Steam locomotives stalled in tunnels?

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TucsonRailFan

New Member
I was watching a Pentrex DVD about steam locomotives and some of the old timers that worked for UP during the steam era were talking about going through the Hermosa Tunnel on Sherman Hill and how awful hot and hard to breathe it could be. Did a steam locomotive ever stall in a tunnel like that? Seems like the engineer and fireman would have to evacuate . . . .

Or could the engineer just use the brakes to back out of the tunnel, using gravity to pull the train back out?
 

martin burwash

New Member
Happened up on the Great Northern's old line to Wellington prior to the eletrification. A passenger train stalled in the original Cascade Tunnel and the head-end crew became unconcious as were many of the passengers. Fortunately, as the story goes, one of the passengers was a rail and was able to get to the head-end and release some air. He stayed alert enough to get the train out of the tunnel and stopped. Would have to dig up my notes to get the specifics. There is also a story told of a freight crew being killed inside the Stampede Tunnel, but I have no documentation to say a positive yes or no whether it actually happened.

Martin Burwash
 

Crow

Member
It's even an issue today with Diesel locomotives. There are several areas where there are long tunnels (2 Miles) and the railroads require the crews to bring along SCBA packs in case the train stalls and the exhaust fills the cab of the locomotive. They are fine as long as they are moving, but once a train stops in the tunnels it can get bad quick.
 

TucsonRailFan

New Member
In the documentary I was watching the steam firemen stated that how bad it was in the Hermosa Tunnel depended on the engineer -- if the engineer backed off the throttle a bit it was bearable but if the engineer kept the throttle wide open it was Hell. One or two of the firemen said the tops of their ears were burned and they had to use tubes to breathe.

Hadn't thought about long tunnels and the newer diesel locomotives. Thanks Crow.
 

TucsonRailFan

New Member
Happened up on the Great Northern's old line to Wellington prior to the eletrification. A passenger train stalled in the original Cascade Tunnel and the head-end crew became unconcious as were many of the passengers. Fortunately, as the story goes, one of the passengers was a rail and was able to get to the head-end and release some air. He stayed alert enough to get the train out of the tunnel and stopped. Would have to dig up my notes to get the specifics. There is also a story told of a freight crew being killed inside the Stampede Tunnel, but I have no documentation to say a positive yes or no whether it actually happened.

Martin Burwash
Some scary stuff there. Like a lot of other kids, I wanted to be a locomotive engineer when I grew up. Thank goodness I never heard those stories.

To tell the truth, I still wish I had been a locomotive engineer instead of the boring crap I did for a living. :)
 

Jon Bentz

New Member
Not an uncommon thing. A Denver South Park & Pacific train stalled in Alpine tunnel on the old Gunnison line in Colorado in the 1890's - killed the crew. Always a danger with long tunnels and steamers. Even today, locomotives using the BNSF Scenic Sub are equipped with air packs for use by crews in Cascade Tunnel if their train stalls. I believe that there are emergency stations every few hundred yards in the tunnel that have air packs as well. Maybe one of our BNSF rails can confirm this.
 

TucsonRailFan

New Member
I guess passenger trains were always shorter so there was little chance that these stalls could occur and kill paying passengers?
 

redlynx

Member
Not an uncommon thing. A Denver South Park & Pacific train stalled in Alpine tunnel on the old Gunnison line in Colorado in the 1890's - killed the crew. Always a danger with long tunnels and steamers. Even today, locomotives using the BNSF Scenic Sub are equipped with air packs for use by crews in Cascade Tunnel if their train stalls. I believe that there are emergency stations every few hundred yards in the tunnel that have air packs as well. Maybe one of our BNSF rails can confirm this.
SCBA required in Stampede and Cascade Tunnels, and I recall in Moffat and Flathead, too.
 

wigwagfan

Passenger
SCBA required in Stampede and Cascade Tunnels, and I recall in Moffat and Flathead, too.
Yes, required in Flathead Tunnel. I always wondered about the possibility of the crews needing to use them, but Amtrak passengers not having them (through Flathead and Cascade).
 

HDSDcouple

The Unwanted Line
are the the amtrack cars pressured inside? lol pressured not like the airplanes but i think i read somewhere they are pressured to reduce noise and comfort. I might be wrong though, I often am. My wife reminds me of that alot. lol
 

TucsonRailFan

New Member
Found this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cab_forward

All of the cab-forwards were oil-burning locomotives, which meant there was little trouble involved putting the tender at what would normally be the front of the locomotive. The oil and water tanks were pressurized so that both would flow normally even on uphill grades. Visibility from the cab was superb, such that one crewman could easily survey both sides of the track. There were concerns about what would happen to the crew in the event of a collision, and at least one fatal accident occurred on the Modoc Line when a moving locomotive struck a flat car. Turning the normal locomotive arrangement around also placed the crew well ahead of the exhaust fumes, insulating them from that hazard. One problematic aspect of the design, however, was the routing of the oil lines; because the firebox was located ahead of the driving wheels (instead of behind them, the usual practice), oil leaks could cause the wheels to slip. A nuisance under most conditions, it resulted in at least one fatal accident. This occurred in 1941 when a cab-forward with leaking steam and oil lines entered the tunnel at Santa Susana Pass near Los Angeles. The tunnel was on a grade, and as the slow-moving train ascended the tunnel, oil on the rails caused the wheels to slip and spin. The train slipped backwards and a coupler knuckle broke, separating the air line, causing an emergency brake application and stalling the train in a tunnel that was rapidly filling with exhaust fumes and steam. The oil dripping on the rails and ties then ignited beneath the engine cab, killing the crew.
 




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