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Thread: Winter and turntables

  1. #1
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    Default Winter and turntables

    I am working on a Merrimack valley inspired layout. As winter descends on us here in New England I got to thinking, How did the railroads clear the snow from the turntable pits? I have not seen any images of this. My guess is after a snow storm they would do an "All Hands" muster and start digging out with shovels. Was there any standard for what to do? did it very from company to company?
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    Lonnie
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    Ya know, this is one of those thing I never thought about, and am now confused as to why I didn't!

    I imagine on the larger powered turntables, they just kept it moving and compressed/ melted the snow with friction until they couldn't get away with it anymore. Then set Joe and his friends out with shovels.

    I also have to imagine there was always a guy saying "guys, the table is metal, the rails are metal, the pit walls are concrete, and the wood ties are far from the bottom of the pit, why don't we just pour some oil in there an set it alight! melt it all!"

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    I would imagine that a turntable had very limited horse power, but that they would repeatedly throughout the day and night, exercise the turntable so that it could push a couple inch's of snow aside, so that the turntable could be positioned to the most usually used tracks. A turntable was mostly used to do this, and was more somewhat rarely spun a full 360 degrees. But if they had to enable a full 360 degree rotation, an army of workers would have to be sent down into the pit with manual snow shovels, or a portable conveyor would have to be lifted twice into each side of the pit by a rail crane on the turntable, to assist the snow shoveler's (either that, or employ lots of little kids in the area, to shovel the GD (slight chance of partly cloudy) solid rain).

    I would imagine that a wye track would also be placed in these continual heavy snowfall prone railroad areas, such as Buffalo.

    Perhaps they had a steam hose manned by a roundhouse hostler, who would melt the snow, so that it melt and would flow down a central drain in the center of the pit.

    I would imagine that a secondary, straight track, repair shed was constructed for emergency heavy repairs to locomotives.

    I don't use 4 letter wurds' much: Cold, Snow, Work, Brrr I remember a time when Sledding was lots of fun, and climbing up a steep hill, just in order to fall down it, made actual sense.

    Casper the Friendly Ghost didn't heed his mothers warning that he come inside from playing in the snow before he got too cold, and he caught influenza, and died, becoming a Friendly Ghost, a true fact from episode 1 of the cartoon !

    When we were kids, Winters were so snowy and so icy, that we had to wrap our feet in barbed wire, just in order to get traction on the ice, and we had no shoes, and we had to actually shovel our way to, and from, school, and it was uphill, both ways !



    Horse Power, we need mor' Mule Power !
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    Last edited by MP242; November 29th, 2019 at 01:59 PM.
    My RGCX train is 53.24 miles long, and takes 1 hour to pass through town !

  4. #4
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    What I found interesting was the general lack of solid info. You would think that SOMEONE would have said "Use a Y track in such and such district because of snow fall". BTW I like that idea. Makes sense. I also like the steam hoses. I used to be a MPA on a 1200psi steam plant and you did not let THAT steam out at all. But 200psi would be a lot easier to control.
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    Lonnie
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    I would hazard a guess that with most roundhouses have a combination power house/steam plant there would have been some way to heat the pit or melt the snow via steam. I might have to check some old trade periodicals to see if there is any info on this matter.
    Last edited by n8phu; December 1st, 2019 at 01:06 PM.

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    Looking at the video above it's one or two men with shovels and the turntable looks to be powered by steam.

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    Google is your friend.

    https://www.drgwrr.co.uk/drgw-durango-roundhouse/
    The turntable was powered by attaching a hose to the air supply of a locomotive. The air runs a motor on the turntable bridge.
    Malc


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    Quote Originally Posted by clam1952 View Post
    My question was not how one operated a turntable, but how to clear it after/during heavy snows. Google is only your friend if you know the right terminology to use in the search. If you happen to know what a good search criteria is that would actually be helpful. For example i was trying to get some info on refinishing the drivers on trains. Couldn't find what I was looking for until someone mentioned adding the parameter of "tyre" and viola! there was an article from UK about what I was interested in. Well that is a little simplistic. I had to keep digging into the searches, but it got me on the path.
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    Lonnie
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    Quote Originally Posted by lrjanzen View Post
    My question was not how one operated a turntable, but how to clear it after/during heavy snows. Google is only your friend if you know the right terminology to use in the search. If you happen to know what a good search criteria is that would actually be helpful. For example i was trying to get some info on refinishing the drivers on trains. Couldn't find what I was looking for until someone mentioned adding the parameter of "tyre" and viola! there was an article from UK about what I was interested in. Well that is a little simplistic. I had to keep digging into the searches, but it got me on the path.

