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How much snow to stop a train?

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How much snow to stop a train?
Posted by Boyd on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 1:38 AM

Whether its a RR crossing pile left by a plow truck or a 100 yard snowdrift out in the boonies, how much snow does it take to stop a train?

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Posted by cx500 on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 1:55 AM

No simple answer.  It will depend on the initial momentum of the train (speed and/or weight) and what type of snow.  Powder, like skiers love, will basically blow away.  The opposite type is a hardpacked drift in a shallow cutting.  The latter has been known to to derail a train, which then stops really quickly.

John

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Posted by silicon212 on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 2:27 AM

Here's three engines and a wedge plow getting stuck from about 40MPH -

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tF2ZPRmocs4

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Posted by Sawtooth500 on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 2:58 AM
Speaking of that train getting stuck at 40 mph, I've noticed a lot of time with plow trains it's just a plow with 3 engines. My guess would be why not put it in front of a full freight? That would give it a lot lot more momentum to plow through the heavy drifts. I'm also guessing there is a reason why this isn't done, and that reason is?
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Posted by edblysard on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 5:21 AM

You can stop a snow plow with 2 or 3 locomotives pushing from behind rather quickly...stopping a 100 + car freight train takes a good long time..

You can stop, back up and hit a heavy drift repeatedly with the small plow/locomotive combo, you can't back a train up easily or quickly.

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 5:23 AM

Someplace a year or two ago I saw or read an explanation by a motive power person as to why it's easier to get stuck with a plow being pushed by - say, 3 locomotives - as opposed to just 1.  It was counter-intuitive, of course, but made sense when studied.  I can't replicate the rationale - maybe with some luck I'll be able to find it and link it here - unless someone else can explain it here first ?

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Posted by Sawtooth500 on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 5:29 AM
I'd imagine it because if you only have 1 loco you can only push so deep into the snow - with 3 locos you can push deeper. Which means you'd be able to push through a deeper drift - to a point. When that point is reached, and you get stuck, you're in way deeper snow in the first place than you'd be with just 1 loco.
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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 2:08 PM

I think it was more like the 'weak link' principle - that sooner or later, one or two of them were going to start to slip, and at that point they became worse than useless - they were also added dead weight that had to be dragged along, and so would cause the more reliable loco/ stronger link to slip, too, so the whole shebang would come to a halt.

Which raises the question of why send more than 1 loco out with a plow anyway.  The only answers I can think of are reliability and safety - if 1 quits and shuts down,the crew can take refuge in another one and maybe use it to get back home - and to provide more weight = momentum for ramming drifts before they slow down enough that tractive force / slipping governs what they can do.

But I could be wrong on some or all of that.  I'd really like to see what an engineer or Road Foreman with experience in this has to say about that.

- Paul North.

"This Fascinating Railroad Business" (title of 1943 book by Robert Selph Henry of the AAR)
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Posted by selector on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 2:13 PM

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that running a wedge in front of 2K tons or more increases the probability of a serious wreck.  For one, the plow, itself, only weighs so much...in the right circumstances could it not be lifted off the tracks, buckle back, do a lot of damage...?  If in compacting snow it creates a near hydraulic block to its front, what happens to the rest of the moving items behind....would they slow and stop commensurately, or would the risk of a derailment, broken/shoved couplers, etc be considerable?

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 2:30 PM

Yes - and it has and does happen - although, the upward-sweep of the wedge causes a reaction force that pushes the fromt of the plow down and tighter/ harder onto the rails.

Then you have a 'reality-show' full size and actual-time demonstration of the answer to the rhetorical and scientific question of, ''What happens when an irresistable force meets an immobile object ?''  Where are the Myth Busters when we need them ?  ''Something's got to give'' - sometimes it's the snowpack, sometimes it's the snowplow train . . . Whistling

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Posted by RRKen on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 2:58 PM

Paul_D_North_Jr

I think it was more like the 'weak link' principle - that sooner or later, one or two of them were going to start to slip, and at that point they became worse than useless - they were also added dead weight that had to be dragged along, and so would cause the more reliable loco/ stronger link to slip, too, so the whole shebang would come to a halt.

Which raises the question of why send more than 1 loco out with a plow anyway.  The only answers I can think of are reliability and safety - if 1 quits and shuts down,the crew can take refuge in another one and maybe use it to get back home - and to provide more weight = momentum for ramming drifts before they slow down enough that tractive force / slipping governs what they can do.

But I could be wrong on some or all of that.  I'd really like to see what an engineer or Road Foreman with experience in this has to say about that.

- Paul North.

