TRAINS editor heads to class on signaling and train control

Posted by Kathi Kube
on Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Editing stories requires more than just having a strong command of grammar and spelling; more than anything, it requires a person to become sort of a minute-expert in whatever subject the story is about. Sometimes learning enough to edit a story is fairly easy because it's close to a subject we're already interested in, or it builds on previous knowledge we've gained from other stories. Sometimes, though, editing a story properly requires a little more education.

Well, yesterday and today I've been at the University of Wisconsin - Madison taking a class on signaling and train control, including positive train control. Obviously, PTC is a hot topic these days, and I'm editing a story by Steve Ditmeyer on PTC that will be in our October issue. You probably already know by now that I'm interested in railroad technology. I have no background whatsoever in science (and, frankly, if my high school science teacher knew I was writing about technology, I think he'd faint), but over the past 11 years as a railroad journalist, I've learned so much.

My classmates and I come from all sorts of backgrounds. CSX sent 21 employees here, but other students come from state departments of transportation, the Belt Railway of Chicago, the Indiana Harbor Belt Railway, engineering firms, and even the U.S. Department of Defense. Geographically, a few of us traveled a short distance to be here, while others came from Florida, Canada, and even Hawaii.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how much I already knew about signaling and train control -- granted, I'm not going to leave here knowing how to wire a signal bungalow (also called signal instrument housing or SIH), but I definitely understand the basics of moving trains and protecting them. But I've already learned so much, too, such as understanding a diagram of how track circuits work.

Today we're diving into PTC, so I'm pretty excited about that, and learning more about this topic to help ensure the October story tells you all you want to know about it. Gotta run to class! 

Tags: PTC
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