45. MRH13-11-Nov2013-L - page 110

Freight car hand brakes- 1
The earliest form
of hand brakes on
freight cars consisted
of a wheel mounted at the
A Modelers Guide to
Freight Car Hand Brakes
– By Richard H. Bale
 Photos provided by the author
A comprehensive catalog of hand brakes ...
top of a vertical shaft that extended below the car’s end sill. A
chain attached to the bottom of the shaft was connected to the
brake mechanism under the car. As the trainman turned the
roof-top wheel, the chain wrapped around the lower portion of
the shaft and pulled the brake levers (1).
A ratchet and pawl on
a small brake platform
(2) allowed the train-
men to set the tension
as desired. To release
the brake, the trainman
released the pawl with
his foot, which some-
times caused the wheel
to spin as it unwound.
The system was crude
and dangerous, and only
marginally effective. The
system gained the nick-
name “stem-winder.”
Brake wheels intended
for horizontal mounting
on a vertical brake shaft
were generally 18 inches
in diameter. Several manu-
factures offered replace-
ment wheels, including
the National Brake Co.,
Chain wrapped around
a “stem-winder” vertical
brake shaft.
MRH-Nov 2013
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