• North Shore: Third rail to wire

  • General discussion about fallen trolley and interurban lines in North America, past and present.
General discussion about fallen trolley and interurban lines in North America, past and present.

Moderator: Aa3rt

  by ExCon90
 
I've been asking around and haven't found anyone who knows the answer to this: After North Shore trains left Howard St. and had to put up the trolley poles at speed at night and in all kinds of weather, how was the conductor able to see the wire in darkness, rain, sleet, etc.? Did the cars themselves throw off enough illumination to enable him to see the wire? I don't recall seeing anything in photos to indicate that there was any other source of illumination, similar to what some steam locomotives had in the form of a mini-floodlight mounted just behind the stack which the fireman could switch on to see the color of the smoke at night.
  by polybalt
 
As recently reported elsewhere, one railfan asked that very question of the trainman while he was putting up the pole during the day at high speed with the rear door open, leaning on the chains. The answer given was that one would use one hand while holding a flashlight aimed at the wire in the other hand.
  by ExCon90
 
polybalt wrote:As recently reported elsewhere, one railfan asked that very question of the trainman while he was putting up the pole during the day at high speed with the rear door open, leaning on the chains. The answer given was that one would use one hand while holding a flashlight aimed at the wire in the other hand.
With no means of securement other than leaning on a chain, and doing it day in and day out for 40 or so years! Wouldn't the FRA have a fit of the vapors if they tried it today...
  by RedLantern
 
I've seen instances on electric traction lines where they have a piece of sheet metal bent 90 degrees and laying over the wire to guide the pole into position, allowing the conductor to get it within about one foot of accuracy. I'm surprised they didn't use something like that, something along the lines of a re-railer but for wire.
  by ExCon90
 
RedLantern wrote:I've seen instances on electric traction lines where they have a piece of sheet metal bent 90 degrees and laying over the wire to guide the pole into position, allowing the conductor to get it within about one foot of accuracy. I'm surprised they didn't use something like that, something along the lines of a re-railer but for wire.
I suspect that might have required a greater reduction in speed than the North Shore was willing to accept; they hated to slow down (and the fans hated to have them slow down).
  by RedLantern
 
I don't see why they'd need to slow down for that, if anything, it would simplify the high speed operation they were already doing. Rather than the conductor needing to get it right on the dime, he could just get it within 6 inches or so of the wire and the sheet metal would guide it right into place.
  by keyboardkat
 
But how did they do it with multi-car MU trains where several poles had to be raised? Did they do it without stopping? And what about the Electroliners, each of which had two trolley poles in each direction?

And what about in the revers direction, when poles had to be lowered? Was that also done without stopping?
  by ExCon90
 
RedLantern wrote:I don't see why they'd need to slow down for that, if anything, it would simplify the high speed operation they were already doing. Rather than the conductor needing to get it right on the dime, he could just get it within 6 inches or so of the wire and the sheet metal would guide it right into place.
I was thinking more about the impact at 80 mph (or whatever speed they got up to by that point -- I seem to remember they got a pretty good running start going downgrade out of Howard).
  by polybalt
 
If there were more poles to put up than trainmen, the trainmen needed to do more than one car each. The motorman would go to coast leaving the third rail section. Each trainman would put up a pole, being careful to keep the retriever out of retrieve, then throw a 600 volt change over knife switch with bare blades located in an unlocked cabinet on the back wall of the cab partition. Then he would walk to the next car and do the same thing. Meanwhile the train is rolling along at about 50 - 60 mph. When done, each trainman would give the two-bell signal on the communications cord. The motorman would count the signals, and we he got one for each trainman on the train, he would notch back up. A piece of cake! Particularly at night at 30 below during a blizzard.

The Liner had at two crewmen, so one did each pole.

Yes they had to pull the poles down at speed coming the other way and do so before they ran out of wire!

If I remember correctly, the southbound express track from Howard to Wilson on the "L" had only trolley wire, since the nightly freight train operated on this track and not all freight car trucks will clear the CTA third rail. So the trainmen would need to put the poles back up while the train was stopped at Howard, and pull them down one last time at Wilson.
  by keyboardkat
 
I'd always wondered about this. I was never lucky enough to ride the North Shore Line. I'd always assumed that the train had to stop while making the transition.

By the way, in this day of high gas prices, what wouldn't we give to have a fast, all-electric passenger railroad connecting Chicago and Milwaukee today? What a shame. We had it, and we don't have it anymore, and we need it. Same thing with Pacific Electric in California.
  by JimBoylan
 
Until 1949, the Pennsylvania RR's West Jersey and Seashore RR, later taken over by the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines, had to do this at speed on either side of Gloucester, N.J., which didn't have 3rd rail in town.
Until 1948, the Atlantic City & Shore RR also did it when entering and leaving this line in the meadows near Atlantic City, but the other end of the shared route was at the Pleasantville, N.J. station stop.