Helper Operations on the C&S Narrow Gauge

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Helper Operations on the C&S Narrow Gauge

Mike Trent
Administrator
This post was updated on .
Robert,

In response to your suggestion, I'll post some information I know about helper operations on the C&S Narrow Gauge. This information is from a variety of different sources, and intended to provide both general practices, and more technical information regarding how these operations would be identified for recordkeeping.

This information comes partly from the late Doug Schnarbush, who worked as a fireman between Como and Leadville during the last ten years of operation. It also comes from various published photographs and narratives from authors, although it is difficult to find a lot of this as a single resource. Also included here will be information from previous threads on this site which included information from Rick Steele.

Dating back to early times on the DSP&P, Como was always the home base for Enginemen except for those on the "East End", which were based in Denver. Due to the nature of Narrow Gauge Mountain Railroading, helper work was always a big part of operations.

On the C&S, Class 1 trains were identified by numbers, such as "Train No.70", which was the Westbound Passenger Train between Denver and Leadville, despite whatever locomotive was on the head end. Technically, a train would have been referred to as "Train No.70, Engine #6", as an example.

Trains not identified by a First Class number, such as narrow gauge freight trains, were identified as "Extra" trains, which always referred to the road engine, which was the locomotive coupled at the head of the train, and the direction it was traveling. An example would be, for instance, "Extra 74 East".

Helper engines were added based on each train's cumulative tonnage, and each locomotive's rated tonnage rating based on the ruling grade, which was the steepest grade over the part of the railroad that train was traveling. The largest locomotives on the C&S Narrow Gauge were rated at 145 Tons on a 4% grade. Given that a loaded freight car was listed at 50,000lbs, which was 25 Tons, engines #74-76 and #537 were only rated for five loaded cars each on a 4% grade, as six loads would have been equal to 150 tons. Therefore, a train of fifteen loaded cars would have required three of the largest locomotives on the C&S, as the ruling grades were 4% on every major segment of the mainline in both directions. This would mean that there would be a road engine, and two helper engines. The helpers would be placed with one on the "point", coupled ahead of the Road Engine, and the second helper either cut into the middle of the train or ahead of the caboose. This was done for a couple of reasons. One was to prevent the weight of three engines on timber trestle spans, but mostly to reduce strain and stress on the coupler drawbars and axles of the cars at the front of the train. With longer trains, or with smaller locomotives, the number of helper engines could have been as many as four. In that case, there would be a helper cut into the middle of the train and one coupled ahead of the caboose.

Helper engines were only used as helper engines upgrade. At the summit of each pass, the helper engines were uncoupled or cut out, and run "light", or each by themselves, downgrade ahead of the train, at least five minutes apart. As long as the Road Engine was able to handle the train downgrade and then to a station or destination there was no need for the helpers to be cut back in. On the West End, between Como and Leadville, helpers were used upgrade on both Fremont (Climax) and Boreas Passes in both directions. West End Helpers were in place departing both Leadville and Como, and cut off and run light ahead of the train into Dickey from both Boreas and Climax. Departing Dickey in each direction, the helpers were back in the train as far as Boreas and Climax, then cut off and run light ahead of the train again to either Como or Leadville.

While helpers on Westbound freights out of Denver had to work their train all the way to Kenosha, their return trip back to Denver was pretty easy, as they got to run light back from Kenosha the next day. On the West End, the Helpers had to work upgrade on Boreas and Climax each run in both directions.

On the C&S Narrow Gauge, freight trains were typically run four times a week. On Mondays and Wednesdays, freights departed from both Denver and Leadville, running to Como. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, freights departed Como for both Denver and Leadville. This resulted in two complete freights between Denver and Leadville each week, over four days.

All switching was done Eastbound. Helper engines on the West End, as they were cut into the trains out of Leadville to Climax and also between Dickey and Boreas, were committed to pretty long days. Particularly since with each Eastbound train, Mondays and Wednesdays, one and sometimes two of the helpers were tasked to drop off or pick up any traffic to Dillon or Keystone out of Dickey. This was done while the road engine was being serviced at Dickey after arriving downgrade with the train from Climax. Every engine into Dickey got it's flues bored, water topped off, and coal. Eastbound switching was also done on the East End, but with the helpers cut off at Kenosha, the road engine handled those chores all the way back to Denver.

A Freight train out of Leadville would have been identified, as noted above, as an example, "Extra 74-537-73 Coupled East", indicating #74 as the road engine. From Climax to Dickey, the registers would show  "Engine #537 running light East", "Engine #73 running light East", and "Extra #74 East". From Dickey to Boreas, the same train would once again be "Extra #74-537-73 Coupled East", and then from Boreas to Como, "Engine #537 running light East", "Engine #73 running light East", and  "Extra #74 East".

