Sunday, August 01, 2004

Vintage Rails 

I was quite pleased with my first perusal of the magazine "Vintage Rails". Although you might think it is about early - turn of the 20th century trains, it is actually a collection of stories and photos of trains before today. The magazine does not seem to have a particular theme other than information on trains in the 19th and 20th centuries.

A story on a particular "fallen flag" railroad may be followed by a story on brake pipe hoses. Incidentally, I found the brake pipe hose story fascinating. In order to maneuver a train through a switch tree with the locomotive pushing such as the case where trains have to be spotted on tracks in a terminal, the pilot needed to be at the front end of the train. Because the engineer is in the locomotive at the back end of the train there had to be a method of communicating and applying the brakes from the end of the train. By connecting a hose with a valve to the "gladhand" on the last car, the pilot could stop the train by venting the brake hose with a valve just as the engineer does from his end. By controlling the air carefully the pilot could gently stop the train exactly where it need to be without using any signals, radio or whistles. The brake hose device usually had a whistle built in so the pilot could signal for other purposes - such as to warn people or vehicles that the train was coming. Apparently these brake pipe hoses were is great demand and the most elegant designs were copied and sometimes stolen by other brakeman who saw that they were superior to the devices that they had to use. The brakeman locked up their brake pipe hose adapter in their locker when they were not on duty as there was a high demand for the well designed units. Imagine the convenience of having a brake control at the tail of the train as it is being shove into a depot in the winter with heavy snow so you cannot even see the locomotive from the end car.

Another story might feature a particular locomotive or class of locomotives and the whereabouts of them. In this issue that was the case with some Southern Pacific locomotives and each survivor was noted and where they were.

A story on the self-propelled cars that were made for the Illinois Central and the Pennsylvania Railroads was quite interesting as well. These were something like long light rail or trolley cars that ran on the high rails as passenger trains. Similar to the Budd Zephyr self propelled cars, they were a solution looking for a problem. The American Car Factory built these as commuter trains that could hold perhaps 120 people and have a staff of 2. They were two cars joined together and some of them had motormen's positions on both ends to simplify the operation when you reached the end of the line. There were only four built and the Illinois Central decided that the two that they had were not useful after using them for a while in their operations so they returned them to the factory where they were refurbished and sent to the Pennsylvania Railroad who really liked them. At least two of the trains were in accidents which resulted in damage to their outside sheet metal.

Another story was about collectible items - specifically the chimes used by the dining car steward to announce meal times. There was a photograph of a chime and a story about the use of chimes and the end of the tradition on the trains.

The ads in the magazine seem to be the same as other railfan magazines - book & video suppliers as well as tours and trips. Some train dealers and prototype train item dealers are advertising in "Vintage Rails" as well.

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