When running the wedge or Ditcher,  you need a way to bring the plow back home.   Speeds are restricted, when running them backwards as well.   So operationally, you want a back to back pair.  Yes, you also want power to buck the drifts.    Back a few years ago, we took 3 B23-7's out with the ditcher on the branch.  And as you predicted, one shut down ground relay.   Normally however, two is the norm on these parts.  

The only time we ran a single unit was on the old CGW in Hampton.    Had the wedge plow in April, and sure enough, it went off in the cut going to Coulter.    Nothing serious, but they are just not as stable as the Ditchers.  

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Posted by Kootenay Central on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 4:31 PM

.

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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 4:42 PM

From the Railroad Gazette:

  

February 1888

 

10th, on Northern Pacific, near Grey Cliff, Mont., passenger train derailed in a snow drift, the entire train running free from the track upon the prairie, leaving the road unobstructed.  The locomotive was upset and the tender piled on top of it.  Engineer and fireman killed.

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Posted by selector on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 4:48 PM

Kootenay Central
...Definitely stopped...

I dunno....I think he's still got a chance.   Maybe the boiler will melt back some of what's holding him?

Laugh

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Posted by caldreamer on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 5:26 PM

 In January 1951 the City of San Francisco got stuck when try to pass through a snow drift and then was hit by an avalance in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Th rotary plow sent to dig them out was hit by an avalance and buried.  It took three days to get the passengers and crew off and another week to clear the line to allow traffic to flow again.  It is not just drifts that snow plows have to worry about

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Posted by Kootenay Central on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 7:11 PM

No business like snow business.

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Posted by Murray on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 7:36 PM

igoldberg

 In January 1951 the City of San Francisco got stuck when try to pass through a snow drift and then was hit by an avalance in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Th rotary plow sent to dig them out was hit by an avalance and buried.  It took three days to get the passengers and crew off and another week to clear the line to allow traffic to flow again.  It is not just drifts that snow plows have to worry about

.

 

Make that January 1952......

 

 

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Posted by AgentKid on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 10:31 PM

Kootenay Central

Cab Units were preferred on plows as less snow 'dust' would get into electricals to cause Ground Relays.

http://members.shaw.ca/cprclc3/Album1/Plow_Extra_4053_Derailed_Elkview_Switch_on_Fording_River_Sub_March_1,_1972.jpg

This plow is derailed after being dragged in reverse until snow lifted nose.

The Sectionman to right moving replacer was one of three brothers killed in spring mudslide about 6 weeks later at Michel, B.C.

 

K.C., that is quite the picture.

That is a very interesting consist. According to the Canadian Trackside Guide, 2007 Edition, that type of Centre Cupola Wide Vision Caboose didn't start being built until 1971. According to www.mountainrailway.com the #4053 was retired in June 1975. I still can't figure out how to copy links with Firefox, or I could show you a picture of #4053 on a more pleasant day.

But that plow #400640, is something else again. This plow was rebuilt at CP's Angus Shop in Montreal in December 1920 from wooden plow #400726, built sometime between 1880 and 1920. They don't seem to have those records. The CPR was formed in 1881, so either they bought it used or it was built in very early days to need rebuilding by 1920. The CPR sure didn't like to throw anything away!

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Posted by Tugboat Tony on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 3:49 AM

I have to argue this

AgentKid

Cab Units were preferred on plows as less snow 'dust' would get into electricals to cause Ground Relays.

http://members.shaw.ca/cprclc3/Album1/Plow_Extra_4053_Derailed_Elkview_Switch_on_Fording_River_Sub_March_1,_1972.jpg

Dry snow will get into the unit just as fast and deep with a covered wagon VS an old geep. One of the big problems is with snow getting packed on top of hot traction motors and dripping into the motor. doesn't really matter what kind of unit.  But the doors on a regular cab can and do get packed shut to the point you may have to crawl out the windows if you can open them. With the doors on an F opening inward that wouldn't be near the issue.

As for why you would want two or three units vs one; is, as stated, what happens when the unit dies, it can get awfully cold awfully quick. 

Wheel slip would have been an much more of an issue with the older geep-7's then with dash 2's and modern power. but this can also lead to getting a plow stuck much harder then you would have had with one.

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Posted by basementdweller on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 1:56 PM

Sawtooth500
I'd imagine it because if you only have 1 loco you can only push so deep into the snow - with 3 locos you can push deeper. Which means you'd be able to push through a deeper drift - to a point. When that point is reached, and you get stuck, you're in way deeper snow in the first place than you'd be with just 1 loco.

 

My old boss on the farm had the same theory about 4WD pick up trucks "they'll just get you stuck further away from the house". 

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Posted by tomikawaTT on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 2:46 PM

Working strictly from memory, since I first read this (in Trains or Railroad) a half-century or more ago.

Scenario:  Grande passenger train, 4-8-4 power, running eastbound (downgrade) from Tennessee Pass at night in a ground blizzard, temperature 'way below zero.

