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BoT brake rules 1900s to late 1930s


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Dear All,

I have been reading around the subject of goods wagon brakes in the time period indicated by the title.

 

In the 1900s the BoT approved a rule which, in the end, required railway companys by 1938 to comply with a requirement that hand brakes on wagons must only be able to be taken off on the side on which they had been applied.

 

Can anyone explain to me why this requirement was made?  I understand the GWR had a problem in that the DC series of brakes could be taken off from either side and this is a reason they switched to building wagons with Morton hand brakes in the late 1920s.  The logic of right hand ends makes sense regarding, in terms of  commonality, but why the former?

 

Paul

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I don't know the answer - and I am looking forward to the suggestions.

 

My guess is it be security? Less opportunity for a trespasser to release the brakes on a stabled wagon?

 

Will

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There was, in the 1911 BoT regulations, an exemption from the requirements that the brake should only be releasable from the side on which it had been applied and that it should be of the "press down and lift up" type, for brakes of which the BoT had approved the design. There was also a specific exemption for "all waggons fitted with the Dean and Churchward brake, as described in Specification Number 202, of 1902, if arranged as a cross-cornered brake." - which of course DC1 wasn't, having the lever at the LH end as seen from one side. 

 

Sorry, that doesn't help with WHY?

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I came across the early part of the history of this when looking up something else. It has its origins in the The Railway Employment (Prevention of Accidents) Act 1900, which entitled the Board of Trade to "make such rules as they think fit with respect to any of the subjects mentioned in the schedule to this Act, with the object of reducing or removing the dangers and risks incidental to railway service."

 

Schedule 1 reads "Brake levers on both sides of waggons."

 

There was some discussion about this in Parliament, both when the Bill was being debated, and in questions to the Board of Trade over the next couple of years, with all the focus being on shunters and others being able to apply all the brakes on a train from one side, without needing to pass between wagons where some had brakes levers on one side and some had them on the other side. The second reading debate is particularly informative, and here is a link directly to the relevant part (other MPs also spoke on the same issue in similar terms, but I liked Mr Lyttelton's style, even if his grasp of basic maths is rather suspect): https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1900/apr/05/railways-prevention-of-accidents-bill#column_1282

 

A set of rules was apparently issued in April 1901, but I have not tracked down a copy.

 

In all the debates and questions in Parlaiment, there are no mentions whatsoever of releasing wagon brakes. My guess is that something happened subsequent to this, once it was common for wagon brakes to be operable from either side, where brakes were released from the opposite side from which they had been applied resulting in some mishap. I have no idea when this was, but I see @Compound2632says that releasing brakes got mentioned in a 1911 regulation, so it was presumably some time between 1901 and 1911.

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9 hours ago, Jeremy C said:

The second reading debate is particularly informative, and here is a link directly to the relevant part (other MPs also spoke on the same issue in similar terms, but I liked Mr Lyttelton's style, even if his grasp of basic maths is rather suspect): https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1900/apr/05/railways-prevention-of-accidents-bill#column_1282

 

They do go on, don't they? But to me two themes stand out that show how little our politics has changed in 120 years:

  • Concern is raised that the legislation gives ministers sweeping and ill-defined powers to make regulations.
  • The Nationalists, never missing a chance to push for independence / home rule / greater devolved powers (delete as applicable) are quick to argue that the special conditions of their country have been ignored by Westminster.

It's worth noting the following:

  • Sir Joseph Whitwell Pease, the Liberal MP for Barnard Castle, was at the time, as the Member for Shipley points out, Chairman of the North Eastern Railway. He was a grandson of Edward Pease, the father of the Stockton & Darlington Railway.
  • Mr Renshaw, Sir Charles Renshaw as he was to become, the Tory MP for Renfrewshire, was on the board of, and later Chairman of, the Caledonian Railway.

So the railway interest was represented on both sides of the House. Whatever political differences they may have had, their companies were at that period busy diverting as much goods traffic as they could off the North British, the North Eastern's supposed East Coast partner but hand-in-glove with the Midland, routing it via Carlisle.

 

Alfred Lyttleton, among his other claims to fame, had been the first man to represent England at both cricket and football.

