Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pulling the Pin

"Pulling the pin" is a railroad term that means to uncouple. It's an ancient term going back to the beginnings of railroading.

Early couplers were simple.  The first standard was a link that was held to each car with a pin held in place by gravity.  Some nice pictures illustrating the link and pin coupler are here:

The knuckle coupler which could automatically couple was invented after the Civil War and was the new standard by the end of the 19th Century.  It has a "pin", also held in place by gravity, that locks the coupler knuckle in the closed position.  Sometimes the pin is lifted from the top (right side, below), sometimes it's lifted from the bottom (left side, below).

But, it's still called a pin, and when you "pull the pin", you uncouple the cars.

"Pulling the pin", is also used as slang for going home at the end of the day, or for retiring.   

I am "pulling the pin" on January 29th, 2016.  

I asked for, and received, one last freight train ride.  On January 20, 2016, I rode train 212, an Atlanta to Croxton NJ intermodal trains, from Atlanta up to Greenville, SC.  Here are some pictures and impressions.

By random chance, the lead locomotive was the NYC heritage unit, an EMD SD70ACE.  The only thing better than this would have been the Conrail unit.   The train was about 5000 feet long and didn't have any multilevels on the head end this day.  The crew plus road foreman and me boarded the consist and maneuvered into the forwarding yard where a yard crew tacked the train together with a couple cuts recently pulled from the intermodal ramp.

The yard has quite a few powered and signalled switches, so getting through the yard tracks to the main at the yard limit was fairly quick.  We stopped only once for the utility man to hang a pre-tested and linked EOT on the the last car and it was off to the races.  We departed Inman yard at roughly 6:00 AM and quickly zipped though suburban Atlanta at rush hour.  It was a bit unnerving that there were so many cars waiting at every road crossing along the way.  

"Diverging Clear" for us on the new PTC compliant signals 

211 zips by at track speed

Here we are meeting 211 on a stretch of double track.  211 was following a very late Amtrak 19 (The Crescent) just north of Toccoa.

Creeping by the surfacing gang in SC.

There was a rail gang, plus a surfacing gang out this day, as well as a bridge timber gang.  We got through all three work zones in pretty good order and arrived in Greenville at 10:30.  I would have ridden another train back to Atlanta if it weren't for the track work. The timber gang was getting big slot of time and the trip back would have been greatly delayed.

The locomotive had an isloated "Whisper" cab and a nice climate control system.  It was warm and comfortable the whole time.  The noise level was very low and the ride was pretty smooth with not much jiggling.  Sometimes the cab would bounce a bit on the rubber suspension, but that just made picture taking a bit tough.  All in all, it was a far cry from riding an old SD40-2.

I stepped off in Greenville and deadheaded back in a jitney, but the train continued on toward Croxton NJ.  

I've "pulled the pin" and am headed to the enginehouse.  My "day" of work is done, but Norfolk Southern continues on.



  1. Congratulations, Mr. Oltmann. I hope this will not mean that you will disappear from this blog and others (F. Frailey).


Your turn!