In earlier times, Dickey was actually a helper station. Maybe someone knows more about those days than I do and will offer some information.

"Extra #537-74 coupled West at Dickey"


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Re: Helper Operations on the C&S Narrow Gauge

Tim Schreiner
Fascinating reading Mike! The info provides a clearer understanding of operations, especially regarding local switching.
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Helper Operations on the C&S Narrow Gauge ~ A Bit More

Mike Trent
Administrator
In reply to this post by Mike Trent
After thinking about this over the last 24 hours, I thought it might be prudent to add a couple more items that I didn't have time to put in my narrative of yesterday.

Many of you know that my Dad was a photographer along the C&S during the last few years of Steam on the "North End", which ran through our town of Boulder. This influenced my young life quite a bit, as both my brother and I accompanied Dad on several trips out on the line, and also trips to the Denver Yards so he could take pictures whether anything was under steam or not. We as young boys were also introduced to many of the old railroaders who worked the trains and engines in those years, along with a lot of Dad's friends both from the group which turned out for all the last runs and increasingly rare appearances of steam on the C&S as well as his friends from the Rocky Mountain RR Club.

One of the things which endeared my Dad to the old railroaders was that he would have prints of pictures made for them, so they could take them home as keepsakes and memorabilia from their time on the railroad. Dad was always determined to articulate all the details he could on the back of all the photos he had, whether they were included in his albums or not. This sort of detail included which of his cameras were used, F stop and shutter speed, and even weather detail. He would study this and try to learn from the results to improve his results in the future. As he came to share particular photos with the old railroaders, he was invited up for cab rides alnd was always eager to learn every detail he could. One of the things he always did on his descriptions was to include the train number if it was a scheduled operation, or, he would refer to each train by it's "Extra" number if it was not a scheduled train. What is germain to this discussion is that exactly like all steam operations in the later years on the C&S during the fifties on the North End, all of the freight operations in the last years of narrow gauge operations were not "scheduled" trains. So it is a very natural transition for me to think of those trains back in narrow gauge days as "Extra's" with locomotive numbers and direction, because that is exactly how things were in the fifties.

One of the treasures I have is a tape recorded narrative of Dad sitting down in front of a microphone in December, 1962 describing his very favorite photographs which he had enlarged to 8X10 and included in a series of albums. He only made a taped narrative of one of the 8X10 albums. It last about 40 minutes, and I have presented it at the Rocky Club and other places a few times. It is a great thing. One of the things that comes up during this time is a pair of photographs of two of the last big 2-10-2's sitting in Boulder. He describes the train as "Extra 914-913 Coupled South" taking water one morning at Ara, where the Boulder wye was located East of town. He goes on to describe the ruling grade of Burke's Hill East of Boulder, which neccesitated the use of a helper engine South of Fort Collins to Denver. So as a young kid, the sound of doubleheaders through Boulder was fairly commonplace as they worked their way to Denver. Also, the sound of helper engines returning back to Fort Collins was often heard East of town. The similarity in photographs of the long two stall engine house to the one that was at Dickey is quite interesting. That enginehouse was used all the way to the end of steam to house helper engines as well as at least a 2-8-0 which was used for local freight service. Over time, I have often thought that C&S narrow guage operations seem to be pretty similar those which I was so familiar with as a kid, following my Dad around everywhere on the North End.

One final comment, today, with so many of us having seen doubleheading operations on the C&TS, take note of the use of whistles used for communication between the locomotives. When the lead helper was/is positioned on the point, coupled to the road engine, it actually becomes the lead locomotive of the train. When the train is ready to depart, the lead locomotive sounds two short blasts of it's whistle, followed by the road engine's two blasts. If there were additional helpers, each would also take their turn sounding the two blasts from front to back. As the following engines sound their whistles, they release their independent air brakes. Once all of the engines have reported the signal, the lead locomotive releases the train brakes and begins to move forward. My understanding from conversations with friends who have worked on the C&TS and the D&S is that there is a real knack to being able to open the throttles to keep the engines working together, and it takes a lot of awareness and concentration on everyone's part to work as a team. Once the train reaches the summit, the lead locomotive applies the train brakes and brings the train to a stop. Once the lead locomotive is cut off, the road engine resumes control of the train, which would include working to cut out the rear helpers and reassembling the train.

I hope this has been helpful, and has answered a few questions. If I have not been clear, or have misreported anything along the way, just say the word and we'll get it corrected.

When you are looking through pictures or books, and you see something that catches your eye such as a locomotive running light or a column of smoke further back in the train, you'll know what that's all about.