 

If the report of the mentioned Royal Commission could be tracked down, it may well contain some more expert opinion. That commission appears to have completed its work in 18 days (presumably that's the number of days it sat) which goes to show that some things have changed! In mentioning the work of the Royal Commission, Lyttleton mentions Sir George Ernest Paget, Chairman of the Midland Railway, and Sir Charles Seotter, whose railway affiliation I have not traced.

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The wording of the Committee's recommendation was that "No wagon for service to be fitted with an either-side brake as defined at the commencement of this report,* unless it has been approved by the Board of Trade on the advice of this Committee." It was therefore not an outright ban, but the practicalities effectively ended the use of such systems for hand brakes.

 

* The report talks of trials of 'either side' brakes as being the ability to apply and release.

 

The trials found that none of the brake systems trialed was "considered sufficiently satisfactory to warrant our recommending it for general adoption."

 

They also considered the risk that because the either side lever acted simultaneously on both sides of the wagon there was actually a risk of a shunter on one side being injured by the application of the brake lever on the other.

 

The Committee examined the number of accidents there had been and came to the determination that, " the majority of accidents would be avoided if every wagon had a lever on each side, by which a brake or brakes could be applied, even though it could only be released from the side on which it had been applied."

 

The scale of the problem was significant for two reasons;

1 - as an example in 1900 the Caledonian Railway had 1 in 197 shunters killed and 1 in 13 injured in shunting accidents.

2 - in 1906 (during the Committee's examination) the UK railways had 750,000 vehicles of which 172,000 had brakes that could be applied on both sides, with 33,000 fitted with either side brakes. There were an additional 650,000 wagons belonging to private traders, giving a total of 1,400,000 wagons.

 

The implications of fitting an either side system, in cost and delay, were balanced against the option of fitted levers to both side that could apply the brakes even though they could only then be released from the same side. The committee concluded (specifically mentioning "delay" and "in the interests of the men") that the best option was to go for brakes fitted with a lever at cross corners.

 

The recommendation were that;

1) new build wagons be fitted with cross corner levers

2) wagons with one sided lever only be fitted with an additional lever within 7 years.

3) wagons fitted with two levers but with them at a single end have them rearranged within 10 years.

4) as above re either side and requiring approval.

 

Committee appointed April 1906

 

John

 

Edited by sulzer27jd
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11 hours ago, Jeremy C said:

I came across the early part of the history of this when looking up something else. It has its origins in the The Railway Employment (Prevention of Accidents) Act 1900, which entitled the Board of Trade to "make such rules as they think fit with respect to any of the subjects mentioned in the schedule to this Act, with the object of reducing or removing the dangers and risks incidental to railway service."

 

Schedule 1 reads "Brake levers on both sides of waggons."

 

There was some discussion about this in Parliament, both when the Bill was being debated, and in questions to the Board of Trade over the next couple of years, with all the focus being on shunters and others being able to apply all the brakes on a train from one side, without needing to pass between wagons where some had brakes levers on one side and some had them on the other side. The second reading debate is particularly informative, and here is a link directly to the relevant part (other MPs also spoke on the same issue in similar terms, but I liked Mr Lyttelton's style, even if his grasp of basic maths is rather suspect): https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1900/apr/05/railways-prevention-of-accidents-bill#column_1282

 

A set of rules was apparently issued in April 1901, but I have not tracked down a copy.

 

In all the debates and questions in Parlaiment, there are no mentions whatsoever of releasing wagon brakes. My guess is that something happened subsequent to this, once it was common for wagon brakes to be operable from either side, where brakes were released from the opposite side from which they had been applied resulting in some mishap. I have no idea when this was, but I see @Compound2632says that releasing brakes got mentioned in a 1911 regulation, so it was presumably some time between 1901 and 1911.

 

 

The subject of the 1900 Act was discussed some time ago in a thread on propping and tow-roping. That Act gave a general power to make rules concerning "Brake levers on both sides of waggons."

 

The brakes on both sides issue was not, however, addressed by the first rules made under that Act.

 

In 1911, the BoT made further rules, the Prevention of Accidents Rules 1911 (SR&O 1911/1058). It was these that introduced the provisions about brakes on both sides. Specifically in the present context, paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 to these Rules that introduced the requirement that "brakes can be released only from the side on which they have been applied." 

