Dynamic braking

_______________________________________________________________________ _ A common option on Diesel-electric locomotives is dynamic (rheostat) braking. Dynamic braking takes advantage of the fact that the traction motor armatures are always rotating when the locomotive is in motion and that a motor can be made to act as a generator by separately exciting the field winding. When dynamic braking is utilized, the traction control circuits are configured as follows: • • • The field winding of each traction motor is connected across the main generator. The armature of each traction motor is connected across a forced-air cooled resistance grid (the dynamic braking grid) in the roof of the locomotive's hood. The prime mover RPM is increased and the main generator field is excited, causing a corresponding excitation of the traction motor fields.

Fig 34 air brake system

The aggregate effect of the above is to cause each traction motor to generate electric power and dissipate it as heat in the dynamic braking grid. Forced air-cooling is provided by a fan that is connected across the grid. Consequently, the fan is powered by

Ultimately. depending on the gear ratio between the traction motors and axles. . Constant availability of maximum diesel generator power. Disadvantages: • More weight." an abrupt bunching of train slack that can cause a derailment. In such cases. where there is always the danger of a runaway due to overheated friction brakes during descent (see also comments in the air brake article regarding loss of braking due to improper train handling). No backlash and breaking of couplings during shifting. As speed decreases. helping to prevent a "run-in. the traction motors impose drag and the locomotive acts as a brake. Advantages: • Regenerative braking. the combined effect being referred to as blended braking. Blended braking is also commonly used with commuter trains to reduce wear and tear on the mechanical brakes that is a natural result of the numerous stops such trains typically make during a run. Less maintenance with modern ac generators and motors without commutators. Therefore. Needs high tech electronics with use of ac generators and motors. • • • • • No gear shifting. The use of blended braking can also assist in keeping the slack in a long train stretched as it crests a grade. dynamic brakes are usually applied in conjunction with the air brakes.the output of the traction motors and will tend to run faster and produce more airflow as more energy is applied to the grid. • • Less efficient in fuel use. Dynamic braking is particularly beneficial when operating in mountainous regions. Easy addition of multiple power units. the source of the energy dissipated in the dynamic braking grid is the motion of the locomotive as imparted to the traction motor armatures. the braking effect decays and usually becomes ineffective below approximately 16 km/h (10 mph).

While the principle is familiar from road vehicle usage.35 brake Brakes are used on the vehicles of railway trains to slow them. 10. Some railways fitted a special deep-noted brake whistle to locomotives to indicate to the porters the necessity to apply the brakes. traveling for the purpose on those vehicles operated the brakes.2 Early days: In the earliest days of railways. and to be effective on vehicles left without a prime mover. operational features are more complex because of the need to control trains. The braking effort achievable was limited. braking technology was primitive. but “assistant guards” who travelled inside passenger vehicles. and who had access to a brake wheel at their posts supplanted them. In the earliest times. where boiler pressure could be applied to brake blocks on the locomotive wheels. and is operated by the levers (grey) on the left Fig.10.e. The first trains had brakes operative on the locomotive tender and on vehicles in the train. in the United States brakemen.1 BRAKE: A traditional clasp brake: the brake shoe (brown) bears on the surface (tyre) of the wheel (red). or to keep them standing when parked. the porters travelled in crude shelters outside the vehicles. where “porters” or. i. and an early development was the application of a steam brake to locomotives. . multiple vehicles running together. and these brakes could be used when vehicles were parked. All the brakes at this stage of development were applied by operation of a screw and linkage to brake blocks applied to wheel treads.

