Title:
Safety latch lock indicator for railcar door operation mechanism
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A safety latch lock indicator for a railcar door operation mechanism is disclosed. In one aspect, the present invention teaches a railway car having an underframe and at least one hopper for transporting lading. The underframe including a center sill which defines in part a longitudinal axis of the railway car. A respective door assembly mounted adjacent to the discharge opening formed proximate to a lower portion of the hopper to control the flow of lading from the hopper. The door assembly moves via the discharge control system between a first and second position relative to the discharge opening. An indicator may extend from a side of the railway car as the door assembly moves between the first and second positions, wherein a portion of the indicator becomes visible from at least one side of the railway car.



Inventors:
Herzog, John C. (Westchester, OH, US)
Creighton, George S. (Double Oak, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/182975
Publication Date:
02/16/2006
Filing Date:
07/15/2005
Assignee:
TRN Business Trust
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B61D17/20
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MCCARRY JR, ROBERT J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BAKER BOTTS L.L.P. (Dallas, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A railway car having an underframe and at least one hopper for transporting lading, the railway car comprising: the underframe including a center sill which defines in part a longitudinal axis of the railway car; a discharge opening formed proximate to a lower portion of the hopper; a respective door assembly mounted adjacent to the discharge opening to control the flow of lading from the hopper; the door assembly operable for movement between a first, closed position and a second, open position relative to the discharge opening; a discharge control system operable to move the door assembly between the first position and the second position; the discharge control system including an actuator operable to move longitudinally relative to the center sill; an indicator operably coupled to the actuator to extend and retract from at least one side of the railway car as the door assembly moves between the first position and the second position; and a portion of the indicator visible from the at least one side of the railway car when the door assembly is moved to either of the first or second position.

2. The railway of claim 1 further comprising an open hopper car.

3. The railway car of claim 1 further comprising a closed hopper car.

4. The railway car of claim 1 wherein the actuator for the discharge control system further comprises: an air cylinder coupled to the railway car; an operating piston extending from the air cylinder and coupled with a clevis to move the clevis longitudinally with respect to the center sill; and the clevis operably coupled with the indicator.

5. The railway car of claim 1, wherein the indicator further comprises a latch component operable to move between a first, secured position to a second, unsecured position based on the position of the actuator.

6. The railway car of claim 1, wherein the indicator further comprises: a connecting rod operably coupled between the actuator and one end of the railway car; and the connecting rod extending from of the actuator to one end of the railway car accommodate positioning the respective indicator at the one end of the railway car.

7. The railway car of claim 1, further comprising the indicator having a first position and a second position operable to extend and retract from respective sides of the railway car.

8. The railway car of claim 1 further comprising a highly visible coloration disposed on the portion of the indicator extending from the at least one side.

9. The railway car of claim 8 wherein the highly visible coloration comprises a safety orange color.

10. A discharge control system operable to control the flow of lading from a hopper in the railway car, comprising: a latch component operably coupled to a portion of the discharge control system; the latch component operable to move between a first, secured position and a second, open or unsecured position based on the movement of the discharge control system between an open position and a closed position; the latch component mechanically linked to an indicator portion; and the indicator portion operable to appear and disappear from view along at least one side of the railway car such that a user has visible indication of the position of the discharge control system.

11. The discharge control system of claim 10, wherein the movement of the latch component comprises an axial displacement.

12. The discharge control system of claim 10 further compromising the indicator portion providing a visual indication of the status of the discharge control system when an observer looks down the length of several associated railway cars.

13. The discharge control system of claim 10, further comprising: a first cam mechanically coupled between the latch component and the indicator portion; and the first cam operably translates the movement of the latch component into a rotational displacement.

14. The discharge control system of claim 13, wherein the rotational displacement comprises a displacement of approximately thirty degrees.

15. The discharge control system of claim 13, further comprising: a connecting rod coupled between the first cam and the indicator portion; and the connecting rod operable to permit the indicator portion to be located near one end of the railway car.

16. The discharge control system of claim 15, further comprising second cam coupled between the connecting rod and the indicator portion, the second cam operable to translate the rotational movement into an axial displacement such that the indicator portion extends from at least one side of the railcar.

17. The discharge control system of claim 10, further comprising a highly visible coloration disposed on the indicator portion.

