Computerized system to warns train operators

DocGeoff Jan 9, 2007

  1. Big Al

    Big Al TrainBoard Member

    148
    0
    20
    Seems that this thread has encompassed three different technologies.

    PTC is only an alerter/enforcement system that is communications based as opposed to hardwired track circuit. The details of the systems may vary a bit, but the system does not have control of all aspects of the train movement.

    RC systems have a human with a radio control pack that selects a desired action from the onboard computer. The computer can then determine how best to meet the request. For anyone that has seen a remote control belt pack you will know that the operator can select a speed 'range' and direction, plus stop or go. This process still requires a human's input. RC operators on most railroads are not allowed to occupy the engineer's seat, or even the cab, while using the beltpack. That would defeat the purpose of not having an engineer. From my experience the RC switching operations that have had derailments appear to be from lack of ability of the RC operator to 'feel' what is going on onboard. A simple example is that when you are on the engine and a stop is required then the engineer will gradually apply the brakes until the slack comes in "you can feel it" and then increases the braking effort to stop. If an RCO calls for a stop then the computer does everything it can to comply. Slack action in any given cut of cars can vary greatly, far beyond what the RC equipment can be programmed to know.

    Totally automated operations have no human input. This technology exists already and is used on some transit systems and mine railroads. When I was young I witnessed a mine train someplace in the West that ran on a pre-programmed cycle, including public crossings. The train came up to a crossing, the gates and lights activated, the train horn sounded and then it started to move. If you were stupid enough to ignore the warnings then you would get hit, end of story. With human control on board at least the idiots might have a chance.
    Out on the open road there are far too many variables to contend with. As was mentioned previously the fully automated systems have a place in a closed environment. All the sensors and optics in the world cannot easily replace the human. If the companies would treat the humans better (better schedules/rest/etc) then I really think they could improve the operation. Fatigue or greed plays a big part in many accidents and it isn't always mentioned in the investigation. See my posts in the Hours of Service thread.

    PTC or cab signals are good things to help the crews do their jobs. RC and full automation are only about the $$.
     
  2. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

    12,215
    2,241
    164
    Hi Clem, welcome to the TrainBoard. We're very glad to have you on board.
     
  3. Clem

    Clem TrainBoard Member

    20
    0
    11
    You are correct. For example, most, if not all of the versions allow for a certain time to get slowed down for a slow order. If you do not comply with in the company's preset braking distance that they feel the train can slow down in, it will give you a penalty brake application. Upon giving a penalty brake application, it is capable of sending an alert in many ways to an appropriate official. This is all accomplished through GPS and other whiz-bang gadgets. It has the control of the most important function, bringing the train to a stop. There will be some kind of cutout for it. It will be classified as a safety device and will have a whole string of requirements for a train crew to remember what to do when much like ATS or cab signals act up or fail.

    I have nothing nice to say about RCL technology. :zip:

    Thanks, I have been lurking for a while now...
     
  4. Flash Blackman

    Flash Blackman Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    13,326
    214
    149
    The Singapore City Rail system is automatic. That's the only one that I know of with no engineer or crew at all. It covers all of Singapore, but that is not so large as Chicago Metra, Sydney Cityrail, etc. Also, I believe it was not converted. That is, it was designed this way from the beginning.
     
  5. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member

    18,292
    6,755
    232
    All automatic? Wow, that's interesting. Whats their safety record?
     
  6. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

    12,215
    2,241
    164
    Regards this discussion, here's an interesting bit of trivia.......

    The New York City Subway Shuttle was fully automated in the early 50's. The Shuttle ran point-to-point between Grand Central Terminal and Times Square. A motorman had to be available in the front (control) car at all times the system was operating, "just in case". The motorman sat in the most forward seat opposite the control cab with a very large stack of comic books.

    It's my understanding that the system never even hiccupped after initial testing and acceptance. The local newspapers reported that "safety" was the only reason the motorman was on board. However, it was well acknowledged at the time that management had agreed to the demands of the Motorman's Local to prevent a walkout. IIRC, the "comic book motorman" was on duty until they replaced the old (original?) cars in the early 60's.

    Referencing earlier discussions, the Shuttle is what I would consider to be a "closed" process. It was one train, operating on a single track, in a dedicated tunnel, with one station at each end, and with minimum possibility of external interference. It was considered to be a natural for automation.

