SR Box Car Records Shocking Experience



Although No.17062 doesn't look particularly special among the other 38,728 Southern Railway box cars, it's a celebrity. It recently took an unprecedented 5,000-mile journey conducted by the research and test department of the Association of American Railroads.

During its trip, the 60-foot, 70-ton car-heavily equipped with measuring instruments-provided data on the effects of shock and vibration. Results are still being analyzed. But at this point it's clear, says Howard Dwyer, director of AAR's Technical Center in Chicago that the information will be of considerable value in defining the over-the-road shock and vibration environment.

AAR's research car housed all the equipment to record the effects of shock and vibration on Southern's box car, and also provided living facilities for test personnel.


Information developed from the tests will be used to design realistic shock and vibration tests for laboratory evaluation of various ladings. It will also aid in design and fatigue evaluation of freight car trucks and in planning future tests.

No.17062 was filled three-fourths full with concrete blocks, rigidly braced for the long trip and wired with measuring gear and strain gauges. Then it was coupled to AAR's research car No.100 for the long journey. No.100 housed electronic equipment to record the data and provided living facilities for test personnel.

Before 17062's contribution, most shock and vibration tests were conducted only on special test trains over prescribed track sections on a limited mileage basis.

But for this evaluation, AAR researchers wanted the car in actual revenue trains on several different railroads. They wanted data to reflect a wide range in speed, track characteristics and oprating terrain.

Southern's No.17062 and AAR's research car 100 were prepared for their 5,000 mile journey at the AAR Technical Center in Chicago.


"It was quite a valuable test," said Mr. Dwyer. "The smoothness, coopration of various railroads and sheer length of it made it a first of its kind."

Cars 17062 and l00 started their journey in Chicago, and on the Santa Fe rolled all the way to Los Angeles. They traveled north to Oakland on the Southern Pacific, then over to Salt Lake City on the Western Pacific. From Salt Lake City, they took the Union Pacific to Omaha, then the Rock Island home to Chicago.

Two separate projects benefitted from the trip. AAR's freight loss and damage program wanted to collect data on lateral, vertical and longitudinal accelerations that shipments undergo. In a cooperative railroad truck safety program, . AAR and the Railway Progress Institute were interested in finding out what lateral, vertical and horizontal forces are exerted on freight car truck side frames and bolsters.

Southern's nine-year-old 17062, damage free and with cushion underframe, was selected as a typical "average" box car. Before the trip, both trucks were removed and carefully examined. All new brake shoes, pistons and push rod assemblies were installed.

Instruments attached all over the car measured a multitude of movements. Ten accelerometers gauged vertical, lateral, longitudinal, high range and low range acceleration and shock absorption. Calibrated sensors were applied to carefully selected locations on the side frames and bolsters. A dynamometer coupler recorded force. Television cameras and lights mounted under the car permitted round-the-clock visual monitoring.

All data was recorded on magnetic tape whenever testing was in progress. The valuable results are contained in 158,400 feet of tape. Half of the information, 22 reels of tape, was collected for the shock and vibration study, the rest for the truck safety program.

Southern also participated in another over-the-road AAR Railway Progress Institute test in December. The No.2 test car, linked to a freight car from the American Steel Foundries, made an 850mile journey over Southern, Louisville & Nashville and Illinois Central Gulf tracks to provide additional information on forces exerted on freight car trucks.

And the illustrious 17062 is back to its old duties (minus the wires and gauges) speeding the freight on its way. But it's one of a kind. It helped point the way to loss and damage reduction and truck safety improvement.