   
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Re: Helper Operations on the C&S Narrow Gauge ~ A Bit More

Keith Hayes
Thank you Mike. All very interesting to read.
Keith Hayes
Leadville in Sn3
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Re: Helper Operations on the C&S Narrow Gauge

Todd A Ferguson
In reply to this post by Mike Trent
Mike,

Perhaps you can clarify for me a bit about the tonnage ratings for the locomotives.
You indicate that the largest locomotives could handle 145 tons on the ruling 4 percent grade.
For the sake of my understanding let's assume that an empty car weighs 10 tons, a loaded car 25 tons and a caboose 5 tons, just to make the math easy. So one loco could handle 140 tons plus a 5 ton caboose, correct?

We have to account for the tonnage of the caboose and any empty cars in the train. One of these locos then could handle 14 empty cars plus the caboose. Or 5 loads, 2 empty cars and caboose. Am I understanding this correctly that we also have to account for the cars light weight if they are empty. The caboose could be figured into the tonnages at some amount of weight I suppose. But the loads and empties would both have to be calculated into the overall train tonnage. Would we also have to include the light weight for the loaded car, for example if the car could haul 20 tons and had a light weight of 10 tons then it would be counted as 30 tons for the train weight I assume.

Best,
Todd Ferguson
Harrisburg, NC
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Re: Helper Operations on the C&S Narrow Gauge

Jeff Young
Hi Todd,

As I understand it, you do have to take into account the light weight of both laden and unladen cars.

Interestingly, the light weight of the cabooses isn’t given in the folios — which makes me wonder if they were factored in with the locomotive weight before coming up with the ruling tonnage?

There were also other limits imposed: for instance at some point they put a limit of I think 14 cars on Boreas Pass (no matter how many engines) after too many brake failures with longer trains.

The B4D and B4E engines had 110 and 120 ton limits respectively on the 4% grades.  So #69, for instance, could pull 9 empty boxcars or 3 fully laden ones over Boreas Pass.  You can quickly see why most freights were double- or triple-engined.

Cheers,
Jeff.

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Re: Helper Operations on the C&S Narrow Gauge

Chris Walker
Yes, down here we added Mtys and loads plus Guards van, this was the trailing weight total, actually just what the wagons net load was irrelevant except to the bean counters.  We had a sub-class of highsider that carried 2-tons more for the same looking wagon, different springing arrangement, and it was common for the station staff to mark these down to the capacity of the sister class.  If the train had a higher percentage of those then that +2 soon added up especially when your limit for a single loco was 500 odd tons.  

I've never seen figures on light weight and loaded weights for Colorado cars like we had in printed form in our Working Timetable.  There were a lot of variations here through the classes with improvements or additions and every ton counted.  I won't go in to the overloaded wagons, but they also make a difference to the progress up the hill(s) and add a little extra excitement going down.

When I was a fireman, we had a young driver in our depot who was a fast runner, and always wanted to get home early, we ran a local up to a fertilizer plant and back, dropping some of the load at the next station down the line in deference to the short and steep hill beyond there.  This one time "Joe" decided he'd run the hill without leaving the extra loads behind, we were starting to lose speed really quickly after ripping through the dip at the bottom when the Guard came over the radio saying they'd mis-figured on the tonnage and that we were now some 80 tons overload.  "Joe" started to think again about the wisdom of such time saving , we ground up that hill, and every other climb at a walk using up way more time than it would have taken to do the reduction.  I don't know if he ever did it again either.
UpSideDownC
in New Zealand
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Re: Helper Operations on the C&S Narrow Gauge

Todd A Ferguson
Guys,

Thanks for the input, good stuff. The cabooses never seem to carry a weight on the side in the US in my observation. But I'm sure they had a pretty good idea what they weighed if they wanted to bother putting them on the scale at some point. In my RGS collection I do recall seeing a chart that was put together with different weights for a carload of different commodities. A boxcar of hay versus a boxcar of ore for example. A ton of feathers is the same as a ton of anything else. But they take up very different volumes!

I wonder how long the narrow gauge roads really bothered to weigh the cars. It seems the scales were not all that common. On the RGS it seemed in later years they just hauled the cars at a fixed fee. They seemed to have an issue with the mills and mines overloading the cars of ore and concentrates. That's my perception, but I could be wrong. Sorry for all the RGS references but that's what I have studied for the past 30 years. In the early years I have read that the railroads ownership was sometimes intertwined with the mine and mill ownership. This supposedly resulted in special rates for certain customers too.

Best,
Todd Ferguson 
Harrisburg, NC 

Sent from my iPad

On Nov 8, 2016, at 5:27 AM, Chris Walker [via C&Sng Discussion Forum] <[hidden email]> wrote:

Yes, down here we added Mtys and loads plus Guards van, this was the trailing weight total, actually just what the wagons net load was irrelevant except to the bean counters.  We had a sub-class of highsider that carried 2-tons more for the same looking wagon, different springing arrangement, and it was common for the station staff to mark these down to the capacity of the sister class.  If the train had a higher percentage of those then that +2 soon added up especially when your limit for a single loco was 500 odd tons.  