18. A method of indicating status of a discharge control system associated with a railway car, comprising: moving a door assembly between a first, closed position and a second, open position using the discharge control system to control the flow of lading through the door assembly; displacing a latch component with a portion of the discharge control system as the door assembly moves between the first and second position; and extending and retracting a portion of an indicator from at least one side of a railway car in response to displacement of the latch component.

19. The method of claim 18, further comprising translating the displacement of the latch component into a rotational movement using a cam coupled between the latch component and the portion of the indicator extending from the at least one side of the railway car.

20. The method of claim 18, further comprising exposing a visible coloration on the portion of the indicator extending from the side of the railway car.

21. The method of claim 18, further comprising extending the portion of the indicator from the side of the railway car to when the discharge control system has moved to the door assembly the second, open position.

22. The method of claim 21, further comprising, based on the extended portion of the indicator, causing a lading to be placed into the railway car.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of provisional patent application entitled “Safety Latch Lock Indicator for Railcar Door Operation Mechanism,” Application Ser. No. 60/600,290 filed Aug. 10, 2004.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention is related in general to railcars and more particularly to a safety latch lock indicator for railcars which discharge cargo or lading from below an associated railway car underframe.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Railway hopper cars with one or more hoppers have been used for many years to transport and sometimes store dry, bulk materials. Hopper cars are frequently used to transport coal, sand, metal ores, ballast, aggregates, grain and any other type of lading which may be satisfactorily discharged through respective openings formed in one or more hoppers. Respective discharge openings are typically provided at or near the bottom of each hopper to rapidly discharge cargo. A variety of door assemblies and gate assemblies along with various operating mechanisms have been used to open and close discharge openings associated with railway hopper cars.

Hopper cars may be classified as open or closed. Hopper cars may have relatively short sidewalls and end walls or relatively tall or high sidewalls and end walls. The sidewalls and end walls of many hopper cars are typically reinforced with a plurality of vertical side stakes. The sidewalls and end walls are typically formed from steel or aluminum sheets. Some hopper cars include interior frame structures or braces to provide additional support for the sidewalls.

Due to the construction of hopper cars, many are bottom loading and unloading cars that include opening and closing gates located underneath the railcar. Through the use of linkages and several moving elements, an air cylinder is able to move the linkages to open and close the bottom gates on the railcars. Because the air cylinder is typically located underneath the railcar, it is often difficult to see whether the air cylinder is moved to a fully closed and locked position. Therefore, a person or other type of device must be used to determine whether the air cylinder has been moved to the locked position prior to loading the railcar or moving the railcar between locations prior to emptying the contents or lading from the railcar.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with teachings of the present invention, several disadvantages and problems associated with railway cars having discharge control systems and indicators to show the status of the discharge system have been substantially reduced or eliminated. One embodiment of the present invention includes a railway car having at least one hopper for transporting lading and a safety indicator associated with discharging lading. The railway car may include an underframe including a center sill which defines in part a longitudinal axis of the railway car and a discharge opening formed proximate to a lower portion of the hopper. A respective door assembly may be mounted adjacent to the discharge opening to control the flow of lading from the hopper. The door assembly may be operable for movement between a first, closed position and a second, open position relative to the discharge opening. A discharge control system operable to move the door assembly between the first position and the second position. An indicator may extend or appear from at least one side of the railway car as the door assembly moves between the first position and the second position, wherein a portion of the indicator become visible from the at least one side of the railway car.

For some applications the indicator may be visible to an observer viewing along the length of an associated railway car. The present invention avoids having to view a railway car from a generally perpendicular direction to determine the status of an associated door assembly. For some applications respective indicators associated with multiple railway cars may be satisfactorily observed by looking down the length of the railway cars.

One aspect of the present invention includes a discharge control system which may be mounted on various types of railway cars to control discharge of lading when the railway car is stationary at a discharge facility or when the railway car is moving relative to a discharge facility. The discharge control system may be satisfactorily used with hopper cars having longitudinal discharge openings and associated gate or door assemblies. For example, a discharge control system may include an air cylinder able to move a plurality of linkage to open and close the door assembly. An indicator may be associated with the discharge control system to provide a visual indication from the side of the railway car whether the system is placed in a secured locked orientation.