    BTW, the motorman's only scheduled task was to pick up his comic book stack at each station and move to the opposite end of the train......:zip:
     
  7. Clem

    Clem TrainBoard Member

    20
    0
    11
    Most people movers are automatic at airports. DFW airport comes to mind right now. There is not a soul on board that controls the "train". It is "controlled" (observed is a better word here) from a dispatch center. It is all automated and uses a floating block system. It is a rather neat concept and has multiple safe guards built into it.
     
  8. Flash Blackman

    Flash Blackman Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    13,326
    214
    149
    Excellent safety record AFAIK. I believe Colonel has been there to study it for recommendations for Sydney. He can probably give specifics about how it works.

    I think "people mover" is a good term, but it is on rails. Sort of like the Denver Light rail but many times larger; it is a people only system, i.e., no freight. There is no access to the track anywhere along the ROW even where it comes above ground. In stations, passengers are kept away from the train by doors until the train stops. The stations are manned, of course. Seems to work okay.
     
  9. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

    1,888
    130
    38
    I agree with you on this Clem!

    The BNSF was using RCL technology at Cicero Yard(Illinois) but as I have been told, it is in "limbo" now.

    At any rate I had a conversation a couple of years ago with a hogger
    buddy of mine,and his wife,who was riding on my train. I was still "on the ground" at that time. We were talking about RCL and my contention was that it was only a matter of time before some RCL operator shoved a cut of cars onto the main into the path of a high
    speed commuter train.There are two locations where this can be done. I learned that that was also the feeling of my friend. He is a officer in his B.L.E.& T. local and was campaigning at that time to discontinue or
    severely limit the use of RCL. While I don't know the reasons, the carrier
    quite suddenly,without prior notice, discontinued the use of RCL at Cicero Yard. The explanation on the "grapevine" was that it was because the technology was "slowing down" the operations at Cicero.
    I have reason to believe that there may have been one or more "near misses" that may have prompted this decision.
    Cicero Yard certainly has had its share of "no! that'll never happen" incidents. At least twice during my brief career, cuts of "High/Wide" cars(auto racks-double stacks) have been shoved onto main tracks with
    improper clearances resulting in severe damage. I have pictures of one
    of the incidents. Prior to my time a commuter train struck a plug door box car on an adjacent track. The plug door was open. This incident prompted an instruction in System Special Instructions. I worked with that hogger quite frequently at Eola Yard and he told me the story about it. Yes! it did scare the shazzbat outta him!
    So you see, there are a number of us who have little regard for RCL technology. Anything that operates on radio waves can be hacked into, jammed or overidden.

    CT
     
  10. conrailmike

    conrailmike E-Mail Bounces

    5
    0
    10
    All I know is that CSX runs through here about 150 ft. (give or take) from the back of my house and I really don't enjoy the thought of a computer controlling those trains. Especially with some of those tankers full of some flammable toxic substance. I mean, I know if it's gonna derail, it's gonna derail, even with a crew aboard. But I have this horrible vision of a computer controlled train shorting out and flying down the rails at some God awful speed creating havoc.
     
  11. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

    12,215
    2,241
    164
    Clem, I have no problem with "people movers" at DFW, etc. with today's process control computer technology. What amazes me, looking back from 45 years dealing with process control, is that the NYC Shuttle automation was all done with relay logic! Computers wouldn't have this capability for another 15 years at Esso's Bayway, NJ refinery! What the IRT did 55 years ago was flat amazing, and scary too!
     
  12. Clem

    Clem TrainBoard Member

    20
    0
    11
    While it wasn't a commuter train, UP turned a bunch of auto racks over that held Hummers and other assorted Chevy/GM junk on them right over 360 in Arlington Texas a few years back. (This is a major north/south freeway artery through Arlington Texas) It shut down the highway. IIRC, it happened while Amtrak 21 or 22 was in the general vicinity. The RCL operator was playing bumper tag with a cut of cars that he could not clearly see the end of. He kept shoving, shoving and shoving until what ever was in his way gave. It just so happened that the auto racks gave first. I would be curious to see how many of the fatalities/injuries that have occurred while using RCLs were due to fatigue and rest issues. I have wondered what the RCL operator's work schedule was up to their "incident" where they were hurt or killed.
     
