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Can somebody help me.  I have been reading the TRAINS special edition on CSX.

Thete is one thing I cannot undetstand.  Mabe it is a concept like the square route of -1.  

People are talking about the benefits of super long trains.  OK, you need fewer people to run them...

You have fewer trains on the road.

But would you not have:

1.  Assembly and break up of these monsters.  Many terminals cannot take them as is.  Are there not costs involved?

2.  Due to the mass of such monsters, would it be best to keep them moving, even at a creep.  AC traction helps here.  Braking issues?

3.  Because of 2, would you not need longer sections of 2 Main Tracks, Double Track, or very long sidings?

4.  MP started to put wye switches on droids, equlateral switches, so the tracks of the siding was of the same quality of the main.  A consideration today?

5.  Manure Happens.  How many hours does it take to say, repair a damaged coupler?  Should thete be more human eyes onboard?  2ML or DT could prevent a train from shtting down the railroad.

6.  A case of penny wise; pound/dollar foolish?

BTW, the square root of -1 is the imaginary number.

Original Post

 They are only beneficial to the railroads in the sense their saving money on running the trains with DP power in most cases allowing them to use one crew for what should be two crews.

 The crews then have to break the train up and usually remix it at a larger flat switch type of yard since most hump yards are being eliminated. It has increased jobs at some flat switch style of yards , but to the loss of jobs at hump yards.

  I've seen Portsmouth ,Ohio go from four yard jobs a day to seven , and most days extra yard jobs being called out when the work force allows.

      

Can somebody help me.  I have been reading the TRAINS special edition on CSX.

Thete is one thing I cannot undetstand.  Mabe it is a concept like the square route of -1.  

People are talking about the benefits of super long trains.  OK, you need fewer people to run them...

You have fewer trains on the road.

But would you not have:

1.  Assembly and break up of these monsters.  Many terminals cannot take them as is.  Are there not costs involved?

Ideally, the trains are blocked, i.e., large blocks of cars, and single car switching is not normally needed except, possibly, where a block is set out.

2.  Due to the mass of such monsters, would it be best to keep them moving, even at a creep.  AC traction helps here.  Braking issues?

It's almost always better to move slowly than to stop, with a large train.  This avoids conflict with laws determining how long a crossing may be blocked by standing equipment, inhibits vandalism such as closed angle cocks or tagging, inhibits dangerous crawling underneath the train by the public, and can reduce the possibilities for delay in getting started again.

On long trains, releasing the air brakes at low speed is normally not recommended, as it often results in an uncontrollable run-out of slack, with possible negative outcome.  If a long train is to kill time instead of stopping and waiting for a known delay, the recommended method is to reduce speed early using dynamic braking, and maintain reduced speed using dynamic braking and/or throttle modulation.

3.  Because of 2, would you not need longer sections of 2 Main Tracks, Double Track, or very long sidings?

That would be nice.  It's not always available, and this is one of those capital projects that typically takes time to budget and construct.  It's not good to need it first and then try to build it.  The best plan to look ahead and build for future forecasted need.

4.  MP started to put wye switches on droids, equlateral switches, so the tracks of the siding was of the same quality of the main.  A consideration today?

High speed turnouts are best when building or rebuilding a siding alongside a main track.  Equilateral turnouts (usually 60 MPH) require the single main track to approach at the center line of the two main tracks.  For turnouts allowing speeds in excess of 25 MPH, very good maintenance is needed.  Some railroads will faithfully do very good maintenance, and others will do the minimum and increase the risk.  The value of high speed turnouts is also dependent upon how many trains pass over them in a day.  When many trains meet or pass, the benefit from high speed turnouts increases.  

All delays, regardless of cause, affect opposing and following train movements.

5.  Manure Happens.  How many hours does it take to say, repair a damaged coupler?  Should thete be more human eyes onboard?  2ML or DT could prevent a train from shtting down the railroad.

Depends where it is located.  

If the train stops in rough country, it's going to take a lot more time than if there is a highway next to the track.

After an undesired emergency brake application, the entire train must be inspected to find out the cause, and ascertain that everything is still on the rails.  Minimum of 30 minutes per mile of train.  Hopefully it is as simple as one air hose separation.  It could be multiple air hose separations, multiple broken knuckles or couplers, or a failed brake pipe.  Then there can be other problems like brake rigging failure.  And there's always the possibility of an overheated bearing or other wheel/axle defect.

A broken knuckle near the locomotive can be replaced by a competent Engineer and Conductor in about 15 minutes, but the delay to the train is almost always a minimum of 30 minutes on a short local and an hour or more on a full size train.  If the coupler failure is far back in the train, it can take a very long time.  A broken coupler (drawbar) cannot be fixed by the train crew.  Either a wheel truck must come out and a Car Department crew replace the drawbar on the main track, or the train crew must set out the defective car for repair.  If the broken coupler is on the "wrong" end of the car, then the car must be chained to the drawbar ahead of it, and moved to a track where it can be set out.  Any time a crew has to secure the rear portion of the train to leave it standing on the main track while they take a defective car to a track where it can be set out (often miles away) and then return to the train, release all the hand brakes used to secure the rear portion, make an air test, and then proceed, it will take more then an hour at the minimum, and traffic in both directions will be jamming up on single track.  It could easily result in two hours or more of delay to the train which had to set out the defective car.  The longer the train, the more time it will take.  Often, securing and releasing the detached portion of the train takes longer than setting out the car. 

