Old 09-09-2005, 08:32 AM   #1
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Default Torpedos

OK, I've got another railroading question. I checked for any previous posts on this subject, but the search came up empty.

What are torpedos and what is their function in railroading? How are they used?

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Old 09-09-2005, 01:37 PM   #2
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From the web:

Torpedo. A torpedo is a device which is strapped to the top of a rail. When a train drives over the torpedo, it emits a very loud "bang" which can be heard over the noise of the engine, and signals the engineer to stop immediately. Torpedo's are generally placed by the flagman when protecting a train ahead. Torpedo's are about 2" x 2", red, about 3/4" high, and have two lead straps attached which hold it to a rail. The torpedo has discs inside and are filled with detonating powder. The Torpedo was invented about 1874.

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Old 09-09-2005, 04:51 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LAHDPOP
Google is a wonderful thing. Give it a shot....
Google? They own some real estate at the top of my web browser. I also like www.dogpile.com You should try it sometime, too.

I'm pretty savvy with search engines. I use them almost every day. What Google doesn't provide me is some in-depth insight into the subject, which is why this message board is such a great resource. Hopefully somebody who actually works with the equipment can reply and share their expertise and experience. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to ask some follow-on questions.

Such as:

1. How far away from the work crew do these things get placed?
2. Are there other methods used to protect these crews? Is the torpedo the last (or first) resort for protecting crews? Are they always used?
3. Will the train crew always hear this thing?
4. Does the on coming crew inspect and account for the torpedos?
5. Is there any special handling for this explosive device?

Thanks, and clear skies!

Greg
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Old 09-09-2005, 10:26 PM   #4
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Quote:
Torpedo. A torpedo is a device which is strapped to the top of a rail. When a train drives over the torpedo, it emits a very loud "bang" which can be heard over the noise of the engine, and signals the engineer to stop immediately. Torpedo's are generally placed by the flagman when protecting a train ahead. Torpedo's are about 2" x 2", red, about 3/4" high, and have two lead straps attached which hold it to a rail. The torpedo has discs inside and are filled with detonating powder. The Torpedo was invented about 1874.
OOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHH,OK,now I know what those things are.

A couple months ago I saw a BNSF local doing some switching in Polo and the brakeman had about 3 of them an every time the train pulled forward or backward he would put one on the rail and it made a pretty load noise.I thought they were fire works since it was around July 4th.

The train was a 3 man crew and the conductor was hooking up the cars so he didn't have anything to do while they were back in the siding.
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Old 09-10-2005, 03:48 AM   #5
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It can also be used as a reference to a "fusee," commonly known as a roadside flare. Crews use them at night to guard unprotected crossings.
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Old 09-10-2005, 03:57 AM   #6
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I've seen yellow and orange bump things with padlocks on them on seldom used sidings. They have to unlock them to move the train past. Are these torpedoes?
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Old 09-10-2005, 04:07 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CNW4404
It can also be used as a reference to a "fusee," commonly known as a roadside flare. Crews use them at night to guard unprotected crossings.
A fusee and a Torpedo are two very different things...a fusee is great for lighting your cigarette, but wont blow fingers off your hand

The shortlines I worked for never really had a use for torpedos, but we did seem to have a handy supply of them.. They are basicly just a few onces of black powder with a pressure detanator on top, with a cardboard outer shell. Not really that dangerous just setting around, but I wouldnt go smacking one with a hammer. Most major RR's have outlawed thier use now (NS for one) as they are really not the useful when you stack them up aganst all of the modern day safety devices...

