Track And Flange Greasers

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This is a track/flange greaser…. Ugly isn’t it?… It’s purpose is to lubricate the wheel flanges on rail equipment as to help ease the wear on tight curves such as the one a few hundred feet upgrade. This greaser is located @ about M.P. 671.5 on the now Norfolk Southern Sunbury Line (Canadian Pacific Sunbury Subdivision at the time of this photo).

In a perfect world trains would show up when you wanted them to. In a perfect world the sun would always cooperate. And in a perfect world, flange greasers would operate the way that they were intended to operate. To be sure, if you ever come across one of these flange greasers, STAY AS FAR AWAY FROM IT AS POSSIBLE. Your shoes will be ruined FOREVER.

Now that I’ve made that little note clear, on with the post.

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This Maine Central boxcar is rolling over the “trigger” that activates the flange greaser. Note how black and oily the rail sides are the closer you get to the greaser.

The purpose of flange oilers or greasers is to ease the passage of the train wheels around particularly tight curves (compound curves, compensated curves, reversing curves). They help to reduce wear to wheels and rails, and can also cut down on squeal. In theory….

If they’re operating correctly then they shouldn’t cause any operational problems such as adhesion loss. But problems do come up if they’re faulty and applying more grease than they should. Then they can be a nightmare and it can be very difficult to stop a train if the greaser is near a signal or a station.

When they get out of adjustment and pump too much grease out, the ball of the rail gets coated too and becomes slicker than seal snot in an ice flow. It can get (and has gotten) so bad that a big heavy slow moving train (like Train 14R below) on a grade can stall out trying to get over the line, especially if it’s raining and the rail is wet too.

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It’s October 18, 2015, Sunday evening and contrary to this train’s appearance, it’s actually moving in reverse, shoving it’s 62-car train downgrade back to Taylor Yard where it will tie down (on the Main line) for 36 hours. It’s a casualty of a greaser gone wild. A little snow about an hour earlier wet the rails enough that the 14R stalled about a mile upgrade near Keyser Avenue (Scranton, Pa.) due to slippery rail tops.

Flange Greasers

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Author:Railfan AC

AC is a U.S. Air Force Veteran, a long haul trucker, a transportation enthusiast and a lifelong lover of trains. AC's mission is to travel America documenting American railroading in the 21st century while educating those who want to know about the importance the railroads play in our daily lives including, but not limited to, the movement of goods, services and more.

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