In a Locomotive Erecting Shop
In addition to their many roundhouses for making light repairs
to locomotives in service, the railroads own and operate hundreds
of large shop plants for overhauling, rebuilding and reconditioning
locomotivescommonly called "heavy repairs" or
"back shop" work. The roundhouse may be likened to a
first-aid station; and the repair shop plant (commonly called
"railroad shops") may be likened to a completely equipped
hospital for performing major operations.
Many large railroad shops are equipped to build as well as
to overhaul and repair locomotives. However, most locomotivessteam,
electric and Diesel-electricare built for the railroads
by manufacturing companies. Each order placed by the railroads
for new locomotives is accompanied by detailed specifications
and blueprints showing complete information concerning them. The
manufacturing company builds the locomotives according to the
This also applies to passenger and freight cars. Some railroads
are equipped to build their own cars, but many of them buy new
passenger and freight cars from the car building companies.
Some railroad shops are for overhauling and repairing locomotives
only; others rebuild or repair railroad cars only; while many
railroad shops are equipped to rebuild and repair both locomotives
A railroad shop plant usually covers many acres and is made
up of many buildings and facilities. A typical fully-equipped
shop plant may include a locomotive erecting shop; a machine shop;
a blacksmith shop; a power house; a boiler shop; a tank shop;
a tool room; a tin, copper and pipe shop; an oil house; an electric
shop; a foundry; a planing mill; a paint shop; a storeroom and
Railroad shops which are equipped for building or reconditioning
freight and passenger cars as well as locomotives, may also include
a wood mill, a wheel shop, and an upholstery shop. Several miles
of railway tracks connect and extend through some of these buildings
and through storage yards and grounds.
Among the most impressive features of the locomotive erecting
shop are the huge overhead electric cranes which move back and
forth, above the main floor of the shop, performing prodigious
feats of strength. These cranes are capable of picking up and
carrying the heaviest locomotives from one end of the shop to
the other. The dark object extending across the shop room in the
upper left side of the picture is an electric crane.
The work to be done on each locomotive is covered by a shop
order. A definite time schedule is worked out, and a requisition
is sent to the Purchasing and Stores Department for any materials
or parts which will be required to complete the job.
The job of overhauling and repairing the engine may require
several weeks. The shop order may call for extensive replacements
of worn-out parts such as flues, wheels or tires, and the repair
or replacement of valves, brakes, springs, bolts, pipes, and so
on. When the job is finished, the locomotive will be painted and
put in condition for operation.
Some locomotive shops employ hundreds of workmen, some employ
thousands. Railway shop forces include foremen, inspectors, boilermakers
and boilermakers' helpers, machinists and machinists' helpers,
blacksmiths and blacksmiths' helpers, lathe operators, electric
drill operators, riveters, carpenters, painters, engine cleaners,
sandpipemen, crane operators, motor-truck and tractor operators,
laborers, watchmen, and many other workers, skilled and unskilled.
Approximately one out of every four persons employed by the
American railroads is engaged in keeping locomotives and cars
in good condition.
The picture shows the interior of a locomotive erecting shop.
In the foreground workmen are engaged in reconditioning a big
locomotive. The engine has been dismantled and given a complete
overhauling; many old parts have been replaced with new ones,
and the men are now seen putting the finishing touches to the
engine before returning it to road service. (This is the same
type of locomotive as is shown in the Roundhouse and the Turntable
photo.) The men on the floor in the foreground are working on
the locomotive cylinder. The man on the front-end platform is
opening or closing the smokebox door. Other workmen are repainting
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