 

The 1911 Rules read as follows:

 

image.png.6e2dd7ea48242748227685bc15eaf114.png

image.png.aead6809fa3c31e8ceed0f76578fa985.png

 

I cannot assist with the logic of the requirement about the release of brakes.

 

There seems to have been a good deal of wrangling between the BoT and the railway companies on the brakes on both sides issue, as well as technical difficulties. For example, in the House of Commons on 16 March 1905 Mr Bonar Law said in answer to a question: 

 

"Rules have been made with respect to all the subjects in the schedule of the Act referred to with the exception of those numbered 1,7, and 8, and the rules are in force except those relating to boilergauge glasses and water gauges on engines, which come into operation next August. The subjects in the schedule not yet dealt with by rule are "brake levers on both sides of waggons," "the position of offices and cabins near working lines," and "the marking of fouling points." As the hon. Member is aware, the Board of Trade were desirous that the brakes to be used should be capable of being both applied and released from either side of a waggon, and proposed a rule to that effect; but so far no form of brake that has been tested has proved altogether satisfactory...."

 

There may have been a reference to the Railway and Canal Commissioners and their papers may shed some light on the logic of the requirement in relation to the release of brakes.

 

 

 

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I get the impression that at some stage in the debate, or the recording of what had been said, confusion might have arisen between brakes being able to be applied and released on either side of a wagon and brakes being applied on a wagon and then released on the opposite side (which of could be done with a version of the Dean Churchward).  

 

In safety terms the critical need was for a brake which could be applied from either side of a wagon - doing that would reduce the need for men to pass under or between wagons to reach brake handles on the other side of the vehicles they were involved with.  What the statistics don't indicate is what the 'shunting accidents' involved and there were of course numerous causes only a couple of which would have had anything to do with the lack of either side brake handles.  The ability to release a brake on the opposite side from which it had been applied makes no sense at all in safety terms.  If it was safe to stand on one side of  a wagon in order to apply the brake it would surely be equally safe to stand on that side of the wagon to release the brake?   I might be missing something but practical experience simply doesn't come up with a reason for such an idea.  But it would make a lot of sense as a red herring or delaying tactic to prevent or slow down the fitting of either side brakes.

 

The question would logically be why on earth anyone would want to release a brake on a wagon on the opposite side from that on which it had been applied?   The fact that a certain brake made that possible seems to be no particular reason for seeking to make it universal.  I can just about understand how an injury might happen with a Dean Churchward brake if some one is touching the handle on one side when the brake is released from the other side and the handle moves when that isn't expected - but I wonder just how many times that happened (it doesn't seem to have bothered the GWR)?  With a lever brake which has to be pinned down to keep it applied it is fairly obvious that it could only ever be released on the side on which it was applied and no amount of clever invention could ever get round that limitation.

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48 minutes ago, The Stationmaster said:

 

The question would logically be why on earth anyone would want to release a brake on a wagon on the opposite side from that on which it had been applied?  

 

Might it not be the case that in forming a train the wagons might be assembled over time and shunters working on different side would have applied brakes differently?  Or were yards so flat that the major purpose of hand brakes use was prior to descending inclines on running lines?

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36 minutes ago, GWR_Modeller said:

Might it not be the case that in forming a train the wagons might be assembled over time and shunters working on different side would have applied brakes differently?  Or were yards so flat that the major purpose of hand brakes use was prior to descending inclines on running lines?

 

The latter, I expect. A lot of effort had been put into levelling the ground! (All those nice flat car parks at your local out-of-town retail centre.) My guess would be that the brake would be put of for loading or unloading, or any other activity where you really wouldn't want the wagon to move suddenly.

 

I should think that, for most inclines, being on double track lines, it would be usual to be on the near side (rather than in the six-foot) top and bottom to put the brakes on and take them off - one in every three or four, which wasn't a problem with single-sided breaks as on average half would have the lever on the near side.

 

All speculation!

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5 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

Sir Charles Seotter

 

A close affiliate of Sir Robert Typographical-Error, I suspect.

 

Sir Charles Scotter was GM of the LSWR at one time.

