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NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/28/21 2:01 p.m.

PRR K4s #518 at Burlington, NJ on its way to Atlantic City with the Nelly Bly

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/28/21 2:58 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

Is my understanding that modern PTC is basically remote-control of the locomotives correct?

kazoospec
kazoospec UberDork
6/28/21 3:47 p.m.

Anyone guess where we were today?

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/28/21 3:58 p.m.

In reply to Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) :

More like the railroad version of Volvo's automatic braking, but it can see over the horizon. Every locomotive has a transponder and if there is a broken rail ahead, or they overshoot a signal, or somehow two trains are headed on a collision course, the system can override and close the throttle and apply the brakes ahead of time, since by the time they get in eyesight, its too late.

The issues is that there are several systems and they aren't all compatible (so you could end up with a weird issue where like a KCS pooled power engine is on the lead of a UP train but the UP system doesn't read the KCS transponder and so the train is out there roaming around under the radar), its absurdly expensive considering the amount of casualties and injuries its believed to prevent (sub-20 per year), and implementation has proven troublesome and has been pushed back over and over. 

Implementation on steam locomotives has obviously proven nigh-impossible. Getting it to apply the brakes hasn't been the hang-up, its the kicking the throttle closed. Last I heard, the FRA had realized that it is just not feasible for closing the throttle, and is just requiring the brake to be applied. Even so, I don't think there are any PTC-compliant steam locomotives currently. Union Pacific has been running #844 and #4014 under a special waiver that UP got from the FRA.

TheMagicRatchet
TheMagicRatchet New Reader
6/28/21 9:08 p.m.

In reply to kazoospec :

That looks like Strasburg! Did you have a nice ride? Get a glimpse of 611?

Lou Manglass

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/29/21 5:32 a.m.

In reply to NickD :

Ah ok, that makes sense. Seems like with UP at least they could still use PTC on the diesel helper though? 

And obviously operating a steam locomotive takes just a bit more work than a diesel. So you'd think that if the brakes were suddenly applied on their own, or maybe a red light started blinking in the cab, that the crew would probably notice...

kazoospec
kazoospec UberDork
6/29/21 7:16 a.m.

In reply to TheMagicRatchet :

As a matter of fact, we did see 611.  Unfortunately, they had her hidden away "in back" where you only get to see her coming and going on the train ride.  I did get a crappy cell pic while rolling by.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/29/21 8:31 a.m.

In reply to kazoospec :

Looks like they were running #475. I'm a little said they took the N&W single-chime hooter whistle off and replaced it with the shop-built 3-chime. The new whistle sounds nice but it's a little nondescript, certainily not as unique as the N&W whistle. Did you guys take the shop tour? That's really cool.

Also, just curious, did you have to wear masks aboard? A couple weeks back, Strasburg made a Facebook post saying that since PA lifted restrictions, Strasburg was not requiring masks aboard. But Strasburg falls under FRA regulations for mask usage during passenger service, and the FRA defaults to the TSA, who is still requiring masks aboard all forms of public transportation regardless of vaccination status or negative test result. And the FRA is checking in on people. The Chehalis-Centralia Railroad said they had someone try to get aboard without a mask and they stopped, explained that even if he was vaccinated he still had to wear a mask due to FRA mandate and that if he didn't have a mask they could provide one. The guy was actually an undercover FRA inspector sent to test them on that. Now when I rode the Lehigh Gorge Scenic last summer I was told at the ticket booth "Masks are not required but are recommended. If you aren't comfortable with people not wearing masks, then don't go aboard. Whether you wear a mask or not, by purchasing this ticket and stepping aboard, you are forfeiting your right to sue either the railroad or other passenger. Do you wish to buy a ticket still?"

There are some tourist lines and museums pushing for the FRA to give an exemption to the mask rule for those who are vaccinated. They are saying that there's a big difference between a 4.5 mile ride in a passenger car with open windows and a 12 hour ride in sealed Amfleets, and that Americans are just so collectively tired of mask-wearing that it is hurting their business. When people can do pretty much any other form of entertainment without wearing a mask, and then they show up to go for a short train ride and are told they need a mask, they just turn away and go do something else. There are also some Congressmen/Congresswomen pushing for the TSA to release an updated travel guideline, since it's pretty much unchanged since everything began, for all forms of transportation. We'll see how that goes.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/29/21 11:09 a.m.
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to NickD :

Ah ok, that makes sense. Seems like with UP at least they could still use PTC on the diesel helper though? 

And obviously operating a steam locomotive takes just a bit more work than a diesel. So you'd think that if the brakes were suddenly applied on their own, or maybe a red light started blinking in the cab, that the crew would probably notice...

