• Kicking Cars--is it Safe?

  • 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 shortlinerailroader
While railfanning in Vicksburg, MS, in 1994, I watched KCS kick cars. Also I have seen BNSF kicking cars. My railroad, a regional, has recently outlawed the practice by its crews and now they must flat-switch. I was wondering what other RR's, large and small, still kick cars, and what other railroaders thouht of it.
Last edited by shortlinerailroader on Sat Apr 10, 2004 12:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by Engineer Spike
Kicking cars is flat switching. It is safe, especially after getting a feel of how fast the car needs to be kicked, in order to get it into the track. Too hard will damage the contents. Some hazardous loads can't be kicked. also loadedauto racks can't be kicked (poor judgement if they are). mos yards are bowl shaped, so that the cars come to rest in the middle.
Now days the average car length is gettin to about 60'. more of the long cars habe long drawbars. If there is any curve to the yard, then a bypassed knuckle is more likely to happen. This could result in broken angle cocks, cut levers, or worse, a derailment.

  by Engineer
Spike hit it dead on.
Providing you got a car or two tied down to stop the cars that are being kicked, its no problem as long as its on a straight track. This is especially true with longer cars.
From one who was on a regular job for a while servicing an auto plant, I can tell you kicking an 86' hi-cube box on anything but a dead straight piece of track will make for an interesting "hitch".

  by Aji-tater
There is no way to make railroading 100% safe 100% of the time. It seems an awful big step to outlaw kicking cars on your railroad. like maybe it's being run by non-railroaders? There are things to be careful about like long cars, curves, speed, proper footing, and things like that.. But when the crew knows what they are doing, it is SOOOO much faster than shoving each cut to a hitch. I can't imagine what that ruling has done to production, I bet it's gone way down. What next? {snorts in disgust!}

  by Engineer Spike
One of the local crews was threatened because of a bypassed drawbar. When it was brought to the managent's attention that we would be forced to place every car, the issue was dropped. If that was the case, nothing would ever leave the yard.
  by shortlinerailroader
While working one day last week(I work in the track dept.), I learned that our T/E crews are going from 5 to 6 days a week. I hope this is not the result of the ban on kicking cars as it would be a huge waste of money if it is. However, I am sure that if this ban becomes too costly it will be lifted before it does the company too much financial harm. I appreciate your inputs.

  by wess
I know the Union Pacific crews in Fife, Wa still kick em. Its quite a sight to see
shortlinerailroader...I'm curious, will the railroad which now forbids kicking allow you to get on and off of moving equipment?? I know of one large regional that gives time off for kicking or doing a static drop, but does not care at all if an employee chooses to bail off a car at 10 or 15 mph. I kid you not!!!

  by shortlinerailroader
According to our rules, employees must not get on or off moving equipment. In fact, I think that was our rule of the week a few weeks ago. Thanks to all who have posted on this thread.
  by fglk
Last edited by fglk on Thu Aug 19, 2004 7:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by roadster
CSX kicks cars as a regular practice of flat switching. Rochester NY Goodman St. Yard, and as mentioned Lyons NY which is a satelite of Rochester. I work both and have kicked cars many times. After you have filled a track, it is wise to stretch a track cars were kicked onto to confirm all the hitches were made. Lyons is unique in that the crew most switch out and build their own train before departing to service the customers. If "Freddie" had to place each car instead of kicking, they'd never get to the customers.

  by CRail
CSX Kicks in Framingham. The tracks arent that great but they still send them down. They often do it pretty fast too.
  by SnoozerZ49
My experience is that the mechanical guys hate "kickin'" cars because of the strain that they can put on engines. I'm sure the sales and claims folks hate the thought of damage in transit. My boss ordered us to stop kickin cars one day. We tried to explain the delays that it would cause while switching out empty plastic cars in cuts of 40 or so on each track. Still as a T&E crew bosses refuse to listen to them.

SO many cars backed up over the next few days our boss relented, refusing for eternity to ever tell a crew that they were right in the first place.

  by tdstedman
Pardon my ignorance, but what is "kicking" a car?


  by SnoozerZ49
Certainly not a matter of ignorance.

I'll try to explain without going off on to many tangents. If you are a conductor and you have a "cut" or string of cars coupled to your engine that need to be sorted you may gain a lot of productivity by "kicking" them to various destination tracks in order to sort them out.

In my case I may have five loads to place on a siding. I also figured out that I have five empty cars to remove from that same track.

I would take my five loads and go in and make a hitch to the cars (lets say there are ten cars total on that track as we enter it. I would pull all the cars off the siding and stop just past the siding switch. Let's say the first car I am looking at up at the switch is one of those five empties I want to remove from the siding. I would line the switch (or normal it or restore it) and shove ahead down that track and leave room for just over five cars. I'd stop and uncouple that car, set a hand brake and pull back to clear that switch. I'd then line that switch back to the siding and shove back in and spot that next car that we want back in with enough room to hold about a half dozen cars. Let's say the next one is an empty, oh boy here comes the fun. We haul back again to clear that switch to the siding and I line the switch back towards that first empty. Know let's kick one

1) make sure the front knuckle is open and lined up

2) The engineer has the brakes released on the set of cars so go ahead and close the angle cocks between the first and second car.
You just "bottled Up" the first car. It still has air in its brake system to hold the brakes off .

3) Make sure the angle cock is closed on the cut of cars you are keeping coupled to the engine.

4) I give a call for the engineer to "Kick one"

5) He throttles up and shoves ahead

6) As the cut accelerates I pull the cut lever up and call to the engineer to stop.

7) the car uncouples from the rest and rolls free towards that first car and stops when it couples up to it.

8) Hopefully the engineer has stopped the cut so that the next car is still shy of the switch so I can line it back towards the siding.

9) If I want to kick three cars back onto the siding, I repeat the process making sure the knuckle is open and walking back three cars to the next cut where I close the angle cock and call for the engineer to "kick three"
When the speed is sufficient I pull that pin and stop the move sending the next three cars down the siding.

On some roads, the cars are not bottled up (i.e. the cars have air stored in their brake system) The other way is to "bleed" the air out of cars so that there is no air in the system and the brakes are held off. I like to bottle them up because I can use the air in the cars to stop it if I open the angle cock and "dump it"
I hope you get the picture.

Why do some railroads frown on the practice

Safety, (a lot of todays railroaders just can't handle this kind of manuever)
Claims, If you do it wrong you can damage the contents of the car.
There are lots of reasons I guess

I hope my verbous story helped.