Oh yea..they are rather fun to shoot at....take some wire or fishing line and hang a few up between two trees or gate post and have some target practice.....
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Old 09-10-2005, 04:10 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frederick
I've seen yellow and orange bump things with padlocks on them on seldom used sidings. They have to unlock them to move the train past. Are these torpedoes?
Nope, those are derails...simple device used to protect mainlines and other sensitive areas from free rolling cars or locomotives. Its better to put one in the dirt than let a run-away car get loose on the mainline, or roll into a shop area..
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Old 09-10-2005, 04:58 AM   #9
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There was a train car that rolled fourteen miles on the mainline and struck the end of a CP train at 6 or 7 mph. I can see why those are usefull. (derails)
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Old 09-12-2005, 08:25 AM   #10
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From what I've been told, CSX doesn't use them any more. Anyone back this claim?
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Old 09-22-2005, 03:33 AM   #11
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Pretty much all Class 1 roads have eliminated torpedoes. Their primary use was "flagging" but traffic control procedures and better radio communication in recent years have made following moves in the same block a thing of the past. Other uses for torpedoes:
Local switch crews leaving cars on the main used to place a torpedo a short distance away from the cut of cars as a warning signal to alert them when they were getting close on the return trip. A maintenance crew repairing a master retarder in a hump yard placed a few torpedoes higher up on the hump in case someone accidently shoved a car in their direction.
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Old 11-05-2005, 05:06 AM   #12
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And they make great targets . . .
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Old 11-05-2005, 05:15 AM   #13
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If you've ever heard the saying, "A nickel will get you a quarter." this is actually derived from railroading, as it was a memory queue for railroaders on placing torpedoes

The "nickel" was every 5 mph of track speed. The "quarter" was a quarter mile for every 5 mph of track speed. So if you're on a 40mph mainline, the suggested distance to place the torpedo was 2 miles behind the train.

I believe they are also supposed to place another torpedo every half mile walking back to the train.

I can't remember now where I read this. History of American Railroading I think, but can't be sure.

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Old 11-06-2005, 01:28 AM   #14
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My uncle told me a story once that when he was a kid, him and some buddies put some bullets on the IC mainline near their house and when the train came into view they all hid waiting for the racket. After the engine hit the first bullet, the engineer started to apply the brakes and then he hit the second one and he really laid into the brakes and then he hit a pile of bullets that they had left on the tracks and my uncle said it sounded like a machine gun going off and the engineer released the brakes realizing that it was just kids playing and went on down the tracks.

He told me that later on he realized that the bullet going off did sound like a torpedo and they, by pure dumb luck, had spaced them out far enough for the engineer to think they were real torpedoes.
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Old 11-06-2005, 03:37 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LAHDPOP
From the web:

Torpedo. A torpedo is a device which is strapped to the top of a rail. When a train drives over the torpedo, it emits a very loud "bang" which can be heard over the noise of the engine, and signals the engineer to stop immediately.

here in egypt these torpedos are called KABSOLA .
when there is afog at the night or in the morning,the trains is coming and the controlman opening the semaphore for it to allow to to go and the engineer canot see the semaphore if its opened or closed so the controlman put this KABSOLA on the rails and exploded under the train.when the engineer hear it he know that the way is clear and everything under control.
its really very different from the use of it in america.
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Old 11-09-2005, 03:47 AM   #16
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Torpedos are also a nickname for air tanks located on the top of the hood of a locomotive. Theyre put there for may reasons, like a larger fuel tank and no room inside the hood.
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Old 11-15-2005, 04:55 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LAHDPOP
From the web:

Torpedo. A torpedo is a device which is strapped to the top of a rail. When a train drives over the torpedo, it emits a very loud "bang" which can be heard over the noise of the engine, and signals the engineer to stop immediately. Torpedo's are generally placed by the flagman when protecting a train ahead. Torpedo's are about 2" x 2", red, about 3/4" high, and have two lead straps attached which hold it to a rail. The torpedo has discs inside and are filled with detonating powder. The Torpedo was invented about 1874.

Google is a wonderful thing. Give it a shot....

Just to show that "the web" sometimes is not always right, a torpedo does not indicate an engineer should stop immediately in all cases. According to GCOR rule 5.7, which governs a large number American railroads, "if one or more torpedoes explode, the train must slow to restricted speed immediately and remain at this speed until the head end is 2 miles beyond where the torpedoes exploded."

I'd question the credibility of this author anyway, since they believe the word "torpedo's" is mysteriously possessing something. Ah, I guess it is the new school rule that when you pluralize a word that ends with a vowel, you use an apostrophe. They must have slept through English class.

Perhaps the author was confusing this with an unnattended fusee, which requires a stop. And again, these are GCOR rules, which some railroads do not follow.
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