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View Diary: Update: Canada "Ghost Train"on Fire Hours Before Runaway (138 comments)

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  •  As a former Brakeman here's what I know, first (27+ / 0-)

    off fire damage on a locomotive won't have anything to do with the coupler , it's a chunk of iron, a flap that stays in place until someone pulls the pin (or lifts the draw bar) to uncouple the cars from one another (engine included).

    Dangling below where the cars couple together you see a black hose, the air hose, from one car coupled to the hose from the other car (or engine) and that's for the air for the brake system (generated by the compressor on  the engine).

    When you separate the engines from the parked cars you have to turn OFF the valve cock on the engine or the air blows out and the engine's brakes 'dynamite', or lock up (until the engineer can pump up the air pressure to release the brakes).
    So that had to happen or the engines don't move from that spot, but as a brakeman you leave the valve OPEN on the cars you leave which seizes  the brakes (with a loud swish of air) on every car the air is running thru. This is when some engineers will first pump up the brakes on what's getting left so when the air on them blows the brakes are locked, solid. One reason for the caboose was that you have a gauge back there that shows the line is open all the way to the end, now apparently they have a signal with that little red light thing you see at the end these days.

    After you dynamite the brakes on all (the connected cars) you tie down 'x' number of brakes per 'x' number of cars. It varies according to what kind of loads (how heavy and the grade), I got criticism from some brakemen because when they went to move a parked train they had to undo so many brakes I set but that was the way I was trained, better safe than sorry.

    Now I have no idea what they mean by security at the site but to release those brakes without an engine attached to pump up the air is to bleed by hand every single car (or enuf to get them rolling), which makes a loud hissing sound.
    Keep in mind if you think about some slow leak, that the train wouldn't have got there if it had a leak in the system to begin with and there is a lot of pressure applied. If the pressure drops (or raises) radically it APPLIES the brakes. That's why when you are coupling air hoses together (after the cars are coupled of course) you have to slowly turn open the valve from the engine's direction (and from the direction of the cars), and I do mean slowly or the brakes will lock up on everything.

    So that's what I know, maybe someone did bleed the cars, and released the brakes on enough cars to get it started (if the brakes were really pumped up first cars would have to be bled before you can even get he hand brake loose), but the train ain't gonna bleed itself or kick it's locks off.
    I left the Railroad in 1982 (Canadian Pacific ) and even then some engines had 'black boxes' (like airplanes) and those will tell in detail what the engineer applied every foot of the trip including if he set the brakes, or pumped them up before pulling away for them to dynamite.

    One last thing (I promise) there were a LOT of places we parked cars where if we were dealing with dangerous loads, or dangerous grade (if they rolled out on the main line) like LPG or other such loads there was a DERAILER before the switch to put the first car on the ground.
     Btw the Derailer is something that flips on top of the rail and it has a groove in it to guide the first wheel that hits it onto the ground. SO I wonder if there was one there and if so two things, first why was it not set (it locks down) and if there wasn't one how did it run thru the switch without going on the ground did they park it way back of the switch?

    without the ants the rainforest dies

    by aliasalias on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 12:36:44 PM PDT

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    •  Thanks for explaining (7+ / 0-)

      Here's a Google Earth pic of the scene. The train was parked on one of the lines to the right. There is a curve and a switch with the cafe across the street.
      Click to zoom

      •  Thanks for the detail (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        catullus, bigjacbigjacbigjac

        This pretty well explains the Westinghouse Air Brake system I learned in elementary school.  

        It not clear to me if the air in the reserve tank in each car can be released so as to remove pressure from the brake shoes.  Also, it is not clear to me how the brake wheel (for human use) on each car relates to the air brake system.

        I started with the idea that this runaway was impossible in theory, but because of some runaway boxcars in Johnson City, I know that it has happened.

        So I'm stuck with Yogi Berra:  "In theory, theory and practice are the same.  But in practice, they are different."

        I'm from Johnson City.

        by Al Fondy on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 05:57:12 PM PDT

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