 And remember -- first, it takes time to make a walking inspection of the train and find all defects.

The maximum effective distance for visual inspection from the locomotive as the train rounds curves is about one-half mile, and one employee on each side is all that is needed.

And, to address the last part of the question, multiple main tracks are not even a consideration.  If they already exist, well, yes, it's your lucky day and there can be some trains still moving if one train is disabled by a defect.  But building multiple main track to reduce delay if a train is disabled is not done.  Multiple tracks are just something that could, by coincidence, be available, and, can be used to "single track" around a disabled train, still resulting in delay, though not as severely.

6.  A case of penny wise; pound/dollar foolish?

It's complicated.

BTW, the square root of -1 is the imaginary number.

 

Last edited by Number 90

 I find it amazing how the railroad industry operating philosophy "pendulum" swings back and forth.

Today the prime directive is long trains and PSR. Not that many years ago the prime directive was short trains and good customer service. And before that it was the long train/save crew costs mantra again. Today the main focus is on PSR (Pretty Sad Railroading), which focuses on improving value for the stockholders, not serving the customers. Yeah...what do we need them for?

I've read dozens of white papers and media articles on PSR. None of them said a word about customers. The entire focus of PSR is on improving value for stockholders. However, the "improvements" instituted with PSR will yield only short-term stockholder value. Because there is no focus at all within PSR for serving customers, this is eventually going to backfire on the railroads. Without customers, there is no business. With no business, there is no value for stockholders. The way the railroads are treating customers now, they will soon begin losing business (again) to trucks. When the business drops to critical mass, the focus will once again change back to short trains and refocused customer service. They never learn...

When an industry - any industry - turns its view inward to focus on serving their stockholders instead of serving their customers, it's the beginning of a death spiral.

To add to the conversation CSX has been running in the Schenectady area thru the Mohawk Valley west long trains of 150 cars plus with power units on front and back since the pandemic began and Amtrak on the flip side has considerably smaller trains and less than half the niormal.traffic. And I agree with Rich on the sad nature of it.

Last edited by dk122trains

Rich, your philosophy is like mine:  If you have no customers,  you have no worth to anybody, including the stockholders.

Maybe this migjt be the time to ask:  Should the railroads become two diffetent companies:  1.  Track infrastructure and dispatching, and 2.  Providing transportation.

Maybe it is time for some or all roads to get of transportation side, and become a toll road, that is, tolled open access.  Or maybe some hydrid.....

The PSR railroad way of doing business is essentially, “This is how we run things. Deal with it.”

If a customer needs switched on Tuesday and Friday, but the railroad wants to do it on Wednesday and Saturday, guess when the crew will get there to switch the customer? Here’s a hint...it won’t be on Tuesday or Friday.

Last edited by Rich Melvin
@Rich Melvin posted:

The PSR railroad way of doing business is essentially, “This is how we run things. Deal with it.”

And that was the personality of the late individual who instituted PSR (by ramming it down the throats of everyone who even slightly resisted and could not be fired).

You can't often run a local or an industry switcher because of one customer's production schedule, but you can get your customers together and work out some kind of service solution that they can live with.  Many of them don't care when they are switched, but they all want to be switched consistently.  Once you have gained their trust, though, you can't change the plan unilaterally because of budget cuts.  You have to keep them in partnership if you want to change the service to them.

I wish I could tell you that I was always insightful enough to have conducted business that way but I learned it the hard way in the worst blunder of my railroad career.  The fact that I was ordered to do it is no excuse.  I should have met with the Superintendent and laid out a plan like I described in the first paragraph.  I got the blame for the disaster, and had a Vice President just looking for an excuse to fire me for years after that.

Not a big surprise, concepts like PSR are there to minimize costs and thus maximize profits, and with public companies to 'increase shareholder value'. It is known as shareholder management and while that was always there with public companies, the emphasis is different now. Back in the day, they wanted to maximize profits, because that would increase stock price and dividends. It is a bit different these days, in recent decades those running the company, the CEO and the other upper level executives, make 90% of their compensation from stock grants, this was unknown many years ago. So stockholder management means that those running the company are focused even more on stock price because it is their bread and butter (when you hear that Joe Smith made 50 million last year, 49 million of that was likely in stock grants). This is true of private ownership as well, at least the kind like what we see today, where private equity groups and the like buy companies, and their ultimate goal is to get huge returns out of what they buy. 

