Steam Doubleheaders

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Thu Feb 4 13:48:45 EST 2021

Ken,There is a track on one of the Bud Swearer tapes where the head end of the train is paced until it stops for the pusher. Then all is quiet on the head end except to hear the air pumps, injector and stoker.When the pusher is on and ready to go you can hear the pusher in the distance signal a long blow of the whistle, not the head end. Then the train departs.The same thing is recorded on Thunder On Blue Ridge except he is on the rear of the train. The pusher signals when to go.Jimmy LisleSent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone
-------- Original message --------From: NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at> Date: 2/4/21  1:26 PM  (GMT-05:00) To: NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at> Subject: Re: Steam Doubleheaders Roger Huber provided a good explanation of part of this in another email.His specific points of the railroaders had to know the territory, what was where, what was clear of a crossing or siding and how it worked.Since I was not there, this is my best understanding of how it worked prior to arrival of the radio. The trains of the steam era were a standard lengths, i.e. 100 cars, and the engineers on the lead locomotive knew exactly where to stop the locomotives to clear the pusher siding. The crew would stop, the pusher would proceed to the main line, couple up, hook the brake hose up and cut in the air between the caboose and the pusher. Generally it was obvious to the head end crew that air had been cut in with the slight drop in pressure. A good example of this is O. Winston Link Thunder on Blue Ridge, Voume 3, track No. 3, The engineer calls a long whistle signal to release brakes. The pusher engine crew would respond and release the brakes and open the throttle. The pusher would do the same. As slack pulls out and the pusher is now shoved up against the rear they proceeded east. Remember, this is all uphill, so overspeed is not going to be an issue. As the train proceeded east, and over the summit at Blue Ridge, the rear brakeman would come out, close the angle cocks on both pusher and caboose, then pull the pin to uncouple the pusher, who had already shut off his throttle. Again, they knew where their landmarks were and when to do things. Closing the angle cocks prevented an emergency application on either the coal train or pusher. The pusher, once cut loose would stop, the fireman would go back and pull the yellow flag (day) or markers (night) off the rear and move them to the front, once the signal was cleared by the dispatcher, the pusher would back at the direction of the signal, either to the middle track, the normal westbound track and back to Boaz, where it would enter the siding and wait for the next move east.BestKen MillerOn Feb 3, 2021, at 12:20 PM, NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at> wrote:Thank you Tom, I’ve always had this question also in my mind. On a related note- how did the pushers (example Blue Ridge) operate in synch with the power that was in the lead? I would think that any difference in speed between the lead power and the one on the back would be disastrous. These are all probably simple questions- but one never knows until they ask! Jim DettyLucasville, Ohio   From: NW-Mailing-List [mailto:nw-mailing-list-bounces at] On Behalf Of NW Mailing ListSent: Tuesday, February 2, 2021 9:21 PMTo: NW Mailing ListSubject: Steam Doubleheaders I have a question about when steam engines pulled trains in tandem (if that's the right term for it.) I assume that today's locomotives are connected electronically which allows the power output to be balanced. But there was no such connection during the steam era. (I think.) And clearly each locomotive required an engineer and a fireman. So did the engineers communicate in some manner to balance the power? Would they set up a system of ropes and bells perhaps? Hand signals? Early radios? Or did the engineers just set a plan in place before they started the trip? Thanks,Tom FultonAsheville, NC________________________________________NW-Mailing-List at nwhs.orgTo change your subscription go to the NW-Mailing-List archives at
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