In accordance with another teaching of the present invention, an indicator for a discharge control system that controls the flow of lading from a hopper in the railway car may include a latch component operably coupled to a portion of the discharge control system. The latch component may move between a first, secured position and a second, open or unsecured position based on the movement of the discharge control system between an open position and a closed position. The latch component may be mechanically linked to an indicator portion. The indicator portion may extend (appear) and retract (disappear) from at least one side of the railway car to provide a user with visible indication of the position of the discharge control system. The status of respective discharge control systems associated with multiple railway cars may be simultaneously determined by looking along the sides of adjacent railway cars. Observations made along the length of a train having multiple railway cars with such indicators may quickly or simultaneously indicate the status of each discharge control system.

For some embodiments, a method of indicating status of a discharge control system in a railway car includes moving a door assembly between a first, closed position and a second, open position using the discharge control system. The discharge control system may control the flow of lading through the door assembly. The method further includes extending and retracting a portion of an indicator from at least one side of a railway car based on displacement of the latch component.

Technical benefits of the present inventions include an economical indicator for determining whether the discharge system on a railway car is in a secure status. Having a highly visible indicator on the side of each railway car permits a user to readily view several railway cars simultaneously prior to loading/unloading the lading from the hoppers. In addition, the railway cars may be readily checked prior to and even during transportation for ensuring that the associated discharge system is in a secure status. Because operation of the indicator may be based on operation of the associated door assembly mechanism, any movement by the door assembly may allow a user to determine a changed condition with the associated railcar via the indicator.

Other technical benefits of the present invention include relatively easy adjustments which may be made to an indicator linkage to determine a secure position for a discharge system. Because the position of the indicator may be based on a common air cylinder or actuator, adjustments to the indicator are relatively easy. For some embodiments, the indicator may be set to indicate a secure status when the position of the mechanism has moved beyond an over center locking position.

Further technical benefits of the present invention include one indicator placed at one end of the railway car that indicates the position of multiple door assemblies. Because all of the door assemblies may use a common actuator such as an air cylinder that is connected to multiple door assemblies via a common linkage extending generally perpendicular to the direction of each door assembly swings, the indicator typically indicates whether all of the associated door assemblies are in secured or unsecured position.

Further technical benefits of the present invention include providing indication of the status of associated door assemblies or gates from an actuator on one or both sides of a railway car. Because the indicator may use a variety of linkages such as translating a axial displacement in to a rotational displacement, one of the indicator linkages may allow the position of the indicator to be located at one end of the railway car. The indicator may be extended from one side of the car above the minimum safe level for railway car operations and readily visible to a railcar operator.

All, some, or none of these technical advantages may be present in various embodiments of the present invention. Other technical advantages will be apparent to one skilled in the art from the following figures, descriptions, and claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a more complete understanding of the present invention, and the advantages thereof, reference is now made to the following written description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a schematic drawing in elevation with portions broken away showing a side view of a railway car incorporating teachings of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a schematic drawing showing a plan view with portions broken away of taken along lines 2-2 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a schematic drawing in section with portions broken away taken long lines 3-3 of FIG. 1 showing portions of an indicator for a discharge control system incorporating teachings of the present invention with a pair of door assemblies in their first, closed position;

FIG. 4 is a schematic drawing in section with portions broken away showing portions of the indicator for the discharge control system of FIG. 3 with the door assemblies in their second, opened position;

FIG. 5 is an enlarged schematic drawing in section with portions broken away showing one example of an indicator for a discharge control system incorporating teachings of the present invention satisfactory for indicating a locked or closed position of associated door assemblies;

FIG. 6 is a schematic drawing in section and in elevation with portions broken away showing a side view of the indicator for the discharge control system of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is a schematic drawing in section with portions broken away showing a side view of the indicator mechanism for the discharge control system;

FIG. 8 is a schematic drawing in section and in elevation showing the indicator mechanism for the discharge control system taken along long lines 9-9 of FIG. 7;

FIG. 9A is a schematic drawing in section with portions broken away showing a end view of the indicator mechanism for the discharge control system in closed position of FIG. 7;

FIG. 9B is a schematic drawing in section with portions broken away showing an end view of the indicator moved to an open position with end portions extending from the sides of the railcar as shown along lines 9-9 of FIG. 7; and

FIG. 10 is a schematic drawing in section with portions broken away showing a side view of an example embodiment of the indicator extending from a side of the railcar.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Preferred embodiments of the invention and its advantages are best understood by referring to FIGS. 1-10 of the drawings. Like numbers may be used for like and corresponding parts of the various drawings.

