• Hand signal safety

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by BR&P
In older days crews handled switching without radios, using hand signals only. There were usually 3 men on the ground spead out at various locations as dictated by the need to throw switches, pass signals, and make hitches.

Working with lanterns at night, and you have just made a hitch. You now have to go between the cars to lace up the hoses. OR - maybe the hitch did not make, you separate the cars an appropriate distance, and now have to go between to adjust the drawbars.

The question is, do you take your lantern in with you? I have read both ways. One school is you take the lantern with you, because if the engineer, at a distance, sees the light in the clear he'd assume YOU are too - the light represents you. The other argument was to leave the light where the engineer could see it, on the grounds that if somebody else mistakenly gave a signal to move and that light did not repeat it, the hogger should realize you are not in agreement with the order to move.

Obviously, the way it's supposed to work is nobody gives a signal to move until everybody is on the same page. But here we're talking about which way gives you better protection "just in case".

Personally, I give a "stop" signal so the engineer knows I'm going to do something, and then take the lantern with me. I'm not really looking for an absolute answer here, but thought it might start some interesting discussion.

  by thebigc
Where I work, NJ Transit, I was broken in by Erie-Lackawanna guys and the rule of thumb was to place your lamp on the ground and then go in to make your hoses, etc. That's the reason why I always carry a double A flashlight along with my lamp.

Nowadays, we're upon a fully "radio equipped" generation of railroaders and the art of hand signals and other means of working without a radio is eroding.

I personally prefer to see the light on the ground, while the man is "inside". Sometimes, though, he might need that light, to see what he's doing. A thorough discussion, during the "job-briefing" will include the understanding that after I am stopped, IF a man needs to go in between, with the light, he will give a BIG stop signal, after I am stopped. I will acknowledge with the horn, and won't move again until I see my man, or both of them, if we are fortunate enough to have a 3 man crew. Usually 1 man is handling the switches, the other the hitches, so it's not difficult to keep tabs on everyone. However, if I can't see them both, I dont move, until we are all "on the same page", again. I personally prefer hand signals. It makes the ground guys think a little more, about the work, and it certainly keeps the bosses guessing, when they don't hear us on the radios. My favorite guy ? The one who stands in front of my windshield, while I am trying to make a hitch, on the front end of the engine, with his body doing it's best imitation of a door, while he counts me down, to a hitch. Thanks God he's there with his radio, I might not have noticed that highcube, right in front of my windshield, without his constant chatter on the radio. (SIGH :( )

  by CSX Conductor
GOLDEN-ARM wrote:My favorite guy ? The one who stands in front of my windshield, while I am trying to make a hitch, on the front end of the engine, with his body doing it's best imitation of a door, while he counts me down, to a hitch. Thanks God he's there with his radio, I might not have noticed that highcube, right in front of my windshield, without his constant chatter on the radio. (SIGH :( )
Does he at least let go of the radio before making the hitch or do you hear the hitch before he tells you to stop?!? Seen that so many times. :(

Hey CSX, are you sure you don't know this guy ? Of course, I can hear the pins drop, before he says, "that'll do". Same guy that lets the cars collide, no matter how slow you go, before calling the stop. (guess the hitch is not "official" until you see the pins fall.) At least he never remembers to turn off the radio, when entering the cab. (or turning it back on, when he exits :-D )

  by CSX Conductor
Nope, I think it's just the new breed :( LOL :P

  by SnoozerZ49
I have to admit to being one of the guys that was slow to turn down and slow to turn up my radio. Even though I know that I should have turned it down it would drive me crazy when I would crawl back into the cab totally soaked in sweat or rain after having been on the ground switching for what seemed like an eternity only to be scolded by some fat ass engineer who without any advance notice toned up a dispatcher while I was still wringing out my hat. Let's try some communication, huh buddy?
Now I have trained myself to shut it off automatically when entering the doorway of the engineers quarters. I use that same doorway as my reminder to turn the radio back on. I've gotten better but engineers still aggrevate the crap out of me.

Thanks for being one of those "quick study" guys. Some guys never do get a clue. When the DS, or conductor calls on the radio, it seems a little silly, for me to pause, ask everyone in the cab to "kindly lower your radio volume, so I might use the radio, without hearing the squeal of YOUR radios' feedback". I figure it like this, you are in MY cab, so lower your volume, when you enter. Not asking too much, is it? I can't go outside, to use my radio. On the plus side, I will drop you a cold water, when we are switching, and I see you are hot, I will throw switches near the engine, so you don't have to walk up 12 cars to do it for me, and I will even make hitches/cuts, on the engines to save you from walking, again. It is a team effort. We are all supposed to be working towards the same goal here (of course I mean an early quit!!!), so you do your part, and I will do mine. All of us engineers, are not "fat-asses", either. Some of us are just "big-boned" :-D :-D :-D

  by Jim Greenwood
Do I detect a modicum of craft jealousy? :wink:

  by CSX Conductor
Another good habit that I started doing a few years ago was that whenever my engineer changes channels on the engine radio, change my portable, that way if something happens and I jump off to walk the train etc, I don't have to fumble around with the radio. (I.e. me on 46-46 when he's on 54-54). :wink:

I agree again, with CSX, about radio changes. Usually I get a guy into habit of clicking his mike, on the way out the door, and I respond by clicking mine. If a guy is on the wrong channel, I will give a series of short blasts, on the horn.(not to the guy walking out the door, but to a guy in the field, on the wrong channel) Usually it doesn't take long for him to figure out what is wrong, although a guy I just worked with on a northeast property promptly walked back to the loco, every time he heard the engine horn sounding, to see what I wanted. (SIGH..... :( ) After a while, I stopped trying to clue him in, as he wanted to "think with his feet, rather than his head", and when he got inside the cab, I would tell him, "we are on channel 3". Makes for a looooong, painful day sometimes, when you get one of those guys, who walks everywhere, and never attempts to ride a car, or the engine. I help those who want the help, and leave the rest to remain clueless, well into their new career. I figure if I am still learning something, every time I go to work, then so can you. (the other guy, on the crew) There is never a time, not to learn, in my opinion. Regards :wink:

  by SnoozerZ49
craft jealousy! I think not! :-D I really liked Golden -Arms remark about some engineers being big boned! Of course my remarks were meant to be taken "tongue in cheek" I work with quite a few engineers that do many of the things G-A mentions. A cool jug of water, even cheap ass railroad water sure is a welcome relief.

