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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL

   
Author Topic: POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL
Iron Mountain
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I don't want to overdo the Kirkwood/Kansas City train trip reports but my wife and another couple did have a fun trip to KC last weekend. What I wanted to comment on was positive train control (PTC).

The train ran well in a timely fashion to KC. It did the same on the return for about half the trip. Somewhere between Sedalia and Jefferson City, an isolated section of single track, the train slowed and stopped. After 15 minutes the conductor announced that they had a computer problem. A half hour passed and he announced they were still working on it. Then the lights went out and the air conditioning stopped. Finally, after another half hour or so the lights went on. Then we heard engine starting. Soon we were on our way.

We talked to the conductor and he said that the computer malfunctioned because the locomotive had been in Illinois, where a different signal system is used. They had to call Chicago for help. Someone there told them how to reboot the computer. I asked him if that was a PTC issue and he said yes. I did a little research and apparently "interoperability" is somewhat of an issue for the railroads. So, in layman's terms, the computer had been understanding the PTC in Illinois but got confused in Missouri by a different train control signal system. Mechanically the locomotive was fine but the computer shut it down.

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Geoff Mayo
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Ah yes, elsewhere there have been a lot of comments about the PTC equipment not being inter-operable as it is required to be.

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Geoff M.

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RRCHINA
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Too much "word of mouth" conclusions. PTC is not installed and operasting on the ST Louis - KC line.

A conductor explaining why a train has problems will frequently say whatever will placate the person questioning.

Further, if there was a "computer problem" because AMTRAK has a different operating system in Illinois than in Missouri then AMTRAK should never send a locomotive to a location where it is incompatible with whatever operating system is at that location. This appears to be just talk to satisfy a passemgers question.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Within the scope of this topic as titled, Positive Train Conttrol, post-Chatsworth, is simply inevitable over any line handling more passenger trains beyond a "one a day" Amtrak LD.

Now that the NTSB has released their full report, RAR 13-02, regarding Goodwell, their recommendations continue to echo the need for PTC. While the incident was prompted by inadequate vision screening of the Engineer on one train involved, it certainly appears that had PTC been active, the entire incident would have been avoided.

While there is little doubt who will be picking up tab for passenger related installations (try UENI, regardless of whether we ride trains), it remains to be seen how the tab will be divided amongst the stakeholders in the freight industry.

Here is the Summary Report in question (full report not yet on the web):

http://www.ntsb.gov/news/events/2013/goodwell_ok_board/Goodwell_Synopsis.pdf

Finally, Tuesday's Wall Street Journal has an extensive article regarding PTC and passenger roads. Noted within is the Schuylkill River Viaduct noted by Mr. Frailey in his "Ride now or else" TRAINS column:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323582904578485061024790402.html

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Iron Mountain
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GBN, It seems to me that the RR signals used to be similar to stop lights, in that, one could tell what light (red or green) was lit based on position (top or bottom). And semaphores were also used. I had a friend who was color blind, he could see only pink or blue, and he told me that is how he determined if a stop light was red or green. Anyway, my question is, can you tell if the signal light(s) are red or green by position or is there only one light?
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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Mountain, on some roads , position light signals were active, such as the Pennsylvania, and conceivably an Engineer could remain in service if color blind. However, with most other signalling systems, color acuity is necessary.

Semaphores, which have almost been replaced system wide, one could be in Engine service and safely operate a train even if color blind. Hey with semaphores it's just "Gate Up? Go; Half up? Slow Down; Down? Stop".

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Geoff Mayo
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quote:
Originally posted by Iron Mountain:
GBN, It seems to me that the RR signals used to be similar to stop lights, in that, one could tell what light (red or green) was lit based on position (top or bottom). And semaphores were also used. I had a friend who was color blind, he could see only pink or blue, and he told me that is how he determined if a stop light was red or green. Anyway, my question is, can you tell if the signal light(s) are red or green by position or is there only one light?

