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Slack Action

Discussion in 'Metal Heads' started by KaBar, Oct 12, 2001.

  1. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 10
    Everybody has heard about Slack Action, but not everybody understands exactly what it is. The railcars are built with couplers that automatically close when two cars are banged together in humping, when humped over a hump crest, or by "flat-switching" the cars in a small yard with no hump. When a switchman cuts out a car on the crest of the hump, he has to do it at just the right moment. The unit powers up in reverse (humping is done in reverse--the unit pulls the string over the hump, then starts backing up so the cars can be cut out, humped, retarded and switched into their new string) and gets the string rolling, then he slacks off the accelerator and the car to be cut (called a "cut") rolls up slowly to the hump crest. When the switchman sees the unit is off the power, he pulls the pin (it's a lever that goes out the side of the coupler) opening the coupler, releasing the "cut" and allowing gravity to roll it into the hump and the master retarder. As the car rolls down the hump, the switchmen in the crest tower hit the MR, and you can hear the squeal of the retarder shoes rubbing the outside of the train car wheels to slow it down. Couplers can handle an impact of about 5 mph, no more. There is another retarder farther down the hump line, called a "group retarder" but I think my local yard doesn't have one. The car rolls until it hits the string of cars in it's CONsist. When it hits, the impact closes the coupler, and it locks automatically.
    There is about 1"-3/4" slack in the couplers themselves. The couplers are connected to the "draft gear." The draft gear isn't really gears, it's like "gear" in terms of somebody's stuff, rather than a transmission gear. The draft gear can move in and out about 12"-14" max. So when a unit starts to pull a train, the first car hits slack action after a foot. The second car, after two feet, and so on. On a long train, say 80 cars, the unit may move 85 feet before the FRED moves an inch. Slack action is much more violent in the back half of the train, like the tail on a bull whip. As the train "stretches out", you hear slack coming down the string b-b-b-b-B-B-B-Boom-Boom-Boom-Boom-BOOM-BOOM-BANG! and all the sudden your car is jerked into motion. Stretch out is also called "draft" like in "draft horses." It means "pull." Then, if the engineer gets on the brakes, the train starts contracting the same way, but it's called "buff." It sounds the same b-b-b-B-B-Boom-Boom-Boom-BOOM-BOOM-BANG! and suddenly your car is slowing down. It is now "buffed in." What this means to people in railyards is that they need to be aware that trains can move at any second, especially a long string. The units way down on the other end of the yard may suddenly get powered up and told to move, or get "called." Or the string your car is on can be hit by a midnight rambler at any time, as the hump crew suddenly starts making up a consist. BE ALERT AS TO WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND YOU. Really tight crews have at least one guy (maybe a rookie) serving as a spotter, watching for ramblers, bulls, cops, etc. If you're hopping, you definately need to understand slack action to the nuts. ALWAYS HANG ONTO SOMETHING. Don't ride freestyle or skylining. Only FNG wannabes do shit like that. HIDE. "No exposure without purpose." That's what I think, anyway. (Yo, Collinwood, your shit rocks. "CK, rock like him," and Ride Safe.)
  2. Southern kid

    Southern kid Elite Member

    Joined: Apr 19, 2000 Messages: 3,965 Likes Received: 0
    hey wait..you're from houston! i've never met a kid from houston who knew so much about trains.
  3. Ski Mask

    Ski Mask 12oz Loyalist

    Joined: Apr 11, 2000 Messages: 11,114 Likes Received: 209
    as proof of the force of slack action, do this the next time your benching. watch what happens after a train brakes fast and gets "buffed in". After it comes to a full stop it will look like its starting to back up as the couplers push out the buff.
    And I remember a long time ago some people asking the meaning of the "no more than 4" stickers on autoracks. its a gentle reminder of the 5mph "speed limit" on coupling. although I'm sure KaBar knows that with empty cars in small yards behind schedule that limit can go out the window...