I've never seen figures on light weight and loaded weights for Colorado cars like we had in printed form in our Working Timetable.  There were a lot of variations here through the classes with improvements or additions and every ton counted.  I won't go in to the overloaded wagons, but they also make a difference to the progress up the hill(s) and add a little extra excitement going down.

When I was a fireman, we had a young driver in our depot who was a fast runner, and always wanted to get home early, we ran a local to a fertelizer plant and back dropping some of the load at the next station down the line in deference to the short and steep hill beyond there.  This one time he decided he'd run the hill without leaving the extra loads behind, we were starting to lose speed really quickly after ripping through the dip at the bottom when the Guard came over the radio saying they'd mis-figured on the tonnage and that we were now some 80 tons overload.  "Joe" started to think again about the wisdom of such time saving , we ground up that hill at a walk using up way more time than it would have taken to do the reduction.  I don't know if he ever did it again either.
UpSideDownC
in New Zealand



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Re: Helper Operations on the C&S Narrow Gauge

Don Gustavson II
In reply to this post by Mike Trent
Thanks Mike.
Nice to know more about how all them mountains where navigated.
One side thought. You said that you had a "tape recorded" of your father.
Have you transferred this into a digital format for safe keeping ?
HOn3 is the path I have chosen.
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Re: Helper Operations on the C&S Narrow Gauge

Jimmy Blouch
In reply to this post by Todd A Ferguson
Todd A Ferguson wrote
Mike,

Perhaps you can clarify for me a bit about the tonnage ratings for the locomotives.
You indicate that the largest locomotives could handle 145 tons on the ruling 4 percent grade.
For the sake of my understanding let's assume that an empty car weighs 10 tons, a loaded car 25 tons and a caboose 5 tons, just to make the math easy. So one loco could handle 140 tons plus a 5 ton caboose, correct?
I do not have C&S train operating rules, as pertains to tonnage, at hand. However, I feel they would be similar to the D&RG.

Tonnage on freight trains was/is adjusted in accordance with a variety of reasons, including terrain, grades, weather conditions, condition of power, necessity for maintaining stock schedules, etc.

Specified districts would have an adjustment factor ranging from 1 to possibly as high as 10.  Every number represented the number of tons to be added to each load and empty.

In your scenario you refer to a situation involving 4% grade.  This would be comparable to the west side of Cumbres Pass.  Often a factor 3 was used on east bound trains.  This means 3 tons was added to each car.  On a train that had 12 loads and 5 empties (including caboose) would amount to an additional 51 tons being added to the train.  That results in what was referred to as adjusted tonnage and appropriate power used accordingly.

I hope this helps.
 

Jimmy

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Re: Helper Operations on the C&S Narrow Gauge

Chris Walker
In reply to this post by Todd A Ferguson
Todd,
that very same fertilizer run we had in the 70-80's had an assigned short Van of 15tons, sometimes the 17tonners were used if the short wasn't available, then in the late 70's the new 30ton Vans showed up. Every now and then they would get one on the train lessening the train total by one 4-wheeled wagon.

We never had the tonnage adjustment factor that Jimmy mentioned, supposedly far away in Wellington the Train Running Officer on duty had the power to have the trainload reduced on account of bad weather but for some reason it never seemed to have happened.  One old Driver remarked once after he stalled out that obviously the sun was still shining over Head Office.
UpSideDownC
in New Zealand
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Re: Helper Operations on the C&S; Tonnage rating of empty cars

Jim Courtney
In reply to this post by Jeff Young
Jeff,

Here is a portion of the "Tonnage Instructions" from the C&S 1922 Employees Timetable. (Sorry for the delayed response, I finally found it in my disorganized image file.)

Listed are the empty "tare weights" of all passenger cars and freight cars on the C&S, narrow gauge and standard gauge:




The values for freight cars are generalized, with an empty boxcar 11 tons, empty coal car 10 tons, without regard to the type of underframe, year of construction and the use of lighter or heavier frame and roofing materials on specific cars. Stock cars and boxcars were assumed as the same weight when empty, 11 tons (despite less wood in the stock car sides).

The heaviest freight cars were the tall St Charles refrigerator cars (1120-1125) at 15 tons, even when empty.

And, Jeff, the C&S way car was figured at 8 tons, with or without crew . . .
Jim Courtney
Poulsbo, WA
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Re: Helper Operations on the C&S; Tonnage rating of empty cars

Jeff Young
Cool stuff, Jim.  Thanks for posting.

Cheers,
Jeff.
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