Jump-starting an idea
Shop electrician Jacob Walters, with the assistance of boilermaker Cody Bryant, developed the battery charger receptacle, an Ergo Cup first-place winner. Walters brainstormed a safer, more efficient way to install the terminal pins on locomotive battery jumper cables.
During locomotive overhauls and modifications, the shop’s electricians routinely install or replace the two jumper cables, which are connected to a battery charger or to another locomotive to jump-start a dead battery. An electrician solders a battery terminal pin to the end of each cable, a 45-minute job that typically involves two people: one wears safety gloves and holds the terminal pin in place with pliers while the other solders the pin to the cable with a torch.
One night, while on third shift, Walters needed help soldering the pins, but the other electrician on duty was working another job. Walters decided there had to be a more efficient way to do the task. With a little trial and error, he found a solution.
His innovation combines a metal pipe clamp that shop pipefitters use to install air brake lines and a piece of Schedule 80 pipe. He sawed the pipe to about three inches in length – just wide and long enough to securely hold a terminal pin. Walters then approached Bryant and described the tool he had in mind. Bryant heated the end of the pipe clamp, bent it slightly to form a base, and then welded the Schedule 80 pipe onto the base to serve as pin holder.
That was it. Walters was in business. By clamping the receptacle tool to the front of the locomotive, he doesn’t need a co-worker to hold the terminal pin while he solders it to a jumper cable.
“It definitely makes doing these a lot easier, and it’s safer because you don’t have to worry about somebody else’s hands being near where you’re soldering,” said Walters, whose hard hat sports an InnovatioNS sticker.
As it turned out, Corey Orange, a first-shift electrician, was working separately on the same work challenge. Orange developed a slightly different tool, but it performs the same function as Walters’ receptacle device. While Walters’ creation was entered in the Ergo Cup, the takeaway message for all NS employees, Orange said, is to keep an open mind about ways to improve work processes.
“I would say don’t get stuck in a rut of doing things the same way they’ve always been done,” Orange said. “Be creative.”