VGN Ry, 100 Car Test Train in 1918

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Tue Apr 14 13:03:26 EDT 2020


I had an article titled, "The Automatic Straight Air Brake --- An 
Oxymoron?" published in the Vol. 21, No. 4 (July -- August 2005) issue 
of /The Arrow./  The bibliography included the article that you cited 
plus nine more on the ASAB.  In addition to the 1918 tests of the ASAB 
on the Virginian, the article in /The Arrow/ also covers the 1921 ASAB 
tests on the N&W, including four pictures of the N&W test train, one of 
which was a posed picture along New River just west of Potts Valley 
Junction, plus an interior view of the N&W's dynamometer car. The 
article also covers the February 1923 ICC hearings on the ASAB, and the 
ICC mandated ASAB tests later that year on the N&W.    This was followed 
by American Railway Association (later AAR) tests of the ASAB on the 
100-car test rack at Purdue University.  The test rack results were not 
supportive of the ASAB, and, although documentation had not turned up 
for the article, the ASAB Company apparently faded away soon after that.

Gordon Hamilton

On 4/12/2020 6:38 PM, NW Mailing List wrote:
>  Attached is a PDF of an article entitled **Virginian 100 Car Test 
> of Automatic Straight Air Brake,** from Railway Age, vol. 65, July 26, 
> 1918.
> The title of the article itself raises a problem.  How can a train 
> brake system at once be both **automatic** and **straight air** ?  
> Those two terms are mutually exclusive when to comes to air brake lingo.
> The article states that the equipment was manufactured by the 
> Automatic Straight Air Brake Company.  Now, why would anyone in his 
> right mind combine mutually contradictory terms in the name of his 
> company?
> So, what was special about the brake equipment which was being tested 
> here?
> The cars were outfitted with the K-2 triple valve, which was the 
> industry standard in 1918.  Type K brake equipment had come out in the 
> 1890s and was only supplanted by the AB brake equipment in the 1930s.  
> So, what is different with this train?
> One hint may be in the mention of the fact that the equipment under 
> test could be set up for both Graduated Release and Quick Release  
> (**quick release** probably meaning nothing more than a standard 
> all-at-once release.)   I think this might be the key to what was 
> under test.
> Since the 1870s, train air brake equipment, while quite efficient at 
> stopping trains, had been plagued with two problems which remained 
> unsolved for decades: (1)  a brake application could not be partially 
> released, termed a **graduated release,**  and (2) air pressure 
> leakage in the train line caused an application to become stronger and 
> stronger, until the train stalled out.  (For passenger equipment, 
> graduated release was incorporated in the UC control valve equipment, 
> which I think came out around 1916, but it was deemed dangerous for 
> long freight trains.)
> For the two reasons cited above, prior to Westinghouse's introduction 
> of the air brake pressure maintaining feature in the 1950s, the method 
> by which trains were handled on long sustained down-hill grades was 
> with a method called Cycle Braking.  In Cycle Braking, an air brake 
> application is made, held for a certain period of seconds or minutes, 
> then released for a required period of time while the brake system 
> recharges (... hopefully.)  Then the cycle is repeated:  apply for a 
> predetermine time period, then release for a predetermined time 
> period.  And then the cycle is repeated again and again, until the 
> train reaches the foot of the grade.
> Most major railroads which operated over long, sustained grades had 
> Time Table Special Instructions specifying the particulars of how they 
> wanted trains Cycled Braked on their various bad grades.  They did not 
> leave it to the guesswork of the individual engineman.  Also, this is 
> why you will find Time Table Special Instructions, which otherwise 
> make little sense, requiring that trains stop before entering a 
> sustained heavy downgrade, and be gone over by the brakeman or the car 
> inspector, looking for leakage, and changing the gaskets or tightening 
> the unions as required.  Excessive leakage would cause any application 
> of the brakes to **leak on** with more force than desired, quicker 
> than desired, and the Cycle Braking periods of application/release 
> would not work.
> I think the equipment being tested in this article was an attempt to 
> address the two air brake conundrums mentioned above:  leakage 
> stalling out the train, and no provision for graduated release.  But 
> the article does not state well or clearly how this new equipment 
> differed from equipment already in use on the road.  And the clowns 
> who chose to name their company with a contradiction-in-terms, 
> **Automatic Straight Air Brake,**  also get a lot of blame for the 
> unclarity of this article.
> Perhaps Judge Hensley of Kenova, who fired for Casey Jones and drank 
> cognac in George Westinghouse's private car, can concoct a better 
> explanation. As for me, I'm done.  Mark me off until further notice...
> -- abram burnett,
> Automatic Straight Air Turnips, LLC
> Walton Wye, Va.
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