    good post. nice to see another knowledgable train geek on here...
  4. taper

    taper Elite Member

    Joined: Nov 29, 2000 Messages: 4,509 Likes Received: 0
    uh o cracked you got competition on the fr8 guru thing..;) :p :love2: lol


    hey bud, nice post. copy and paste into the yard seafty thread while your at. cool beanos mang
  6. cracked ass

    cracked ass Guest

    I don't consider it "competition" when other people besides me are learning shit they ought to know for safety reasons. Although kabar's post looks almost verbatim with Duffy Littlejohn's book (HFT in A), with the exception of mentioning crews and lookouts and Houston. I don't have the book to compare to, but if text gets reproduced that closely there ought to be a shout out or credit. If that material isn't Littlejohn's, then you both learned from the same person or source. In any case, it's good to know this shit.
  7. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 10
    You know, the thing I like about the Internet is that people on it are just about totally anonymous. Do you ever think about that? Like, you go on a board or a chat about music, and maybe some guy from Aerosmith is on there shooting the shit about guitars, and I think "How cool is that?" Aerosmith online, talking to some kid in the 10th grade from Lufkin. Or, maybe it's just some guy PRETENDING to be a member of Aerosmith. It's a plague and a curse, as well as a tremendous advantage. If you go on a chat room for "Divorced and Available" probably 50% of the guys are a couple of 14-year-old boys pretending to be an adult man who is hoping to get hooked up with a beautiful divorcee. All part of the charm of the Net. Sometimes people make assumptions, too. They may judge you by the way you write, or the language you use, or the interests that you have, and assume that you are a certain kind of person, or a certain race, or whatever.
    I hestitate to reveal much about myself, but on the other hand, I don't want to mislead anybody, either. Suffice it to say, I am not a kid, I am an adult. My interest in graff is secondary, and subsequent to, my interest in riding trains. I first rode a fr8 quite a while ago, and I learned from an "old school" kind of tramp. When I first rode freights, graffitti was very rare, and I didn't see a large work for years. What we saw back then were tramp streaks, and the occasional water tower or something with "SENIORS '62" on it. I have read Littlejohn's book, and it is a good one, although I think he sugarcoats it a little too much. I've never met him, but the last time I heard, he was living and working as an attorney in San Luis Obispo, CA. If my information sounds a little too much like Littlejohn's stuff, all I can say is that the information is pretty basic. If you are describing a hammer, how many different ways are there to talk about it? One might say that the language in my posts "sounds too young" to be an adult. It so happens I work in a job where I talk to a lot of teenagers, and my speech patterns sometimes follow theirs. I'm even developing a taste for rap, just not much of an affection for it. My natural inclinations in music are a little more acoustically oriented. I started hopping fr8s when I was very young, and my very first hop was from Chicago to St. Paul, Minnesota. A couple of hours later, we caught one that went from St. Paul to Butte, Montana. Believe it or not, that was in 1970.
    Try to be open-minded about graff and the people that admire it and have done a little. They aren't all slackers in their late teens. All old tramps aren't hopeless alcoholic losers, either. You young guys won't be kids forever. But I bet you'll always remember blasting lines on a clean fr8 at midnight, and running through the Yards outfoxing the bulls. And when you're not a kid anymore everybody else will expect you to settle down and become a civilian. Go ahead, go to college. Get your ticket punched. Make some money. But don't forget what it feels like to wake up at five-thirty in the morning in the middle of complete fucking nowhere without a clue in the world as to where you are. There ain't nothing like it in this life, I'm here to tell you. How do the kids put it? "Tramp4Life." There it is.
  8. dukeofyork

    dukeofyork Guest

    man, i felt like a train geek before...model set and all......
    but you guys take it to a completely different level.
  9. aztek4two1

    aztek4two1 Member

    Joined: Nov 30, 2000 Messages: 770 Likes Received: 0
    pure genius.
    sign me up.
  10. fr8oholic

    fr8oholic Veteran Member

    Joined: Apr 23, 2000 Messages: 9,256 Likes Received: 1
    thanks for the info kabar. it's well needed info that a lot of us should know. myself included.
  11. suburbian bum

    suburbian bum 12oz Loyalist

    Joined: Jan 30, 2001 Messages: 14,673 Likes Received: 3
    Kabar you sound like a very smart man, your topics are a little random, but very interesting.
  12. cracked ass

