[N&W] Re: Roof walks

nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Tue May 4 22:43:18 EDT 2004

Rick Morrison writes:

I think the use of roof walks actually ended in the mid 1960's.
Obviously, it was many years before they were removed from existing cars.
But all new production from about 1964 or so did not have them.  If my
memory is correct their use was banned by ICC or FRA even if existing
cars still had them.  Remember all the "tell tails" that hung at tunnel
entrances and overhead bridges?  I remember seeing cars in hump yards
with brakemen riding on top, and slow moving freights on the road with
brakemen on top of boxcars:  a dangerous practice at best.  Where the N&W
crossed over the B&O at Shenandoah Jct., WV there were tell tails hanging
over the B&O tracks to warn a brakeman riding on top to get down.

Before the advent of dynamic braking, brakemen had to set retainers on
freight cars before trains in mountain territory could go downgrade.  The
rule was that you stopped the train to do this.  In the World War II
years this rule was ignored, on some railroads, and a friend of mine who
was braking on B&O's Cumberland division was fired for refusing to walk
over the cars and set retainers while the train was in motion.  This
included crossing coal loads and loaded flatcars.  Obviously when he
returned to his home terminal in Cumberland, MD he was reinstated because
refusing an order in conflict with the rulebook was not grounds for


Running boards were eliminated from boxcars (without roof hatches)with cars 
in service after October 1, 1966. On cars built earlier, the running boards 
to be removed by April 1, 1974. This date may have been extended.
Regarding the footboards on switcher locomotives, these were eliminated from
locomotives built after March 31, 1975 and removed from earlier locomotives by
September 30, 1978.

Dick Fisher

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