This tension is not new in one sense, in the 20's Henry Ford took Ford Motor Company private, because he said that the short term focus of Wall Street kept him from being allowed to develop new cars. Bose Corporation, the audio company, has stayed private, because they are known for long term investments that public companies these days really can't do with the mania for boosting stock price. The other thing that PSR types are pleasing is the stock analysts, who really are how stocks prices go up and down. A company will announce they have hired 10,000 new people and the stock analysts slam the company, company lays off 10000 and they say "yay". CEO announces long term plan to build the next level of technology, and they slam the company for spending money. 

And yes, it is short sighted and  yes, it can hurt the company in the long run. GM did that was their cars, they cheapened up on cars, did parts bin engineering, and the rest is history. PSR is kind of ironic, it is a return to the 19th century when in response to people complaining about train service, about lack of service, rising fares, or farmers complaining that they were paying a lot more to ship their products then Standard Oil, train company heads said "The public be d****ed" (I think that was a Vanderbilt). Basically those running the railroads see PSR as a way to make stock analysts happy, so they can get rich themselves, and don't care about the long term, don't care that the rail industry, on focusing on their own interests only now, and don't care that customers will switch to trucks. Short sighted management at GM and  the US auto industry claimed no one cared about quality, that no one wanted cars to last, etc, found 10 tons of excuses, but in the end people walked away because they had alternatives that were better. 

It will be interesting to see if the pendulum finally swings the other way, though it will be a while, right now all kinds of things in the private and public domain support this kind of management. 

 

 

With Staggers, there is less regulation.  But, industry needs to think, "If we do X, how would those in political power and the media react?  And what would be the worse case reaction be?"

With the internet, industry cannot completely control the message.

 There are those who want to claw back or eliminate Staggers and other deregulation laws.  It is best not to give those the fuel to ignite or make the fire bigger.

@Number 90 posted:

This is not the age for iron pants attitudes toward customers or employees.  

If a railroad angers enough of its customers, there could be re-regulation.  Many customers would go for that today, but, so far, not enough have caught the attention of politicians.  Not yet.

Tom:

I think you’re last paragraph is spot on!  At some point the large shipper industry associations such at NITL, American Chemistry Council, The Fertilizer Institute and others WILL get someone’s attention on “the Hill”.

Additionally, the current STB appears to be among the most shipper oriented iterations of the board since it was formed and they certainly can assist in drawing attention to railroad practices that may cause harm to shippers.

Curt

Number 90:

You worked for ATSF, so your insights would be useful.

There seems to be one kind of cargo PSR cannot predict:  Grain.

Depending on the weather, price, and political situation, the traffic can go from feast to famine in nothing flat.  

In the mid to late 1970's, there were some sales of wheat to the USSR.  Much of the grain came through the grain elevators at the Port of Houston.  And it became a choke point.  Riding on Amtrak 15/16, siding after siding had grain unit trains with 3 to 4 C-C diesels on the front, with 2 to 4 C-C's in the middle with an radio car out of a F Type B unit shell.  ATSF dispatching was great, they kept us moving.

Now, could PSR respond, and respond quickly to quickly changing situations?  I do not think so.  People are being trained not to think:  just follow the flow chart or outline.  What happens if the situation is not written down in the outline?  Could those in charge lead the way out..... 

 

PROGRESSIVE RAILROADING had some articles about "PSR 2.0".  Sounded like a bunch of cow manure to me.

If a railroad said there will be a train from X to Y every Z hours, and stuck to that schedule every day, they might get more customers.

With things like PTC, CTC, AC traction motors, and centralized dispatch centers, such a system should be possible.  With all this, you could also be able to run "Super C" type trains within this layout.

With the downturn of traffic, this would be the time to test this.

The one who dares, wins.

@Hot Water posted:

What are you talking about? The ICC was changed to the FRA, which still exists today, plus there is the powerful Surface Transportation Board. What more could you ask for?

The FRA was not a conversion from the ICC.  It was a part of DOT which was created at the same time under the Secretary of Transportation.  FRA had no economic regulation power then and does not now.  The ICC was quite alive and an important part of the railroad reorganization in the 70's.  When it was later dissolved, the remaining economic regulation moved to the STB.

The safety regulation powers of the ICC were moved to the FRA when it was established in 1967.  For a good summary of safety regulation, go to hdsl.org  and search for "Federal Railroad Safety Program: 100 Years of Safer Railroads"

Both the ICC and the STB were independent agencies not under the executive branch of the government.  The FRA was under the executive authority of POTUS and the Secretary of Transportation.

 

 

 

"Because of 2, would you not need longer sections of 2 Main Tracks, Double Track, or very long sidings?"

Remember your excitement when you started running 20 scale length freight car trains or 8 scale length passenger car trains, and then the frustration that you couldn't run both at the same time because your passing sidings weren't long enough?  Virginian and a number of other roads experienced this same thing at the beginning of the 20th century.  So like you they sucked it up and figured out how to extend some sidings to make it work.  If a road was going to commit to running long trains again today, then investing in the infrastructure to do it properly is what they should be doing.  When the focus is solely on shareholder returns though then investing in physical plant to make your operations schemes work well isn't what you do.  So instead you try to make do by rearranging your train schedules so that when meets happen they happen where you can handle them.  

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