At an acute-angle grade crossing, the ice in the flangeways (which must have been as hard as armor plate) lifted the flanges, derailed the locomotive parallel to the road centerline and on the road.  The engineer didn't realize that he was no longer on the rails until a signal failed to appear.  At that point he had run about a mile down the ruts of the hard-frozen dirt road.

No injuries, no damage to the equipment - but I'll bet getting that train back on the rails was a bear.

Chuck

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Posted by samfp1943 on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 3:22 PM

tomikawaTT

Working strictly from memory, since I first read this (in Trains or Railroad) a half-century or more ago.

Scenario:  Grande passenger train, 4-8-4 power, running eastbound (downgrade) from Tennessee Pass at night in a ground blizzard, temperature 'way below zero.

At an acute-angle grade crossing, the ice in the flangeways (which must have been as hard as armor plate) lifted the flanges, derailed the locomotive parallel to the road centerline and on the road.  The engineer didn't realize that he was no longer on the rails until a signal failed to appear.  At that point he had run about a mile down the ruts of the hard-frozen dirt road.

No injuries, no damage to the equipment - but I'll bet getting that train back on the rails was a bear.

Chuck

Chuck;

        That story might surely qualify for the "URBAN LEGEND" Thread! CoolCool

        " ...about a mile down the road"...Confused  At that point did he grab the steering wheel, and driver back on to the rails??LaughLaughLaugh

Sam

 

 


 

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 3:28 PM

I suspect this may be an 'urban legend' sort of thing.  If so, it has a 'punch line', too. 

That starts with the engineer being 'called on the carpet' shortly thereafter to explain to the Trainmaster or Superintendent how that extraordinary event happened.  Of course, the engineer explained about the 'ground blizzard' and how the zero visibility, etc. prevented him from realizing what had gone wrong and what had happened instead, etc.  I'll leave it to somepne else to pick up the story from there, as the ending is a little different . . . Whistling

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Posted by Kootenay Central on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 4:28 PM

One can argue all one wants, but, CNR kept a pair of GM A units for years just for plow service, and used them in freight service the rest of the time.

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Posted by Kootenay Central on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 5:57 PM

This also is from memory, absent as it may be.

At least 25 years ago there was a photo in 'Trains' showing a CNR end-cab GM yard locomotive in the snow with it's reflector headlight peering in the front window of a bungalow.

What had apparently happened is that the locomotive had derailed at sand, ice and gravel-filled flangeways at the nearby level crossing, slewed to one side, then followed the sloped road down and across onto the lawn, stopping just short of the house.

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Posted by wabash1 on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 7:10 PM

I can say that 3ft snow has not stopped me not from a start or at 45mph. it is fun to watch that snow fly when plowing thru it and looking back al you see is white. the better question would be how much snow does it take to keep you from stopping?

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 7:24 PM

I remember that one, too:

So you wanted an SW1200 for Christmas
Trains, December 1987 page 39
switcher derailed, in driveway of house
( ACCIDENT, CNR, FRONTISPIECE, "INGLES, J. DAVID", TRN )

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 7:44 PM

From now on, a telephoto lens
Trains, December 1988 page 30
a wedge plow flinging snow farther than anticipated
( "BEAUMONT, RALPH", CPR, FRONTISPIECE, PLOW, SNOW, TRN )

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Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 8:53 PM

How much snow to stop a train?  A light dusting will do it, given enough weight on the drawbar and a grade.  Been there....

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Thursday, February 18, 2010 10:30 AM

Paul_D_North_Jr
  Someplace a year or two ago I saw or read an explanation by a motive power person as to why it's easier to get stuck with a plow being pushed by - say, 3 locomotives - as opposed to just 1.  It was counter-intuitive, of course, but made sense when studied.  I can't replicate the rationale - maybe with some luck I'll be able to find it and link it here - unless someone else can explain it here first ?  

OK, I just stumbled over it while looking for something else -

When is One Greater Than Three?
By: Dick Hovey
April 17, 2007

at - http://www.railpictures.net/articles/article.php?id=14 

The 'star' of this story and photos from 1979 was UP 168, a borrowed GP9 with a large pilot plow on its front/ short end, with a pair of N&W GP38-2's.  The short version is -

After explaining their plight they were surprised by the response. “Well boys”, the RFE said, “You’ve got too many engines. With multiple units under those conditions, one of them is bound to unload due to wheelslip. When that happens you're just dragging dead weight and the other engines will start to slip too. Your only hope is to go with just the 168.”

The rest of the story is pretty good, and not too long - I recommend it.

- Paul North. 

 

"This Fascinating Railroad Business" (title of 1943 book by Robert Selph Henry of the AAR)

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