In comparison to modern times, the brakes were much simpler and totally manually operated. The wooden brake shoes were mounted on wooden beams that hung from the exterior ends of a truck. Gravity kept the brake beams and shoes away from the wheels. To engage the brakes, a crew man had to turn the brake wheel located either on the top or end of the car. This wheel took up a chain on a ratchet that was connected to a linkage in the truck. As the hand wheel turned the linkage caused the brake beams to retract towards the wheels. The shoes rubbed the wheels and the cars slowed down. To release the brakes, the operator turned the wheel in the opposite direction. The weight of the brake beams caused the beams to swing away from the wheels and released the brakes.
|Being a brakeman was a dangerous job. Brakemen were advised not to sit on the brake wheel|
because the slightest bump or jolt could toss you off.
The brakeman also handled car couplings and track switches. Link and pin couplers were especially hazardous as the brakeman had to stand between two cars to couple them up. Between the hazards of coupling, falling off and collisions, it is was a dangerous job in terms of life and limb.
Fortunately, the job won't be so dangerous for my operators, but the working handbrakes should make it more realistic and interesting.