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End-of-Train devices

Updated: Feb 16, 2022

In the modern era where having a caboose on the end of a train is a rare occurrence, railroads now require an End-of-Train Device (ETD), or a red flag be displayed on the rear of the last car. The prototype Georgia Northeastern Railroad Rule Book indicates the following;

When a train is occupying a main track during the period from one hour before sunset until one hour after sunrise and any other time that weather conditions restrict visibility to one-half mile or less, an illuminated red light or orange amber marker light must be displayed on the rear of the last car to identify the rear end of the train. During all other times, a red flag, non-illuminated ETD, or marker light must be displayed on the rear of the last car to identify the rear of the train.”

Modelers have many options when it comes to modeling an ETD. They can purchase a non-operating removable ETD, scratch build their own, or plan to use a car with an operating flashing ETD mounted to the coupler of the last car.

MAC Rail Products has developed a non-operating removable ETD that is very realistic looking.

The ETD comes in various colors and has two designs, one for a standard coupler and one for scale sized couplers. While I was at the Cocoa Beach Prototype Rails event I picked up a 3 pack of the scale MAC-904(S) in gray and have been very pleased with the look of the ETD. The MAC Rail Products ETD "twists" into the knuckle of the coupler and wedges itself in, as opposed to a piece of wire that goes over the coupler. The ETD can be a little difficult to get it in the right place on the coupler so that it stays in place. It is best to use a pair of tweezers to help position the ETD in the coupler.

Another option is to make your own non-operating ETD. While it won’t have a flashing red light, it can be moved to any car to identify the end of the train. To make your own ETD, begin with a piece of .080 X .100 styrene, and cut the styrene to 5/16” long. Drill a no. 76 hole in the bottom of the styrene for the mounting wire and two holes on the side for a handle. Next, bend a 1” long piece of .015 music wire into an “N” shape with the last leg of the N slightly extended above the other side. The left and center leg of the “N” are approximately ¼” long, with the remaining leg being about ½” long. Insert the wire into the bottom of the styrene and glue it in place. Bend another piece of wire to form a handle and insert it in the holes drilled on the side. Next, paint the ETD the color of your choice or follow your prototypes color practices for the device. ETD’s can be painted many colors with yellow, orange, or gray being the most common. I found small red ruby lens that worked perfectly for the red light in a scrap booking materials section of a local store. The ruby was glued in place on the ETD. Now you have an ETD that you can install on the last car of your train and it is movable. The ETD is slightly oversized, but that makes it easier to install and remove during an ops session.

The easiest of all ETDs to model is a red flag. Many railroads still use a flag during daylight hours on their local trains. To make a red flag ETD begin with bending a 1” long piece of .015 music wire into an “N” shape the same as you did for the non-operating ETD. For the flag portion, I used a small piece of red vinyl from a survey marking flag. Cut a piece of vinyl to a HO scale 18 inch square for the flag. The flag was glued to the wire with CA after assuring the flag pointed to the rear when installed on the coupler.

Ring Engineering Inc. offers a flashing ETD that can be installed on your own car. These ETD’s pick up power from truck mounted bushings on the axles of the car. The track power then operates a flashing red light on the ETD. The ETD comes in a variety of prototypical colors, two different wheel sizes, and standard or long wire lengths for the device. The flashing red light is a very nice detail and accurately captures the look of the prototype ETD. The only disadvantage of the operating ETD is that it can’t be easily moved from one car to another during an ops session.

With either the flag or non-operating ETD, crews on my model railroad simulate walking the train prior to departure and insert an ETD in the last coupler to indicate the brake test was performed and the train is ready to depart. During switching moves the ETD is removed and placed in a visible area on layout, then reinstalled once the switching is completed.

Until next time, stay safe and keep model railroading.

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I installed the Ring truck/ETD combo on several 50' boxcars which were the last car on a mainline freight. These cars became the equivalent of a caboose -- added to the end of the train when complete, removed and stored when a train arrives. And unlike the bi-directional caboose, the car must face in the correct direction so that the ETD is at the train's end. Ah, the joys of modern railroading. On locals I do use flags or the replica ETD.

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Thomas Klimoski
Thomas Klimoski
15 feb 2022
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Hi Roger, The Ring Engineering ETDs are very nice, I just like having the option to move them as I build a train for the locals. On larger layouts, it is nice to know you have all your cars as you come out of a tunnel and see the ETD. The ETDs just add another prototype detail we can model.

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