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odd/strange railroad myths

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odd/strange railroad myths
Posted by teen steam fan on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 7:23 PM

Like the title suggests. Also, true, plausable, false, or not tested.

A coin can derail a locomotive. Busted wide open (Mythbusters, and my grandfather used to work at Caterpillar where the guys would lay pennys on the track.)

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Posted by wholeman on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 7:47 PM

Mythbusters showed that a baby stroller set on the edge of a train platform can fall onto the tracks when a speeding train goes by.  They proved it was true.

My only question is what kind of irresponsible parent would leave a small child in a baby stroller at the edge of the platform.

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Posted by jeffrey-wimberly on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 7:56 PM

wholeman
My only question what kind of irresponsible parent would leave a small child in a baby stroller at the of the platform.

You've never been down here, have you? Child Safety Services are taking kids away from their parents for acts just like that and worse.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 8:09 PM

Stepping on a rail is suppose to bring bad luck for the run..

Even today you'll not see a railroader step on a rail as he crosses the track(s).

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Posted by jwhitten on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 12:44 AM

teen steam fan

Like the title suggests. Also, true, plausable, false, or not tested.

A coin can derail a locomotive. Busted wide open (Mythbusters, and my grandfather used to work at Caterpillar where the guys would lay pennys on the track.)

 

 

An old Pennsy myth... merging with your arch-rival spells doom...

 oh wait, that actually happened. Nevermind.

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Posted by twhite on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 12:55 AM

There is an L-131 Rio Grande 2-8-8-2 buried in the original Tennessee Pass Tunnel that was left there during a cave-in after the alternate tunnel was built. 

Let's go dig it out.

Tom Tongue

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Posted by gmcrail on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 1:17 AM

 

BRAKIE

Stepping on a rail is suppose to bring bad luck for the run..

Even today you'll not see a railroader step on a rail as he crosses the track(s).

 

Nothing to do with any superstition about bad luck.  It's a safety issue.  Railheads can be slippery, especially in bad weather.  If the yard boss or crew foreman catches you stepping on a railhead , you can get yourself demerits or worse.   And yeah, it can be bad luck for the run if you sprain your ankle or even break a leg before a run...  That's no myth.

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Posted by jwhitten on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 6:03 AM

 Okay, I got one for ya-- its not a myth though, its true and well-documented. But it is a bit sad.

Have you ever heard the story of "Mary, the Elephant", which took place in Erwin Tennessee?

Follow this link  (warning, the picture on the page is a bit graphic, but its a good story)

Here is a google search link for other tellings of the same story.

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Posted by airwolf crazy on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 6:24 AM

Wow, sad story about Mary.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 8:24 AM

gmcrail

 

BRAKIE

Stepping on a rail is suppose to bring bad luck for the run..

Even today you'll not see a railroader step on a rail as he crosses the track(s).

 

Nothing to do with any superstition about bad luck.  It's a safety issue.  Railheads can be slippery, especially in bad weather.  If the yard boss or crew foreman catches you stepping on a railhead , you can get yourself demerits or worse.   And yeah, it can be bad luck for the run if you sprain your ankle or even break a leg before a run...  That's no myth.

 

Sorry Gary not to the old railroaders..As you know they was a very superstitious lot.The list of their superstitions  is endless.

I worked with a Irish conductor that thought it was a bad omen if  he seen a white cat any where near the tracks and would almost go into a panic if a black cat look toward his train.

My Great grandfather wouldn't run a engine that was turn "against the sun" or if the engine had a 13 in its number..

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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 8:27 AM

I have a video from about 25 years ago called "Safe Switching" that was a training movie for Great Northern yard and engine men made in 1946. The movie mentions several times not to step on the rail, since oil from the journalboxes can get on the railhead making it slippery and possibly causing a fall.

