Poling - No, Not Politics...

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Mountain Man, Feb 23, 2008.

  1. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    I came across references in several books to the dangerous practice of "poling" cars, particularly in yards. I assume that some how a pole or length of beam was used to move an adjacent car and thus not have to switch to the track, but I'm not sure exactly. Can anyone offer insight?
  2. Renovo PPR

    Renovo PPR Just a Farmer

    Let me see if I can explain it right. A engine would push a car from a set of tracks that ran beside the one that the car was setting on in a yard. So a long board was used to push the car. This worked well but sometimes the board would fall in front of the engine resulting in a derailment.

    The key is that the engine and car were on different tracks.
  3. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    Apparently this practice somehow saved time over moving the locomotive to the same track in which the car that was being moved resided. basically, both cars and locomotives had "poling pockets" on their end beams. To move a car on an adjacent track, a "pole" was placed between the locomotive and the car to be moved on a diagonal. The ends of the "pole" would fit into the poling pockets. The poling pocket held the pole and kept it from slipping out of position. I am guessing this practice was dangerous because 1) someone had to stand between the car and the locomotive to position the pole 2) because the car was not actually coupled to a locomotive, the moving car was somewhat out of control.

    I hope that made sense :)

  4. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    Poling was indeed a standard practice in days of old. Probably one of the many reasons why railroading was an extremely dangerous occupation. Its easy to see why it was popular, especially with railroads with limited equipment. Management also liked it because it speeded up car movement (at the expense of the workers).
    There was a thread a couple of days ago about poling sockets on cars and if you look at pictures of old time equipment, you will see them on both cars and loco's. I don't remember when the practice was outlawed.
  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    It would sometimes be used to move a car that was fouling a switch if some other dangerous move like a dutch drop had failed. Or if the car was on a siding but needed to be coupled to the wrong end of the locomotive.
    You may see poles hanging from the tender of switch engines in old photos -- below the underframe and between the trucks.
  6. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    The red Steam engine is pushing (poling) the blue boxcar

    Rather than back up down the yard track and switch over behind the blue car... it's "Easier and uses less fuel" to have a man (Green circle) use a pole (Purple line) between the pockets on the Engine and car... to push the car in order to position it. (set in place).

    Yes this is dangerous.. Yes the pole could slip... Yes the "employee" could conceivably be thrown backwards and land on the rails in front of the engine :( Ewww

    Attached Files:

  7. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Thanks, everyone. I am assuming that the risk of the pole breaking and skewering the yard guy might be a tad high, too?

    The illustration clears up a caption in one of my books, which states that the mine trestle shown was too light to handle locos, so the ore car was being poled, but it doesn't show in the photo itself. itsself.
  8. puddlejumper

    puddlejumper Member

    Poling was used often to retrieve cars from spur tracks when the car would be on the wrong end of the engine when retrieved by driving in and coupling to it. For instance if the car was in a facing point spur and needed to be coupled behind the engine. The engine would proceed past the switch and pole the car out to the main track to couple up to it.
    The risk was the pole, which is under thousands of pounds of pressure when being used to push a car, either snapping or violently flying out of position and killing the brakeman holding or standing near it.
  9. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    My understanding is along the lines of 60103 and puddlejumper...it was not common practice, but rather a practice for when the locomotive couldn't couple to the car...such as track that couldn't handle the weight of the locomotive, a fouled switch, etc...

    Most steam locomotives sitting in parks either have the push poles or at least the brackets. Most engines that run have had the poles welded to the brackets (or at least the ones operated by intelligent groups :p).

    Here's the 765's....

    Attached Files:

  10. puddlejumper

    puddlejumper Member

    So how long do you suppose a pole would be? I might have to add one to my 0-6-0.

  11. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I just remembered an old article in MR -- was it the yards handbook in the 50s? -- that diagrammed poling and showed a poling car that had poles mounted on it in each corner. (all I remember was a vertical diagram and it looked like a transfer caboose.) This seemed to be designed to run on a track parallel to the ladder track in the flat yard. (This must have been almost 50 years ago!)
    This might have given a little flexibility to classifying as the loco only needed to push the cars needed on track X, rather than push the entire train and pull 95% of it back again.

    Dave: You could probably estimate the length of one by putting cars on 2 parallel tracks and trying a pole between them. I don't think the angle should be greater than 30 degrees. From the phto, it seems it's probably less than half the length of the tender. You could possibly make one from a round toothpick (in HO).
  12. puddlejumper

    puddlejumper Member

    Thank you for the excellent description.:thumb:

  13. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Since they were all locally made in the shop, they probably varied a fair amount. You could probably do as you like provided it was sensible and cheap, since I doubt a whole lot was spent on them. The guys who had to use them probably cared a lot more than the guys budgeting the operating funds.

    Now, let's see, in N-scale that's...:cool:
  14. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    This loco, a former B&M Mogul, came with the pole already installed on the tender. It's about 7'6" long.


    That's a detail that I meant to add to my other locos, but forgot to do so.

  15. rogerw

    rogerw Active Member

    Wayne is that the pole just above the trucks?
  16. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Poling in a different form lasted into much more recent times, and as far as I know might still be in use. At some locations (principally car dumpers), there were dedicated "pole cars". These were small diesel (or gasoline-engined?) switchers with a metal pole that could fold down. It's clear why these are safer: no man needed on the ground.
  17. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Yeah, that's the one. It should actually be resting in a couple of wire "cradles", so that it can be lifted out when needed. I have some prototype photos somewhere that show these, and most also have some chain slung from similar hooks, leading me to believe that the most common occurrence of poling was when a "Dutch drop" or "flying switch" failed to complete successfully, requiring the "dropped" car to be pushed clear of the "fouling point" in order to allow the loco to pass safely.

  18. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    The supports are essentially hooks with a side/end. You can sort of see it in the photo I posted of the 765's tender.

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