Various features of the present invention will be described with respect to hopper car 20 which may be satisfactorily used to carry coal and other types of lading. Hopper car 20 may be generally described as an open hopper car with bottom discharge openings or outlets. Respective door assemblies or gates may be opened and closed to control discharge of lading from the discharge openings or outlets of hopper car 20. However, the present invention is not limited to open hopper cars or hopper cars that carry coal. For example, various features of the present invention may be satisfactorily used with closed hopper cars, hopper cars that carry grain, other types of hopper car and ballast cars.

Hopper car 20 incorporating teachings of the present invention is shown in FIGS. 1-7 with a pair of sidewall assemblies 30a, 30b, bottom slope sheet assemblies 40a and 40b and sloped end wall assemblies 80a and 80b mounted on railway car underframe 50. Railway car underframe 50 includes center sill 52 and side sills 54a and 54b. See FIGS. 3 and 4. Side sills 54a and 54b extend generally parallel with center sill 52 and are spaced laterally from opposite sides of center sill 52. A plurality of cross bearers 60 may be mounted on center sill 52. Side sills 54a and 54b may be attached to opposite ends of cross bearers 60. A pair of railway trucks 22 and 24 may be attached to opposite ends of center sill 52. For embodiments of the present invention as represented by hopper car 20, center sill 52 has a generally rectangular cross-section with a generally triangular-shaped dome or cover 56 disposed thereon.

Sidewall assemblies 30a and 30b may have approximately the same overall configuration and dimensions. Therefore, only sidewall assembly 30b will be described in detail. Sidewall assembly 30b preferably includes top cord 32b with a plurality of side stakes 34 extending between top cord 32b and side sill 54b. Side stakes 34 may also be spaced laterally from each other along the length of top cord 32b and side sill 54b. A plurality of metal sheets 36 may be securely attached with interior portions of top cord 32b, side stakes 34 and side sill 54b. In a similar manner, sidewall assembly 30a preferably includes top cord 32a, side stakes 34 and metal sheets 36.

For purposes of describing various features associated with the present invention metal sheets 36 which form the interior surface of sidewall assembly 30a have been designated 36a. In a similar manner metal sheets 36 which form the interior surface of sidewall assembly 30b have been designated as 36b. See FIGS. 3 and 4.

Bottom slope sheet assemblies 40a and 40b may have approximately the same overall dimensions and configuration. Therefore, only bottom slope sheet assembly 40b will be described in more detail. Bottom slope sheet assembly 40b preferably includes a plurality of angles 42 extending inwardly from side sill 54a to bottom cord 44b. Bottom cord 44b and top cord 32b may be formed from hollow metal tubes having a generally rectangular configuration. A plurality of metal sheets 46 may be attached with interior surfaces of respective angles 42 and bottom cord 44b. Metal sheets, 36 and 46 may have similar specifications and thickness. For some applications, an additional angle 48b may be attached to the opposite side of bottom cord 44b to provide additional structural strength for assembly of hopper car 20. Bottom cord 44b and angle 48b preferably extend along substantially the full length of hopper car 20. In a similar manner, bottom slope sheet assembly 40a preferably includes angles 42, metal sheets 46, bottom cord 44a and an additional angle 48a.

Bottom slope sheet assemblies 40a and 40b may be attached with respective side sills 54a and 54b. Slope sheet assemblies 40a and 40b preferably extend inward at an angle from respective side sills 54a and 54b to a location proximate bottom clearance or minimum clearance for railway car 20 relative to associated railway tracks (not expressly shown). For embodiments of the present invention represented by hopper car 20 slope sheet assemblies 40a and 40b may extend at an angle of approximately forty five (45°) degrees relative to respective sidewall assemblies 30a and 30b.

Portions of bottom slope sheet assembly 40a cooperate with adjacent portions of center sill 52 and dome 56 to define longitudinal discharge openings 26a. In a similar manner portions of bottom slope sheet assembly 40b cooperate with adjacent portions of center sill 52 and dome 56 to define in part longitudinal discharge openings 26b. See FIG. 4. Longitudinal discharge openings 26a and 26b are preferably disposed along opposite sides of center sill 52. For some applications a hopper car may be formed in accordance with teachings of the present invention with more than one hopper and more than two longitudinal discharge openings. The present invention is not limited to hopper cars with only two longitudinal discharge openings.