G-A, we met in the yard once at Brattleboro, I was working a northbound and we were swapping trains. It was just before you were moved to CSOR. I call some of the engineers I work with the "BMOE" which is similar to the "BMOC" (big man on campus). They bark into the radio all night, chat on the cell phone with their counterparts and drone on and on about how hard their night is, "I had to pull this track", I went in the hole cause I broke apart 78 cars back", "I switched out 300 cars tonight". Wow, all that work, what was I doing? :P

I'll close by saying I work with some great engineers and conductors but I'd also say that over half the guys that work on a railroad are fools, slobs
and/or thieves.

Snoozer, was that the night we gave up our 6 axles, in "trade" for a string of dead and dying 4 axles? The GM hit the roof, when he found out I "left". Seems he had no idea that a certain TM had sent me off to CSOR. I missed that run, from WRJ to Brat', and back. A hell of a lot better, than the industry spotting I got stuck on, while toodling along the branches, of Connecticut :( I agree with the BMOE, and it does go both ways. (what were you doing, all night? I guessed you were snoozin' :-D ) just kiddin'!!! I work a lot of road jobs, where we just get on, and go, only to hand the train off, to another crew, at the other end. What sux is having to listen to the con, telling whoever, about his "rough night". I guess all the bell ringing, and horn blowing was interfering with his sleep, while I stayed awake all night, running the wheels off 'em. The guys at WRJ were okay, although there is a bit of a "clique" there, and outsiders don't seem to be welcomed. Get that in a lot of remote locations, come to think of it. Lot's of slobs out there, I agree. "Finding" stuff on the railroad, that's part of the game, I always thought. Fools and ignorants are aplenty. Reminds me of the crew I qualified with, at WRJ. Seems while we were heading south, they were scouting all the trashpiles, and curbside deposits, while we were running. Going north, with our return train, we hit every spot, they had seen stuff at. Some trips, we looked like a rolling garbage can, with broken bikes, lawn mower parts, chairs with 3 legs, etc., cluttering the running boards. "I can fix this, and sell it" was always the reason heard, for all the swag we loaded. When asked how much money had been made, so far, by doing this, the response was "none yet, I haven't had time to fix anything yet", and these guys have been "collecting" for years. Sure would hate to see their houses, and yards :-D

  by SnoozerZ49
Golden-Arm...I have to wait a few more minutes before I reply. I'm still laughing to hard to be able to collect my thoughts! :P

Yes, I was part of the crew that "borrowed" your power. I don't think you had the chance to travel south of Brattleboro but the old Southern Division of the CV Ry. is a lot different than the old B&M Conn RIver Rte. The tonnage rating for a GP-38 is 1400 tons and dropping. Inadequate available horsepower leads to trains being reduced. As a result all the sidings clog up, the yard at Palmer can't be cleaned out and the crews have to use one engine to do the job that two or three are really needed for. We crest the steepest grade ( Belchertown) at around 6mph usually. I really am not looking forward to the day I have to double that hill. Two nights ago I had to ride outside watching the governer and resetting it each time it popped. It seems the "gurus" at St Albans gave us two GP-38s to pull 34 loads ( mostly cement and limestone slurry) over the hill. Halfway up the hill the lead unit kept popping its governer. Ya I know, something else was wrong but at that momment our only goal was to keep from stalling. I'm still picking the bugs out of my teeth from that trip :wink:

As far as the WRJ guys go, I call them "Sanford & Son". I lived through the same experience. Like most New Englanders they can be cold and distant to "outlanders". The only other thing to remember is that the other contractor you worked with never hid his disdain for us. Finally considering that it is an agreement property the use of hmm, lets just call them contract workers is very much frowned upon and a subject of negotiation in our new contract.

You guys are in good hands, with the Suzy local. I was a member there, for a couple of years, myself. Still payin' dues, and earning my BLE 20 year pin. (I hope they still hand them out)., As for Jerry, first time I met him. He seemed to "relish" in complaining about how long he had worked, with no time off, yet when offered a chance to go home, he refused. He's from out west, and up north, where they seem to be a little bit "different", from other folks I've met. I go in, and try to fit, the best I can.Make lot's of new friends, every job. Rail America probably won't negotiate in your favor, as far as the "rail mercenaries" are concerned. (I call myself that, as I have no affiliations, with any regular carriers, and go where the highest bidder wants me :wink: ) They are in use, all over the RA system, and cover a lot of shortages, and start-ups, until sufficient guys are hired. Some properties are so short, without us, the crews can't even have a day off. Guys like Jerry make it tough, I hope I am not so bad. (I helped tote the swag, too!!! ) I work holidays, while regular guys are home with the families, and I cover guys, so they can go on vacation, on some properties. Never saw that southern end, but sure would have liked to. I did notice, though, that the further you got from St. Albans, the worse the power got, and supplies got even shorter! Can't believe they closed the shops, and got rid of the carmen, across the whole railroad, except for St. Albans. (I did meet "big-Paul" though, on the CSO. Nice guy, but extremely overworked) Regards :-D