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6 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

If the report of the mentioned Royal Commission could be tracked down

I did look for it. I also looked for the April 1901 rules - although on re-checking the mention in Hansard, I see that these were only draft rules, and it is conceivable they did not include any provision for brakes on both sides of wagons, although being able to apply brakes from either side was still being asked about in Parliament (https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1901/jun/17/prevention-of-railway-accidents-rules),

 

My guess is that once either-side brakes were investigated in more detail, some problem was found which resulted in the 1911 rules. The wording of the 1900 Act covers any rule concerning "Brake levers on both sides of waggons", and although I think that at the time the Act was passed the only thought was about making either-side brakes compulsory, by 1911 the situation had changed.

 

Incidentally, in my mind, the primary risk being considered was fly-shunting. [Edit: I mean, in making either-side brakes compulsory, not the bit about only being able to release them from the side they were applied]

Edited by Jeremy C
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One of the problems we face is in the use of language. "Either side" could be taken as meaning you can put the brakes on or off from both sides of the wagon and it makes sense that if you put them on using side 1 then you could only release them from side 1. By definition you could equally put the brakes on using side 2 and release them using side 2 but would not be able to apply the brakes on side 1 and release them on side 2. The arrangement of on side 1, off side 1 etc. is what the Committee deemed to be brakes that could be applied on "both sides" and the arrangement of on side 1 and off side 2 is what the Committee deemed to be "either side."

 

The previous BoT specification ordered railways to adopt brake gear that could be applied from either side. That appears to have been interpreted (rightly or wrongly but we must assume that someone at least asked) as requiring the ability to apply from side 1 and release from side 2. The Committee were specific that whilst 172,000 wagons had brakes on both sides, 33,000 had brakes that could be applied from either side.

 

The Caledonian Railway attempted to meet what was perceived to be this "either side" requirement by using the McIntosh Patent Brake. In its documentation it specifies the ability to apply or release the brakes from either side [that doesn't help clarify] but it refers to the ability to hold the brakes in position without the aid of pins, wedges or other means usually employed. As you could not have pinned a brake lever down on on side and expect to release it anywhere else, I think think this gives us a clue that McIntosh brake was intended to have the ability to be applied on side 1 and released on side 2. Wagons so fitted would fall into the 33,000 either side category.

 

I don't know if the Royal Commission was established as such or if the BoT Committee did the work in its place. It was made up of Mr R Turnbull (LNWR), Lieut-Col Yorke (Railway Inspector BoT) and Mr R Bell MP. Its first report was November 1906.

 

 

John

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18 minutes ago, Jeremy C said:

My guess is that once either-side brakes were investigated in more detail, some probelm was found which resulted in the 1911 rules. The wording of the 1900 Act covers any rule concerning "Brake levers on both sides of waggons", and although I think that at the time the Act was passed the only thought was about making either-side brakes compulsory, by 1911 the situation had changed.

 

5 hours ago, sulzer27jd said:

The trials found that none of the brake systems trialed was "considered sufficiently satisfactory to warrant our recommending it for general adoption."

 

They also considered the risk that because the either side lever acted simultaneously on both sides of the wagon there was actually a risk of a shunter on one side being injured by the application of the brake lever on the other.

 

The Committee examined the number of accidents there had been and came to the determination that, " the majority of accidents would be avoided if every wagon had a lever on each side, by which a brake or brakes could be applied, even though it could only be released from the side on which it had been applied."

Some problems were indeed found.

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4 minutes ago, sulzer27jd said:

I don't know if the Royal Commission was established as such or if the BoT Committee did the work in its place. It was made up of Mr R Turnbull (LNWR), Lieut-Col Yorke (Railway Inspector BoT) and Mr R Bell MP. Its first report was November 1906.

 

Richard Bell, MP for Derby, was also General Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants. He was on of the first two Labour MPs, but voted with the Liberals on most issues and stood, successfully, as a Liberal candidate in 1906. Robert Turnbull became General Manager of the Premier Line in 1914, in succession to Frank Ree. So the three-person committee represented Government, the employers, and the employees.

