Talk:Pilot (locomotive)

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Except a pilot in British language is a locomotive that is attached to the front of a train when double heading; er Dunc| 20:14, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)


This page seems to use the word "fender" to mean some kind of pilot on a trolley/cable-car which catches and retains a pedestrian to prevent injury. It does not seem to be at all like a fender on an automobile. A picture is linked at [1]. Ewlyahoocom 15:12, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

Fender is the commen term for a device protecting fallen pedestrians from being overrun by streetcars. The device is normaly only lowered to the ground when a sensor bracket hit an object laying in front of the wheels.--Pechristener1 (talk) 03:52, 29 March 2009 (UTC)

Charles Babbage[edit]

The Charles Babbage page states that he invented the cowcatcher (or pilot).

Yes, someone vandalised this page -- 09:24, 9 November 2006 (UTC)

Ok, who really invented this thing[edit]

Most of the web says Charles Babbage invented this thing in 1838.
But then there's the case of Isaac Dripps who assembled the John Bull locomotive imported into the USA in 1831, which entered service in 1833. The story is that it could be de-railed easily so he made some modifications including adding a truck at the front with a set of wheels, and a plow [2]. All accounts say these modifications were made soon after its introduction but no date is given, in this account [3] the photo of the modified loco has a caption 1833.
There is a poem [4] suggesting that the cowcatcher was patent #8996 in 1852 (who knows if that's just poetic license :-).
Then there is the story of Mr J. R. Davis of Brown Township, Franklin County, Ohio, USA, who supposably invented the thing in 1850 [5] - at least this story involves a bull (and maybe a cock as well).
How about [6] Lorenzo Davies of Columbus invented a device for the front of a railroad engine that he called a pilot (1851) but was soon dubbed as "cowcatcher"

  1. So my question is, can anyone get hold of original sources to see exactly what Mr Babbage invented and whether he called it a cowcatcher and whether it looked anything like the traditional US cowcatcher.
  2. Next question is, was it ever used on UK trains (for which it was invented) ? --AGoon 10:04, 9 November 2006 (UTC)
Cowcatchers were certainly used on the narrow gauge 2-6-2s (such as "Exe" of the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway in Devon, delivered new by Manning Wardle in 1898. The line also imported a 2-4-2 Baldwin - "Lyn" - from America in the same year, which was also built with them.
How effective they may have been against cows, I know not, but sheep regularly got onto the line, which invariably meant the train would stop, and the crew would round them up and herd them off back through the fencing themselves! Regards, Lynbarn 12:56, 13 November 2006 (UTC)
Another Smithsonian Institution article gives a date of "shortly after" 1833 for the John Bull modifications. [7] I'm guessing that attribution to a single person/place is not the way to go here, and that several people independently came up with this. I too would like a better citation for Babbage, frankly; there's no image of what he worked out and no indication that it was ever realized in practice (a common issue with Babbage's "innovations"). Mangoe 17:51, 9 November 2006 (UTC)

Babbage discusses his interest in railways in Passages from the Life of Philosopher. He describes two strategies for removing objects from the path of the train but fails to mention any practical application directlky arising from either. While he was asked to describe an invention for uncoupling train and engine in the event of an accident, I doubt that this would amount to his being employed by the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. [1] CastWider (talk) 13:54, 15 November 2016 (UTC)


The German wikipedia cites some German railway regulation, dating from 1838 that requires all engines to have a pilot (unless they are used during daylight only). This makes it likely that pilots were common in Germany at that time and before. (talk) 11:05, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

Ah, but what kind of pilot? A thing to knock stray animals aside, an extra locomotive, an extra crewmember, or something else? --Redrose64 (talk) 15:30, 14 January 2012 (UTC)