but it had the major weakness that it became inoperative if the train became divided or if the train pipe was ruptured. in which a chain was connected continuously along the train. because of the necessity of achieving a reasonably uniform rate of braking effort throughout a train. his driver's brake valve admitted atmospheric air to the train pipe. If the driver applied the brake. and because of the necessity to add and remove vehicles from the train at frequent points on the journey. However there was no clear technical solution to the problem. it became essential to provide some more powerful braking system capable of instant application and release by the train driver. • The simple vacuum system. this system applies braking effort if the train becomes divided or if the train pipe is ruptured.As train speeds increased. . • The automatic vacuum brake. and this atmospheric pressure applied the brakes against the vacuum in the vacuum reservoirs. described as a continuous brake because it would be effective continuously along the length of the train. Being an automatic brake. (At these dates. Its disadvantage is that the large vacuum reservoirs were required on every vehicle. This system was similar to the simple vacuum system. and the vacuum operated brake cylinders on every vehicle. such as the Heberlein brake. and their bulk and the rather complex mechanisms were seen as objectionable. except that the creation of vacuum in the train pipe exhausted vacuum reservoirs on every vehicle and released the brakes. this system has severe limitations in length of train capable of being handled. unit trains were a rarity). When pulled tight it activated a friction clutch that used the rotation of the wheels to tighten a brake system at that point. The chief types of solution were: • The chain brake. and of achieving good adjustment. This system was very cheap and effective. An ejector on the locomotive created a vacuum in a continuous pipe along the train.

36 Rotair Valve Westinghouse Air brake Company • The Westinghouse air brake system. 10. If the driver applies the brakes. applying the brakes.Fig. this required a large reciprocating steam air compressor. Goods and mineral vehicles were provided with hand brakes. an air compressor is required to generate the compressed air and in the earlier days of railways. Early goods vehicles had brake handles on one side only. because a moderately high air pressure can be used. and relied on the brake force from the locomotive and tender. and this was regarded by many engineers as highly undesirable. but also when these trains needed to descend a steep gradient. These hand brakes were used where necessary when vehicles were parked.3 Later British practice: In British practice. the train then stopped before descending. In this system. which releases the vehicle brakes and charges the air reservoirs on the vehicles. and the brake van – a heavy vehicle provided at the rear of the train and occupied by a guard. and goods and mineral trains ran at slower speed. and triple valves at each vehicle detect the pressure loss and admit air from the air reservoirs to brake cylinders. his brake valve releases air from the train pipe. The Westinghouse system uses smaller air reservoirs and brake cylinders than the corresponding vacuum equipment. and the guard walked forward to pin down the handles of sufficient brakes to give adequate braking effort. and random alignment of the . air reservoirs are provided on every vehicle and the locomotive charges the train pipe with a positive air pressure. only passenger trains were fitted with continuous brakes until about 1930. by which the brakes could be applied by a hand lever operated by staff on the ground. However.

In the early days of diesel locomotives. gradients and speeds increased. These continuous brakes can be simple or automatic. which was often the case. The standard Westinghouse Air Brake has the additional enhancement of a triple valve. These trains. Automatic brakes are thus largely "fail safe". as is shown with the Armagh rail disaster. a purpose-built brake tender was attached to the locomotive to increase braking effort when hauling unfitted trains. the essential difference being what happens should the train break in two. so that the driver could still see the line and signals ahead if the brake tender was propelled (pushed) ahead of the locomotive. Automatic brakes on the other hand use the air or vacuum pressure to hold the brakes off against a reservoir carried on each vehicle.4 Continuous brakes: As train loads. With simple brakes. significantly better continuous brakes started to appear. However from about 1930 semi-fitted trains were introduced. pressure is needed to apply the brakes.vehicles gave the guard sufficient braking. and all braking power is lost if the continuous hose is broken for any reason. The brake tender was low. and local reservoirs on each wagon that enable the brakes to be applied fully with only a . which applies the brakes if pressure/vacuum is lost in the train pipe. but from about 1930 so-called "either-side" brake handles were provided. The earliest type of continuous brake was the chain brake which used a chain. Simple non-automatic brakes are thus useless when things really go wrong. and a proportion of such vehicles marshalled next to the locomotive gave sufficient brake power to run at somewhat higher speeds than unfitted trains. 10. not fitted with continuous brakes were described as "unfitted" trains and they survived in British practice until about 1985. In the late 19th century. though faulty closure of hose taps can lead to accidents such as the Gare de Lyon accident. braking became a problem. running the length of the train. These brakes used hoses connecting all the wagons of a train. in which some goods vehicles were fitted with continuous brakes. The chain brake was soon superseded by air operated or vacuum operated brakes. to operate brakes on all vehicles simultaneously. so the driver could apply or release the brakes with a single valve in the locomotive.

