Helper engine communications?

Discussion in 'Operations' started by tripphd, Apr 11, 2011.

  1. tripphd

    tripphd Member

    I was wondering how the engineers in the separate engines communicated what they were doing as relates to throttle settings and bnaking. Working/playing on the sim the other day and got to thinking about remote lashups today and the old days.
  2. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    As I've always understood it: whistle signals. Back in the mid 1990s, there was an interesting series of articles in Great Model Railroads (I think?) written by a former Espee fireman/engineer, who wrote of helper operations on the Tehachapi line. His stories were complimented by model recreations by the San Diego club that's modeled the pass.

    Maybe Don W. or others can chime in with more specifics.

    Best Regards,
  3. frisco1522

    frisco1522 Staff Member Staff Member

    If the helper was on the head end, it was no big deal. The road engine would start the train and work till it had as much as it could handle then the helper cut in. Usually got up to track speed in good shape then. The lead engine handled the air. After it cut off, the air was returned to the second engineer.
    If the helper was on the hind end, whistles prevailed. When the lead engine whistled off, the helper engineer watched the air gauge until the brakes started releasing and then gently started shoving, trying to balance the train correctly. He kept a close watch on the air gauge to see when the lead engine was making any reductions to avoid scattering cars. On stopping, I would imagine he would carefully bunch the slack before stopping and cutting off. Sometimes, the helper on the hind end would cut off on the fly (management was skeptical of this) by the hind brakeman or conductor closing the angle cock on the caboose and lifting the pin when it was slacked. MP used to do this most of the time on Kirkwood Hill.
    Now, it's either DPU or radio. 1522 is set up to MU with a diesel, but nobody is needed in the diesel cab unless you wanted dynamic brakes.
  4. frisco1522

    frisco1522 Staff Member Staff Member

    I often wondered that myself, but trains were shorter back then. The air gauge was your friend I guess. Even radios aren't trouble free. Back in 89 when the UP delivered our ex-IC water car to the Museum, it was at the end of the WB local and the engines were downhill about 40 carlengths around the curve behiind a hill. They were backing it in and the conductor kept yelling into the radio "That'll do"!!! and he kept backing until he ran into the Frisco baggage car, another tender and something else and shoved them off the end of the spur and into a mountain of stacked lumber sending it scattering like toothpicks. He got stopped just short of running into the building. Wife and I were there and she said I always knew how to show a gal a good time. If only I had my video camera.
  5. gjslsffan

    gjslsffan Staff Member Staff Member

    Most of the times here manned helpers are added on a grade of 1% or more. The head end (H/E) stops the train hopefully with a minimum set of the automatic brakes. If your luckey enough to be able to add to the rear, the help will attach, cut out the automatic brake giving the brake pipe to the HE, cut in the train line air, then the H/E will make a deeper reduction to confirm H/E control of the air, like many have said before the helper engineer will watch the brake pipe and when the air gets to the rear and brakes start to release, the rear help will go to work
    If you have to cut the help in mid train or (swing) it gets a bit more complicated, we have to cut in ahead of at least 1/2 the rated tonnage of the locomotives, depending on the help make up, you have to find somewhere in the train so that your not shoving next to hazmat or empties or a host of other restrictions. The help will make the cut on the train pull the H/E clear of the Xover, Then the help will make a joint on the rear, pull up and couple on to the H/E, make an automatic reduction a few lbs more than the H/E (so the added rear doesn't initiate a release of the brakes, and you are off to the Rodeo) and cut the automatic out, make the air. Then like before the H/E will make a deeper set and the help go to work on the release.
    Experienced help crews are a pleasure to work with, and can make for a good trip, You can sure make yourself a bunch of work too if things don't go right.
    Many times we would leave GJ with 4 SD's and a 105 loads, go to Glenwood Springs and get 2 more SD's cut in ahead of 17 cars, barely wiggle into Minturn change crews then those Minturn helpers would cut in as many as 6 more SD's behind 55. Man talk about a show when they left town. Minturn was a really small town and every building rattled when they left and leaned into that 3-3 1/2%. It was quite a show seeing manned swing and rear help, using brute horsepower over tonnage.
    But I don't miss it a bit.
    sorry about wandering off topic a bit,
    Tom Holley
  6. frisco1522

    frisco1522 Staff Member Staff Member

    It does seem like everyone has a different definition of a car length doesn't it? I've been putting the train together and was backing and the ground man one time said "Five cars 1522, four cars,three cars, STOP! WHAM! All of this at just barely walking speed.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 12, 2011
  7. Coonskin

    Coonskin Member

    I doubt there's not an engineer that hasn't taken a hard hit (or more than one). I've had the wind knocked out of me along with some other assorted "lesser" hits. Love those blind move (i.e. radio dependant) counts that go something like: Four......... three........ 2,1, THAT'LL DO!! WHAM. Like the last couple of cars SHRUNK or something.

    Speaking of helpers:

    At my terminal, it's not uncommon to be called upon to help a heavy freight up/out of our yard at Fort Smith. Had to do so today. If any railfans/toots/enthusiasts would have been there to see it, they would have gotten a show. Both sets of power (one on the head end, mine on the rear) were in the big notch and grinding upgrade at about 7-8 MPH... Alco smoke shooting skyward.

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