This carknocker is inspecting a journal box packing to ensure there is sufficient oil on the pads to lubricate the bearing. Modern trucks use sealed roller bearings that don't require such maintenance.
Car Inspector's are affectionately known as carknockers because at one time they used to tap on a car's wheels with a ball peen hammer. The resulting sound would indicate a defect in the steel. Among the most visible members of a railway's mechanical services team car inspectors are stationed at yards across Canada. They perform a critical safety role.
They are part of a system of check, and double check. Every time a train arrives or departs a yard, a carknocker checks each car of that train. They work like a relay team, passing the inspected trains from yard to yard and checking each time to make sure no defects have occurred while the cars have been moving over the road or while they've been processed within the yard.
The first order of business is a safety ritual known as "line, lock, and display".
Before performing any work the track switch behind the train to be inspected must be lined in order to divert other equipment away from it. The switch is locked to assure that. A blue flag by day, or blue light by night, are displayed to warn other employees work is in progress and the car or cars being inspected are not to be moved or coupled to. Only then is it safe to complete such tasks as, say, installing an SBU (Sense and Braking Unit), inspecting the cars, or performing a brake test.
The SBU, an end-of-train device with a flashing red light, will transmit to the crew in a locomotive's cab the air brake line pressure at the tail-end, and also the train's forward or reverse motion. In case of an emergency brake application, the SBU will also instantaneously "dump" the air from the tail-end at the same time that it's being exhausted by the locomotive, making for safer and faster applications of the brakes throughout the train's length.
Once a train has been assembled on the departure track an SBU is attached to the coupler on the last car then connected to the train's air brake line. After isolating the last car's air brake system from the rest of the train the engineer is free to do an emergency brake test. Once it has been confirmed the brakes have been fully applied the carknocker must then walk the length of the train scanning for:
· Un-released hand brakes;
· Sticking or loose brake shoes;
· Damaged couplers, air hoses, and brake gear;
· Excessive wear on the flanges and treads of the wheels;
· Bent or broken safety appliances, such as ladders and grab irons;
· Loose or missing strapping and other load blocking devices;
· Shifted loads and;
· Anything else that could in any way cause damage to the equipment, the track, wayside signals, structures, or injure employees and the public.
If everything passes inspection the engineer or conductor of the train will be given an "OK the PK" over the radio and the train may proceed.
As the train heads onto the mainline the departure track is cleared once the carknocker's blue flag is retrieved.
In addition to all this work there are programmed maintenance inspections of cars in the shops, scanning by hot box and dragging equipment detectors located at frequent intervals along the mainline, inspections of trains that crews give each other's trains as they pass out on the line, and, of course, the carknockers watch everything as trains depart or enter the yard.
"Check, and double check" - Purloined and modified from a CPR employee news article.