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14 minutes ago, sulzer27jd said:

I don't know if the Royal Commission was established as such

There was a Royal Commission prior to the 1900 Bill being presented to Parliament. I doubt there would have been a second one. There is a record of it here: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/office-holders/vol10/pp27-42#h3-0031, listing its members as Lord James of Hereford; Viscount Hampden; Hon. A.E. Fellowes; Sir G.E. Paget; Sir J.W. Wolfe-Barry; Sir G.L. Molesworth; Sir A. Hickman; Sir C. Scotter; C.S. Hutchinson; H.H.S. Cunynghame; W.M. Acworth; A.C. Elliott; J.E. Ellis; C. Fenwick; W. Hudson, some of whom several people here will recognise. The report itself is available to people with academic library access, via the National Library of Australia here: https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/189981527

 

In my earlier posts I have been using "either side" rather loosely, to refer to brakes that could be applied from either side, without regard to which side they needed ot be released from.

 

Do you have a link to the committee reports you mention?

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1 hour ago, Jeremy C said:

I did look for it. I also looked for the April 1901 rules - although on re-checking the mention in Hansard, I see that these were only draft rules, and it is conceivable they did not include any provision for brakes on both sides of wagons, although being able to apply brakes from either side was still being asked about in Parliament (https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1901/jun/17/prevention-of-railway-accidents-rules),

 

My guess is that once either-side brakes were investigated in more detail, some problem was found which resulted in the 1911 rules. The wording of the 1900 Act covers any rule concerning "Brake levers on both sides of waggons", and although I think that at the time the Act was passed the only thought was about making either-side brakes compulsory, by 1911 the situation had changed.

 

Incidentally, in my mind, the primary risk being considered was fly-shunting. [Edit: I mean, in making either-side brakes compulsory, not the bit about only being able to release them from the side they were applied]

 

As I pointed out above, the first rules made under the 1900 Act did not address the brakes on either side issue.

 

The first rules were made in 1902:

 

image.png.f01238c896ae2b819cca7cd88a8f96a0.png

image.png.a1c8f1f340ed8247baea6460bdf07da0.png

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21 hours ago, WillCav said:

How about pinning down brakes - could the position of safety be on the opposite side at the top and bottom of the hill?

Very unusual if it was.  Where it was necessary to pin down (and release) brakes on a regular basis suitable paths tended to be provided and they were normally done from the cess side on running lines.  But that in any case takes you back to a situation where you're trying to release from the opposite side a brake lever which is physically pinned down on the other side of a wagon.

 

21 hours ago, GWR_Modeller said:

Might it not be the case that in forming a train the wagons might be assembled over time and shunters working on different side would have applied brakes differently?  Or were yards so flat that the major purpose of hand brakes use was prior to descending inclines on running lines?

Very unlikely   In any location being shunted the shunting staff would normally  do everything from the same side which generally was the one offering safest walking, best lines of sight, and minimum need to crossover other lines or sidings (the latter of course was impossible in most larger yards).

 

The only occasion I can think of where be rakes would be handled from the opposite side is where a wagon is placed alongside a platform for loading/unloading and perhaps occasionally alongside a wall or building where sub-standard clearances existed.   I've never come across a situation where Shunters on different shifts in a yard work from different sides and one reason for that is because all the handpoint levers should be on the same side as will be any lighting and paths.   And I would think all of that goes back to the implementation of the contents of the latest item posted by '2251'.   But the reason for being able to apply brakes from either side is because the working side for Shunters varied from place to place - for example if you are shunting next to a running line you should be working on the side furthest from that line and obviously sidings could be on either side of running lines so the side on which the brakes would be applied varied from place to place.

 

And equally the side on which brakes could be applied also varied from goods depot/shed to other goods depots/sheds or in different customers' sidings where it would be ofhysically impossible to reach and apply a brake lever on one side of the wagon.  But if it could only be applied on one side it could equally only be released on that side.

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21 hours ago, 2251 said:

The first rules were made in 1902:

 

Rule 1 is interesting in the light of all this discussion of working the brakes from the cess or nearside etc.: wagons must be labelled on both sides. So at least at the point of loading and unloading, someone has to work on the "wrong" side of the wagon, to save a colleague from having to go wrong side at any other stage in the wagon's journey. 

