Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Icicle Cutters

Oakland Engine Service Facility, April 1965. I was stationed at Hamilton AFB from 1964 through 1967. One of my Uncle’s lived across the Bay in Oakland. Every now and then I’d go over to visit Uncle Al, watch a football game and share a cold one. Following Watts, he moved up to Corning, to “get away from it all.”

SP Oakland was at the top of the “rail fan friendly list.” At least that was my experience. In all of my prowling around rail yards, the only bad encounter I suffered was with an SP special agent at the old Taylor Yard in Los Angeles. After establishing his authority to my friends and I – with two small kids watching from the back seat – he tactlessly ordered us to “take your damn pictures and get the hell outta here!"

I found SP 6450 being serviced and I had the opportunity to chat for a few minutes with the hostler. You know, these guys loved to talk about what they were doing. I call it “Pride of Craft.” I wonder if it continues today.

He explained that Oakland, being on the east side of San Francisco Bay near the old garbage dump, was a bombing range for seagulls. Furthermore, seagull waste is not only copious, but sticky! And the 6450 had suffered several direct hits!

As we chatted, he pointed out the icicle cutters on top of the cab. I'd never noticed or paid attention to these installations! The icicle cutters on the cab roof hopefully cuff down frozen pillars of ice hanging precipitously in tunnels, so that dome passengers are spared a sudden encounter! They also protected cars on the top deck of auto racks, which back in those days were not enclosed car bodies.

The front cutters puzzlingly had an opening in the center, which was covered by the rear cutter. Perhaps this spacing was intended to spread-the-force of impact.

Milwaukee Road icicle cutters had a single full width cutter design, as seen in this presentation.

Canadian Pacific had a variation on the spread-impact design. Note the front cutters are further back on the cab body, sacrificing the horn? Also looks to me like the winterization hatch is going to take a direct hit!

At any rate, I’ll bet that there must have been a heck of a racket when a locomotive, at speed, hit a sting of frozen tunnel drippings! I wonder how other mountain railroads, that had tunnels which spawned icicles, dealt with them!

Let me know!

Railroad Stuff: Southern Pacific 6450, built by General Motors at LaGrange Illinois as an FP-7A, 1,500 hp. Built 2/53, sn 18134. May 1971 became Amtrak 114. Retired October 1974. Scrapped by Pielot Brothers 1976.

1 Comments - Click here:

Eric said...

Hi Robert, Boston & Maine had hopper cars with a large steel A-frame arrangement, and CP had boxcars with icicle breakers welded onto them.

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