A plurality of longitudinal door assemblies 70a and 70b are preferably hinged proximate the upper portion of center sill 52 adjacent to dome assembly 56. Longitudinal door assemblies 70a and 70b may also be described as “swinging longitudinal slope sheets.” Longitudinal door assemblies 70a and 70b may be formed with overall dimensions and configurations similar to bottom slope sheet assemblies 40a and 40b. Attaching longitudinal door assemblies 70a and 70b proximate the upper portion of center sill 52 in accordance with teachings of the present invention may increase the volume of lading which is carried within hopper car 20 and may also reduce the center of gravity when hopper car 20 is loaded.

Various types of mechanical hinges may be satisfactorily used to respectively engage door assemblies 70 with dome assembly 56 proximate the upper portion of center sill 52. For embodiments of the present invention as shown in FIGS. 3, 4 and 5, piano type hinges 72 may be used to rotatably attach or pivotally attach door assemblies 70 proximate upper portions of center sill 52. However, in alternate embodiments, hinge assemblies 72 may include any suitable hinge to allow door assemblies 70 to move between an open and closed position. For purposes of describing various features of the present invention door assemblies 70 have been designated as 70a and 70b. Hinge assemblies 72 have been designated as 72a and 72b.

Each door assembly 70a and 70b preferably includes a first, closed position which prevents the discharge of lading from hopper car 20 (see FIG. 3) and a second, open position which allows lading to be discharged from hopper car 20 (see FIG. 4). For some applications longitudinal door assemblies 70a and 70b may be directly attached to or directly coupled with the upper portion of center sill 52. For some applications the length of longitudinal openings 26a and 26b and door assemblies 70a and 70b may be approximately twenty-nine (29) feet.

Door assemblies 70 formed in accordance with teachings of the present invention may extend along approximately the full length of respective longitudinal discharge openings 26a and 26b. The overall empty car weight of hopper car 20 may be reduced as compared to prior hopper cars. As such, the cost associated with manufacture and maintenance of hopper car 20 may also be reduced. Door assembly 70 may be formed using metal plates 96a and 96b having similar thickness and other characteristics associated with metal plates 36 and 46. Respective angles 98a and 98b may be attached with the longitudinal edge of each door assembly 98a and 98b opposite from respective hinges 92a and 92b. For some application angles 98a and 98b may be replaced by an I-beam, a Z-beam or any other suitable structural shape.

As shown in FIG. 5, respective longitudinal recesses 99a and 99b may be formed along an edge of each door assembly 90a and 90b opposite from respective hinges 92a and 92b. The overall dimensions and configuration of recesses 99a and 99b may be selected to be compatible with the dimensions and configuration of respective angles 48a and 48b. As shown in FIG. 3 recesses 99a and 99b cooperate with respective angles 48a and 48b to help seal respective longitudinal discharge openings 26a and 26b to eliminate or substantially minimize any leakage of lading from hopper car 20. Various types of sealing mechanisms may be satisfactorily used to engage a door assembly with adjacent portions of a bottom slope sheet assembly in accordance with teaching of the present invention. The present invention is not limited to use with recesses 99 and angles 48.

End wall assemblies 80a and 80b may have approximately the same overall configuration and dimensions. Therefore, only end wall assembly 80a will be described in detail. For some applications end wall assembly 80a may include sloped portion 82a and a generally vertical portion 84a. Sloped end wall assembly 80a may be formed from one or more metal sheet 86. For embodiments of the present invention as shown in FIGS. 1-7, hopper car 20 may be generally described as having a single hopper defined in part by sidewall assemblies 30a, 30b and end wall assemblies 80a and 80b. Other railway cars formed in accordance with teachings of the present invention may include two or more hoppers.

A plurality of interior supporting structures or interior brace assemblies 100 may be disposed within hopper car 20 extending between sidewall assemblies 30a and 30b and bottom slope sheet assemblies 40a and 40b. Interior supporting structures are typically formed from structural members such as plates, angles, bars, channels, beams, tubing, a combination of different structures, or any other structural member.

