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Prototypical Use of Pantographs

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Misha_K View Drop Down
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    Posted: 08 Feb 2017 at 2:23pm

I see a lot of confusion among Euro train modelers when it comes to which pantograph to raise on an electric loco. So I thought I would provide a little primer. The following applies to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Other countries with different current systems may have different operational guidelines.

Prewar Electrics

On prewar electrics (Era I and II) normally *both* pantographs are raised. Prewar pantographs typically have only one collector shoe on each pantograph, so both need to be raised to ensure proper contact.

Postwar - General Rule

All electric locomotives built after WWII (Era III and onwards) generally have pantographs with double collector shoes. Hence it is only necessary to raise one pantograph. As a general rule, it is always the rear pantograph in the direction of travel that is raised. The reason being that in the event of any damage to the catenary or the pantograph, debris would fall behind the locomotive, thus averting damage to any senstitive, exposed roof wiring or to the second pantograph.

Exception 1: Sensitive Cargo

The first and most common exception to the above general rule is when the first car behind the locomotive contains sensitive cargo. This could be a chemical tanker, auto carrier (with exposed cars), lumber or woodchips or it could be a driving trailer that is being towed by the locomotive. In each of these cases the objective is to avoid damage or dirt from sparks coming off the pantograph, so in these cases the forward pantograph will be raised.

Exception 2: Double Header

When two locomotives are coupled together, it is important to minimize the oscillations of the catenary wire that could happen from two pantographs passing at high speed in close proximity. For this reason, in the case of a double header, the lead loco will raise the forward pantograph and the trailing loco will raise the rear pantograph.

Exception 3: Country-Specific Pantographs

There are several types of locomotives that were built specifically for cross border traffic which have different pantographs for different catenary systems. These may simply be pantographs with a narrower collector shoe (e.g. for Switzerland) or they can be pantographs for a different voltage system entirely (e.g. locomotives crossing from Germany into France and the Benelux or into Eastern Europe). Which pantograph should be raised will depend on the specific type of locomotive and on the particular country being modeled on your layout. You will need to research your particular prototype in the particular area of operation in order to have a clear answer.

Exception 4: Prewar Pantographs

Although generally most prewar locomotives were at some point updated with newer pantographs, to this day you can find museum locomotives or other stragglers (e.g. Rail4U's 194 178-0) which retain authentic prewar pantographs with a single collector shoe. These still need to have both pantographs raised even if you are modeling operations in Eras III-VI.

Exception 5: Inclement Weather

This is basically impossible to model on a layout, but for the sake of completeness: you may see modern electric locomotives with double collector shoe pantographs nevertheless raise both pantographs in cases of severe percipitation, in order to make sure there is constant electrical contact.

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el Gato Gordo View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote el Gato Gordo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Feb 2017 at 4:03pm
Thanks, Misha! Very informative in the details. Some of this I knew, and some expands my knowledge.   Much appreciated.
Cheers!
Gordon
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BR42 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BR42 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Feb 2017 at 8:49pm
Misha:

Great piece of information.  Thanks,

Ulrich


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RRVRR View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RRVRR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Feb 2017 at 10:11am
Misha,
I heard about the general rule and I know about the modern multi system locos but all the other info was new to me.

Thank you.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Railwriter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Mar 2017 at 4:29pm
There's one more exception that I thought of this weekend:

Exception 6:  When leaving a turntable covered by a so-called spiderweb catenary, the electric locomotive will use the front pantograph -- unless, of course, there is only a single country-specific pantograph, and that is at the rear.

Electric locomotives will normally enter a turntable using the rear pantograph, and then depart using the front pantograph.  The reason for this is to avoid having a pantograph go through the hub at the center of the spiderweb.  Though theoretically the hub is designed to allow a pantograph to go through, having a pantograph up in this area is avoided if at all possible, as the hub is the one area where a pantograph is most likely to encounter problems.

-- Ernest

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Misha_K View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Misha_K Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Mar 2017 at 12:40pm

...and lower the pantograph during rotation of the turntable! ;-)

Misha

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