Information Net for February 6

Railway Air Brakes

Read by: Ed KE4JWS

The Westinghouse system uses air pressure to charge air reservoirs (tanks) on each car. Full air pressure signals each car to release the brakes. A reduction or loss of air pressure signals each car to apply its brakes, using the compressed air in its reservoirs.

Prior to the introduction of air brakes, stopping a train was a difficult business. In the early days when trains consisted of one or two cars and speeds were low, the engine driver could stop the train by reversing the steamflow to the cylinders, causing the locomotive to act as a brake. However, as trains got longer, heavier and faster, and started to operate in mountainous regions, it became necessary to fit each car with brakes, as the locomotive was no longer capable of bringing the train to a halt in a reasonable distance.

The introduction of brakes to rail cars necessitated the employment of additional crew members called brakemen, whose job it was to move from car to car and apply or release the brakes when signaled to do so by the engineer with a series of whistle blasts. Occasionally, whistle signals were not heard, incorrectly given or incorrectly interpreted, and derailments or collisions would occur because trains were not stopped in time.

Brakes were manually applied and released by turning a large brake wheel located at one end of each car. The brake wheel pulled on the car’s brake rigging and clamped the brake shoes against the wheels. As considerable force was required to overcome the friction in the brake rigging, the brakeman used a stout piece of wood called a “club” to assist him in turning the brake wheel.

Read by: Rick N9GRW

The job of a passenger train brakeman wasn’t too difficult, as he was not exposed to the weather and could conveniently move from car to car through the vestibules, which is where the brake wheel was (and still is, in many cases) located. Also, passenger trains were not as heavy or lengthy as their freight counterparts, which eased the task of operating the brakes.

A brakeman’s job on a freight train was far more difficult, as he was exposed to the elements and was responsible for many more cars. To set the brakes on a boxcar the brakeman had to climb to the roof and walk a narrow catwalk to reach the brake wheel while the car was swaying and pitching beneath his feet. There was nothing to grasp other than the brake wheel itself, and getting to the next car often required jumping. Needless to say, a freight brakeman’s job was extremely dangerous, and many were maimed or killed in falls from moving trains.

Complicating matters, the manually operated brakes had limited effectiveness and controlling a train’s speed in mountainous terrain was a dicey affair. Occasionally, the brakemen simply could not set enough brakes to a degree where they were able to reduce speed while descending a grade, which usually resulted in a runaway—followed by a disastrous wreck.

When adopted, the Westinghouse system had a major effect on railroad safety. Reliable braking was assured, reducing the frequent accidents that plagued the industry. Brakemen were no longer required to risk life and limb to stop a train, and with the engineer now in control of the brakes, misunderstood whistle signals were eliminated. As a result, longer and heavier trains could be safely run at higher speeds.

During his lifetime, Westinghouse made many improvements to his invention. The United States Congress passed the Safety Appliance Act in 1893 making the use of some automatic brake system mandatory. By 1905, over 2,000,000 freight, passenger, mail, baggage and express railroad cars and 89,000 locomotives in the United States were equipped with the Westinghouse Automatic Brake. The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject…..


Radio Law: FCC Says No to License Element Waiver Request

Source: Amateur Radio Newsline Report #1798 – January 27 2012

Read by: Nicki KF4DHK

The FCC has turned away a request from Alaska’s Anchorage Volunteer Examination Coordinator for a temporary blanket waiver of Section 97.505(a) of the Commission’s Rules. This, to allow the VEC to give individuals whose amateur radio operator licenses have expired examination credit for test elements previously passed so that all former licensees could be re-licensed without retesting. Amateur Radio Newsline’s Heather Butera-Howell, KB3TZD, has the details:

The Anchorage VEC had filed for the waiver pending the outcome of a related rulemaking petition in FCC Docket WT 11-130. That request seeks the same end but on a permanent nationwide basis.

But in its denial order the FCC noted that individuals who do not hold a current or renewable amateur radio operator license, regardless of whether they have held one in the past, must demonstrate their qualifications to be amateur radio operators before obtaining a new license. As such, the approval of the requested waiver to allow examination credit to be granted for any previously held amateur service operator license would not serve the underlying purpose of the regulatory agency’s licensing rules.


The FCC also stated that amateur radio testing opportunities are widely available. It said that Volunteer Examiner teams can administer tests at any location and time convenient to them and the examinee. As such Anchorage VEC has not shown that requiring retesting of examinees whose operator licenses expired more than two years ago, including those of advanced years, is inequitable or unduly burdensome, or that these examinees have no reasonable alternative.

But this matter is far from closed. In its conclusion the FCC also noted that the dismissal of the Anchorage VEC’s waiver request is a separate matter from the groups pending Rule Making request in FCC Docket WT 11-130. As such this action is without prejudice to Anchorage VEC’s pending rule- making petition.

The Report and Order denying the Anchorage VEC’s waiver request was issued on Tuesday, January 24th. As we go to air it’s not known if the Anchorage VEC will appeal this decision or simply wait for the outcome on its underlying Rule Making request.

For the Amateur Radio Newsline, I’m Heather Butera-Howell, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The bottom line: At least for now if a ham lets his or her license expire and fails to renew it during the two-year grace period, he or she will be back to ground zero and will have to go through the testing procedure before being granted a call sign to get back on the air.

Radio Regulation: Amateur Radio at WRC-2012


Amateur radio is mentioned in the preface of the International Telecommunication Union’s agenda document for the World Radiocommunication Conference 2012 now taking place in taking place in Geneva, Switzerland. Of interest to the Amateur and Amateur satellite Services is item 1.15. This, to consider possible allocations in the range 3 to 50 MHz to the radio location service for oceanographic radar applications, taking into account the results of ITU-R studies and in accordance with Resolution 612 from WRC-07.

Also, there is item 1.19 to consider regulatory measures and their relevance, in order to enable the introduction of software-defined radio and cognitive radio systems. This one is based on the results of ITU-R studies, and in accordance with Resolution 956 of WRC-07.

Lastly, there are items 1.22 to examine the effect of emissions from short-range devices on radio communication services and item 1.23 which will consider an allocation of about 15 kHz in parts of the band from 415 to 526.5 kHz to the amateur service on a secondary basis. This, taking into account the need to protect existing services. WRC 2012 runs through February the 17th. We will all know more once the final reports on all these measures are in and made public. (ITU)

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