Blog Archives



(click to enlarge)

This is a general arrangement drawing for an “OIL SPRINKLER” used by the OREGON,WASHINGTON RAILROAD & NAVIGATION Co. (OWR&N Co.) to control dust and weeds along the track. I believe the reason for suppression of roadbed dust was mainly concern for the comfort of riders of passenger trains. Passenger car windows had to be open on hot days due to the absence of air conditioning for the passenger cars. All trains moving on the tracks, with even slow speeds, swept-up roadbed dust which entered the seating areas of the cars and thus resulted in passenger discomfort. This meant passenger complaints and a headache for the railroads. I do not think the railroad managers spent many hours worrying about environmental impact of the oil on the roadbed. (I want to point out the UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD of today is very aware of the effects of railroad operations on the environment and is very diligent  in its duty to protect “the environment”. Oils, greases, and fuel in large amounts are necessary in the operation of any railroad; I have been in many UPRR locomotive service areas in recent years and I have yet to observe any spills or other messes. They are very good at keeping “our” railroad clean. Yes, I have a bias for “Uncle Pete”; I am a UPRR Co. stockholder and “fan” of the railroad.)

The use of oils and greases on or nearby the track rails carries with it a serious responsibility to keep such materials from coating the top surface of the railhead to avoid creating unsafe conditions for the operation of the trains. The useful attributes and safety of railroads are due to the high friction level that exists between steel wheels rolling on steel rails. Oils, greases, and fuel on the railhead reduce the friction level between wheels and rails. This is NOT good! On contaminated rail, locomotives can’t pull and moving trains can’t stop. This is REALLY NOT good!! In fact, for a long, long time, locomotives have had mechanisms to apply dry sand to slippery rails to increase friction for starting the locomotives. The sand supply on each locomotive is limited, so a better scheme is to keep the rails clean. It seems to me that an “OIL SPRINKLER” is the ultimate railhead “anti-clean machine”. Obviously, mitigation of some sort is necessary. Look at the side view in the drawings lower left. Between the trucks, near the track, is a device which looks like a sled, in this view. It must be capable of being raised or lowered to the railhead. Now look at the end view to the right. Notice the inverted “U” shaped device pictured above each railhead. This is the end view of the “sled” device in the elevation view. When the oil was being sprinkled it was in the lowered position and kept the oil from the railhead. I have no idea how effective this was as mitigation against oil on the railhead.