Purpose of "rider cars"

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I've noticed many mentions of mail and express trains in the 1960's (mostly Seaboard) having included a "rider car", but I've never gotten a clear definition of its purpose. Photos mostly have shown this type car as being a HW combine or coach placed near the front or rear of the consists. Were rider cars generally used to carry paying passengers on such trains, or were they solely to accomadate train crews? Thanks.

-- Bob Venditti (bobvend@bellsouth.net), February 27, 2003


I grew up riding the Sunland (late 50's & early 60"s) from Tampa to Savannah at least six times a year to visit relatives. As pass riders this was the only train we were allowed to ride. There was a heavy weight combine and HW coach behind all the mail and express on every trip I can remember. We did have some paying passengers but the majority where pass riders and deadheading employees. I can remember one trip where we had an entire crew going to Wildwood to pickup a job from Wildwood to Baldwin. I think the main reason for paying passengers on the Sunland was it's afternoon departure since the Meteor left Tampa at 11:30 am.

-- Carey Stevens (ca.stevens@att.net), March 03, 2003.

Check an ETT from the middle '60s for the Richmond Division and you will see that #175 was allowed 70 MPH running with an unrestricted consist (no solid bearings & no open top loads). The Master Mechanic in Rocky Mount always wanted an M-5 Cab on this train because it had ride control trucks. Ride Control being a wedge & spring assembly in the truck side to keep constant tension on the vertical motion of the truck bolster. There was always concern for excessive vertical motion at switch frogs & rail crossings at grade; these shocks were deemed suitable to cause a hot box if the journal packing could work itself up under the journal babitt. Because of these same shocks a reader of Form 531-D will note the instructions to Enginemen to reduce the throttle to Run 5 when passing over rail crossings at grade. This was an effort to prevent the hard shock encountered at the crossing from raising a brush on a traction motor commutator under heavy current and causing a 'flashover' with resultant damage to the motor or brush holder. I mention this only to underscore the concern the RR industry has with controling vertical motion which of course is amplified with train speeds.

-- JR Morton (morton@nb.net), March 03, 2003.

Interesting, J.R. No doubt the ACL M&E trains that used cabooses were held to freight trains speeds for the reasons you cited. I don't know how often ACL used cabooses vs. passenger equipment for rider cars, but I do have one consist and one photo showing a caboose.

-- Larry Goolsby (clgoolsby@worldnet.att.net), March 01, 2003.

A Rider Car was operated at the rear of a Mail & Express train for the benefit of the train crew. Passenger equipment was perfered or mandated for this purpose because these trains operated at Psgr Train Speeds and a regular caboose would not be suitable for this service account its running gear (springs & journal boxes). Because all cars of a mail train may not have Steam Head Connectors, Rider Cars assigned to this service usually had a stove/furnace in one end for crew comfort in inclement weather. Although not the subject of this forum; the PRR did have several N-8 Cabs with equalized trucks & communicating signal equipment for use on it's Mail & Express trains. Conversation with PRR crews at Ivy City indicated these cabs were in pool service between that location & Boston.

-- JR Morton (morton@nb.net), March 01, 2003.

My understanding is that they were normally for crews only, although no doubt they were also used sometimes for deadheading railroad employees. Some trains that looked like pure mail and express trains, with just one passenger-carrying car, were still available to paying passengers if they were listed in the public timetable. Obviously ridership would have been very light if this was the only such equipment these trains had. Pure mail and express trains were not in the public timetable. On the ACL, its pure M&E trains sometimes used a caboose as the "rider car."

-- Larry Goolsby (clgoolsby@worldnet.att.net), February 27, 2003.

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