18.1 During the winter months, ice and snow present special operational problems for Baltimore. Baltimore seems to be right on the middle of an imaginary weather line (we like to call
it "the Hereford Zone" here). If you go north of this line, weather comes down mostly frozen and doesn’t present any significant problems, at least not for trains unless it's many feet of snow. Go
south of this line and it comes down mostly as rain. But we seem to get the worst in the way of sleet and freezing rain. To combat this problem, our ever clever engineering staff has attempted to come
up with solutions, some good, most not so good (like the pan heaters).
18.2 Part of the winterization has already been discussed under pantographs. Other items that have been modified for winter usage include the windshields, wiper blades, mirrors,
couplers, and sand chutes.
18.3 Heated mirrors were added for the 95-96 winter season to take care of ice build-up. They operate off of a 24VDC supply, and are controlled by a breaker down and to the right of the
operator. The "snitch" contacts were removed from the breakers to allow the mirrors to be turned off without informing the computer. When they were first installed, someone came up with the
bright idea to run the wires inside the mirror mount tubing. This looked pretty, but when people started replacing a broken mirror (the whole mirror assembly, not just the "glass"), they wound up
cutting the wires and using a butt splice. Later on, the wires were just ty-wrapped to the tubing. Now, most of us just replace the mirror element. Another stupid thing they did was when they
mounted plastic connectors on the body for the mirrors to connect to, we were directed to super-glue the connectors together. Why bother using connectors? Now we have done it all over again using
metal mil-spec connectors (do it right the first time and you don't have to do it again).
18.4 Heated windshields were also added for the 95-96 season. They operate off of 121VAC and draw around 10.5 Amps. The CB for them is up behind the operator in the same enclosure that
houses "cutout" switches. These windshields were necessitated by the fact that the OEM window defrosters designed by ABB were the most God awful things ever destined and just couldn't cut it. Off
course, the cars were delivered in June, so there was no way to test them. The MTA should have never accepted the cars with a "failure to perform" item such as this, but apparently, no one seemed
to care, so it was then left up to the MTA to shell out $70K for heated windows to correct the situation.
18.5 Booted wiper blades were added for the 96-97 season to prevent ice from forming on the mechanical parts and keep them from maintaining good contact with the windshields. They kinda
18.6 The electrical head on the couplers have a heater on the inside to prevent ice build-up. The heaters operate from 39VDC, and the circuit breaker is located near the mirror CB.
The CB has also been disabled from "talking" to the computer so the heaters can be turned off in warmer weather
18.7 The sanding chutes on the new cars are to include heaters. In the cold, snowy and wet weather, the sanding chutes tend to clog up. For a while, part of the problem was due
to the incorrect size of the sand. But the design of the chute itself was a basic design flaw. They have tried several retrofits to try to correct the problem, the latest is to make the chute
longer and place it further away. I'm not sure much sand will find its way onto the railhead being this far away. If you look at the arrangement on modern locomotives, they use about a two inch
chute and it's placed right there at the wheel/rail junction.
18.8 Snowplows were added for the winter of 96-97, thank heaven we didn't have to try them out. After the big snowfall of 97, they used the cars for snowplows, and did over $100K worth
of damage to the fleet…. So they decided they needed an alternative. Of course, Agro (then head of the MTA) used it as a marketing ploy trying to make us look good, but the general sentiment around
here is that the system should have shut down, as there were no busses to connect to, hardly any riders (especially on the first day), and most businesses were closed -- of course, that's just my opinion -- I
could be wrong :-) (The only good thing to come out of it, is that they picked me up and dropped me off directly behind my house, because otherwise, no-one was getting to or leaving from work (that's
when I was working in railcar maintenance)).