Weed Control Vehicles

Discussion in 'Maintenance of Way' started by yardmaster, Jul 21, 2011.

  1. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

    Mike Lutzenberger's information on weed control on the Clinton Sub (http://www.frisco.org/vb/showthread.php?5275-Telegraph-Wires-on-the-Clinton-Sub&p=37481#post37481) was rather timely, considering the YouTube Video that I stumbled across today:


    See the weed control contraption at 0:45. The caption notes that it's the "Frisco's approach to weed control."

    Can anyone shed light into this critter? My initial reaction was similar to the Steve Martin & Bill Murray SNL routine from years back.

    Best Regards,
    Last edited by a moderator: May 21, 2013
  2. FriscoFriend

    FriscoFriend Passed Away April 12, 2018 Frisco.org Supporter

    I think I remember hearing stories about farmers and ranchers here in Kansas would end up suing railroads for setting their land on fire. The Frisco wasn't the only railroad that had weed burners.
  3. Iantha_Branch

    Iantha_Branch Member

    My dad has told me stories about how they would have to dig a fire trench between the field and the tracks because the locomotives them selves sparked so bad. He also told me a story that one time the railroad was spraying and accidentally killed several acres of crop.

  4. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

    Thanks for the insight, Ethan and Bob. It does seem like an approach rather fraught with peril. I suspect that eventually a loss control specialist or underwriter put a stop to the practice.

    After seeing the video, I had two thoughts: (1) how would one model the weed burner in the video, and (2) how one could simulate the blasts of fire without melting ties and burning down the layout?

    Perhaps I should stick to finding a way to model working torpedoes in 1:87.

    Best Regards,
  5. TAG1014

    TAG1014 Frisco.org Supporter Frisco.org Supporter

    One of the old original Firefly Baggage-RPO-Coach combines (I forget if it was #82 or #83) was converted to a weed spray car. It was paired with a tank car (I guess for the liquid to be sprayed??) and some other cars for the spray train. I think the "juice" was probably kerosene (Or other oil) rather than a herbicide poison of some kind. In the 70's, I saw where it had been spraying out around Bois D' Arc and the grass and weeds looked oily. In the 70's, the car was sometimes parked on the "highline" track just west of Broadway Avenue at the entrace to the Springfield Yard.

  6. renapper

    renapper Passed away March 8, 2013

    By any chance, do you have a picture of the spray car or train?
  7. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Frisco.org Supporter


    I believe that the oily nature of the spay that you detected may have been a surfactant used to help disperse the herbicide into the plant. I have a poor shot of the former Firefly car in its spayer configuration. It was tucked in with the steam generator car at the West Shops, circa 1974, and it didn't present well for a photograph.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 22, 2011
  8. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Frisco.org Supporter

    Yes, lots of herbicides need a surfactant (a synthetic soap) in the formulation to help the herbicide get through the natural waxy coating on the plant leaves. Various RoundUp formulations, which are usually water-based, use a surfactant - poision ivy is a good example of a weed that needs this type of treatment.

  9. TAG1014

    TAG1014 Frisco.org Supporter Frisco.org Supporter

    Richard--I believe I do have a photo, I'll have a look in my "files."

  10. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

    I have seen some color photos of yards (Lindenwood in Frisco in Color comes to mind) where the ground around the track is a smooth, slick grimy black.

    I always assumed that this was from years worth of oil and grease from journal boxes, but would some of this have been the result of weed control efforts?

    Thanks to all for the information!

    Best Regards,
  11. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Frisco.org Supporter

    By the 70's the general use of weed burners had declined in favor of chemical herbicides. The Woolery Machine Company was still advertising its weed burner in the pages of the Nov 1971 issue Railway Track & Structures. The company's marketing strategy changed and it espoused the notion of scalding the plants vs incinerating them. The strategy also changed to make the machine a multi-purpose device, i.e., weed scalder, rail heater, and snow/ice melter.

    Attached Files:

  12. pbender

    pbender Member Frisco.org Supporter

  13. pbender

    pbender Member Frisco.org Supporter

    Interestingly, and very related to this thread, P76 of Rails Around Missouri has two photos of the weed spray train above travelling on the Clinton Sub in Belton.
    The photos are dated June 1970.

    The first photo shows the train behind GP7 586 (Flying extra flags). One of Frisco's outside braced boxcars is between 586 and the weed spray car. The second
    photo shows wide vision caboose 1286 bringing up the rear.

    I'll also note that the auxiliary tender visible in Mike Condren's photos of the train is not present, nor is the bunk car. There are at least 5 tank cars in the train.

    This certainly makes me want to model the weed spray train.

  14. TAG1014

    TAG1014 Frisco.org Supporter Frisco.org Supporter

    That car in the Condren photo of the weed spray train next to the "tender" (#126), that looks like a passenger car, is one of the ex-Firefly Bagggage-RPO-Coach combines, either #82 or 83.

    Tom G.

    SAFN SAAP Member

    Question: I watched the video. That machine looks more like a turnout de-icer that someone got the idea to use as a weed killer. Can anyone confirm or deny the premise of this question?
  16. William Jackson

    William Jackson Bill Jackson

    Its a good thought, but they was not mobile enough. They was used some for ice, limited though, you just couldn't beat the trucks, a bottle of propane and a torch burner. Woolery, tried as they would, never really made the top of equipment makers. The weed burner, was the main use, quickly replaced by 2-4-D and Oust, Roundup.
    William Jackson
    After looking again at Karl's post, I am thinking the rail heaters on the steel gang, that I was foreman of was Woolery.
    I think they also made a cribber, but failed, it looked more like the steam music machines of the 1800's
    Last edited by a moderator: May 21, 2013
  17. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Frisco.org Supporter

    Commercial herbicides were not available until after WWII, and for the railroads the weapon of choice for clearing weeds was burning or scorching. I believe the weed burner function preceded the de-icing function.
  18. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

    The railroad conducted a spraying operation 6 or 7 weeks ago out back along the Cuba Sub in Kirkwood. No train was used; it seemed to be just a Hi-Rail type vehicle set up for spraying.

    After a much earlier incident (I believe prior to 1980), I recovered a "SPRA-KILL" label from a bag left along the right of way. I am not sure of the composition, but was seriously (and intimately) concerned about the effects of overspray. However, the railroad grade elevation seems sufficiently below my yard elevation and the distance is great enough that the tomatoes are safe!
  19. Oldguy

    Oldguy Member Frisco.org Supporter

  20. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

    Thanks for the link. The claim to yield "a non-productive condition of the soil..." is pretty emphatic. That is what gave me the willlies. It did do that back then on contacted areas. The material in current use leaves bare soil quite effectively, too.

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