Each interior brace assembly 100 preferably includes respective horizontal cross bearers 130 and 135 extending from respective side sills 54a and 54b and connecting to center attachment member 110. Various types of mechanical fasteners such as bolts and huck fasteners and/or welding techniques may be satisfactorily used to securely attach interior brace assembly 100. For example, cross bearer 130 may bolt to respective side sill 54b using plate member 131b at first end 130a and second end 130b of cross bearer 130 couples with center attachment member 110. Similarly, cross bearer 135 may connect to respective side sill 54a using plate member 131a at first end 135a and second end 135b of cross bearer 135 couples with center attachment member 110

Upper diagonal braces 120 and 125 preferably extend between sidewall assemblies 30a and 30b and center attachment member 110. For the embodiment of the present invention as shown in FIG. 3, first end 120a of upper diagonal brace 120 may be secured proximate sidewall assembly 30b at connector plate 102b and extend diagonally to connect with center attachment member 110 at second end 120b. Similarly, first end 125a of upper diagonal brace 125 may be secured proximate sidewall assembly 30a by connector plate 102a and extend diagonally to connect with center attachment member 110 at second end 125a.

Lower diagonal braces 140 and 145 preferably extend between bottom slope sheet assemblies 40a and 40b and center attachment member 110. First end 140a of lower diagonal brace 140 preferably couples to bottom cord 44b and angle 48b of bottom slope sheet assembly 40b being secured by connector plate 141b. Second end 140b of lower diagonal brace 140 may be secured with center attachment member 110. In a similar manner first end 145a of lower diagonal brace 145 may be connected with bottom cord 44a and angle 48a of sloped sheet assembly 40a by connector plate 141a. Second end 145b of lower diagonal brace 145 may be secured with center attachment member 110.

Horizontal brace 105 preferably extends between sidewall assemblies 30a and 30b. First end 105a of horizontal crosspiece 105 may be engaged with connector 102a. Second end 105b of horizontal brace 105 may be securely engaged with connector plate 102b. Pairs of connector plates 102a and 102b are preferably mounted on interior surfaces of sidewall assemblies 30a and 30b at locations generally aligned with respective horizontal cross bearers 130 and 135.

Various types of operating assemblies formed in accordance with teachings of the present invention may be satisfactorily used to open and close longitudinal door assemblies 70a and 70b. For the embodiments shown in FIGS. 1-10 discharge controlled system 160 includes operating assembly or opening and closing assembly 150 along with door connector assembly 170.

Discharge control system 160 incorporating teachings of the present invention generally has pivot points and linkages and no torsion members, incorporates over center locking, and simplified adjustment. Discharge control system 160 incorporating teachings of the present system may operate gates or doors 90a and 90b by pushing or pulling with air cylinder 152, hydraulic cylinder or other type of actuator via a common linkage such as clevis 180 centered under center sill 52 of railcar 20 or highway truck (not expressly shown) longitudinally. The common linkage or clevis 180 may be attached to secondary linkages such as bar 162 and arms 174a and 174b that connect to door assemblies 70 or gates 90a and 90b on both sides that are swung up or down depending on the direction of the common linkage.

Gates 90a and 90b may be hinged proximate center sill 52 or other centrally located structure with hinges 72a and 72b oriented longitudinally and above the common linkage. Each secondary linkage such as arm 174a and 174b provides the lower horizontal leg of a triangular shaped mechanism consisting of gate 90a and 90b as the hypotenuse and the common linkage such as bar 162 and centrally located structure or center sill 52 as the upright leg in a closed position. The secondary linkages such as arms 174a and 174b may be pushed or pulled past center to provide a positive lock on gates 90a and 90b, commonly known as over center locking. The secondary linkages may be symmetrical to each other and provide an equilibrium of the transverse forces both while operating and in a locked position.

Only relatively simple adjustments are required such as lengthening or shortening secondary linkages such as arms 174a and 174b until respective gates 90a and 90b are closed with sufficient preload. An over center lock is adjusted by a stop (not expressly shown) at the end of the common linkage such as bar 162 which can be adjusted longitudinally to increase or decrease the desired travel of the common linkage. The secondary linkages or arms 174a and 174b rotate into a compound angle mainly oriented in the longitudinal direction parallel to the common linkage when gates 90a and 90b are in the open position and rotate into a mainly perpendicular position to the common linkage when gates 90a and 90b are in the closed position. Additional secondary links (not expressly shown) can be added to carry heavier loads between gates 90a and 90b and the common central linkage such as bar 162. Multiple gate arc travel (not expressly shown) can be accomplished by changing the secondary linkages lengths.

For embodiments of the present invention as shown in FIGS. 1-10 operating assembly 150 preferably includes air cylinder 152 with piston 154 and piston rod 156 disposed therein. Piston 154 and piston rod 156 may be slidably disposed within air cylinder 152. Piston 154 divides the interior of air cylinder 152 into two variable volume fluid chambers 158a and 158b. Air pressure can be applied to one chamber 158a or 158b and air pressure may be released from or vented from the other variable volume fluid chamber causing piston 154 to move within air cylinder 152. Because of this movement, piston rod coupled to piston 154 moves or reciprocates longitudinally relative to center sill 52 and other components associated with railway car underframe 50.