  13. Ed Pinkley#2

    Ed Pinkley#2 TrainBoard Member

    903
    0
    23
    Well Rob,
    I guess you think all we do on the trains is sleep. Great stereotyping. You see what is presented to you by the news media that is only interested in the railroad industry when bad things happen. You want a example of human interaction I'll give it to you. A 1 year old child is playing right in the path of a oncomming train that is doing 30mph. The wide awake engineer and wide awake conductor see this without any optical sensors but the ones God gave them at birth and decide they need to do something and fast. The engineer immediately puts the train into emergency but the conductor knows that the train won't stop in time to miss the child. The conductor then goes to the front of the enigne steps over the snow plow and risking his own life puts his other leg out and swipes the kid out of the way with a push from his foot. The conductor then jumps from the train to make sure that the kid is OK while the engineer calls for emergency crews to the scene. I really wonder how long it would have taken the computer to call the coroner to let them know that it killed a child? But hey I have hundreds of stories like that but hopefully some day optical sensors will be doing a dangerous job. Maybe one day they will be doing yours! And by the way the parents of the kid couldn't have been happier that they didn't have to make funeral arrangements that day. I could tell you of a conductor and engineer that hit a school bus and how they helped save kids lives by pulling them from it but my Dad tell's it better he was the Conductor.
     
  14. Flash Blackman

    Flash Blackman Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    13,326
    214
    149
    I don't know what these mean:

    RCL
    RCO
    PTC

    RC probably means "Radio Control."

    Thanks.
     
  15. sp4009

    sp4009 TrainBoard Member

    804
    156
    22
    Excellent words Ed.
     
  16. Adam Woods

    Adam Woods TrainBoard Member

    200
    0
    14
    RCL is "Remote Control Locomotive"
    RCO is "Remote Control Operations"
    PTC is "Postive Train Control"
    Here is some more info on PTC http://www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/784

    Adam
     
  17. Ed Pinkley#2

    Ed Pinkley#2 TrainBoard Member

    903
    0
    23
    I almost forgot to WELCOME Clem to Trainboard. You said it right, most of running a train is done with the sensors right in the posterior of the human body. 10,000 feet and 13,000 tons we do it everyday.
     
  18. Clem

    Clem TrainBoard Member

    20
    0
    11
    Thanks for the greeting.

    No amount of sensory equipment will be able to stop a 13,000+ ton coal train before hitting something. By the time most locomotive mounted sensory systems would detect someone, it would have had to put the train in emergency a 1/2 mile ago. The only possibility that I see that would make that work is to have track side sensors mounted in combination with the locomotive mounted sensors. Then, you have issues with vandalism, theft, and weather associated with the wayside equipment. The other thing that you see with most automated systems is that they have separate RoWs. They are elevated or underground where the general public has to be working really hard to be in front of one of these automated "trains".

    One of the new systems I am interested in is the new electronic braking stuff that has been being tested. (EPIC IIRC???) From what I have read, it is dramatically reducing stopping distances on loaded coal and grain trains. The problem has been that it is only being tested in a few areas on specific equipment. It has yet to reach general service. I personally hold out more hope that this will be a better application of technology...

    I honestly can't see PTC evolving into a no man crew. As stated before, it is simply a rules compliance system to ensure compliance with speed restrictions, the limits of TWC, Form Bs, etc. It is a similar concept to the high rail compliance that BNSF is using to make sure their MoW guys don't wander out of their limits.
     
  19. Adam Woods

    Adam Woods TrainBoard Member

    200
    0
    14
    From what I understand electronic brakes work great. BN/BNSF worked with them at one point (before my time) but stoped, mainly because they cost big time money. They can cut stoping distance of a coal train by something like 50% and you can back off the train brakes without kick them clear off.

    I see that the FRA is looking at mandating electronic brakes on basicly everything. It's a ways off but we'll see.
    Adam
     
  20. Clem

    Clem TrainBoard Member

    20
    0
    11

    Graduated release on a long, heavy freight train would be interesting. If it is accomplished electronically, it would be smooth. If the signal is sent through the brake pipe, (like traditional graduated release) it won't work too well. :)
     

Share This Page