Your locomotives should be viewed as another piece of equipment vital to your operation. The same level of cleanliness and order should be employed here as anywhere else in your facility.

Steve Christian

 

There is a continuous push by railroads to incent customers through rail rate differentials to ship more cars per train and that in turn requires larger shipping and receiving rail yards. To simply handle larger trains or more railcars per shipment, a shipper or receiver generally needs to move away from traditional railcar switching methods, such as track-mobiles or front end loaders equipped with couplers, to more capable methods using industrial locomotives. Industrial locomotives are generally classified as those that are less than 1500 horsepower and most are four axle locomotives designed to accommodate tighter turning radiuses than say six axle road locomotives.

 

Running locomotives and pulling large groups of railcars is significantly different than the one to three railcar switching operations a typical transfer yard or landfill operation is accustomed to. A bent toward safe locomotive operations is important which is why this month’s article focuses on basic, important locomotive safety measures from which industrial shippers can benefit.

 

Six Basic Locomotive Safety Measures

In the late 1960s, I began my railroad career as a Laborer. I worked in both the Car Department and the Roundhouse doing the tasks that more skilled personnel didn’t want to do. I didn’t realize it at the time but this experience gave me a lot of information that I still draw from today. The locomotive engineers that I came in contact with were very fussy when it came to the condition of the locomotives that they operated. Items that seemed minor to me were not viewed that way back then. I was reminded that a 100 car loaded train with 100 ton cars meant that they were pulling over 26 million pounds, which are difficult to get moving from a dead stop and difficult to stop when in motion. Any conditions on the locomotive that hindered the reaction of the engineer or the performance of the locomotive could have disastrous effects.

 

While industrial switching rarely involves moving and stopping 100 loaded cars, the standards of safety should be the same.  Let’s touch on a few of them that are low hanging fruit but very crucial:

  1. Sanders: Despite what many people think, sanders are not just for wet or icy conditions.  Sand must be available at all times to avoid wheel slip when pulling heavy loads or to apply sand for emergency stopping.  Therefore, sanders must be checked for proper operation daily and sand boxes kept full.
  2. Clear Vision: Clean windows daily with a non-streaking cleaner.  Oil from the stacks and other greasy contaminants hit your windows every day.  If the sun hits a greasy, streaked window you will have a difficult time seeing hazards or personnel.  A few minutes in cleaning windows could save an injury or equipment damage. All locomotives had sun visors applied originally. Over the years many are no longer in place. Just like with an automobile, sun visors are a necessity for safe operation.
  3. Clean and Clear Walkways:You put great emphasis on eliminating clutter and spills in your facility. Your locomotive should be treated the same way. Trips, slips and falls can be easily avoided by a basic housekeeping regime for your locomotive. Note the walkway clutter on the end of a switch engine shown in Figure 1.
  4. Lights: Check all lights to make sure they are operational. By all lights, I mean all headlights class lights, number lights, engine room lights, cab lights, gauge lights, rotating lights and under deck lights. Replace defective bulbs and repair shorts as they are found. Headlights should be used at all times of day. They should be on full beam for the direction you are going and low beam for the opposite end. It improves your vision in reduced light situations and makes you more visible to others at all times.
  5. Brakes: Perform a set and release test before operating the locomotive every day. Check the brakes shoes for wear and observe the piston travel measurement. Replace shoes as needed and adjust the piston travel if needed before you put the locomotive in service.
  6. Engine Room Cleanliness: Keep the engine and engine compartment clean. The accumulation of engine oil and other fluids can create a fire hazard. When the engine is regularly cleaned, you can easily spot and report leaks for remedial action. On the railroad, FRA (Federal Railway Administration) regulations prevent the cleanliness of the engine room from getting out of hand. In industry, this issue comes under OSHA. In my experience, OSHA does not pay a lot of attention to this. In fact, I have seen the accumulation of oil and other assorted fluids cover the engine room floor a couple of inches deep. There are floor drains which allow fluids to drain. In this particular case, they were so concerned about the ugly trail of oil up and down their tracks that they plugged the drains. Don’t do this! Note the buildup of oil and sludge on the engine room floor in Figures 2 and 3 and the dust buildup in Figure 4.

 

These are just a few very simple items that can save an injury or equipment damage.  There are many more that can be implemented to increase the safety of your operation.

 

Vital to Your Operation

Your locomotives should be viewed as another piece of equipment vital to your operation. The same level of cleanliness and order should be employed here as anywhere else in your facility.

 

Steve Christian is the Manager Value Creation-Railcar Performance Manager for Tealinc, Ltd. Steve’s career includes positions as Vice President & General Manager of DTE Rail, Regional Manager PRB for Progress Rail and a wide variety of railcar mechanical experience from Carman on the Burlington Northern Railroad to Assistant Shop Superintendent on the Rock Island Railroad. He can be reached at (308) 675-0838 or via email at [email protected]

 

Figure 1

Figure 1

Clean and clear walkways.

 

Figure 2

Figure 2

Oil and sludge cover the engine room floor.

 

Figure 3

Figure 3

Engine room covered in oil sludge and dust.

 

Figure 4

Figure 4

Dust covers the engine compartment.

 

Figures courtesy of Tealinc.

 

 

Sponsor