    I was actually replying to Whitepass. the previous post to mine
    Looking at the video above it's one or two men with shovels and the turntable looks to be powered by steam.
    Which on using Google to check on how that particular turntable was powered it is or was originally by Steam.
    Malc


  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by clam1952 View Post
    I was actually replying to Whitepass. the previous post to mine

    Which on using Google to check on how that particular turntable was powered it is or was originally by Steam.
    My Bad, and apologies!
    Thanks
    Lonnie
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  11. #11
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    I do think that it would depend upon the company, location, and time period.

    We often forget that labor was much cheaper than it is now, paying some bums a pittance to go and fling snow would certainly be within the realm of practicality. Also we do tend to look at these things from our modern perspective with the regulatory oversight of labor and our modern social programs. If laborers were used it may have been an "other duties as assigned" type deal, maybe sweetened by a foreman's "generosity" of a round or two afterwards; alternatively itinerant labor may have been the way it was done, and way back when... if you were poor, you were desperate... and work was work.

    I do know of a railroad that would use prisoners from the county jail to clear the yard when the snow finally built up bad enough. Located next to a body of water the method was to line everyone up and simply shovel the snow across the yard, off the retaining wall and into the water. Most likely it was not snow shovels as we know them but regular (track) shovels. Add to this a train crew moving cars out of the way and putting them back and you might begin to get an idea of how much of a project this must have been.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by TSwenson View Post
    I do think that it would depend upon the company, location, and time period.

    We often forget that labor was much cheaper than it is now, paying some bums a pittance to go and fling snow would certainly be within the realm of practicality. Also we do tend to look at these things from our modern perspective with the regulatory oversight of labor and our modern social programs. If laborers were used it may have been an "other duties as assigned" type deal, maybe sweetened by a foreman's "generosity" of a round or two afterwards; alternatively itinerant labor may have been the way it was done, and way back when... if you were poor, you were desperate... and work was work.

    I do know of a railroad that would use prisoners from the county jail to clear the yard when the snow finally built up bad enough. Located next to a body of water the method was to line everyone up and simply shovel the snow across the yard, off the retaining wall and into the water. Most likely it was not snow shovels as we know them but regular (track) shovels. Add to this a train crew moving cars out of the way and putting them back and you might begin to get an idea of how much of a project this must have been.
    Labor too didn't have the safety protections either in those days that we have today so anything could happen during the snow removal process.

    A bit off topic, but one of the jobs too was to go through the yard and along the ROW and light the switch lamps. We can use our imagination on how unsafe that must've been...
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCitron View Post
    Labor too didn't have the safety protections either in those days that we have today so anything could happen during the snow removal process.

    A bit off topic, but one of the jobs too was to go through the yard and along the ROW and light the switch lamps. We can use our imagination on how unsafe that must've been...
    So very true, we tend to forget how regulated our lives are now, and how little oversight there used to be... social attitudes were different too... It can be hard to realize just how easy it used to be to get cheap help. Most of the programs we are now familiar with that help folks who are poor didn't exist and there was a stigma about being poor, that meant that it could be easy to get labor for potentially hazardous things far easier than it is today; additionally if said laborer perished it was much less of deal than it would be today. Just think how casual railroads could be about their permanent employees' safety, then think how that attitude could apply to "some bum" who no one really knew anything about.

    Back to topic, occasionally some turntables had covers for the pit so as to prevent things (such as snow or people) from getting in the way of the table. I would not be surprised at the use of low pressure steam or even hot water to melt snow either, think of the energy you could recover by draining a large boiler (which you have to do periodically) and then using that to melt snow/ice (there had to be a drain in every pit). Of course, some drains work better than others; the table pit at Belfast, ME on the B&ML would flood with a sufficiently high tide (as I recall the rails were within a dozen feet/a few meters of sea level and adjacent to the bay). I'll hit up my usual sources for more information too.

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