From The Archives - Aboard the SRS 145 part 1
- I have not had the time and even less the inclination to pen anything "From
The Archives" in quite some time. However I was going through some stuff and
stumbled upon a notebook full of Sperry Rail Service stuff. About eight
years ago, I had written a few of my Sperry Car rememberences on the NERAIL
list. Since I saved them all it will be easy to repeat them and I thought it
might be worthwhile to repeat them for the list.
Let me start at the end. In the archives is a Detector Car Operatng
Conditions Report dated Friday August 10, 1979 Car 145 Con Rail Harrisburg
Division. Tie up tonight Enola, Pa
Defects this test TD 3, Other 6, Joint 3
J.A.Klapkowski off car today after tie up.
For those who don't know, Riverlinejoe is J.A.Klapkowski
Lets go to the technical end before I start telling stories. Let me also say
this, I am talking about the SRS 145. That is the car I was onboard. It has
been 17 years since the summer I spent in the employ of Sperry Rail Service
and I do not profess to know how it works today nor how it worked on other
The sperry car is a 75 ton self propelled Ultrasonic and Induction test
vehicle. The propulsion end of the car has a Cat engine with a smaller
supplementry engine used to provide hotel power when the auxilary and
traction power are shut down. the auxilary power generator is located in the
carbody behind the baggage door toward the detector end of the car. Behind
the generator/tool room is the glass enclosed testing room where the real
business of the Sperry Car occurs.
The Sperry car (145) was manned by four people; One or two Assistant
Operators, one or two Operators and a Chief Operator. In addition there were
Supervisors that rotated around the various cars. Some cars, I have been
told, were seven day cars and they also had a Steward/Cook.
The Sperry Car proceeds down the track and while testing the Operator or
Assistant Operator maintains a speed of 10-13 mph. On the rear truck is a
system of metal "brushes" and rubber tires. The rubber tires are translucent
or yellow. inside is special water that surrounds the transponders that send
out an ultrasonic signal. As that signal bounces through the rail and is
reflected back, any irregularity inside the rail is picked up as a
deflection of the signal and recorded inside the detector room as a
deflection on the Main pen and the DY pen.
I digress here. The deterctor room runs the width of the car and the
operator faces looking out the picture window in the back of the car. He
sits on a metal stool with the detector table in front of him. On the
detector table is a continuos scroll of paper maybe 5 inches wide. there are
four pens on each side of the paper (one for each rail). As the car proceeds
down the track the paper moves along the table like a reel to reel. it sort
of looks like a lie detector tape. The pens are writing with ink on a
continuos scroll of paper and when an irregularity is detected the pens move
in a sqwiggle (Technical Term coined by me in 1998). if the sqwiggle occurs
on the main pen and there is a corresponding sqwiggle on the DY tape (which
only has three pens), then there better be a joint out on the track or else
you have a defect. A really good operator can tell what to look for by the
movement of the pen.
There were two Mack railbuses that were used in the NYCTA system #402 and
#403. 402 had a fire and was retired. I believe there were upwards of 40
Sperry Cars at one time or another. Sperry has since moved toward trucks and
Sperry crews are now bedding down in hotel rooms instead of trackside.
Ta0kes some of the fun out of it I think.
That is all for this installment. Next edition will feature actual stories
from the Sperry Car.