This advantage of air brakes increases at high altitude. This air pressure can also be used to operate loading and unloading doors on wheat wagons . reducing the time that it takes to release the brakes as not all pressure is voided to the atmosphere. in Argentina and in South Africa. However. whereas an air brake system requires a noisy and complicated compressor. air brakes can be made much more effective than vacuum brakes for a given size of brake cylinder. but this will be declining in near future.g. Peru and Switzerland where today vacuum brakes are used by secondary railways.5. an air brake system can use a much smaller brake cylinder than a vacuum system to generate the same braking force. The much higher effectiveness of air brakes and the demise of the steam locomotive have seen the air brake become ubiquitous.1 Air versus vacuum brakes: In the early part of the 20th century.slight reduction in air pressure. 10. Non-automatic brakes still have a role on engines and first few wagons. the maximum pressure differential is atmospheric pressure (14.7 psi or 101 kPa at sea level. An air brake compressor is usually capable of generating a pressure of 90 psi (620 kPa) vs only 15 psi (100 kPa) for vacuum.5 Types Of Brakes 10. as they can be used to control the whole train without having to apply the automatic brakes. Therefore. less at altitude). many British railways employed vacuum brakes rather than the air brakes used in America and much of the rest of the world. e. 10. The main advantage of vacuum was that the vacuum can be created by a steam ejector with no moving parts (and which could be powered by the steam of a steam locomotive). however.2 Air brake enhancements: One enhancement of the automatic air brake is to have a second air hose (the main reservoir or main line) along the train to recharge the air reservoirs on each wagon. With a vacuum system. vacuum braking is still in use in India.5.

the dual system might seem complicated. the main reservoir pipe is also used to supply air to operate doors and air suspension. On passenger coaches. one circuit operates the rear axle and the other circuit operates the front axle. If one circuit has a failure. the other circuit is isolated and will continue to operate. On a two–axle vehicle. with more reservoir capacity resulting in a much safer system. and if the dual system is separated into basic functions. The system has been developed to accommodate a mechanically secured parking brake that can be applied in the event of service brake failure. . It is actually two brake systems in one. it becomes quite simple. but if you understand the basic air brake system described so far. As its name suggests. There are different ways of separating the two parts of the system. the dual system is two systems or circuits in one.and coal and ballast wagons. It also accommodates the need for a modulated braking system should either one of the two systems fail. Air Brake System: Most air brake equipped vehicles on the road today are using a dual air brake system. At first glance.

At this point. Unless air is lost in both circuits. air is drawn from the primary reservoir through the foot valve and is passed on to the rear brake chambers. the vehicle will continue to have braking ability. air is pumped by the compressor (1) to the supply/wet reservoir (5) (blue). air is also drawn from the secondary reservoir.Fig. which are triggered by the low air pressure indicator switch (9) and reservoir air pressure gauges (29) located on the dash of the vehicle. The primary and secondary circuits are equipped with low air pressure warning devices. When a brake application is made. the dual circuits start. Air from the primary/dry reservoir is directed to the foot valve (31). At the same time. One section of this dual foot valve controls the primary circuit and the other controls the secondary circuit. . the other will continue to operate independently. which is protected from over pressurization by a safety valve (4). The foot valve is similar to the one described earlier in the basic air brake system. passes through the foot valve and is passed on to the front brake chambers. Air is also directed from the secondary/dry reservoir to the foot valve. but is divided into two sections (two foot valves in one). Pressurized air moves from the supply/wet reservoir to the primary/dry reservoir (8) (green) and the secondary/dry reservoir (10) (red) through one–way check valves (7).37 Compressor In the illustration. If there is air loss in either circuit.