    cracked ass Guest

    I stand corrected. Good to have you on board.
  13. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 10
    I hope that didn't sound TOO defensive. I didn't intend it to be a refutation, more just an explanation. I see art, real art, in the more ambitious and carefully crafted graff works. The awesome thing about serious graff writers is that to really appreciate the artist and his work, one must invest considerable time and effort to view even a small portion of the body of his (or her) work. There was a time when I said to myself "If we could only get these guys to paint on canvases! They'd be celebrated!" But I'm coming to understand that part of the art is the nature of it's creation. One element I'm unsure of it the segment of the graff community that insists that "vandalism" is a key element to the creation of it. On the other hand, it has an element of outlawry and defiance of authority that is not unlike other artistic rebellions against conformity, etc. It's damned difficult to sell a big chunk of a concrete overpass in a gallery, though, or to hang a side bulkhead of a grainer in a art patron's foyer. Graff denies and resists commercialization and co-optation by it's very nature. As it gains acceptance, it bleeds into the mainstream, and becomes slowly adopted by standard commercial channels. When that process becomes easier and graff-based art begans to show up in car commercials, CD and tape promotions, etc., it begans to lose it's impact and cutting edge nature. As hip-hop culture starts showing up at Wal-Mart and Pep Boys, it begins the process of being transformed into a commodity. And out there, somewhere, is some creative 12-year-old who is thinking up the next cultural evolution, the next ultra-radical artistic expression, the next rebellious teenaged thing guaranteed to completely piss off their teachers and parents and the local gendarmes. Think Expressionism. Art Nouveau. Jackson Pollock. The Lost Generation, drinking wine in post-WWI Paris. Swing dancers pushing the boundaries of dance in the smoldering ruins of Berlin. Hippies dancing in the ankle-deep slop at Woodstock to Jimi Hendrix. Beatniks, snapping their fingers in inexpressively "cool" applause to Allen Ginsberg's poetry in Greenwich Village cafes, painted black, wall-to-nihilistic wall. Low-riders spark-racing down hilly East L.A. streets. As each generation moves forward, it's rebels and visionaries either accept that the moment is slipping, or they become pathetically clingy, trying to insist that Disco really didn't suck, or that Flower Power can solve all the world's problems, or that Florence is the only place where one can genuinely create art worth appreciating. Or that this style of graff or that type of letter is the only worthwhile graffitti effort.
    Burn on, people. Make your mark, send your message, make it happen. But don't forget that the fundamental values that make life worthwhile and valuable drive every effort, even midnight paint bomb runs under brilliant mercury-vapor security lights on fat Canadian grain cars. Graff kids often think they are smashing the old, breaking new barriers. They rarely see that they are carrying the flag that other, older radicals have handed over. Old Dylan said "Don't Look Back." Okay. Don't. But we need to know that they were there. And in their day, they burned bright, too.
  14. T.T Boy

    T.T Boy Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: May 18, 2001 Messages: 21,803 Likes Received: 40
    you are a smart man kabar, good to have you here. i just repeted what everyone said.
  15. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 10
    How Long Should a Deadman Be?

    This is probably not a subject that comes up all the time, so I thought I'd talk about it, and see what other people think. IN LITTLEJOHN'S BOOK (ahem) he mentions that you can often find wood used as dunnage and bracing inside the cars, or pallets just laying around in the weeds, whatever, and these can be used as a field-expedient dead man. Actually, I have not found this to be the case around the Houston area. "Good" wood for a deadman needs to be substantial and solid. Oak would be great, but ash (like most pallets are made from) would be okay. I would say pine (like 2x4's from housing construction) is less desireable, because it splinters pretty easy. The question is, "How long?" Obviously there is no best length in terms of securing the door(s). If you find a piece of wood five feet long and it will fit in the door track groove, I say "use it!" But most of the time, I use the same dead man over and over. It's a piece of wood that I cut to fit the length of my bindle, and is about 26 inches long. I roll it up in the middle of my blanket roll, where I can get to it easy. I met a guy once that carried a piece of 1" pipe in the center of his bindle, and said he used it as a dead man, but I think that he really carried it as a weapon. I've known people that carried a kitchen knife there too, and said they just used it for cooking (yeah, right.) Usually a 2x4 will fit the door track groove easily, but it it doesn't, hammer it in tightly. If it won't go in the groove, DON'T just leave it laying up there loose to bounce out of the door track groove, go find some wood that WILL fit. Better yet, measure a few boxcars' door track grooves and figure out how thick your dead man should be. Whittle you a good one, and hang onto it.
    You can use a railroad spike, too, but it's not as sure as a dead man. (You could also do both.) But like I said before, it pisses off the railroad workers. IN LITTLEJOHN'S BOOK, he recommends that you don't admit spiking a rbox door, and I agree. In fact, disturb things as little as possible. When you get off a car, leave no trash, don't break anything or jack around with anything, don't make a mess, and take your dead man or spike WITH YOU, if you can get the spike out from under the door. (On the other hand, I wouldn't waste time fooling around with the spike if the car is moving. If you gotta bail, then bail. SAFETY FIRST. ALWAYS.)