• Torpedoes and fusees

  • 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 ExCon90
 
To any Engineers and Conductors reading this: someone asked me the other day whether torpedoes and fusees are still in use in the light of present-day application of Rule 99 and the absence of any need in block-signaled territory to drop fusees off when the train is running at less than normal speed (and who would be back there to do it?). Are flagging kits still supplied with torpedoes and fusees, and how often are they used? Are they strictly something for museums today, or are they still used on secondary tracks, etc.?
  by RearOfSignal
 
I still carry a fusee. Never had to use it, nor the red flag. But you never know.
  by DutchRailnut
 
Fusees are still required, the FRA and railroads no longer recommend Torpedoes, mainly since the cabs have so much sound proofing and some railroads require hearing protection to be worn at all times.
  by Ken W2KB
 
On the NJ based short line Black River Railroad System, both freight and passenger crews have fusees, but not torpedoes.

System Instructions 2009 in pertinent part:

8. FUSEES
(Supersedes Rule 11)

A train or engine finding an unattended fusee burning on or near its tracks, shall immediately reduce to restricted speed and proceed at that speed to the next Station, unless otherwise instructed by the Dispatcher.

12. TORPEDOES
(Cancels Rule 15)

Torpedoes shall not be used.


24. FLAG PROTECTION
(Supersedes Rule 35 & Amplifies Rule 99)

When a train stops on or fouls the main track a crew member shall go back immediately with flagging signals a distance no less than 1,000 feet, taking into consideration grade, track curvature, weather conditions, sight distance, and the speed of following trains, and remain at that location until recalled.

Flagmen shall use a red flag and fusees by day and a white light and fusees by night.

25. GRADE CROSSINGS

Trains or engines shall stop short of public crossings when crossing warning devices are not operating or conditions require and a member of the crew shall protect the crossing in advance of each movement with flags by day and with fusees at night or when view is obscured by fog or other conditions.

57. FLAMMABLE MATERIALS

Gas cans, fusees, and other flammable and combustible materials and containers shall be secured at locations away from the general public, away from sparks, cutting tools, steam locomotives, and open flames. These items shall never be stored in Stations or Offices.

On trains, fusees shall be secured in a metal container, except that not more than two (2) fusees may be kept with personal flagging equipment.
  by Cascade Northern
 
With the tourist railroad I volunteer with, Fusees and Torps are standard equipment, though we never really use them. In the six years I have been here, only two or three have been used for training reasons. I must say though, the first time I heard a torp go off was under my window (which was open on a Baldwin RS-4-TC) and with no for warning (the engineer did though).... Boy does that scare the heck out of ya.... :wink: Nearly jumped out of my seat, and the engineer was just sitting there laughing his head off.
  by ExCon90
 
Thanks to all of you for responding.
  by CarterB
 
When torpedoes were used... how far back were they placed from the train that was stopped? How many torpedoes and what spacing?
  by BR&P
 
The rule required a flagman to go back " a sufficient distance to ensure the safety of the train" or words quite similar. Some roads left it to the flag's judgment what that distance was, others had a notation in the ETT with the distance specified. Obviously on a descending grade where heavy trains were common, a greater distance was needed than on a branch line where slow, light trains were the norm.

Likewise, the distance apart varied - in some cases it was two rail lengths, others it was one telegraph pole apart. The use of two torpedoes was required but the explosion of one was to be regarded the same as two by a following engineer.

In Ralph Fisher's book on his days on the B&M he tells an amusing torpedo story. There was a rail test car - probably a Sperry car or something similar, and as they tested they made countless stops to inspect and mark defects. Since these stops were brief and it was some time until a following train was due the flagman did not go through the whole procedure. Some Trainmaster saw this and read him the riot act and demanded he read his rule book and follow it. So he did.

After a while the test car took a siding for the following passenger train to pass, but it did not show up. They waited...and waited....finally they heard "BANG...BANG..................BANG....BANG...................." and so on. The passenger train crept into view at restricted speed as they had been going for miles per the rules. It sounded like a war! The author says that once the badly delayed passenger train went ahead the test car resumed work, and it was "modified flagging" rules from then on.
  by DutchRailnut
 
Trainmaster was wrong offcourse as a Sperry car or other test car is not a train, but a trackcar.
As track car no following train moves can be made, as Dispatcher is suppose to block acces to track section.
  by Ken W2KB
 
CarterB wrote:When torpedoes were used... how far back were they placed from the train that was stopped? How many torpedoes and what spacing?
I don't have the rule with me here, but as I recall on the BR&W it is 1,000 feet minimum plus addtional distance if necessary due to a curve or weather conditions limiting visibility for flagging.

When growing up in Bayonne, NJ in the mid-1960's I often saw fusees and torpedoes used on the CNJ mainline, mostly when an opening of the Newark Bay Draw caused a westbound passenger train to be delayed. The flagman would set two torpedoes several feet apart so the engine crew of the following train would hear a distinct bang - bang a second or so between the bangs. There was a limited visibility curve that added importance to the protection.
  by pablo
 
Dutch, you aren't entirely correct about track car rules...and it's possible that this happened in the days before NORAC anyway.

*edited because I misspelled possible. Sheesh.

Dave Becker
Last edited by pablo on Tue May 05, 2009 7:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by BR&P
 
Dave - exactly! I had a dozen sarcastic replies ready but choked them back and will give Dutch the benefit of the doubt, he apparently is not familiar with the timeframe of the book. The man was employed by the B&M from roughly the end of WW II until the Korean war. I am sure a LOT of things were done differently back then and have no reason or desire to second guess the way the B&M ran their railroad at that time.

The book is a very good read by the way - "Vanishing Markers" by Ralph Fisher, Stephen Greene Press, Brattleboro VT. No idea if it is still in print. The guy worked steam and diesel, freight and passenger, and worked Boston, White River Junction, Portland ME, and other places.
  by 130MM
 
Let me add to the chorus about the B&M rules. The link below leads to an ICC accident report in which a Sperry Car operating as a train is wrecked because the flagging rules were not followed:

http://dotlibrary1.specialcollection.ne ... 5C3979.PDF

After that wreck (I don't know if it was a direct result, but eventually they were changed) the rules were changed. As part of the new rules in ABS territory a track car could receive a "Line C". It would say something to the effect of "Operate between Waltham and South Acton. Clear for trains 419, 421 and 423." It was the foreman's responsibility to get out of the way. The trains were not notified you were out there, nor were any blocking devices applied. The dispatcher was not allowed to run extra trains without having noted them on the Line C. It certainly kept you on your toes.

In 1986 when Amtrak was hyrailing the area prior to taking over the Commuter Rail service, we had to hyrail them around. You should have seen some of the looks when we would clear for a train, and hop right back on after the train passed.

Amtrak guy: "Aren't you going to call the dispatcher to get the track?"

Us: "Nah, don't feel like it today."

Those rules were gone very quickly after Amtrak took over.

DAW
  by BR&P
 
130mm, I don't do drugs but those ICC wreck reports must be worse than crack. I went to take a "quick look" at the link and spent over an hour checking out various wrecks before I knew it. A guy could spend half a day or more reading that stuff - fascinating!

For some reason the link only gets me to the index, not the specific incident you mention. What year was that in?
  by 130MM
 
BR&P wrote:130mm, I don't do drugs but those ICC wreck reports must be worse than crack. I went to take a "quick look" at the link and spent over an hour checking out various wrecks before I knew it. A guy could spend half a day or more reading that stuff - fascinating!

For some reason the link only gets me to the index, not the specific incident you mention. What year was that in?
December 4, 1962

Winnisquam, NH

DAW