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When a car is found to be in unsafe condition to run, it is cut out and sent to the shop or cripple track for repairs. In such cases, as a general thing, repairs are made to the safety appliances at the same time repairs are made to the other parts. Cars with defective safety appliances or attachments are, in many cases, allowed to run while in condition dangerous to employees whose duties require them to handle such cars until the car is stopped for some so-called more serious defects.
While a great number of defects are being reported by the Government inspectors, I am satisfied that at least many of the more serious defects are not being reported. Thus, the actual condition of safety appliances is not being shown. Cars are usually coupled together when inspected, rendering it impossible for inspectors to examine the working parts of the coupling mechanism and note the defects. Only one end of one car on each end of a coupled train can be correctly examined, in addition to the few cars that may be found separated from others.
There are in use too many Master Car Builders' couplers that can hardly be classed as automatic. I allude to those that require too great impact in order to cause connection. So great in many cases is this, that cars and contents are badly damaged. I have repeatedly seen cars equipped with these imperfect couplers that required the second and third impact, each impact more violent than that which preceded it. These shocks start the draft rigging fastening, even force the nails from the sides of box cars, and cause clouds of dust to arise and fly from the car.
Couplers are used which at times require a heavy blow from a sledge or bar on the side of the drawhead to jar the coupler so that a coupling may be made after the cars have been crowded together. Much damage is caused to cars and their contents by using inferior and worn couplers. Railroad companies often improperly attribute such damage to the rough handling of cars by train and switching crews. * ** A. light skeleton gauge should be furnished to inspectors with which to measure contour lines of couplers, and all defects in that line should be noted and reported.
With regard to the accident of railway employees falling from freight cars, I am convinced that one of the chief causes of such is the bad practice of connecting up air brakes with staff and brake wheel on either end of the car, one end working in the same direction with the air and the other end in the opposite direction. A brakeman in the act of applying the brake by hand on the end of the car working in a different direction from the air is likely to be injured, if not thrown from the car. Connections should be so applied that both brake wheels would work in the same direction as the air, or the one working in the opposite direction should be discarded.
A greater number of cars should be equipped with air brakes, and those that are so equipped should be kept in more serviceable condition. I find very few yards fitted with an air plant for testing air on cars, the test not being made until road locomotives are attached to the trains. Then, when cars are found defective, the air attachments are cut out and the cars are allowed to proceed, as at that late hour it would cause too much delay to make the necessary repairs. I noticed recently a private refrigerator car that had been carded at Chicago for defective tripple and which went to Portland, Me., and was on its way back and had not yet been repaired.
Too many freight trains are being made up and handled with too small a percentage of air-brake cars in serviceable condition, causing numbers of accidents to railroad employees and to trains by reason of the slack of the trains running in from the rear with such force when the air is applied as, in some cases, to throw men from the cars and break the train in two. When a train thus breaks in two with no air brakes in service on the rear portion, that part of the train is liable to run into the forward portion, causing a disastrous collision.
J. W. WATSON, Inspector.
REPORT OF INSPECTOR GEORGE V. MARTIN.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH, October 20, 1902.
Hon. EDWARD A. MOSELEY,
Secretary Interstate Commerce Commission, Washington, D. C.:
In reply to yours of recent date in regard to existing conditions in reference to safety appliances, some of my personal observations are as follows:
Couplers and uncoupling devices.-While the condition of the equipment in general is improving, yet, in my opinion, a much better state of affairs should now exist. The uncoupling devices at the present time are not receiving the care they should have.
On nearly every road I find that although the traffic has increased very much, yet the force of car repairers and inspectors has not increased proportionately, and many yards are congested with bad-order cars waiting to be repaired.
In some places I find that inspection, except for broken or loose wheels or disabled
trucks, has been entirely abandoned. I have in mind one division terminal on a large trunk line where two years ago they maintained two inspectors and two lightrepair men in the yard day and night. They now have no inspector at all during the day and only one man at night, who only inspects trains. The practice at this particular point at this time is as follows: When a freight train arrives two men leave the repair track and look over the train. If a car is found with sufficient or heavy defects the car is carded "bad order" and goes to the repair track. No note is taken of uncoupling devices or grab irons or condition of air. Neither is an inspection of tops of cars made. This same practice is followed when a train is about to leave, unless these trains arrive or depart during the time a passenger train is due, when the freight trains receive no attention at all. This yard handles on an average of 8,000 to 10,000 cars a month.
I have found places where car inspectors have been removed from passenger-train inspection entirely and the responsibility of inspection put upon the trainmen. Now, this is probably done to curtail expenses in the car department. I have in inind one particular division where this particular practice is in vogue. The company's general shops are located at this point. No less than ten passenger trains pass through this station a day, to all of which cars are here added, and, in fact, considerable switching is done to some of them; yet, although freight-car inspectors may be standing close by, the brakemen are expected to inspect these trains and couple up the air and steam hose and safety chains, regardless of the fact that they are expected to assist passengers at coach steps. The result is that trains get no inspection. Then, if anything happens to cars, such as getting flat wheels from the brake being adjusted too tight, brakemen are either severely disciplined or discharged.
