Roof Walks and Running Boards


[Clinton Smoke asks:]
During the 1970's (I believe) the roof walks were removed from the boxcars of America's railroads for safety reasons. Can someone help me better pin down the start of that effort? Likewise, I suspect that there was a date by which time the walks had to be off, so, when did that effort end? Thanks!

[Scott A. Reed notes:]
As a note, some cars are still running with original running boards attached. I photographed a N&W 40 Footer the other day wearing Green with the roofwalks still attached, and even full height side ladders. Nice find in 1999.

[Jim Brewer wrote:]

I am not certain of the date this occurred; however, the correct term is "running boards", not "roof walks", as the brakeman used to "run" on the "boards" across the cars to set and release brakes, etc.

[Jim King responds to Jim B's answer:]
"Correct term" is subjective at best. The railroaders I've spent time with, including retired Southern steam-era employees, call them roof walks. Running boards go underneath the doors on 1920's vintage automobiles! Maybe terminology changed with geography.

[Rick Morrison writes:]
Remember all the "telltales" that hung at tunnel entrances and overhead bridges? I remember seeing cars in hump yards with brakemen riding on top, and slow moving freights on the road with brakemen on top of boxcars: a dangerous practice at best. Where the N&W crossed over the B&O at Shenandoah Jct., WV there were tellales hanging over the B&O tracks to warn a brakeman riding on top to get down.

Before the advent of dynamic braking, brakemen had to set retainers on freight cars before trains in mountain territory could go downgrade. The rule was that you stopped the train to do this. In the World War II years this rule was ignored, on some railroads, and a friend of mine who was braking on B&O's Cumberland division was fired for refusing to walk over the cars and set retainers while the train was in motion. This included crossing coal loads and loaded flatcars. Obviously when he returned to his home terminal in Cumberland, MD he was reinstated because refusing an order in conflict with the rulebook was not grounds for dismissal.

[Dick Fisher has the answer!]
Running boards were eliminated from boxcars (without roof hatches)with cars placed in service after October 1, 1966. On cars built earlier, the running boards were to be removed by April 1, 1974. This date may have been extended. Regarding the footboards on switcher locomotives, these were eliminated from locomotives built after March 31, 1975 and removed from earlier locomotives by September 30, 1978.

[Added 15-Aug-1999]


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