Something puzzles me...


Fan of Everything Train
Since I follow the General project by Tbryson, I came upon his thread of elimanating the brakes on the Civil War General due to it not having any. He said the engineer used the cutoff to stop the train. If this is true, wouldn't the change in direction and extra force cause cars to derail or the couplings to brake? I'm really confused here.

Well, we all know that the brakemen used to have to put the brakes on the individual cars, so maybe it wasn't an issue unless the engineer moved the cutoff too far... :confused:
Moving the Johnson bar toward reverse when a loco is in forward motion slows the engine as the steam is injected when the piston is in forward motion. Stopping depended on the throttle position,weight on drivers,dry or wet rails,grade,and weight of the train. Typical American Civil War era trains were 10 cars long. Even at that length,application of reverse needed to be smooth to prevent bunching up. On a sharp curve,that could lead to derailments. It was definably a skill to bring a train to a smooth stop from speed. Even if that was just 25 Miles per hour. Joe S.
Steel wheels on smooth steel rails will slide or skid rather than stopping abruptly and derailing the consist.


Yes, wheels would slide,I think the example is about the rough track and tight curves during that era. In many old Western movies,they throw the engine in reverse,spinning the drivers backwards as forward motion continues. I doubt that was done much in real train handling. But it looks cool.
Former freight conductor, Joe S.
A question:

Did they not have a whistle code to tell the brakeman to apply the hand brakes on the van/cars to assist in stopping?

They did, but the engineer would also be doing this thing at the same time that the brakemen were tieing down the cars.

Trains without continuous vaccum or air brakes had to comprise of a certain number of traincars fitted with hand brakes. Their operators were seated on seats on the roofs, or later in small cabins at one end of the traincar. These brakeman's cabins were a very conspicious feature with continental traincars. US und UK railway companies used special brake vans or cabooses at the end of each train. Communication between the locomotive driver and the brakemen occured by signals mads by the steam whistle.
With the Grandducal Baden State Railways, the conductor would ride in a guard van right behind the locomotive. A special line was strung from the locomotive's steam whiste to the raised conductors compartment, from where he could observe the entire train. By means of this line the conductor could operate the steam whistle too, and order brakes applied in an emergency.

Although early locomotives had no brake, their tenders invariably had a hand brake. It was operated by the fireman and used to brake a locomotive. During shunting operations this put quite an extra workload on the fireman. I read about firemen having bloody hands after long work shifts.
I built a number of 19th century locomotives of the Grandducal Baden State Railways, which had no air brakes either. As trains expects to have a brake at your loco in the driver's mode, I made the hand brake lever (or spindle) part of the cab mesh and configured it as the train brake lever in the config-file. That works quite nicely, although it puts some extra stress upon the operator in the driver's mode.

By the way, reading about the debates about fitting continuous brakes, I learned that some railway engineers and executives up to Francis Webb obstinately considered reversing the engine the most efficient method for emergency braking.
With the rather light locomotives and traincars used during most of the 19th century, this may have been an acceptable procedure. As locomotives became heavier and more powerful it had to be prohibited as it could cause severe damage to pistons, cylinders, piston rods and drive rods. The damage could also consist in hidden cracks, which would not become manifest unit the next time heavy strain was applied to the damaged part...

In this context Riggenbach's counter pressure brake should be mentioned too. By turning some levers in the cab, the locomotive's cylinders and pistons could be used as air compressors. Producing compressed air would eat up kinetic energy and save brake blocks and tyres. The compressed air was released through a reduction valve and a muffler. By setting the filling rate and reduction valve, pressure and air flow through the cylinders could be regulated. This way the brake force could be precisely regulated and overstraining of locomotive parts be prevented.
Locomotives operating on mountainous lines were frequently fitted with Riggenbach brakes. Such locomotives were also used with testing facilities, where they were used to simulated heavy train loads.