Typically, air cylinder 152 is formed proximate to a lower portion of the hopper such as proximate center sill 52. However, air cylinder 152 may be formed, located, placed, coupled or disposed with any portion of hopper car 20. In one embodiment of the present invention, air cylinder 152 is located beneath center sill 52.

In alternate embodiments of the present invention, operating assembly 150 may replace or supplement air cylinder 152 with any suitable drive actuator for providing a reciprocating longitudinally movement relative to center sill 52 and other components associated with railway car underframe 50. For example, operating assembly 150 may include an electrically operated motor (not expressly shown). Other examples of drive actuators including, but not limited to, hydraulic actuators, pneumatic actuators, electric actuators, manual actuators such as geared drives, and any other suitable drive actuators.

One end of piston rod 156 is preferably connected to for fitted with clevis 180 that connects with an adjacent end of plank or connector plate 161. For embodiments of the invention as shown in FIG. 6 connector plate or plank 161 preferably includes a connection end that interconnect with clevis 180 such as pin 161a inserted through clevis eye 180a of clevis 180. The opposing end of connector plank 161 includes a generally rectangular cross section that connects to bar 162. For some applications connector plank 161 may extend along substantially the full length of discharge controlled system 160 longitudinally relative to center sill 52. For other applications two or more operating assemblies may be coupled with center sill 52 in accordance with teachings of the present invention. In yet other applications, connector plank 161 may form a part of bar 162 such that bar 62 connects directly with clevis 180.

Connectors or brackets 164 may be attached with center sill 52 and respectively engaged with bar 162. Generally, the dimensions of bracket 164 are preferably selected to allow bar 162 to slide or move within bracket 164 longitudinally with respect to center sill 52. Bracket 164 may be used to maintain bar 162 respective distance from center sill and in alignment with respect to center sill 52. In some embodiments, an insert member (not shown) may be disposed between bar 162 and bracket 164 to reduce the friction of the sliding motion.

For embodiments of the present invention as shown in FIGS. 3-7, each door 70a and 70b may include one or more respective door connector assemblies 170. Each door connector assembly 170 preferably includes a respective boss or socket 172 attached with bar 162 opposite from center sill 52. Each door connector assembly 170 also preferably includes a pair of arms 174a and 174b which may extend laterally from operating assembly 150 to engage respective longitudinal door assemblies 70a and 70b. First end 176 of each arm 174a and 174b preferably includes a respective ball joint (not expressly shown) which may be rotatably engaged with socket or boss 172. Second end 178 of each arm 174a and 174b may be rotatably engaged with each door assembly 70a and 70b opposite from associated hinges spaced from respective hinges 72a and 72b.

Longitudinal movement of bar 162 will result in radial extension of arms 174a and 174b to move door assembly 70a and 70b from their second, open position (see FIG. 4) to their first, closed position (see FIG. 3). Movement of bar 162 in the opposite direction relative to center sill 52 will result in pulling or moving door assemblies 70a and 70b from their first position to their second, open position which allows rapid discharge of any lading contained within railway hopper car 20.

Referring to FIGS. 1-10, indicator mechanism 200 may include latch component 182 placed adjacent to piston rod 156. For some applications indicator mechanism 200 may be referred to as a “safety latch lock indicator”. However, indicator mechanism incorporating teachings of the present invention may be used to indicate the status of various components associated with a railway car discharge system. Indicator mechanism incorporating teachings of the present invention may be used to indicate the status of any component associate with a railway car when the component is moved between a first position and a second position by discharge control system 160.

In one embodiment, latch component 182 is mounted above piston rod 156 on mounting bracket 183 extending longitudinally from air cylinder 152 along center sill 52. Latch component 182 may be pivotally mounted on mounting bracket 183 and disposed between center sill 52 and clevis 180 to allow the force of gravity to cause latch component to rest against clevis lever 181 disposed on clevis 180.

Generally, latch component 182 is designed of sufficient length to allow clevis lever 181 to maintain contact with lever component 182 throughout the entire length of stroke of piston rod 156. As clevis lever 181 moves along latch component 182, clevis lever 181 may move between two regions of latch component 182, namely a safe latched position 184a and an open position 184b. In some embodiments, these two regions are divided by peak 184 that sets a limit for indicating the minimally safe position of operating assembly or opening and closing assembly 150.

