The Butler County Sheriff’s Office was alerted to a possible strange or suspicious object Sunday afternoon, and Sheriff Richard Jones said it was a first in his career he had seen such an item.
The item was a railroad torpedo, Jones wrote in a news release.
A railroad torpedo is one of the oldest safety devices used by railroad companies, according to the release. It is a small dynamite charge that’s wrapped in paper (usually red), with lead straps to hold it on a rail. When a locomotive’s wheel comes in contact with it, the weight of the engine sets off the charge and makes a loud sound that warns the engineer, he wrote.
Before cabooses started to disappear, railroad torpedoes were standard issue and stored in lockers inside the caboose, according to Jones. If a train had to stop on un-signaled track, rear-end crewmen would strap the torpedoes to the track far enough back from the train so another train could stop after it exploded the torpedo. With the use of two-way radios, railroads don’t use track torpedoes as much as they did in the past, he said.
Jones said residents should continue contacting law enforcement if they find something potentially hazardous.
“Better to be safe than sorry,” he said.