BNSF receives patent for moving block system

Hytec Feb 10, 2021

  1. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    This article was posted today on Trains Newswire. It's a description of what's just around the corner for a fantastic improvement in Class I operations and performance without modifying any track. The article is copyrighted, available for subscribers only, so I can't post it publicly. However, if you send me a PM I believe I'm allowed to share it with my close friends.
     
  2. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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  3. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    Some day a future generation of railfans might gather for photos at the last locations of block signals in the same way some of us once did at interlocking towers.

    I'm assuming that this builds off PTC technology, which even today has lead to widespread demolition of intermediate signals. Thankfully NS has maintained these intermediates at Lowell, NC which I shot several years ago.

    2016-10-21 Lowell NC SOU Signal Bridge - for upload.jpg
     
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  4. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Could this also take us another step closer to crewless train operation?
     
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  5. Pastor John

    Pastor John TrainBoard Member

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    From a raw technology standpoint, crewless (or reduced crew) trains are probably closer than driverless cars. That is, of course, if someone puts the money into R&D. Right now, cars are getting all the money.
     
  6. rch

    rch TrainBoard Member

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    Well, you definitely don't need wayside signals if nobody is up in the cab to observe them.

    Having said that, there are so many instances where the train is required to move at restricted speed that you need somebody's eyes up in the cab. I'm sure I'll still have something to do as an engineer in the coming years, but it remains to be seen what that is.
     
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  7. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    There seem to be more variables than inventors assume, like fallen trees blocking a track or a stalled automobile at a grade crossing. Is that person walking aside the track looking back at the approaching train or not? A human engineer can see, judge and react accordingly in a way that I think a computer can't. I can also foresee what the media would think of such a thing. I guess we'll all find out someday if we live long enough.
     
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  8. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I was thinking that rather than go to all of the trouble to create crewless train technology, perhaps we can instead invent an able robot clothed in pinstriped metal overalls and Kromer cap who can be lifted into the right hand seat to take charge. We'll model him with a likeness to Schwarzenegger. <g>
     
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  9. Dave1905

    Dave1905 TrainBoard Member

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    But a human engineer still can't stop before hitting the tree, car or person.

    You don't need wayside signals with cab signals/CTC. The CNW had several lines without intermediate signals, just using cab signals, the technology to get rid of wayside signals isn't new.

    The major barrier to the adoption of this technology is actually PSR and big trains. Why do you need to invest more capital to create a system to to run more trains when the industry is running fewer trains The current systems have gobs of excess capacity from a dispatching perspective. Is the incremental increase in capacity worth the investment? Dunno. We'll have to see.
     
  10. rch

    rch TrainBoard Member

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    Depends on several conditions: speed, grade, load, etc.

    Recently I had a person wearing a red track suit standing directly on the tracks ahead waving her arms up and down. I saw red and arms waving violently, so I was expecting some kind of emeegency. I was on a key train/loaded ethanol in HTUA limits, so even though I was on a clear signal I wasn't going very fast. I was also going uphill, so when I spotted her I set full service and got the train stopped short of her position. Of course, once I got within a few hundred feet, the person she was ranting and raving to became visible. Once the train got her attention she simply stepped aside.

    PTC is not a cab signal system, and to that point we can't respond to it like it is, but realistically it's a cab signal system. It displays a rudimentary track diagram and uses color codes to indicate which tracks are authorized for use. Anything better than approach shows green, approach shows yellow, restricted shows a hatched yellow, stop shows red and so on. Five miles of track ahead are displayed with instructions given up to six miles ahead.

    Since we have no rules superseding the signal rules we still have to abide by them. Here's an example: When I get on a train that was just brought in by another crew and we did not discuss what signal they came in on, I must proceed at restricted speed. Until a recent update that's what PTC made you do, even if you did have a conversation with the inbound crew and knew you were on a clear. Now PTC lets you start off at track speed (assuming the signals ahead support it) without forcing compliance with GCOR 9.10. It would be very easy to just get on and start moving according to what PTC says even though you know you should move at restricted speed.

    Another example: meeting a train at a siding where a curve obstructs the view of the signal. I pull my train in to get in the clear for the opposing train and they get there before I'm in the clear. I can't see the signal as I near the end of the siding. I get my train in the clear and the opposing train continues clearing the other end of the siding for me. As far as the governing rules are concerned I am proceeding prepared to stop short of the next signal and not exceeding 30 mph (40 mph if PTC is active) or the siding/turnout speed, whichever is more restrictive. Once PTC knows the other end of the siding is clear it displays a clear path ahead. By rule I need to see the signal before I can react to it, so if I'm in a blind curve I need to move the train as if I'm coming to a stop. Does everyone do that? Leave it to your imagination.

    PTC is not a cab signal system, but sometimes it acts like one. Until we have rules to say it can be regarded as a cab signal system only a fool will treat it that way.

    After dealing with PTC for some time it's easy to see how the wayside signals could be done away with and floating blocks or buffer zones around the train could be established. Having said that, I've dealt with PTC enough to see what happens when it doesn't work or something goes wrong. A territory operated using some version of PTC and virtual blocks would quickly revert to TWC or something like it in the event of an outage.
     
  11. gjslsffan

    gjslsffan Staff Member

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    Very well summed up Ryan, Very well.
     
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  12. Dave1905

    Dave1905 TrainBoard Member

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    I was talking about cab signals, not PTC. Railroads already operate using cab signals instead of wayside signals. Its existing, pre-PTC technology. The PTC information can be leveraged to make the cab signals better.
     
  13. rch

    rch TrainBoard Member

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    I know what you were talking about, Dave. Since this is a thread about BNSF's patent on floating blocks (or whatever they're called) I was describing the system that's going to be used to get there from where we are today. I totally agree an actual cab signal system in conjunction with PTC would be better. In fact, that was my point. PTC is not a cab signal system, but it acts like one.
     
  14. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Several railroads had cab signals. PRR, UP and Conrail among the others already discussed. Def not new technology.

     
  15. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    Pennsy GG-1s had an in-cab signal module showing the three position aspects of the next block, many displays for approaches, etc., right from the git-go. mid-1930s, IIRC.

    I'll try to find the cab photo I saw years ago. (fingers crossed)

    Found it....!
    https://ctr.trains.com/~/media/import/files/pdf/2/9/6/gg1_engineer_s_controls_classic_trains.pdf

    It shows four displays. You engineers will understand this. I sure don't. My N-Scale only has Stop and Go. LOL
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2021
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