The issue with using the PTC signal off the helper, particularly with the stuff UP runs, is by the time you factor in the length of #4014 and her tender and then the two or three auxiliary canteens she tows made out of GTEL tenders, that lead diesel is some 250+ feet rearward. So for example if you had an issue where, say, the train split in two and went into emergency brakes, then #4014 could be fouling a switch for a passing siding, but the PTC transponder would be in the clear, so the system would allow an approaching train to continue and then possibly strike #4014.

As early as the 1880s, the PRR did have a system to apply the brakes if a train overran a stop signal. The engines had a glass cylinder on the roof that the air brakes ran through, and then when a stop signal was displayed it lowered a steel bar overhead. If the engine overran the signal, the bar would smash the glass cylinder and then all the air brake pressure would dump and the brakes would apply.

The PRR also innovated a number of safety tech that put them above their competitors. In the '20s, they developed the Cab Signal System, that had a display inside the cab of steam and electric locomotives that displayed the signal position for the signal block that the train was currently in, using a pulsed signal inducted into the rails. The system was so effective that there were a number of segments on the PRR that didn't have signal bridges at all, relying just on the CSS. Rather than continuing to use the old method of hooping up paper orders at stations and towers, they developed the trainphone, which was a telephone handset aboard locomotives that picked up signals from telegraph lines along the rails, allowing dispatchers to talk to a train crew and dispatch updated orders ahead of time to crews. PRR also pushed the Cab Signal System even further, with an Automatic Train Control system. This would alert crews via an air whistle of an upcoming speed restriction, an overspeed condition or overrunning a signal, using an air whistle inside the cab, and could force the train to apply its brakes if the engineer did not comply with those speed changes. The air whistles for the ATC system must have annoyed engineers, because I read an account of one person scavenging (with permission) the cabs of retired GG1s and noticing that many of the whistles had air lines pinched off or duct tape wrapped around the whistles.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/29/21 11:44 a.m.

PRR K4 #5495 with the Cab Signal System box visible on the running board just aft of the cylinders. Also interesting that it has the headlight and generator swapped to the post-WWII configuration but has the pre-war slatted pilot instead of the cast-steel pilot with drop coupler. I also heard that way back when Strasburg ran excursions with PRR #7002 and PRR #1223 and they left the property for longer trips, #7002 was always put in front because it had CSS and the #1223 did not.

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/29/21 12:32 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

Wow, I've never heard of any of those innovations. That's some real ingenuity. 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/29/21 1:41 p.m.

In reply to Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) :

PRR was the originator of Cab Signal Systems and the most widespread user, but they popped up on several other railroads.

  • Reading used them on all steam, diesel and electric (EMU cars) equipment on the Bethlehem Branch,
  • New Haven had two separate systems (PRR 4-signal for the Shore Line, Illinois Central 2-aspect for the Springfield Line), with some locomotives equipped with both.
  • Boston & Maine
  • CNJ trains out of Jersey City
  • Long Island Rail Road (because of their close affiliation with the PRR, even used the same system)
  • Atlantic Coast Line around Washington D.C.
  • Illinois Central
  • CB&Q
  • C&NW
  • Milwaukee Road 
  • Rock Island

As you can see, it kind of splits into 2 clusters: the Northeast Big Three of D.C/NYC/Boston, and the Chicago lines. There have also been two modern-day installations in steam locomotives: NKP #765 received the PRR-style 4-aspect system for running on Norfolk Southern's ex-PRR Pittsburgh Line, and C&O #614 was fitted with New Jersey Transit's system for running out of Port Jervis and Jersey City. The retrofit to #614 was supposedly a real bitch and NJT shop crews still are complaining about it.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/30/21 11:26 a.m.

CNJ Pacific on the head end of the Blue Comet with the boxes for cab signal equipment on the pilot deck.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/30/21 11:35 a.m.

A GG1 cab with the Cab Signal System display visible to the left. The CSS is the housing with the 5 vertically-stacked round lenses in it. You can also see how the top lense is lit, with three lights stacked vertically ("Clear") and matches the signal light out of the windshield.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/30/21 11:45 a.m.

A PRR T1 cab. Off to the right, ahead of the engineer's seat and partially obscured, you can see the Cab Signal System display. There was also one on the fireman's side typically. Also, attached to the roof, you can see the handset for the "Trainphone".

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/30/21 1:53 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

Wow, that's really awesome. 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/30/21 3:39 p.m.

A strong case for PTC would be that nasty accident that Amtrak/Sound Transit had back in 2017 on the old Northern Pacific Point Defiance Bypass. Amtrak had been running passenger train service on the Point Defiance Bypass in the '80s but always had issues with mudslides closing the track, and then BNSF cut some of the tunnels down from double-track to single-track for more freight clearance, which resulted in Amtrak ceasing usage of it. Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, usually just called Sound Transit, ended up with the line after BNSF ceased usage of it and the Washington State DOT came up with a plan to run Amtrak Cascades service over the line. From 2010 to 2017, they did a major overhaul on the line, replacing rails and ties, installing upgraded grade crossing protection, better signaling systems and installing PTC. There was also an allotment for a $230 million bridge project that would fix the original track alignment, which had a very sharp 30mph curve near the Nisqually River and I-5, but as the cost ran high and the overhaul took longer than expected, that track realignment program was dropped.