One great RR legend is the "broken neck crane" story. After the 1893 Pullman / railroad strike was crushed, many railroads fired employees who had taken part in the strike but gave them service letters saying how long they had performed their job(s) with the railroad, to prove their experience if another RR decided to hire them. (Some roads like the Rock Island were pretty good about not only not firing strikers, but even hiring men fired from other roads.)

Anyway, the crux of the story is two guys go in to apply for a job, both have the same experience etc. The boss takes their letters into a back room and one gets hired and the other doesn't. Eventually the guy who doesn't get hired talks to other railroaders about it and finds out that it's the watermark of the paper. A common watermark at that time was a company that used a crane (the bird) in it's paper. (When you hold the paper up to the light, you can see the bird so it proves who made the paper.) Guys who had been strike leaders, or engaged in some violence etc. were supposedly given letters with a watermark showing the crane with it's neck "snapped" at like a 90-degree angle. When applying for a job, they'd take the letter in a backroom and hold it up to the light, if it had the regular watermark you could get hired, if it had the broken one, you wouldn't.

Problem with trying to prove it is this conversation usually occured around a hobo camp fire, and when the guy found out his paper was worthless, he'd wad it up and throw it in the fire. So AFAIK no copies of such a letter exist, but it's been noted as being the "holy grail" of railroad collectibles if one ever turned up.

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Posted by Paul3 on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 10:07 AM

Another "Mythbuster" episode had the ol' "peeing on the 3rd rail" myth that doing so will kill you.  At first, they "busted" it because they couldn't recreate the effect, saying that the liquid stream was too broken up to pass current.  Then, they revisited the myth by having Adam urinate on an active electric fence...and he got a shock.  They confirmed that a liquid stream can pass current, and therefore the 3rd rail myth may be possible after all.

wholeman,
Um, no.  The Mythbusters showed that an empty lightweight stroller would be blown away by a passing train, not that it would get sucked onto the tracks.  The bow wave of air from the train's passing caused the empty stroller to be tossed quite a distance from where it was left.  They also had set up "Buster" very close to the edge of the platform and ran a real train (the RailRunner, IIRC) past it at 80mph.  Buster barely flinched, and all his motion was away from the track, not towards it.

Think about it.  The "suction" comes after the bow wave.  Therefore, when the bow wave hits first, the object is moved away from the track by this force.  The "suction" would have to exert even more force than the bow wave to make the object stop moving away from the track and then make it move towards the track.  That's just not possible.

So the myth that a train's passing will draw you off a platform by suction?  Busted.

Brakie,
Sure, it may be bad luck to step on the railhead, but it's against the rules and just the smart thing not to do.  That's not superstition or a myth, that's a fact.

I saw once an older couple get off a commuter train, and instead of walking under the passenger underpass at the west end of the platform, they decided to follow the usual commuter crowd that walks across the tracks around the end of the fence at the east end.  The gentleman went 1st, and stepped on the rail right off the platform with his leather shoes.  He slipped, and took a header against the other rail head.  He got a bloody nose out of it.

Ever since, I will never step on a railhead.  Not because I'm superstitious, but because it's just plain dumb to do so.  It's like putting your bare hand in a lit fireplace or licking a cactus.  Somethings just shouldn't be done.  Smile

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Posted by blownout cylinder on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 10:47 AM

Paul3
I saw once an older couple get off a commuter train, and instead of walking under the passenger underpass at the west end of the platform, they decided to follow the usual commuter crowd that walks across the tracks around the end of the fence at the east end.  The gentleman went 1st, and stepped on the rail right off the platform with his leather shoes.  He slipped, and took a header against the other rail head.  He got a bloody nose out of it.

A question I usually end up with is why anyone would cross any rail where there isn't a walkway between the rails. Even if a walkway is right in front of them I'd see these people go the extra 50 meters down the line and then crossWhistling

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Posted by BRAKIE on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 11:16 AM

Paul3 wrote:Brakie,
Sure, it may be bad luck to step on the railhead, but it's against the rules and just the smart thing not to do.  That's not superstition or a myth, that's a fact.

