One of our members has sent me the following pics, from his work at the railroad. He's somewhat new on the job, and doesn't want to draw attention to himself; so let's call him "The REAL Engineer."
It's interesting to see how things are done in related fields. Some of you railroad buffs out there might want to chime in with some better explanations of what is pictured.
First, a 'battery vault.' It seems that rails used to go where the PoCo had not yet arrived, so they had banks of batteries for signal communication and to operate switches. The vault itself:
On the (now empty) shelves sat banks of batteries that looked like this one:
Here's an example of one of the control cabinets the batteries powered:
Finally, ever wonder how rail workers got to the site? Remember, many of these sites are pretty remote, and lacking in roads or set in challenging terrain. Or, perhaps, you just wanted to find a way to beat the evening rush hour. Well, this is the truck for you:
Please note the steel wheels, that can be lowered to ride on the rails directly.
Those are weird looking batteries! Are they actual glass jars? They kind of look it for some reason. Ya, I have seen trucks like those, the "CN" Rail system up here has trucks like that, as well as the odd pick-up and even special equipment for maintaining the vegitation and the banks along side the track that will ride right on the rails.
The trucks with RR wheels are called HI RAIL trucks. Most RR signal systems operate on batteries with charger. UP has a light on the outside of their signal cabinets that indicates AC power. Many have strobes that operate when power fails telling train crews so they can radio a signal maintainer. The old signal systems had glass jar batteries, most have been replaced by gel batteries. Newer signaling systems are less power hungry than older systems due to solid state controls. Robert
If you can find a copy (It's long out of print, but copies show up on the used market) the book Thirty Years Over Donner (Bill Fisher, 1990) is a interesting look at the life of a signal maintainer on the Southern Pacific over Donner Pass in California. It covers a 30 year career, spanning WWII, into the late 60's.
Imagine my frustration, though, to be late for work yesterday as 3 of these trucks block the crossing while getting aligned, and men slowly getting out and checking everything, and then finally pull off far enough for the gates to rise, only for ANOTHER truck quick cuts off traffic to block the crossing again, ARRGHH!
The law says I have to be able to hold my gates clear for 7 days without a/c power. So that means some serious reserve because my hold clear relays draw about 3/4 amp.
I use flooded NiCad cells in mine, there are sets out there that are 20 years old and still ticking. Edison NIFE cells, although they aren't NIckle (FE)iron anymore. Individual cells, at 280 A/H apiece.
Either that truck has two booms, or it's hiding one behind it.