Alemite tool memory

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Mon Sep 3 14:56:37 EDT 2018

In the early 1950's I worked three summers as a laborer in the N&W 
Durham, NC, shop and one summer in the N&W Winston-Salem, NC, shop, and 
one of my assignments was shooting the steam locomotive rod hubs full of 
hard grease using an air powered grease gun, only it was a one-man job 
then.  I didn't have any particular trouble handling the task by myself 
except when a K1 passenger engine was spotted over the pit with the side 
rods on the 70-inch drivers near their top position, making it difficult 
to lift the heavy grease gun that high.

One interesting part of the grease gun was the height above the top of 
the gun body of the tube where the hard grease stick was inserted.  This 
tube was long enough that the operator could not get a finger into the 
cylinder where the air-operated piston was forcing the grease into the 
rod hub.  This was a consideration because the grease stick was so hard 
the operator was often tempted to use a finger to force the last bit of 
the grease stick down into the cylinder.  I always cringed thinking of 
what might have happened to the operator's (my) finger had the tube not 
been long enough.

Gordon Hamilton

On 9/2/2018 3:15 PM, NW Mailing List via NW-Mailing-List wrote:
> Abram's comments on the noble, essential Steam-Age implement known as 
> an Alemite gun brought back memories.
> In the late '80s and early '90s, I had the privilege of using the free 
> weight known as an Alemite gun while spending my free hours as a grunt 
> on a steam crew. The below brings back memories of its distinctive 
> rat-tat-ta sound. If you had a sense of rhythm, which I don't, I 
> suspect you could work the air trigger in time to pick out a tune of 
> your choice.
> It was a 2-person job, one to hold the machine, the other to feed the 
> sticks of hard grease into it. The grease was kept well under wraps to 
> prevent contaminants (dust, dirt, etc.) from being rat-tatted into 
> sensitive bearing innards and thus defeating the quality of lubrication.
> In the post-steam era, Alemite guns were pretty rare things. On our 
> engine, both were kept under lock and key for that reason. "These 
> things are worth their weight in gold," said our crew foreman, usually 
> when he had a hefty padlock in hand.
> Thanks for the memories, Abram, old friend!
> Andre Jackson
> On Friday, July 20, 2018, 3:53:28 PM EDT, NW Mailing List wrote:
> One of the things I have long sought, but so far without fruition, is 
> the date for the construction of the original interlocking and tower 
> at Randolph Street, Roanoke, and a technical article on the subject.
> Indeed, it seems that photographs of the original Randolph Street 
> Tower are almost non-existent. Here is one I found in the March 1924, 
> issue of Railway Signaling, in a one-column article touting the 
> virtues of lubricating switches with Alemite. No further N&W details 
> were given, only the photograph.
> If I have my geographical bearings correct, that photograph looks from 
> the Shenandoah Division tracks, towards the depot. The dining car 
> commissary would be to the right, and the board fence at left shields 
> from our view the RMW (Roanoke Machine Works, a.k.a. "East End Shops") 
> complex.
> One of my great desires in life was always to use a pneumatic Alemite 
> gun and play at lubricating grease fittings. If anyone has such a 
> tool, please invite me to try it out.
> Photo by K. Miller. Man in white gloves has been identified as Section 
> Foreman H. Bundy; aristocratic man in black hat identified as J. 
> Blackstock. That poor kid bucking the Alemite gun is identified as 
> young Jerome Sandermann, who later became a successful attorney in 
> Roanoke and practiced law under the name Jeff Sanders.
> >From this photo we can determine one thing: that the "old" Randolph 
> St was an electro-pneumatic interlocking plant, not a manual one. 
> Which probably means we can confine our search for its history to 
> sometime after about1905.
> No lo contendre, ex parte,
> -- abram burnett
> Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad <>
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