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

Paul,I know it was also a superstition with the old line PRR conductors and brakemen and by stepping on a rail it would bring bad luck during the run...I still don't step on a rail because of that superstition.No use trying to prove its nothing more then a safety rule.Shock

A lot of those guys has 30-40 years in and the majority was superstitous..On the Chessie(c&o) these superstitions was begining to fade as the new breed of railroaders was replacing the older men due to retirement.

The majority of the PRR/PC engineers and firemen I worked with ran or fired steam locomotives.There was few steam era enginemen left when I started work on the Chessie(c&o) by 1978.

Larry

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Posted by CTValleyRR on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 6:22 PM

jwhitten

An old Pennsy myth... merging with your arch-rival spells doom...

 oh wait, that actually happened. Nevermind.

 And took out the New Haven with collateral damage!

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Posted by RailfanS on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 6:58 PM

twhite

There is an L-131 Rio Grande 2-8-8-2 buried in the original Tennessee Pass Tunnel that was left there during a cave-in after the alternate tunnel was built. 

Let's go dig it out.

Tom Tongue

I'll go get my shovelSmile,Wink, & Grin

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Posted by Vakharn on Monday, December 21, 2009 9:45 PM

 Every time I see mythbusters I wish I could come up with a good railroad myth for them to test. Every aspect of life has it's myths, and surely railroads have their fair share, but most of them are myths in the classic sense, a story, not a "I heard if you do this, this happens!".

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Posted by dehusman on Monday, December 21, 2009 9:54 PM

Vakharn
  Every time I see mythbusters I wish I could come up with a good railroad myth for them to test. Every aspect of life has it's myths, and surely railroads have their fair share, but most of them are myths in the classic sense, a story, not a "I heard if you do this, this happens!".

Here's one for Myth Busters and I'll let you suggest it.  The story goes that if a train speeds up before hitting a gasoline truck it will cut the truck in two and the crew will make it past the truck before it explodes.  All sorts of mthbuster stuff, heavy equipment, explosions, etc.

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Posted by Vakharn on Monday, December 21, 2009 10:00 PM

 You know, that's pretty good. Exactly the sort of stuff mythbusters look for, and a good excuse to get some rail power on the show. Only problem is, I don't know that the mythbusters can afford a locomotive to do that to. I'll suggest it though.

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Posted by Flashwave on Monday, December 21, 2009 10:06 PM

Vakharn

 You know, that's pretty good. Exactly the sort of stuff mythbusters look for, and a good excuse to get some rail power on the show. Only problem is, I don't know that the mythbusters can afford a locomotive to do that to. I'll suggest it though.

Boneyard? It's gonna go boom anyway... Or what about the test facility, ITTC I think it is?

I wanted to add the open rear coupler myth to the list too.

Tom: I would love to be there if that happens. I wonder how well a mummified steamer is preserved?

Here's another myth: UP will let a bunch of railfans with shovels near the ol Tennesee Pass tunnel that collapsed. Has to be a myth, cause it sure ain't the truth!

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Posted by grizlump9 on Tuesday, December 22, 2009 3:13 AM

 Another "Mythbuster" episode had the ol' "peeing on the 3rd rail" myth that doing so will kill you.

 

the motorman can get away with it because he is a "non-conductor"

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Posted by teen steam fan on Tuesday, December 22, 2009 9:14 PM

RailfanS

twhite

There is an L-131 Rio Grande 2-8-8-2 buried in the original Tennessee Pass Tunnel that was left there during a cave-in after the alternate tunnel was built. 

Let's go dig it out.

Tom Tongue

I'll go get my shovelSmile,Wink, & Grin

Jamie

Right behind you.

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Posted by easyaces on Tuesday, December 22, 2009 10:12 PM

I don't care what anyone says, but a coin just cannot derail a train. Now I have placed pennie, nickles, dimes, quarters, and even half dollars on rails and all they have become is FLAT! No derailments either. Now its  more likely to derail a train with a rail spike or something bigger on the rails.

