EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT “DOPE BOX A”

This is a good example of the “elderly” drawings that intrigue me most out of the thousands the UPHS has scanned over the ten plus years of the work. These “elderly” drawings  permit the development of my historical insight into the small details of a time long past, needed by me to move  beyond my present state of plentyfull ignorance.

First, look at the lettering style of the lengthy note at the bottom of the drawing. Notice the little flourish added to  “b”, “k”, “l”, etc. Take note of the use of cursive writing instead of block lettering. Admire the neatness and readability of the writing, all done in ink! The process must have been an unhurried one, much different from today. The format chosen to write the note seems more suitable for a letter to your Grandmother than a drawing meant to reliably and easily inform the user. More modern drawings use a starkly utilitarian outline format for drawing notes. Perhaps “style” was preferred over “utility” in that time. Certainly, it  is the  opposite today.

Next, consider the contents of the note and the choice of words. For instance, in the first sentence, the words “strongly put together” are used. This usage implies that how strong is “strong” was common knowledge. Today’s drawings need a multiple-page specification to define “strong”. Other words are chosen such as to leave the builder of the box the freedom to use whatever materials are available locally. However, the choice of colors is made for the box maker. Today we have no idea what colors were intended without reference to the color defining document of that time. The same holds true for the required tools and oils. By the way, what is “mineral seal oil”? Is it seal oil?

What was “dope” and what was it used for? I believe it was a mixture of (unknown) oils, greases and other stuff, the purpose of which is the same as today’s dope – contend with overheated “plain” truck-axle bearings, otherwise known as “hot-boxes”. Today, “hot-boxes” are a thing of the past (except at operating railroad museums) due to the change from high friction “plain” bearings to low friction roller bearings. Today railroads sometimes experience “bearing failures” instead of “hot-boxes”. However, railroads still have “hot-box” detectors (very useful in keeping track of the 844) at track-side because a  high speed axle bearing failure is just as serious today as a “hot-box” was then. Some things never change. Bearing friction produces heat and wears the bearing, high heat and wear lead to bearing failure, failure portends disaster. Is anything really different today compared to “then”?

About THE OLD MACHINIST

I am 82 years old and wed for 65 years. I am a retired engineer and spent 35 years developing INS gyroscopes. I am a High School mentor in physics, mountaineer, model builder, machinist and have a degree in Physics. My interests include railroad history and photography, science history, cosmology, interesting people, and old engineering drawings. I place a high value on my friendships. I enjoy life and am looking forward to the future with my usual sense of anticipation and curiosity.

Posted on December 15, 2011, in ART AND CRAFTSMANSHIP OF THE DRAFTSMAN, TRIVIA FROM THE UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD DRAWING COLLECTION, UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD HISTORY IN DRAWINGS, UNUSUAL DRAWINGS IN THE UPRR DRAWING COLLECTION and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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