Tonnage Ratinds and weather Reductions for locomotives

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Mon Dec 17 20:26:01 EST 2018

One issue, in pre-air brake days, probably not considered by management, 
was how much harder it was for brakemen to move over the roofs to wrap 
and release handbrakes. Ice, snow and wind made the walk over the tops  
a much more dangerous event. And those hand brakes tightened against 
cast iron brake shoes did not get as hot and grab the wheel tread like 
on a hot summer day - so the brakey had to tie down more cars in each 


On 12/17/2018 5:04 PM, NW Mailing List wrote:
> Jeff,
> Do you figure cold weather tonnage reductions were specified for the 
> difficulty of taking tonnage uphill or for braking tonnage downhill? 
> Or both?
> John Garner
> *From:*NW Mailing List [mailto:nw-mailing-list at]
> *Sent:* Monday, December 17, 2018 11:01 AM
> *To:* nw-mailing-list at
> *Subject:* Tonnage Ratinds and weather Reductions for locomotives
> It is true cold weather can have very adverse effects on trainline air 
> pressure.
> In the 70's & 80's a normal eastbound coal train out of Williamson was 
> 120 cars.  On one particular January day the temperature was around 0 
> degrees.   Due to the temperature sufficient air pressure (60 lbs.) 
> could not be obtained on the rear of the train. Our train had been 
> reduced to 80 cars and after sometime the required air pressure was 
> obtained and after a lengthy brake test we departed Williamson.  
> During this trip the air pressure dropped to 56 lbs. Fortunately  we 
> did not have trouble with sticking brakes.  As we entered Elkhorn 
> Tunnel the air pressure was till around 55 lbs. on the rear.  As we 
> passed thru Elkhorn the air pressure rose to 60 lbs. After exiting 
> Elkhorn tunnel  speed of the train increased to 25mph and air pressure 
> on the rear dropped to 55lbs. Staying at this pressure all the way 
> into Bluefield Yard.
> I can only assume the reason for the air pressure to rise while moving 
> thru Elkhorn tunnel was the temperature inside the tunnel and due to 
> the length of the tunnel, the heat from the exhaust of the locomotives 
> caused the air in trainline to warm and  expand and to not be so heavy.
> Also in cold weather it was not uncommon for ice to form in the air 
> hose and trainline (I assume from condensation) restricting the air 
> flow.  Rubbing Alcohol would be poured into the air hose and as the 
> air moved thru the trainline the ice would melt allowing sufficient 
> air pressure to be obtained on the train.
> -Jeff Hensley.
> From: NW Mailing List
> Sent: Saturday, December 15, 2018 8:36 PM
> To: nw-mailing-list at <mailto:nw-mailing-list at>
> Subject: Tonnage Ratings and Weather Reductions for Locomotives
> By time-table instructions train tonnage in the steam era was reduced 
> as ambient temperatures fell. Reductions were as much as 25% at 
> temperatures below 0 degrees F (Rating G).
> Were there multiple reasons for this reduction? Was the primary reason 
> the increased rolling resistance of cars with friction bearings? Were 
> other factors involved?
> Thanks, John Garner,  Newport VA
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