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Posted by Flashwave on Tuesday, December 22, 2009 11:23 PM

easyaces

I don't care what anyone says, but a coin just cannot derail a train. Now I have placed pennie, nickles, dimes, quarters, and even half dollars on rails and all they have become is FLAT! No derailments either. Now its  more likely to derail a train with a rail spike or something bigger on the rails.

ALong this line, I've heard that putting a coin in the rail joint also does lovly not nice things, including the classic derails a train. IS it ture though that coins in he joint do other bad things? I'm not bold or dumb enough to try it

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Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, December 23, 2009 7:17 AM

 It won't derail the train, but it CAN squish out (like pinching a watermelon seed and shooting it across the room) with enough force to cause injury, so don't stand there and watch it. Relative to model flanges, prototype flanges are quite small, but they're still bigger than a coin's thickness.

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Posted by teen steam fan on Wednesday, December 23, 2009 9:54 AM

My grandpa worked at Caterpillar and some of the guys there would put coins on the rails and they would always come out flat with no derailments. I have read online that one peice of ballast will derail a light freight car. ( I freelace British railways and light over there is 6 tons.)

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Posted by Javelina on Wednesday, December 23, 2009 11:15 AM

You know, if I was a dishonest railroad type (picture a modern version of Hedley LaMarr from Blazing Saddles) and needed a collapsed fill dug out, I'd circulate a rumor on railfan sites that there was a long lost "Holy Grail" type railroad object there. MMWWAAHAAHAA!!! On the subject of coins and how much difficulty they impose on locomotives starting out, let's pull a "Mythbusters" and think small scale. ( I know this was in another thread but it seems to be an epic myth) In HO scale, a nickel's .0009" thick. Let's cheat and use some .001" shim stock because we've got it. Let's cheat more(still on the side of the myth) and cut out something we can see, because an HO nickel's .010" in diameter and a little on the finiky side to cut out. Make it say 1/16" square. That's 5 7/16" in real life. Didn't stop my little 0-6-0 and I'll bet it wouldn't stop a real one. Empty freight car, especially 6 tons, even Imperial tonnes, maybe it would derail it.

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Posted by R. T. POTEET on Wednesday, December 23, 2009 11:38 AM

Paul3

Another "Mythbuster" episode had the ol' "peeing on the 3rd rail" myth that doing so will kill you.  At first, they "busted" it because they couldn't recreate the effect, saying that the liquid stream was too broken up to pass current.  Then, they revisited the myth by having Adam urinate on an active electric fence...and he got a shock.  They confirmed that a liquid stream can pass current, and therefore the 3rd rail myth may be possible after all.

I once saw a dog tangle with a "pig" wire hooked up to a pulser unit; I don't know how much voltage those things carried and I occasionally would get careless and get a pulse or two but it was a very "shocking" experience for this dog! To the best of my knowledge, it was a one incident infusion of knowledge and the experience was never repeated! I remember that yowl could have been heard three farms over.

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Posted by route_rock on Wednesday, December 23, 2009 11:55 AM

  Locomotives with numbers that add up to nine, like 4212 would be  a hoodoo engine.Closed knuckle on the rear is a favorite, but did you know toleave the leading knuckle open so you can pick up extra luck?

  I heard about the agin the sun one and never running a locomotive that had been in a wreck that killed a felow engineman.

  The gas truck one I never want to find out on my own.I would think that hitting it would yes give you an explosion, but not in the Hollyweird sense. i am thinking more along the lines of the product turning into a wave of burning fuel.Kind of like napalm.But it would be a great show for Mythbusters.

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Posted by Two Truck Shay on Wednesday, December 23, 2009 12:32 PM

At Knotts Berry Farm, there used to be a tradition of placing pennies on the track for the steam engines to flatten. I remember seeing a bunch of kids doing so with no suggestion that it was not perfectly okay (enployees were watching). When the train had passed, the pennies were FLATTENED!

But no derailments as far as I know.

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