Railroad torpedo found in Butler County

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office was alerted to a possible strange or suspicious object Sunday afternoon, and Sheriff Richard Jones said it was a first in his career he had seen such an item.

The item was a railroad torpedo, Jones wrote in a news release.

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A railroad torpedo is one of the oldest safety devices used by railroad companies, according to the release. It is a small dynamite charge that’s wrapped in paper (usually red), with lead straps to hold it on a rail. When a locomotive’s wheel comes in contact with it, the weight of the engine sets off the charge and makes a loud sound that warns the engineer, he wrote.

Before cabooses started to disappear, railroad torpedoes were standard issue and stored in lockers inside the caboose, according to Jones. If a train had to stop on un-signaled track, rear-end crewmen would strap the torpedoes to the track far enough back from the train so another train could stop after it exploded the torpedo. With the use of two-way radios, railroads don’t use track torpedoes as much as they did in the past, he said.

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Jones said residents should continue contacting law enforcement if they find something potentially hazardous.

“Better to be safe than sorry,” he said.

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