Rail Cars and Locomotives Contained Asbestos in Insulation and Brake Shoes
Asbestos Exposure a Problem on Rail Lines
Steam locomotives and some diesels were insulated with asbestos. Insulation was used around boxcars and cabooses, refrigeration units, pipes, and steam and hot water lines. One frequently–used high–temperature asbestos pipe insulation, Johns–Manville Therma–Wrap, consisted of amosite asbestos fibers enclosed in a wire mesh, and surrounded by an asbestos cloth jacket. Asbestos was also common in packing, rope, cement, gaskets, and in heavy–duty floor tiles for passenger cars.
Pipefitters and workers who installed insulation, removed it, or inspected it were heavily exposed to asbestos. When locomotives were inspected, asbestos insulation was stripped off the boilers. During this process, and when the asbestos was reapplied, asbestos dust often escaped into the shop or repair facility. As a result, others working in the vicinity were also exposed to asbestos–contaminated air.
Asbestos in Brakes and Clutches
Railroad brakes and clutches provided another source of contamination. Because asbestos is heat–resistant and strong, it was often used in brake and clutch linings. Railroad mechanics were routinely exposed to asbestos, as were those who breathed asbestos–laden air nearby.
If you worked in a railroad yard or on the crew of a rail car, you were probably exposed to asbestos. It is important that you learn as much as possible about the material and about asbestos diseases.