5 Brake Control: The brake control varies the air pressure in the brake cylinders to apply pressure to the brake shoes. At the same time. whereas the change in air pressure which activates the brakes in a conventional system can take several seconds or tens of seconds to propagate fully to the rear of the train. so that the brakes on all wagons can be applied simultaneously rather than from front to rear. and it is intended that the two types be interchangeable. one by New York Air Brake and the other by Wabtec.3 Electro pneumatic brakes: A higher performing EP brake has a train pipe delivering air to all the reservoirs on the train. This system is not however used on freight trains due to cost. from mild to severe.10. It also allows for faster brake application. This prevents wagons at the rear "shoving" wagons at the front.5. which greatly increases passenger comfort. and are a development of the EP brake with even higher level of control. and allows the driver greater control over the level of braking used. With ECP. it blends in the dynamic braking. information about the operation of the brakes on each wagon can be returned to the driver's control panel. a power and control line is installed from wagon to wagon from the front of the train to the rear. A single standard is desirable. as opposed to changes in air pressure which propagate at a rather slow speed limited in practice by the resistance to air flow of the pipe work. as the electrical control signal is propagated effectively instantly to all vehicles in the train. Electrical control signals are propagated effectively instantaneously. with the brakes controlled electrically with a 3-wire control circuit. In addition. There are two brands of ECP brakes under development.5.4 Electronically controlled pneumatic brakes: Electronically controlled pneumatic brakes (ECP) are a development of the late 20th Century to deal with very long and heavy freight trains. 10. using the motors to slow the train down as well.5. . The system adopted on the Southern Region of British Railways in 1950 is more fully described at Electro-pneumatic brake system on British railway trains 10. This can give seven levels of braking. and results in reduced stopping distance and less equipment wear.

this may mean that a fuel filter is clogged.The engineer also has a host of other controls and indicator lights. It can provide the engineer or mechanics with information that can help diagnose problems. although their direction changes at the balloon loop at the port. The ECP connections are on one side only and are unidirectional . Fig. wagons are operated in sets. On the new Fortescue railway opened in 2008.5. 10. Fig. such as in Tasmania. For instance. 38 The brake and throttle controls A computerized readout displays data from sensors all over the locomotive. 39 This computerized display can show the status of systems all over the locomotive.6 Reversibility: Brake connections between wagons may be simplified if wagons always point the same way. An exception would be made for locomotives which are often turned on turntables or triangles. if the pressure in the fuel lines is getting too high.

8 How the automatic vacuum brake works: Fig40 Vacuum brake cylinder in running position: the vacuum is the same above and below the piston Fig. 41 Air at atmospheric pressure from the train pipe is admitted below the piston.running throughout the length of the train. it is not in large-scale use anywhere in the world. in the United Kingdom from the 1970's. It enjoyed a brief period of adoption in the USA. When air is admitted to the train .10.5. Its limitations caused it to be progressively superseded by compressed air systems. and in those countries influenced by British practice. primarily on narrow gauge railroads. 10. supplanted in the main by air brakes. The vacuum brake system is now obsolescent. In normal running a partial vacuum is maintained in the train pipe. and the brakes are released. which is forced up In its simplest form. It was first introduced in the mid 1860s and a variant.5.the train pipe -. the automatic vacuum brake system became almost universal in British train equipment.7 Vacuum brake: The vacuum brake is a braking system used on trains. the automatic vacuum brake consists of a continuous pipe -.

pipe. so that the brake is not charged. and to admit air to the train A brake cylinder on each vehicle containing a piston. with flexible vacuum hoses at each end of the vehicles. The piston in the brake cylinder has a flexible piston ring that allows air to pass from the upper part of the cylinder to the lower part if necessary. these may be separate controls or a combined brake valve. and the vacuum pipe connection to it is flexible. through the ball valve. destroying the vacuum). the air pressure acts against pistons in cylinders in each vehicle. • • • • An ejector on the locomotive. and coupled between adjacent vehicles. The fittings to achieve this are therefore: • A train pipe: a steel pipe running the length of each vehicle. . When a locomotive is coupled to the vehicles. A vacuum is sustained on the other face of the pistons. the brake pistons will have dropped to their lower position in the absence of a pressure differential (as air will have leaked slowly into the upper part of the cylinder. When the vehicles have been at rest. A mechanical linkage transmits this force to brake shoes which act by friction on the treads of the wheels. at the end of the train. controls for the driver to bring the ejector into action. The cylinder rocks slightly in operation to maintain alignment with the brake rigging cranks. so it is supported in trunnion bearings. to create vacuum in the train pipe. connected by rigging to the A vacuum (pressure) gauge on the locomotive to indicate to the driver the degree pipe. the final hose is seated on an air-tight plug. the driver moves his brake control to the "release" position and air is exhausted from the train pipe. and of vacuum in the train pipe. so that a net force is applied. Air in the upper part of the brake cylinders is also exhausted from the train pipe. creating a partial vacuum. The brake cylinder is contained in a larger housing . brake shoes on the vehicle.this gives a reserve of vacuum as the piston operates.