While the question of broken uncoupling chains has been given considerable attention by the railroads, yet it has not been along intelligent lines. Strict instructions have been issued by the officers of all railroads to their respective car forces to keep the uncoupling devices in safe operative condition, yet, on many roads, when a car foreman makes requisition for material it is often impossible to secure material without waiting from fifteen to thirty days. I understand that this delay is due to the fact that strict instructions are out on nearly all railroads to keep down storehouse stock to the very lowest possible point. The result is that when material can not be promptly secured the men will either allow cars to go defective or will use improper material to make necessary repairs. For instance, I find many broken uncoupling chains whose broken ends are tied together with pieces of wire and not infrequently with pieces of rope. This practice was, for a long time, charged up to the trainmen, but, after careful investigation, I found that it was being done by the carmen and that, too, in many instances on the repair track.
The practice of not changing uncoupling devices, so as to conform to new coupler when couplers are changed for any reason, does not seem to decrease in any degree.
Many roads have no attachments for couplers that are not standard to their road; therefore when a foreign car is placed upon the repair track and has a new coupler put in, no effort is made, as a rule, to put on the proper uncoupling device, or to so change the uncoupling device so as to make it operative.
Many uncoupling chains are still found that are too long. This is due to careless application by repairmen, and is also due to the fact that the coupler may have too much slack. Many couplers have too much slack, for the reason that they contain springs that are too small for the pockets. Again, coupler springs that have been removed from cars for being compressed, are, by some roads, heated and stretched and again used. I find that springs so treated very quickly become compressed to even a greater degree than before, therefore it is a difficult matter to properly adjust uncoupling chains on such cars, and the certain result is a chain too long.
I do not find as many short chains as formerly. The few such that I do find are usually the result of the use of S hooks and split links. These links and hooks are applied open and are then closed up by hammering them together. As it is impossible for the workmen to properly adjust the length, the result is that the chain is either kinked or the hooks or links have been closed too tight, making the chain too short.
Many uncoupling-lever brackets are still found to be loose. On all such I find that the looseness of the brackets is due to the fact that they were secured by lag or wood screws, and that these lag screws have been driven into the wood instead of being screwed in. Many roads only use one bolt to secure the inner keeper. This is invariably found to be loose or broken. Many wrong brackets are found on account of lack of the proper material.
Many bent uncoupling levers are still found. These levers are frequently bent by being struck by material that is loaded on flat cars and has slid forward, while many
levers on freight cars are bent by coming in contact with buffer plates on platforms of passenger equipment, either by being hauled in trains or while switching in the yards, and some are bent by goose necks or Dolly Vardens on engines.
I frequently find uncoupling levers improperly applied, some being applied between the brake staff and retaining-valve pipe and binding so tightly that it is almost impossible to raise the lever, much less shift it to lock position.
Many broken couplers are found, and in most cases the breakage appears in the lugs, as a rule in the upper lug. This is caused by broken knuckle pins, which are frequent, but very little attention being paid to knuckle pins. Some knuckle pins are broken by being sheared off on account of their being too small. It is not uncommon to find bolts and coupling pins substituted for knuckle pins.
Many knuckle pins are found bent, which makes the operation of the knuckle difficult. This, too, is another result of the necessity of hard striking of cars to make them couple. Broken knuckles, caused by being badly worn and thereby weakened, and many that are broken owing to weakness from having been cored out, are still found.
The link slot and pin hole is a prolific cause of broken knuckles. The impossibility of securing the right material is a reason assigned by many car men for the use of wrong lock pins and blocks. The great trouble, however, is the many different types of master car builder couplers and the many different styles of draft rigging. Railroads make no effort to keep repair parts for the many couplers in use. This acts as an inducement to car inspectors not to discover any defects in foreign couplers that can possibly be avoided.
Equipment can not improve under those conditions. While it is a fact that a great many couplers, inferior both in design and construction, are still in use, yet it is a fact that the coupler question seems to be evolving itself into a survival of the fittest. The most noticeable feature that I have observed in connection with couplers during the past year is the great number of roads that are adopting the knuckle-kicking coupler. This is also true of the solid knuckle, which is rapidly coming into more general use. I believe that it is only a question of a short time until all the railroads will adopt the knuckle-kicking coupler, the better to insure absolute safety to their employees. Men still continue to run in front of approaching cars to open the knuckle by hand on the other types of couplers.
The question of economy in terminal switching as a result of the adoption of the automatic coupler is one that I can not treat in an intelligent manner, but one needs no figures to convince himself that the coupler is a factor in terminal work that can not now be dispensed with.
I observe that many officials claim that, since the adoption of the coupler, a new source of expense has appeared, viz, the damage to freight and equipment due to rough handling of cars while switching. The claim is set forth that as men no longer are required to go between the cars, they are no longer as careful in cutting off and kicking cars as they formerly were. This idea is absurd, as any person who has had practical experience in switching cars well knows. There are many good reasons why cars are handled roughly, and one of the principal reasons is that there are many couplers which can not be made to unite one with the other without striking them extremely hard. Then, if freight has not been stored properly in cars, which in many instances is the case, damage follows. If a "shank gauge" were applied to all couplers that have been removed, a state of affairs would be revealed that would suffice to change some ideas that exist to-day in regard to the rough handling of cars. Another cause of damage to freight is the running of semiair-braked trains now operated on numerous roads.
