Friday, 7 January 2011

On the Footplate (Part 2)

In Part 1, we talked about getting the locomotive ready for service and moving, light engine, to its train

When the locomotives reaches its train, it will normally stand clear until called on by the Guard. The Guard "owns" the train and is responsible for deciding when the engine can couple up.

When the driver 'buffers up', he will attempt to stop with the buffers compressed so that the train can be fairly tightly attached to its train. The driver will then ensure that the locomotive is put in a condition where no further movement can occur. In preservation, this will usually be engine handbrake on, reverser in mid-gear, regulator closed fully and cylinder drain cocks open. If the front of the engine is next to the train, the cylinder drain cocks are sometimes closed to avoid the area between engine and coaches turning into a sauna.

"The space for the fireman to stand is quite restricted" - Lisa attaches 'Royal Pioneer to its train

The actual business of coupling up is usually carried out by the fireman, once he's come to a clear understanding with the driver that it's "safe to go under". He then ducks under the buffers, grabs the engine coupling and swings it over the drawhook on the leading vehicle. This is easier said than done as locomotive couplings are quite substantial since they transmit the full 'pulling power' to move the train. If the driver 'squeezed up' well, the space for the fireman to stand is quite restricted and there are all sorts of obstructions to bump into like vacuum brake and steam heating hoses and the end corridor connection on the coach is usually just where the fireman would prefer to stand. Generally, a screw coupling is used. Once the coupling is on the drawhook, it is tightened up by rotating a threaded screw using a built-in tommy bar incorporating a counterweight. The idea is that, on straight track, the buffers will be equally compressed but on curves, the buffers on the inside of the curve will be further compressed and the buffers on the outside of the curve will slacken slightly. At all times, the buffers should remain under some compression, so that the train cannot bang in and out. The comfort of the passengers depends upon this buffer compression and screw adjustment being correctly carried out.

Passenger trains have an 'automatic' brake which is described in more detail in an earlier article. Brakes on the locomotive and the train can be applied by the driver, the guard or by a passenger operating what used to be called the 'Communication Cord' but is now usually referred to as the 'PCD' (Passenger Communication Device). Although main line railways including main line preserved steam use air brakes (featuring the British Railways 2-pipe system), preserved railways usually use the Vacuum Brake system. This requires a continuous brake pipe extending from the locomotive along the length of the train.

The fireman has to interconnect the flexible, reinforced vacuum hose on the locomotive to a similar hose on the leading vehicle and flexible hoses will be provided between vehicles along the length of the train. Each vacuum hose terminates in a metal coupling provided with two 'horns' - a cranked lower horn which interlocks with the lower horn on the adjacent metal coupling and a straight, slotted upper horn which locates in a slot in the adjacent metal coupling. To prevent the hoses from pulling apart, a spring pin on the end of a short chain is attached to each metal coupling. Each pin is pushed through the associated slot in the upper horn. The position of the flexible vacuum hose varies from vehicle to vehicle, sometimes hanging down below solebar level, sometimes fixed to a branch pipe terminated well above solebar level (usually called a 'High Hose'). At each end of the train, the unused vacuum hose must be connected to a dummy coupling or 'stopper' to allow vacuum to be created.

In the steam heating season, the locomotive may be required to heat the train. Steam is taken from the boiler, regulated to a lower pressure (usually between 25 and 50 p.s.i. in preservation) and piped along the train to a series of radiators in the coaches. Flexible hoses are used to connect between vehicles. Each steam heating hose terminates in a metal coupling with a cranked lower 'horn' and a straight, slotted upper horn. In this case, two hinged clips are used to secure a pair of joined hoses. Each hose connection is provided with an isolating cock and an automatic drip valve to help clear water from the pipework. At each end of the train, the free end of the steam heating hose is attached to a chain, to prevent it striking trackwork, since there is no dummy coupling. Instead, the isolating cock must be closed to prevent escape of steam.

This picture shows the rear of the train, with the flexible vacuum hose on the left placed on the 'dummy coupling'. Steam is being intentionally vented from the steam heating hose on the right, to remove condensate from the system.

To be continued ...