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A SHUNTING POLE - A BRAKE STICK - AND A HAND BRAKE

Discussion in 'Bullhead Memories' started by threelinkdave, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. threelinkdave

    threelinkdave Well-Known Member Friend

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    Last Saturday the SVR had a "peep behind the scenes weekend. There was a demonstration freight which I was the guard. What prompted me to write the blog was a comment from an onlooker. I was uncoupling the brake van from the train. Pole resting on buffer casing, hook under link flick pole and the coupling comes off the hook and drops with a satisfying clang. "I have never seen that done before" was the retort of an onlooker.

    On an unfitted freight train the only brakes available when moving are those on the loco and in the brakevan. Individual vehicles have a hand brakes but these can only be applied with the vehicles stationary( at least under current H&S)

    What is a shunting pole upload_2017-7-17_13-51-58.jpeg

    A hicory shaft aprox5 ft long with a curly hook on the end used to couple and uncouple vehicles with 3 link chain couplings. A brake stick is a square piece of wood about 3 ft long with one end turned down to a round diameter to easily fit the hand. It is used to get better leverage when applying the pin down type handbrake

    Guarding an unfitted is completely different to a normal passenger service. With a passenger the automatic brake is used by the driver to apply the brakes on all vehicles Aguard will know where they are and the brake application as we drop down past Trimpley waterworks is expected. With an unfitted the application of the handbrake is solely at the judgement of the guard.

    The signals clear for us to leave the Hollybush siding at Bridgnorth. I give the tip to the driver to start and as the couplings tighteneach vehicle moves off. I am hanging on ready for the snatch as the brake is acceleratedfron zero to 5mph in about a foot. We climb up to Erdington summit with the handbrake fully off so as not to give any unnecessary drag. As we crest the bank I wind the handbrake on smoothly so as not to cause any snach on the couplings We descend the bank speed being controlled by my brake and and the loco. We discussed strategy at the beginning of the day and agreed we didnt need to stop and pin down with this load. Applying and releasing the handbrake as the gradients dictate. Running an unfitted is very interactive , applying and releasing the handbrake as and when gradients dictate

    We have a good run down to Kidderminster and arrive in P2. Handbrake on and I drop down onto the ballast with pole and brake stick To stop the wagons running away when the brake is removed requires handbrakes to be applied. Two are moreton, peculiar to GWR, and are applied by hand only but two others have the brake handle held down with a ratchet or pin where the stick is used to supply extra force.

    An 08 comes on the brake van andis coupled on the coupling to the train is flicked off and the handbrake released. The van it is shunted to 2EL and the handbrake firmly applied. The 08 shunts to P2 and attaches to the train. Handbrakes released the train is picked up and shunted out of the platform and back down 2EL. Judging the distance I give a stop signal which is followed by much clanging and banging as the wagons oscillate due to the slack inherent in 3 link couplings. This is the sound heard at all the marshalling yards throughout the country when unfitted freights were a common sight and sound
     

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  2. Avonside1563

    Avonside1563 Active Member

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    Lots of this sort of work going on at Foxfield this weekend just gone, particularly pinning down the brakes at the summit with the guard walking alongside pinning as we pull away to ensure the wheels are all still rotating. There's nothing worse than a sliding wheelset on a 1 in 25 for 2/3rds of a mile! Many people look at us as if we've gone mad when we tell them we work unfitted trains down Foxfield bank but it only takes a slight misjudgement with vacuum for the wagon wheels to lock up and slide, and on a 1 i n25 you'll be going too fast to control the train before the brakes are released and wheels rolling again! A well pinned train is easy to control as you know exactly how much force you have before you start and if you can pull the train with only a breath of steam on the flat then there's nothing like enough brake on and it's simple to stop and ask for more. I did just that on one occasion on Sunday as I know the loco brakes aren't overly brilliant and wanted to be pulling it down rather than holding it back. Just another example of the teamwork involved in operating a railway of any size.
     
  3. olly5764

    olly5764 Well-Known Member

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    Unfitted work is certainly good fun. A fireman friend of mine was stunned to see how hard a good guard works when he travelled in a van with me once
     
  4. jtx

    jtx Well-Known Member Friend

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    I have spoken about this with olly5764 before, and, indeed, we were chatting about it this morning, so I'm sure he won't be offended if I disagree with him slightly. Before I continue, I should also say that I have vast experience of working loose - coupled goods trains, which is not shared by the majority of my contemporaries on the SVR. This is due to my 35 + years working on the P. Way, often driving laden trains of 300 tons or more, with a 75 ton Class 25 diesel, but also with steam engines and, earlier, with a 165 hp Ruston 0-4-0 DM shunter.

    My mentors were ex-BR footplatemen from Stourbridge and Bournville sheds, and I learned my trade from them.

    I was taught to work loose - coupled trains very gently and to brake using the engine's handbrake, (bogie air brake on the 25) to maintain control on down grades. I had the pleasure of working "the Goods" on the last Steam Gala, with the wonderful visiting 2-8-0T 4270, from the GWSR. Tom, my very experienced Guard, asked me what I wanted from him, and I said, "Nothing, Tom. Don't touch your handbrake until we come to a stand, and you will have a silky smooth ride."

    Thus, it transpired. To my fireman, Kate, I said, "You will be doing all the braking, on the handbrake. By the end of the day, you will be confident, not only on the effectiveness of the brake, but, also, on your ability to control a train with it." This also went to plan. Granted, we had an 82 ton engine on a 160 ton train, but, we would have achieved the same results with a Pannier, (49 tons). Because, I've done it - lots.

    You need your wits about you on a loose - coupled train, and you need to know the road intimately, which you should, as a driver. The skill is in allowing the train to come on to you gently on the down grades, and then, allowing the couplings to open out as you accelerate on the flat, or the up grades, without snatching.

    I have this skill. Like all skills, it is achieved through practice. From such practice and experience, you earn the trust of the Guard, and he, yours.

    I have dragged olly5764 around Shropshire and Worcestershire many times, and I have also driven and fired to him. I have total confidence in him, and I am pretty sure that this is mutual.

    Like all such relationships and workings, these need time and experience to mature. My colleagues and friends on the SVR work to maintain this, as, I am sure, do our contemporaries across the country.

    Regards,

    jtx
     
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  5. olly5764

    olly5764 Well-Known Member

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    Not offended at all, slightly alarmed at the thought of being dragged around Shropshire and Worcestershire though, it sounds painful.
     
  6. threelinkdave

    threelinkdave Well-Known Member Friend

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    I have no problems re your method of working at all. Whilst having retrained on SVR I was a guard on the KESR in the 80S and early 90s. My training was by Southern men one of whom had started his career at Hoo junction and now runs his own logistics company. I have allways had an interest in operating and have read many railwaymens autobiographies. What is clear re how to run loose coupled is that there is no absolutely standard method of working. Some of the variations are regional, there are even differences between depots. Some expect the guard to help and some dont.

    Running a 200t unfitted down Tenterden bank was allways interesting. You pinned down enough to control the train and decended the bank with steam on and nothing from the guard. . the run to witersham had a bridge raised for flood defence on a downhill stretch. You had the front of he train decending, the middle assending and the rear decending. The smothest ride for me was to stretch the train out on my brake with the loco slightly pulling.

    The answer is come to a clear understanding between you on how you want to work and you will have no problems
     
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