There is a plethora of different types of signals remaining in service across the US. The old searchlight signals, which had a single aperture with moving colored discs to change the aspect shown, would be impossible to determine from position. To the opposite extreme and most newer installations have one colour per position on a signal pole, so theoretically you could work out the aspect from a black and white photo - as long as it was in the daytime.

A number of searchlights are on this page.

This photo, from the same site, shows a signal with different lamps for each of the three colors. As we can see the shape of the signal we can see which of the three lamps is lit without knowing their color. However, if it was dark then that ability is lost.

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Geoff M.

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Railroad Bob
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quote:
Originally posted by Geoff Mayo:However, if it was dark then that ability is lost. [/QB]
Dark signals have their own special rules, Geoff.
Varies from road to road but generally if the "light is out" the crew had to treat that signal as if it was displaying the "most restrictive aspect."
That usually would be solid, non flashing red. The crew would call it in to the dispatcher, who could give permission to pass (or not.)

I knew a locomotive engineer whose color vision had degraded to a certain point and was disquaified from service; he had his 240 months+ service and took an early retirement with full pension. It's true with semaphores/position lights you could tell the indication w/o color vision. The new Surfliner signals are LED position lights in a "triangle" arrangement, really bright and clear. No more incandescent bulbs on the new ones, at least on the part of the line south of Oceanside.

ASPECT= what "color" or image a signal displays

INDICATION= what that aspect says you can "do"

NAME= How that signal is described, ie. "diverging
clear" or "approach medium."

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Vincent206
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The GAO has just released a report on the FRA and the implementation of PTC by freight railroads, Amtrak and the commuter agencies. Basically, the GAO finds that there's a lot of work to do before the RSIA mandated deadline of 12.31.2015 for PTC implementation. Some of the problems are that much of the technology is first generation and still being developed, the testing process is complex and time consuming and that the FRA has limited resources to assist the railroads as they design, test and implement their PTC systems. It seems doubtful that the USA will have a fully functional PTC system in place on 1.1.2016.
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RRCHINA
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Really Vincent206!!
Are you suggesting that our Executive and legislative branches cannot shoot from the hip and everything will easily and automatically happen.

This was legislated and signed by the President w/o one iota of common sense. But what else is new!

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Geoff Mayo
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quote:
Originally posted by Railroad Bob:
quote:
Originally posted by Geoff Mayo:However, if it was dark then that ability is lost.

Dark signals have their own special rules, Geoff.[/QB]
Actually I meant if it was dark outside, as in night time! But I realize now my comment was ambiguous - apologies.

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Geoff M.

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Railroad Bob
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Hi Geoff- no need for apology; I read the context wrong. [Smile] Also wanted to thank you for the two interesting links to the various sigs in your earlier post. I forgot night is dark, too.
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yukon11
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Another major problem with PTC implementation has to do with radio spectrum availability, around the 220 mHz area.

Railroads need a lot of space around 220 mHz. The ticklish problem is that much of the space has already been purchased by private entities. It could mean forced transfer of fequencies from some private parties to to others, which could open up a real can of worms.

Richard

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Vincent206
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The GAO report addresses that issue:
quote:
Finally, commuter railroads report that obtaining radio frequency spectrum—essential for PTC communications—can be a lengthy and
difficult process. The FCC has directed commuter railroads to secure spectrum on the secondary market. According to the FCC, spectrum is available in the secondary market to meet PTC needs. While freight railroads have secured most of the spectrum needed for PTC
implementation, commuter railroads have reported difficulty acquiring spectrum in the 220 MHz band, which is required to operate the data radios that communicate information between PTC components.


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George Harris
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What happens when sunspot activity clobbers radio?
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yukon11
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quote:
Originally posted by George Harris:
What happens when sunspot activity clobbers radio?

*************************

A couple of Dixie cups and a very long string.

Richard

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Henry Kisor
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Maybe Plan B involves cell phones.
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Iron Mountain
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Thanks for all the interesting responses to my signal question.
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