The inaugural run was made using a brand-new Siemens Charger, a Talgo Series VI trainset and a Genesis P42 on the back end as relief power, with five Amtrak employees, a Talgo technician and 77 passengers aboard. While the route and the locomotive were both installed with Positive Train Control, the PTC system was not active for the run. The train entered that sharp 30mph curve at 78mph with emergency brakes applied. The lead locomotive and all 12 cars derailed and fell onto I-5, crushing several automobiles, while the Genesis remained on the rails. Three passengers were killed and a number were severely injured.

The resulting investigation turned up that the engineer had only made one complete run over the Bypass before the first revenue run and did not know the territory. He knew of the curve but was relying strictly at the mileposts and when missed seeing the one milepost he became lost and did not know where he was. The Siemens locomotive issued a speed alert because he was doing 82mph, and he thought it was just a general overspeed alert and so made a gradual brake application to get it down to the legal 80mph, not realizing that it was alerting him that he was approaching the 30mph curve.

The investigative fallout spread the blame all over everyone. Sound Transit was found at fault for not fixing the 30mph curve despite knowing it was an issue. Amtrak was blamed for not training the engineer sufficiently and for not having the PTC system active. Amtrak became wary of the Talgo trainsets, and the NTSB recommended against their continued operation due to poor collision safety characteristics, and so they retired all of them and are not replacing them. The engineer was blamed by many for still taking the throttle and operating the train despite the fact that he had severe reservations about his ability to safely do his job.

If PTC had been activated, the outcome likely would have been very different. It would have seen the failure to begin braking in the lead-up to the curve and if he hadn't made a braking application, then PTC would have kicked in and closed the throttle and applied the brakes. Probably would have jostled the passengers a bit and put the train behind schedule, but that's a better outcome.

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/30/21 5:37 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

Oh wow, yeah that would have been a far far better outcome. 

kazoospec
kazoospec UberDork
6/30/21 9:27 p.m.
NickD said:

In reply to kazoospec :

Looks like they were running #475. I'm a little said they took the N&W single-chime hooter whistle off and replaced it with the shop-built 3-chime. The new whistle sounds nice but it's a little nondescript, certainily not as unique as the N&W whistle. Did you guys take the shop tour? That's really cool.

Also, just curious, did you have to wear masks aboard? A couple weeks back, Strasburg made a Facebook post saying that since PA lifted restrictions, Strasburg was not requiring masks aboard. But Strasburg falls under FRA regulations for mask usage during passenger service, and the FRA defaults to the TSA, who is still requiring masks aboard all forms of public transportation regardless of vaccination status or negative test result. And the FRA is checking in on people. The Chehalis-Centralia Railroad said they had someone try to get aboard without a mask and they stopped, explained that even if he was vaccinated he still had to wear a mask due to FRA mandate and that if he didn't have a mask they could provide one. The guy was actually an undercover FRA inspector sent to test them on that. Now when I rode the Lehigh Gorge Scenic last summer I was told at the ticket booth "Masks are not required but are recommended. If you aren't comfortable with people not wearing masks, then don't go aboard. Whether you wear a mask or not, by purchasing this ticket and stepping aboard, you are forfeiting your right to sue either the railroad or other passenger. Do you wish to buy a ticket still?"

There are some tourist lines and museums pushing for the FRA to give an exemption to the mask rule for those who are vaccinated. They are saying that there's a big difference between a 4.5 mile ride in a passenger car with open windows and a 12 hour ride in sealed Amfleets, and that Americans are just so collectively tired of mask-wearing that it is hurting their business. When people can do pretty much any other form of entertainment without wearing a mask, and then they show up to go for a short train ride and are told they need a mask, they just turn away and go do something else. There are also some Congressmen/Congresswomen pushing for the TSA to release an updated travel guideline, since it's pretty much unchanged since everything began, for all forms of transportation. We'll see how that goes.

Sorry, we were pretty much "off the grid" for the last couple days.  No masks required.  The fam is all vaccinated, but no one even asked about that, either.

Just a note for anyone traveling to Strasburg, we had planned to go to the PA railroad museum as part of our trip, and were disappointed to find they are currently only open on weekends.  Lots of local stuff was also closed/reduced hours due to staffing shortages.  It was kind of weird, like going to a summer tourist town in October.  