the Great Western Railway adopted 25 inches of mercury (635 Torr) as its standard degree of vacuum. a small ejector for running purposes (to exhaust air that had leaked into the train pipe) and a large ejector to release brake applications. Graduable brake valve (right) and the small (upper) and large ejector cocks from a GWR locomotive The driver's brake valve was usually combined with the steam brake control on the locomotive. which used 25 inches. when operated. The ball valve closes and there is a higher air pressure under the brake pistons than above it. In practice steam locomotives had two ejectors. This is necessary to release the brake on a vehicle that has been uncoupled from a train and now requires to be moved without having a brake connection to another locomotive. applying the brakes. This could cause problems on long distance crosscountry services when a GWR locomotive was replaced with another company's engine. depending on atmospheric conditions. some or all of the vacuum will be destroyed in the process.4 Torr). air is admitted to the upper part of the brake cylinder on that vehicle. with the exception of the Great Western Railway. The ejectors on steam locomotives are set to create a certain degree of vacuum in the train pipe. and the pressure differential forces the piston upwards. usually by manually pulling a cord near the cylinder. . for example if it is to be steam ejector shunted. in British practice a full release is 21 inches of mercury (533. An absolute vacuum is about 30 inches of mercury (760 Torr). Later Great Western Railway practice was to use a vacuum pump instead of the small ejector. air is admitted to the train pipe. The driver can control the severity of the braking effort by admitting more or less air to the train pipe. According to the driver's manipulation of the control. Practical considerations: The automatic vacuum brake as described represented a very considerable technical advance in train braking. Release valves are provided on the brake cylinders. In the United Kingdom the pre-nationalization railway companies standardized around systems operating on 21 inches of vacuum.If the driver now moves his control to the "brake" position.

chief among these were: • The practical limit on the degree of vacuum attainable means that a very large brake piston and cylinder are required to generate the force necessary on the brake blocks. When a locomotive is first coupled to a train. while the air is traveling along the train pipe. and the passenger communication apparatus (usually called "the communication cord" in lay terminology) also admitted air into the train pipe at the end of coaches so equipped. the brake pistons at the head of the train have responded to the brake application or release. or if a vehicle is detached or added. Every guard's compartment had a brake valve. In this case the release valves on each vehicle in the train would have to be released by hand. • For the same reason. a considerable volume of air has to be admitted to the train pipe to make a full brake application. and a considerable volume has to be exhausted to release the brake (if for example a signal at danger is suddenly lowered and the driver requires to resume speed). on a very long train. the physical dimensions of the brake cylinder prevented the wagons from operating in some private sidings that had tight clearances. when a proportion of the British ordinary wagon fleet was fitted with vacuum brakes in the 1950's. to ensure that the brake pipes are connected throughout the entire length of the train. Limitations: The progress represented by the automatic vacuum brake nonetheless carried some limitations. This time consuming process was not infrequently seen at large GWR stations such as Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads. leading to . The provision of a train pipe running throughout the train enabled the automatic vacuum brake to be operated in emergency from any position in the train. a brake continuity test is carried out. This is called pulling the tail. but those at the tail will respond much the new engine's large ejector would sometimes not be able to fully release the brakes on the train.