 

Goods yard sidings were usually laid in pairs with a cartage road either side. The 6-foot was wider than for running lines - typically 12ft centre-to-centre rather than 11'2" (though I confess that's off the top of my head and I can't say where I picked it up from). But the point is, a bit of extra space was allowed for a man to work between two lines of wagons, hopefully both stationary!

 

Marshalling yards often had fans of equispaced sidings, also, I think, at more than the minimum 6-foot.

 

I'm thinking here primarily of goods stations and yards laid out in the 19th century, rather than ones built to more safety-conscious specifications, but of course many such were unaltered to their very end.

Edited by Compound2632
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Remember also there was use of single sided wagons, that is, vehicles with doors or drop sides on only one side. In the period we are discussing there would be a need for shunters to cross under/through/between wagons in order just to do their job. If the priority was safety, which according to the Committee that looked at this was a key factor, then the reduction of that necessity would have a significant impact. 

 

It would seem that the Committee took their priority to be reducing accidents rather than deciding wagon specifications.  They happens to consider though, that by fitting brakes to both sides the number of crossing movements by staff would be reduced reduced. It would be interesting to see if there was a reduction in injuries and deaths over time.

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2 minutes ago, sulzer27jd said:

Remember also there was use of single sided wagons, that is, vehicles with doors or drop sides on only one side.

 

The only example I can think of is the LNWR D32 covered goods wagon (which probably had some precursors lost in the mists of the wagon dark ages of the 1850s/60s). Did the Caledonian have a clone of this or only of the D33 doors-both-sides covered goods wagon? The LNWR was unusual in that, as a consequence of being first in the field, very many of its goods stations had wagon turntables - this also led to extensive use of capstan shunting. So I don't think there would have been any more need to go wrong side with such vehicles than with any other type.

 

I'd be very interested to learn of any other examples of single-sided-access wagons. The only ones I can think of are gunpowder vans.

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I do not think there is any disagreement about the advantage in being able to apply a vehicles hand brake from both sides.  But the explicit ruling against being able to release it from either side would in principle require there to be some disadvantage, or perceived disadvantage, in having that ability.

 

Being able to organise a workplace and tasks in such a way that there is no benefit in having a brake releaseable from both sides would remove the benefit of such a brake but is it not a significant step further to actually prohibit it?

 

It is interesting the exception made for DC brakes, the introduction of which seems to preceed the rules.  Might the disadvantage be that mechanical reliability of either side brakes was a concern and, in absence of a positive advantage as explained by The Stationmaster, that was the deciding factor in the prohibition?  

Edited by GWR_Modeller
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3 hours ago, GWR_Modeller said:

I do not think there is any disagreement about the advantage in being able to apply a vehicles hand brake from both sides.  But the explicit ruling against being able to release it from either side would in principle require there to be some disadvantage, or perceived disadvantage, in having that ability.

 

Being able to organise a workplace and tasks in such a way that there is no benefit in having a brake releaseable from both sides would remove the benefit of such a brake but is it not a significant step further to actually prohibit it?

 

It is interesting the exception made for DC brakes, the introduction of which seems to preceed the rules.  Might the disadvantage be that mechanical reliability of either side brakes was a concern and, in absence of a positive advantage as explained by The Stationmaster, that was the deciding factor in the prohibition?  

There was no explicit ruling against it, only that any such system had to meet with BoT approval.

 

None of the pre-existing systems were deemed to be sufficiently satisfactory to recommend them for general adoption. 

 

The deciding factor was not advantage or disadvantage of any braking system but was determined by the way in which railways could best reduce the number of accidents, this was in the opinion of the Committee, fitting brakes to both sides of wagons at cross corners.

 

John

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3 minutes ago, sulzer27jd said:

The deciding factor was not advantage or disadvantage of any braking system but was determined by the way in which railways could best reduce the number of accidents, this was in the opinion of the Committee, fitting brakes to both sides of wagons at cross corners.

 

The committee members were not in a position to make a technical assessment of the merits of individual braking systems, nor would it have been deemed proper for them to make a recommendation in favour of one - this would have been seen as stifling competition. As with continuous brakes: the brake must meet the functionality criteria, whether it's Westinghouse or vacuum (or something else) is a commercial decision.

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