Fw: [VirginianRailwayEnthusiasts] "Taking Twenty with the Virginian Brethren"

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Fri Nov 28 19:55:35 EST 2008

This is just a little elaboration on Skip's explanation of top-of-rail lubrication.

Locomotive and freight car wheels are rigidly mounted on an axle that is solid between the wheel seats, i.e., no differential gearing between the wheels such as automotive vehicles have in order to allow the outside wheel on a curve to travel a longer distance than the inside wheel. Instead of a differential, railroad wheels have a 1:20 taper on the tread with the greatest diameter near the flange. This is a somewhat crude attempt to allow for the fact that the outside wheel on a curve has to travel a longer distance than the inside wheel. So, if a railroad vehicle negotiates a curve fast enough to force the outside wheel flange against the outside rail, the outside wheel, which has the greater distance to travel, will be running on its largest diameter and the inside wheel, which has the least distance to travel, will be running on its least diameter, allowing the wheelset to negotiate the curve with minimum slippage.

There are three things wrong with this arrangement. One, if the vehicle negotiates the curve at too slow a speed, the superelevation of the outer rail will force the inside wheel against the inside rail where the wheel will run on its largest diameter and the outside wheel will move away from the outside rail causing it run on its least diameter, just the reverse of what it should be, causing considerable slippage of one wheel on the rail. Two, even if the outside wheel is against the outside rail and both wheels are running on the proper diameters, the difference in wheel diameters will be correct for only one radius curve. At other radii curves there will be some slippage of one wheel on the rail. Third, as wheels become worn, the 1:20 taper can become concave creating a slippage condition due to wrong diameters similar to condition one above.

So, it is this unavoidable slippage in curves in which the slipping wheel is in effect dragged along the rail that creates the friction between the tread of the wheel and the top of the rail that is controlled by the application of top-of-rail friction modifiers.

Gordon Hamilton

----- Original Message -----
From: gkholine at cox.net
To: VirginianRailwayEnthusiasts at yahoogroups.com
Cc: patrick johnston
Sent: Friday, November 28, 2008 6:13 PM
Subject: Re: [VirginianRailwayEnthusiasts] "Taking Twenty with the Virginian Brethren"


The top of the rail lubrication by NS is to reduce fuel cost of locomotive by making the wheels turn easier and thus taking less tractive effort from the locomotives to pull the train. It is kind of like having a four wheel drive truck. On dry pavement when in four wheel drive, there is a lot of friction when turning. A four wheel drive system on a vehicle is designed to work at its best in wet, muddy or slushy conditions. The locomotives are of course all wheel drive. The sanding of the rail of the locomotives is when there is not enough friction between the wheels and the rail. The locomotives have a very complex system of sensing when a wheel is slipping or loosing contact with the rail and even anticipates slipping. The on board computers also compare minute changes in the balance of current going to each traction motor to anticipate wheel slip. Then sand is automatically blown in front of the wheels of the locos. I have attached the article from "NS Newsbreak" that explains more.

---- patrick johnston <pjj310 at yahoo.com> wrote:

Skip, would you 'splain about "top of the rail lubrication?" What is sand on locomotives used for then?
Patrick Johnston,
is my name and Aeronautics was my game

--- On Thu, 11/27/08, Charles E. Salmon, Jr. <gkholine at cox.net> wrote:

From: Charles E. Salmon, Jr. <gkholine at cox.net>
Subject: [VirginianRailwayEnthusiasts] "Taking Twenty with the Virginian Brethren"
To: VirginianRailwayEnthusiasts at yahoogroups.com
Date: Thursday, November 27, 2008, 7:38 AM

Last night on the eve of Thanksgiving, I had the pleasure
of "Takin' Twenty" with 9 of the Brethren and Friends of the
Virginian Railway. I announced to the Brethren about the recent
passing of Herbie Poindexter, operator from Seneca. Landon Gregory
remembered talking to Herbie just last month at the Annual Gathering
of of the Brethren in Victoria. Landon said that he was interviewed
by a reporter from the Victoria area newspaper. The reporter asked
Landon and the other former VGN operators to pose for a photo. The
shot included Landon, Herbie, Ed Saunders, C. D. Johnson and Norman

Also discussed was the passing of Jim Gillum, past president of
the N&W (and VGN) Historical Society, and current Director of the
Archives. All who knew Jim expressed their great admiration for him
and his work at the Archives. Jim was especially interested in and
had a love for the Virginian Railway. I recall many times seeing his
bid on ebay for a precious VGN item and at the next work session
seeing the item in the Archives display case of artifacts.

We talked about back up bells on VGN cabooses. A fellow from
Princeton told me at the recent Bluefield Railfest, that he had one
and there were small brass bells on some VGN cabooses that were
sounded when back up movements were made. Anybody out there know
anything about these "back up bells" on VGN cabeese?

A lot of discussion broke out when I read Gordon Hamilton's
email of an article from the "Bluefield Daily Telegraph" of October
30, 1908. It stated "a railroad line is being surveyed between
Roanoke and Floyd Court House, VA, which will be used as a feeder for
the Virginian Railway". Most of the Brethren just laughed because US
221 that goes by Country Cookin' where we take twenty directly to
Floyd Court House, is one of the steepest, crookedest roads in
Southwest Virginia.

I announced to the group with pleasure that their own Landon
Gregory was elected to the Board of the Roanoke Chapter National
Railway Historical Society at last week's election. I would guess
that Landon is the first former VGN employee elected to this Board.

Posted at the Restaurant was a flyer about our Saturday December
13 "Free Rides on the Candy Cane Shifter". If you are in the Roanoke
area, please come ride behind the Roanoke Chapter NRHS Alco T-6 #41
on N&W Caboose 518409 or 611 Tool Car 1407. Rides will be given at
our Roanoke Industrial Park on the old Silk Mill lead (used by the
VGN) from 8:30 AM to 3 PM. I have posted a photo of the flyer with a
map, on this site under "Skip's Photos".

Passed around was a recent purchase of mine on ebay. It is a
black and white photo taken April 1955 at Elmore showing VGN FM
Trainmaster #51 pulling a string of coal hoppers and gons with about
a dozen different employee autos and pickups parked by the highway.
It is a candidate for Aubrey Wiley's 2010 VGN Calendar.

Also the November 2008 Norfolk Southern "Newsbreak" was passed
around. It highlights NS's new "top of the rail lubrication system"
that is "saving 4% of fuel costs" by decreasing friction between car
wheels and the rail. I wonder if the VGN had any lubricators at all?

The conversations turned to Thanksgiving and some how Rufus
Wingfield remembered VGN brakeman Bill Hughs who "sported a gold
tooth that kept falling out". Ruf said that he would loose it and
yell "Stop everybody, I've lost my tooth". He was very thankful when
someone hollered "Here it is Bill".

All the Brethren and I wish you the Best Thanksgiving you ever

Departing Now from V248,

Skip Salmon

Skip Salmon

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