SAL combine operations : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

I've noticed many photos of SAL Mail & Express trains in the '60's, like No. 3 for example, which show their combines operating backwards (passenger section ahead of baggage room) with Mail and Express cars coupled behind them. And if a full coach is included in the consist, it is shown ahead of the combine, directly behind the motive power. Was this pratice deliberate for a particular reason, or was it simply that these type trains were not normally turned at their destintions. Thanks.

-- Bob Venditti (, October 26, 2004


I have never seen a revenue SAL passenger train in a consist as Bob describes.I agree with Larry.

-- Uncle Joe (, October 27, 2004.

If I follow Bob's question, I think I have seen similar photos, and the ones I have in mind probably show passenger equipment being deadheaded somewhere, especially if they were full passenger cars. On the SAL, they might be cars needing repair on their way to the Portsmouth shops, or Pullmans returning from a one-way special move. SAL's many "passenger mail & express" trains often moved these deadhead cars, similar to a local or "clean-up" freight train.

The normal position of equipment in passenger trains was head-end cars first, then a combine (with passenger compt to the rear), then full passenger equipment. This was followed even on those lengthy PM&E trains SAL was so fond of and that sometimes amounted to a mail train with a rider coach. However, SAL and other railroads did sometimes run head-end cars on the rear of locals and secondary trains, usually cars that were to be set off en route. The ACL would sometimes put a combine on the rear this way and use it just for express.

-- Larry Goolsby (, October 27, 2004.

Bob: The reason the passenger carrying cars were placed at the head of the train was multifold. First, it simplified the spotting of the train at stations. Knowing that the passenger carry car was directly behind the engine permitted the engineer to properly spot the train at the station. This was important since varying consists of the mail and express trains meant that if a passenger carrying car were to be placed anywhere but directly in back of the engine, the engineer would have a difficult time properly spotting the train at each stop, especially, if cars were added or deleted from the consist.

The placement of the baggage section to the rear of the train provided control of passenger movement. This ensured that passengers would not wander towards the express/mail portion of the train andpotentially get injured or whatever.

-- Michael W. Savchak (, October 27, 2004.

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