When discharge controlled system 160 moves to a first, closed position, as illustrated in FIG. 3, clevis lever 181 may move along latch component 182 to the closed indication position whereby door assemblies 70a and 70b are safely locked closed. Similarly, when discharge controlled system 160 moves to a second, open position, as illustrated in FIG. 4, clevis lever 181 may move along latch component 182 to the open indication position whereby the door assemblies 70a and 70b are not safely locked closed. For example, in some embodiments, by moving piston rod 156 into a retracted position creates the closed position such that clevis lever 181 is positioned on region 184a of latch component 182.

Generally, latch component 182 has a varied thickness between closed indication region 184a and open indication region 184b. In one example embodiment, the thickness of closed indication region 184a on latch component 182 is approximately three-quarters of an inch greater than open indication region 184b. For the purposes of this disclosure, open indication means placing door assemblies 70a and 79b in any position that is not adequately or safely locked. Thus, as clevis lever 181 moves between the two regions 184b and 184a, latch component 182 pivots or moves with respect to clevis 180 a distance based on the differences in thickness.

Safety latch lock indicator mechanism 200 preferably includes latch rod 186 connected to a portion of latch component 182. Based on the movement of latch component 182, latch rod 186 is also displaced. In one instance, latch rod 186 lifts upward approximately three-quarters of an inch.

As illustrated in FIG. 8, latch rod 186 may extend through center sill 52 and couple to cam 188. Cam 188 is able to translate the movement of latch rod 186 from a first direction into a second direction or orientation. For instance, latch rod 186 may displace between two positions and cause cam 188 to rotate about a center point, namely connection rod 190. In one example embodiment, latch rod 186 lifts upward approximately three-quarters of an inch to move from an open indication position to a closed indication position. Based on the movement, cam 188 may rotate counter-clockwise approximately thirty degrees. Generally, the rotation of cam 188 causes connection rod 190 to rotate.

Typically, connecting rod 190 extends between two bearing 191 and 192 with cam 188 and extension cam 193 securely coupled therebetween. While the size of connecting rod 190 is typically one inch in diameter, the length of connecting rod 190 varies based on the placement of the safety latch lock indicator in relation to air cylinder 152. Generally, the varied length allows the relocation of movement of latch component 182 to a more accessible place on railway car 20 for indication.

The rotation of cam 188 causes extension cam 193 to rotate based on a rotational force transmitted by connecting rod 190. As illustrated in FIG. 9, extension cam 193 may rotate about connecting rod 190 between a first, open indication position (indicated in phantom) and a second, open indication position (illustrated by the solid lines).

Extension cam 193 typically includes at least one indicator rod 194 and 196 coupled at respective position on extension cam 193 and at respective radii from connecting rod 190. Each indicator rod 194 or 196 may further include a multitude of bends or angles that enable the rod to translate the rotational movement of extension cam 193 into a third orientation or plane. This translation of movement allow extension rods 194 and 196 to extend in an outward direction from center sill 52 such that indicator portion 197 and 198 of respective indicator rod 194 and 196 extends beyond side wall 30b and 30a, as illustrated in FIG. 10.

Similarly, in one example embodiment, as door assemblies 70a and 70b are moved to an open position, latch component 182 may lower causing cam 188 and extension cam 193 via connecting rod 190 to rotate clockwise. This rotation of extension cam 193 causes extension rods 194 and 196 to return to a retracted position.

Based on moving from an open position to a closed position, in one embodiment, a thirty degree rotation of extension cam 193 causes extension rods 194 and 196 to extend approximately one inch from respective side walls 30b and 30a. In one instance, indicator portions 197 and 198 are highlighted with a high visibility coloring such as “safety orange” to augment visibility of indicator portions 197 and 198 for a railcar user/operator.

Typically, colored indicator portions 197 and 198 are visible from respective sides 30b and 30a of railway car 20. Based on their visibility, an operator may readily determine whether door assemblies 70a and 70b are in a secured locked position. In one example embodiment, door assemblies 70a and 70b of railway car 20 are placed in a secured locked position when indicator portions 197 and 198 are visible.

Although the present invention and its advantages have been described in detail, it should be understood that various changes, substitutions and alternations can be made herein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the following claims.