Other completely random and largely unrelated notes:  Amishview Inn, despite it's campy name, was a pretty nice hotel with a KILLER included breakfast.  Highly recommended.  We drove by the "caboose motel".  From the road, it looked pretty sketchy.  Kind of glad we didn't book there.  Since the PA RR museum was closed, we ended up going here:  Choo Choo Barn.  Probably a bit overpriced, but a neat model train layout, obviously built by someone with a great sense of humor and pretty good taste in cars.  The Mrs. and kids both liked it too.  

And we hit the USAF Museum in Dayton on the way back home.  Still probably my favorite destination.  It's grown SIGNIFICANTLY since I was there last.  

NickD
NickD MegaDork
7/1/21 9:23 a.m.
kazoospec said:

Other completely random and largely unrelated notes:  Amishview Inn, despite it's campy name, was a pretty nice hotel with a KILLER included breakfast.  Highly recommended.  We drove by the "caboose motel".  From the road, it looked pretty sketchy.  Kind of glad we didn't book there.  

Well, I'll be able to tell you how sketchy the caboose motel is in two weeks, because that's where I'm staying when I go down to operate N&W #611

kazoospec
kazoospec UberDork
7/1/21 10:31 a.m.
NickD said:
kazoospec said:

Other completely random and largely unrelated notes:  Amishview Inn, despite it's campy name, was a pretty nice hotel with a KILLER included breakfast.  Highly recommended.  We drove by the "caboose motel".  From the road, it looked pretty sketchy.  Kind of glad we didn't book there.  

Well, I'll be able to tell you how sketchy the caboose motel is in two weeks, because that's where I'm staying when I go down to operate N&W #611

I'm honestly interested.  My wife isn't overly "adventurous" when it comes to places to stay, but the concept is interesting, and Kazookid2 is already planning our "next trip". 

Funny story from the "Amishview Inn".  It actually backs up to an Amish farm (perhaps surprising no one).  Around dusk, we hear the puttering of a small gas engine in the field behind us.  At first, it doesn't seem strange, but then I remember it's supposed to be an Amish farm.   So we take a look and, sure enough, there's an Amish guy mowing hay with a gas powered mower deck . . . pulled by a team of horses.  

kazoospec
kazoospec UberDork
7/1/21 10:39 a.m.

Tomorrow's scheduled event with Kazookid2 is a scheduled trip to the railfanning park in "the iron triangle" in Fostoria, Ohio.  We're planning to make a day of it, so anyone got any tips for nearby places to watch yard work, etc.?

NickD
NickD MegaDork
7/1/21 10:45 a.m.
kazoospec said:
NickD said:
kazoospec said:

Other completely random and largely unrelated notes:  Amishview Inn, despite it's campy name, was a pretty nice hotel with a KILLER included breakfast.  Highly recommended.  We drove by the "caboose motel".  From the road, it looked pretty sketchy.  Kind of glad we didn't book there.  

Well, I'll be able to tell you how sketchy the caboose motel is in two weeks, because that's where I'm staying when I go down to operate N&W #611

I'm honestly interested.  My wife isn't overly "adventurous" when it comes to places to stay, but the concept is interesting, and Kazookid2 is already planning our "next trip". 

Funny story from the "Amishview Inn".  It actually backs up to an Amish farm (perhaps surprising no one).  Around dusk, we hear the puttering of a small gas engine in the field behind us.  At first, it doesn't seem strange, but then I remember it's supposed to be an Amish farm.   So we take a look and, sure enough, there's an Amish guy mowing hay with a gas powered mower deck . . . pulled by a team of horses.  

When I was trying to figure out how to get to the crossings quickest at Strasburg last year, I popped up over a hill to come across an Amish family going down the road on a big Belarus articulated tractor with all the lights stripped off it and the rubber pneumatic tires swapped out for steel wheels with sheets of rubber bolted to them in overlaying flaps like shingles. It was a very strange sight.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
7/2/21 12:14 p.m.
kazoospec said:

I'm honestly interested.  My wife isn't overly "adventurous" when it comes to places to stay, but the concept is interesting, and Kazookid2 is already planning our "next trip". 

I will make the suggestion that if you're going to make the trip to Strasburg again, it is 100% worth the additional 2 hour drive northeast to Jim Thorpe for the Lehigh Gorge Scenic when they are running Reading & Northern #425. They run one hell of an operation there. Watching that light Pacific go marching up through the gorge with 11 passenger cars in tow and no diesel helper, with an exhaust note that sounds like cannon fire was amazing. What #425 lacks in size, she makes up for in attitude. Just bring sunglasses or safety glasses, because she rains cinders down pretty heavy too. Jim Thorpe is also just an extremely cool city to do the tourist schtick in. All the houses are carved into the mountainsides and have all sorts of turrets and spires, and there is the Lehigh Gorge State Park, which has an old Lehigh Coal & Navigation tunnel that you can walk through.

 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
7/2/21 2:38 p.m.

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