the leading pattern being a proprietary Westinghouse system. On steam engines this was usually a reciprocating steam pump. Its distinctive shape and the characteristic puffing sound when the brake is released (as the train pipe has to be recharged with air) make steam locomotives fitted with the Westinghouse brake unmistakable. but of course with no braking effort of its own. allowing through control of the fitted vehicles behind it. fitted to every brake cylinder. the Great Eastern Railway. This has a number of advantages. It was possible to provide through pipes for the braking system not fitted to any particular vehicle so that it could run in a train using the "other" system. In extreme cases this has led to breaking couplings and causing the train to divide. The blockage should have been detected if a proper brake continuity test had been carried out before the train started its journey. vacuum and air. the North Eastern Railway. and admitted atmospheric air directly to the underside of the brake cylinder. American and continental European practice had long favoured compressed air brake systems. A development introduced in the 1950's was the direct admission valve. effectively isolating the rear part of the train from the driver's control. Inevitably this led to compatibility problems in exchanging traffic with other lines. It was also standard on the Isle of Wight rail system. for example in old films. 10. These valves responded to a rise in train pipe pressure as the brake was applied.undesirable longitudinal forces in the train. In the UK. A rolled newspaper was discovered in the train pipe. provided that there is room to fit the duplicated equipment. However the system requires an air pump. including smaller brake cylinders (because a higher air pressure could be used) and a somewhat more responsive braking effort. due to inadequate braking effort in the train. and it was quite bulky. Train crew need to take note that the wrong-fitted wagons do not . It is much easier to fit one kind of brake with a pipe for continuity of the other. the London Brighton and South Coast Railway and the Caledonian Railway adopted the Westinghouse system.6 Dual brakes: Vehicles can be fitted with dual brakes. • The existence of vacuum in the train pipe can cause debris to be sucked in. An accident took place near Ilford in the 1950's.

With vacuum brakes. the end of the hose can be plugged into a stopper which seals the hose by suction. Braking is provided by a mechanism that is similar to a car drum brake.contribute to the braking effort and make allowances on down grades to suit.42 Dual Brake System When spring brakes are added to a dual air brake system. With this piping arrangement the vehicle can have a failure in either circuit without the spring brakes applying automatically. An air-powered piston pushes a pad against the outer surface of the train wheel.6. leading to a dangerous runaway. the spring brakes will apply. Blended air is used to supply the spring parking brake control valve (27). If these taps are incorrectly closed. It is much harder to block the hose pipe compared to air brakes. Air brakes need a tap to seal the hose at the ends of the train. Blended air is air taken from the primary and secondary circuits through a two–way check valve (26).1 Twin pipe: Vacuum brakes can be operated in a twin pipe mode to speed up applications and release. Fig. Many of the earlier classes of diesel locomotive used on British Railways were fitted with dual systems to enable full usage of BR's rolling stock inherited from the private companies which had different systems depending on which company the stock originated from. . 10. If air is lost in both circuits. the same type of dash control valve discussed previously is used. a loss of brake force may occur.

If the train has been shut down for a while. each of the four traction motors acts like a generator. there will be no air pressure to keep the brakes engaged. Other operators of vacuum brakes are narrow gauge railways in Central Europe. Without a hand brake and the failsafe of an air pressure reservoir.43 The brakes are similar to drum brakes on a car. On the rear truck there is also a hand brake -. the wheels turn the motors). In this mode. Since the brakes are air powered. The current generated (up to 760 amps) is routed into a giant resistive mesh that turns that current into heat. even trains need hand brakes. largest of them is Ferrovia Retica.Fig. Other African railways are believed to continue to use the vacuum brake. however there are also trains with air brakes and dual brakes in use. In conjunction with the mechanical brakes. . The chain pulls the piston out to apply the brakes. The hand brake is a crank that pulls a chain. even a slight slope would be enough to get the train rolling because of its immense weight and the very low rolling friction between the wheels and the track.yes. using the wheels of the train to apply torque to the motors and generate electrical current.effectively the world's most powerful hair dryer. The torque that the wheels apply to turn the motors slows the train down (instead of the motors turning the wheels.7 Vacuum brakes in 2007: Today's largest operators of trains equipped with vacuum brakes are the Railways of India and Spoornet (South Africa). they can only function while the compressor is running. the locomotive has dynamic braking. It takes many turns of the crank to tighten the chain. A cooling fan sucks air through the mesh and blows it out the top of the locomotive -. 10.

. They are also to be found on a number (though increasingly fewer) main line vintage specials.Vacuum brakes have been entirely superseded on the National Rail system in the UK. the automatic vacuum brake consists of a continuous pipe -.running throughout the length of the train. although they are still in use on most heritage railways.the train pipe -. C & E has developed the automatic vacuum brake and designed it in its simplest form.

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