The parting of trains on line of road is on the decrease. The majority of breakin-twos caused by the coupler can be traced to neglect of the care of the coupler. Strictly speaking, they are generally due to badly worn lock pins, or blocks, or missing parts of the internal mechanism which allow lock pins or lock blocks to creep or become displaced, thereby allowing the knuckles to open.
The master car builder limit gauge is an instrument that is practically unknown among car men. The common practice among car men to determine whether a knuckle is worn beyond the limit is to determine it by the eye, while some few use a rule.
Hand holds and ladders.-Very few cars are now found that are not sufficiently equipped with hand holds or grab irons, the only trouble being the lack of uniformity of application, this appliance being found fastened in all sorts of positions. The roof hand hold should in every instance be placed in the same position with relation to the ladder on the car. This is not always done and, as a result, many accidents to train men have resulted. At night, a train man groping his way over a fast-running train, perhaps with his light extinguished, comes to the end of a box car, down which
he is obliged to climb to a flat car. He finds by feeling, it being too dark to see, and perhaps smoke and cinders beating into his face, a roof hand hold set lengthwise of the car. The position of that hand hold leads him to believe that the car is equipped with a side ladder, when in reality it is equipped with an end ladder. The result is that he goes over the side of the car to the ground, receiving serious injuries or possibly being killed. The same is true of hand holds set crosswise of the cars that are equipped with side ladders.
More defective end ladders are found than side ladders. This is due to the shifting of lumber, or other long material, on flat cars or steel structural material loaded in gondolas and extending out from 2 to 3 feet over the end of the car. Running boards.—Very little trouble is experienced now with defective running boards.
Side sill steps. Many defective side sill steps are still found, particularly loose and bent ones. A railroad inspector seldom tries a side sill step to see if it is loose or otherwise defective.
Standard height of couplers.-A very satisfactory condition in height of couplers exists, it being very seldom now that one is found out of the limit.
Air brakes.-Improved conditions in air-brake matters are apparent, yet the progress is not as rapid as it should be. Many cleaning and testing plants are in course of erection or under consideration. Many different methods of cleaning and testing are also in vogue, but the practice of cleaning triples under the car seems to be the favorite, as it is the one most generally pursued. Carelessness and ignorance in the cleaning of triples are still apparent to a large degree.
Many roads have adopted the practice of cleaning all triples at a given point and sending out clean triples to the various car inspection or repair points in exchange for dirty ones. This method is not satisfactory and soon falls into disuse, because it takes too long to get the clean triples, thereby delaying cars.
Owing to the fact that so few roads have adopted a standard practice for the care of air brakes, I find that at many shops the mechanical officer in charge, or his airbrakeman, has set up a testing plant of his own design, and many of them do all their own repair work and make their own leather and rubber gaskets; and while the system of each is entirely different from that recommended by the Airbrake Association, each invariably contends that his is the better method, and it is seldom that one is willing to admit that the work done on triples by other roads is thorough. Remarkable progress has been made toward getting triples cleaned within the time limit. Several roads have adopted the plan of cleaning all freight triples on their own cars once every six months, and many roads will not allow cars to run over their line unless the triples have been cleaned within the twelve months preceding.
I find many yards that have been piped for air-brake testing purposes during the past year, but this work, in many instances, is the result of zealous efforts on the part of some car foreman, who informs me that he has been obliged to gather up the pipe for the purpose from numerous sources and put it down piece by piece and that the officers of the division were not aware that such a plant existed.
Lots of trouble exists from air brakes that are cut out and not carded. The cutting out of cars on line of road is often done in long trains where the engine has a small pump and small reservoir, and conductors or trainmen often cut out defective air cars and neglect to card them. Many inspectors, when they find a car cut out and not carded, cut it back in and pay no further attention to it, while many pay no attention to it whether it is carded or not.
Some few roads have adopted the practice of testing the pressure retainer on all outgoing trains, while many roads are constructing cars and equipping them without a pressure retainer.
The matter of equalization of brakes on freight cars has been given but slight attention. It is a common sight to see the piston travel under a freight train vary from 41 to 12 inches. I have found in trains many cars of which the piston was out against the cylinder head, and the shoes were not tight to the wheels then. This is true with many passenger trains also, though as a rule the travel is not so great.
Some experiments are now being made with automatic slack adjusters on freight cars, and it is to be hoped that the experiments will prove successful, and that an automatic slack adjuster will be applied to all air-braked cars, as the requirements of the service demand it.
Air hose.-The failure to uncouple air hose by hand previous to switching a train is a practice that is proving disastrous to the hose and its connections. The stretching of the hose tears the rubber and ruptures the web so that it becomes soggy and leaks and frequently under high pressure bursts, often at a time when a train is under high speed. Such an occurrence is often attended with heavy loss through damage to cars, especially in trains only partially air braked.