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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 7 (November 1, 1927)


Shortly before last Christmas, the Board decided to adopt a new method for indicating the position of brakes on wagons. Since then, as vehicles have been worked through the shops, they have been branded with white targets at each end to assist shunters in their work.

These targets differ in size and shape according to their position in relation to the brake. Thus, at the “brake” end of each wagon a small white square target (7in. × 7in.) is placed on the wagon end above the brake handle. This can be seen from a considerable distance by pointsmen and brakesmen. In the shunting yard, where rapid movement and quick decision are essential, it tells them at a glance that the brake is on that end of the wagon and on that side of the track.

On the same side of the track as the brake handle but at the opposite end of the wagon, a space (2ft. × 9 in.) on the buffer beam is painted white to indicate that the brake is at that side of the wagon but at the other end.

Why, it may be asked, is a target or other indicator at the brake end of the wagon not sufficient for all purposes?

The answer is that, when a wagon is approaching with the non-brake end leading, although the absence of an indicating target tells that the brake is at the opposite end, there is no guide in sight to tell the shunter at which side of the wagon the brake is located. It is for this purpose that the large target has been introduced.

Thus, when breaking up rakes of wagons, upon looking at an approaching truck, the brakesman knows from the target in sight exactly at which of the four corners of the wagon the brake handle is to be found.

The small white target means-brake at this end and on this side of wagon.

The large white target means-brake at opposite end but on this side of wagon.

The new system is receiving much approval from the men actually engaged in shunting work, its practical value being particularly useful when cutting up long rakes of wagons. Some such system would in any case be required when manipulating a hump shunting yard such as that at Middleton (Canterbury).