Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Hand brake application on stationary freight cars

5 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    April 2021
  • 3 posts
Hand brake application on stationary freight cars
Posted by Saffron Springs on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 7:12 PM

How many hand brakes are applied on a string of stationary freight cars. For example, if it's a string of five are all the brakes applied on all five or just a couple.

Thanks guys


  • Member since
    October 2008
  • From: Canada
  • 1,819 posts
Posted by cv_acr on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 8:48 AM

Enough to make it not move.

I don't recall the exact number, but there's some rule of "1 handbrake per x number of cars".

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 10,619 posts
Posted by dehusman on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 9:17 AM

Depends.  Are they on a grade or on level ground?  

It could be one, it could be all.

As stated the answer is enough that they don't move. 

The railroads may have rules on how many handbrakes should be applied (era and railroad dependent) and they have rules on how to test that sufficient hanbrakes are applied.  Most involve setting handbrakes, then releasing the air brakes to see if the cars roll.  

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website :

  • Member since
    February 2005
  • 868 posts
Posted by davidmurray on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 3:33 PM

If I remeber right, I read that in the modern era, CN uses one in ten.  That as already pointed out would be on level track.


David Murray from Oshawa, Ontario Canada
  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: Central Iowa
  • 6,848 posts
Posted by jeffhergert on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 9:49 PM

All our jurisdictions have gone back to "a sufficient number" of hand brakes.  There are still some locations, mainly within yards, that have a specific number.

Before going back, there were local instructions for just about everywhere.  Usually they were a percentage of the cars being tied down, with a minimum of five.  

We also had on some areas it depended on what kind of brake equipment the car had.  New York Air Brake equipment is rigged so that both trucks will have the brake applied when the hand wheel is turned.  WABCO equipment (off hand - some hoppers and tank cars) only applies the brake on one truck, the one next to the brake wheel.  Some places counted a WABCO equipped car as 1/2 a brake.  So if the instructions called for 5 brakes and it was all WABCO brakes, you had to apply 10 hand brakes.

We have instructions for times when it's not possible to release the air brakes to see if the hand brakes hold for how many brakes to apply.  It's dependent on grade and tonnage.  Recently a double coal (260+ cars) train had tied down on a grade.  The lead engine went bad, it lost all it's oil.  The conductor, using the chart, determined they (he had a student) needed to tie 75 hand brakes.  Which they did.

Three days later, when they finally had an engine to rescue the train, the same conductor was called.  He, and the same student, had to release those 75 hand brakes.



  • Member since
    December 2017
  • From: I've been everywhere, man
  • 4,266 posts
Posted by SD70Dude on Friday, July 1, 2022 1:20 PM

Our rules don't make a distinction between cars with normal body-mounted brakes and those with truck-mounted air brakes.  

"10% + 1" is a common formula for how many handbrakes to apply, and our rule also says "to a maximum of 5".  So 1-9 cars = 1 handbrake, 10-19 cars = 2, 20-29 cars = 3, 30-39 = 4, and >40 = 5.  This part of our rule only applies to yard tracks with a grade less than 0.4%.  

If you are in a siding, on the main track, or on a grade greater than 0.4% you have to use the chart in CROR 112, which goes by trailing tonnage, not the number of cars.

Regardless of how many handbrakes you apply you still have to do a push/pull test to make sure they will hold.  

Also, some locations have special instructions to apply extra handbrakes (steep grade or known high wind area), and others allow you to apply fewer or even zero handbrakes if you are in a bowl.  The most unusual one I've seen is a part of Chappell yard in Saskatoon, you can be instructed to leave the air bottled and no handbrakes applied if the carmen want to test the track right away.   

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Search the Community

Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!