Step lights - when did they start appearing?


#1

Here’s a question for the experts. When did step lights start appearing in the stairwells of locomotives? They seem standard on new locomotives, and sometimes appear as a retrofit on older ones. Here’s Great Western 2232, an ex-ATSF GP7 with liberated exhaust and a Cleburne cab, switching cars in Fort Collins North Yard back in 2008. The install is a bit “how ya’ doin’?”

Sometimes these appear behind the steps, shining down, looking less like an afterthought. Here’s one in the front stairwell of chop nose Omnitrax Switching Service GP7 4285 in 2007.

The application? I’m wondering if any A&O or NR&W locomotives would have step lights in 1968.


#2

Finally found the photo I wanted to use. This is DRGW GP40-2 3029 in 2002 when it was assigned to the Fort Collins local out of LaSalle CO.

It also appears that the entire bottom step was painted white instead of the edges only.


#3

Bob,
I have an EMD drawing dated 1972 that shows a step light. The light depicted is one with a cage type enclosure, as opposed to the type in your pictures. I have never seen a step light with a cage, which doesn’t prove anything. I suppose the lights could have been added in response to an FRA mandate at some point?

Like this:

I’ll check my stash for other references.


#4

Wow, James, that would be a weird step light! I’ve seen caged lights like the one you show inside the car bodies of F-units. But all the step lights I’ve seen used ground light fixtures.

Below: caged light at the hostler’s station of Rio Grande F9B 5763.


#5

Hmm… well initially I thought they had always been a thing. I asked on the diesel list and didn’t get much of an answer except for maybe they started showing up around 75. It quickly devolved into how some railroaders didn’t like them. One person said he thought the Southern started it. I wonder if they didn’t become mandated along with contrasting handrail and step edge colors. Modeling 1985-1990 as I do it has never been a question.

Jay


#6

To pick nits that would be the 3129… the 3029 is/was a GP30…


#7

You would be correct, Jay. That’s a typo.

Any idea when step lights started to appear?


#8

Coincidentally, the EMD drawing I referenced above is from a Southern aperture card.


#9

Found it. Ok, well, Google found it…
All locomotives used in switching service built after March 1977 must be equipped with illuminated step treads. (49 CFR 231.30, paragraph c., part 6)

After September 1979, all locomotives used in switching service built before April 1977, and not equipped with illuminated step treads, must have the outer edge of each step tread painted in a contrasting color. (49 CFR 231.30, paragrpah a., part 2)

All locomotives used in switching service built after March 1977 must have their vertical handholds painted a contrasting color at least 48 inches above the step tread surface. (49 CFR 231.30, paragraph e., part 1)

After September 1979, all locomotives used in switching service built before April 1977 must have their vertical handholds painted a contrasting color at least 48 inches above the step tread surface. (49 CFR 231.30, paragraph a., part 2)


#10

So I heard you say… 1967, 68, and 69 eras (A&O 2.0) for the mothership don’t need step lights or contrasting steps and handrails!


#11

I now understand that newly-built engines didn’t need them in the A&O time frame. Some D&RGW GP40-2s I photographed post-2000 on the FtC local didn’t have lights either. But all had painted handrails and steps. 40-2 production started in '72.

It isn’t yet entirely clear when the lights and contrasting steps and handrails started. So far, all the decorated power running on the A&O has the painted steps and handrails. So at least painting seems standard for the A&O. The ex-ATSF GP7 was obviously a shop retrofit, but it isn’t clear on OSS 4285. Maybe it got lights when the nose was chopped. Dunno…


#12

I just browsed through some of my Alco photos. In at least two photos taken in 1967, one year before the current A&O, N&W Also C425s had both painted handrails and step edges. An N&W GP9 had yellow handrails but not yellow step edges in 1967. A Cotton Belt GP9 had both painted in 1966.

What do I make of this? In some cases the practice of contrasting paint for handrails and step edges started well before the federal mandate in 1977.


#13

I believe the FRA and the AAR policies are(were) driven by the industry at large. Best practice as determined by the railroads and unions often evolves into regulation, especially in safety. The late 60s through the 70s marked the birth of a lot of federal oversight in industry with OSHA (1971), EPA (1970), FRA (1967), NTSB (1967). Compared to most large industries, the railroads have had a pretty robust safety culture for a long time. I’d guess the unions plays a big role in this.

The FRA would just standardize existing practices. So the A&O could have already had there own safety culture that set their own standards before the G-men took over! Bob’s photo safari shows evidence of real railroads addressing safety on their own ahead of regulatory requirements.

A side note; some states and local governments had laws that regulated railroads too. Some states required a caboose, or certain horn patterns/volumes, emission restrictions, crew sizes, and so on. We could always explore the local law angle for David’s little piece of West Virginia.