Al’s Corner – October 2021

 Time to Play Golf Fall Tournament is Oct 21

It is October 2021, so it is time again for this months’ version of Al’s Corner. Since our St. Louis Cardinals went off on the greatest winning streak (17) in the team history, they will head to the playoffs again. In honor of this great run, I will use baseball terms as I progress through this note.

Batting 1st –is Our Fall Golf outing this year is at the incredible Forest Park, located in the center of the city of St. Louis. The date is October 21, with lunch and pregame warmup (registration) at 11 am. Tee time is noon, cost is $95 per person. This price includes Lunch, Dinner, Golf, Prizes, Drink Tickets and a fun day of socializing with those in the industry. See you there. 

Batting 2nd Timely Topic–My thoughts on the Train derailment in Montana.  Since, I have some old knowledge of how the railroad works or moves (I was a Carman, Boxcar Repairman) I will add a few thoughts that I have on it. It must be noted that a high percentage of derailments come from a problem with the rail.  But everyone reporting on it  keep saying they are looking at the tracks, but to me a few other things can cause a derailment as well. 

  1.  The Flange is what holds the wheels on the track.  As an old “Car Knocker” one of our jobs was to inspect the wheels mostly for thinness, flat spots, and pitting as I recall.  We had a gauge to check them, but mostly you “eye balled” the wheels (mainly the Flange) as you drove by in your scooter. This was a very flawed way as you were moving some, very hard to tell if it was too thin without using a handheld gauge, and many times looking at something in the dark with a flashlight.  If the wheel was found to be “defective” that car would be pulled out of service and a new wheel would be put in.  The problem or reason it that could cause a derailment with a thin Flange, (and this is from memory thirty plus years ago), was it would slide sideways back and forth too much, and thus, jump or come off the tracks.
  2.  Wheel Spalling—this occurs when a train mostly has had to use its brakes excessively or has a bad brake shoe or pad (causing thermal shock), and both can cause a flat spot on the wheel. This could cause a wheel to not roll properly.
  3.  Center Plate and Pin failure—I saw this firsthand back in the day cause a derailment.  Under a railcar is a circular plate that has a hole in the middle.  The wheels and parts that held the wheels together had a smaller plate and Pin that would slide into the bottom of the car connecting the 2 main pieces.  What I witnessed many years ago, was a carman welding the Center Plate as it had a crack in it.  The problem was this person was a terrible welder, and when the boxcar was put back in service, and moving again, the train derailed.  Perhaps today it doesn’t work like that, but the term “the railroad is the last to change” makes me think it still works like that.  Even some articles state that the rail itself and welding issues causes the most derailments. This would make the boxcar slide off the wheels, to me.
  4.  Railcar Part failing or coming loose and falling on the tracks.  This could cause something to fall on the track and derail the train.  A boxcar has handrails, and they used to have hand brakes.  Things can fall onto the tracks, but not often.
  5.  Weather—wind can push a train off its tracks, but not often.
  6.  Soft Ground—this can cause the rail to buckle.
  7.  Excessive Speed—Obvious
  8.  Operator Error

To me, and I am not guaranteeing anything here, but it seems odd that the first several cars did not derail, from what I saw of photos.  This could mean that an individual railcar, had one of the above issues.  Of course, this is just a guess.  

Batting 3rd-An old joke I used to say—do you know how big the steering wheel is on a train engine? The Flange holds it on the tracks so it doesn’t have one! 

Batting 4thAnother thing that many people don’t know about Train Engines is they use sand that is blown under the wheels for traction. So, not only is a train very heavy, but the nose of many of the engines are full of sand. 

That’s it for another monthly note, have a great month! 

Al Hursey –President Rockfarm STL

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