'Junior GG1' style after they lost a crew in a grade crossing accident.  Crew safety trumped visibility.

Interestingly, the last steam designed and built in Japan was designed to run cab forward - or, more accurately, bunker forward.  the E10 class 2-10-4T had the engineer seated where he could see signals past the bunker, rather than down the length of the boiler.  The five units of the class were designed to be pushers, on a line with lots of tunnels.  They were the only modern steam locos in Japan that weren't fitted with elephant ears.

Chuck (Modeling Central Japan in September, 1964)

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Posted by "JaBear" on Friday, December 14, 2012 2:09 AM

tomikawaTT

Deadman devices predated diesel prime movers by several decades on electric locomotives and EMU.  The only reason nobody ever fitted one to a steam loco was that there wasn't any practical way to do it.

Chuck (Modeling Central Japan in September, 1964)

Thanks, Chuck, I'd best do some more reading.

Cheers, the Bear.

"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 dknelson on Friday, December 14, 2012 8:17 AM

Slightly on topic -- in 1962 when I was a boy there was a bad wreck in my hometown of South Milwaukee WI -- somehow a freight car on the industrial trackage of the Bucyrus Erie factory (they had their own locomotives, and some flat cars) interferred with the main line (the "old" line or passenger line) of the Chicago & North Western.  An eastbound afternoon freight, with the usual loads of Chicago bound newsprint, hit the car directly and derailed, scattering locomotives and freight cars over a considerable distance where Rawson Avenue crosses the CNW (now, UP).  Due to a curve right there at Rawson Ave.  theyhad no chance to see the car before it was too late. 

Here is a link to a 1915 photo from the online archives of the Chicago & North Western Historical Society shows the exact location of that 1962 wreck, and you can see the Bucyrus industrial trackage to the right.  The barn off to the left became a factory where the siding ended and the shoofly was installed:

 http://www.cnwhs.org/memberphotos/displayimage.php?album=21&pos=78

Fortunately while the crew was injured the injuries were not fatal. And the only reason that is the case is the instead of the usual power consist of a couple of GP7s or 9s, for whatever reason the lead locomotive that particular day was an RS-1 -- and on the C&NW those old RS-1s were set up to run long hood forward unlike the GPs.  Had the crew been in a Geep the cab would have taken the brunt of the impact and I hate to think of what the consequences would have been (and those were in full-crew days to boot).   As it was the hood length of the Alco protected the crew from that direct impact. 

About that same time most afternoons the South Milwaukee switcher, an SW, would often be running east (south) with its cab forward and that crew would not have had a chance if they had been unlucky enough to hit that freight car.  They would have had even less protection and even fewer escape possibilities.

Needless to say the wreck was a considerable attraction in town for a day or two.  i still remember they used steam cranes. 

For years afterword you could still see where the C&NW hurriedly constructed a shoofly around the wreck site to detour trains over a somewhat rickety spur west of the main that served a junk yard, a feed store, and some factories.  After nearly derailing the 400 on that shoofly they decided to send the passenger trains down the "new" (freight) main.  

North Western veterans I have talked to credit the long hood forward operation of the Alcos for saving the lives of the cab crew.

Dave Nelson

 

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Posted by wjstix on Friday, December 14, 2012 8:28 AM

It's been speculated that one reason that the CB&Q never ran Budd cars was because after a fatal crash involving one of their early "shovelnose" passenger diesels, the railroad and the employee unions had come to an unwritten agreement that the railroad wouldn't buy any more engines that didn't have some type of nose in front of the cab to protect the crew. 

That being said...I can't think of the name of it, but in that Carstens book by the old SP engineer, he talks about being in a wreck in a yard with a hi-nose GP or SD running short hood forward. He said if it had been a low-nose engine he and his fireman probably would have been killed.

Stix
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Posted by JimValle on Friday, December 14, 2012 4:31 PM

During the 1930's the Western Pacific was in the market for large articulated freight power.  Management asked their crews if they would prefer a Southern Pacific type cab forward or a conventional cab aft layout.  The WP men chose the conventional configuration because they knew that there were frequent rock slides in the Feather River Canyon and they wanted "all that iron out front"  for protection.  SP men liked their Cab Forwards from the standpoint of crew comfort but they were very happy to have access doors handy on each side so that they could "join the birds" in a hurry if things got hairy.

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Posted by selector on Friday, December 14, 2012 4:44 PM

One thing that could be said in the cab-forward's favour is that it was sometimes the case that the exhuast from the stack would dislodge loose rocks near the roof of the tunnel, some of them large and damaging.  With the exhuast safely behind them, those in the cab were at least spared that small risk.

Crandell

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Posted by twhite on Friday, December 14, 2012 6:29 PM

Crandell:

SP thought of that, also.  They devised a 'stack-splitter' to circumvent this--a large bar-like implement laid over the top of the two stacks that split the exhaust and sent it out at about a 45-degree angle.   Even though SP was fanatical about their engineers running as 'clean' a stack as possible, it was interesting to watch the stack-splitter in action, especially during frigid weather in the Sierra Nevada when what looked like four plumes of exhaust were blasting almost sideways out of the stacks.  Pretty spectacular.

Tom

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Saturday, December 15, 2012 10:10 AM

gbcutter

... isn't the danger of the engineer being the first one to arrive at a wreck, still a concern? Or are modern railroads just that much safer?

Maybe a silly question, but I was just curious.

It is still a concern.  I just skimmed over the topic and didn't see anyone mention Norfolk & Western RR which ran their diesels with the cab at the rear, long hood forward.  This was done because that RR was concerned about safety.  The Utah RR also ran their RS4/5 diesls long hood forward but I have never read if this was a safety policy, because later they ran the ex-Santa Fe alligator diesels and later the GP40's all cab forward standard position.

So...  modern RR safer, maybe but the safety factor is still a concern.

From the far reaches of the wild, wild west, I used to be!
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Posted by rrinker on Saturday, December 15, 2012 5:54 PM

 I believe it was more common for first generation diesel power to run long hood forward, the change to short hood forward came with second generation and newer diesels - although some roads, notable N&W and Southern, never changed until modern safety cabs.

 Which irks me that the Proto 2000 GP7's come set up for short hood forward, at least if painted in as delivered schemes, that was the more rare mode.

          --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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