"What we have here, is failure to communicate"

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"What we have here, is failure to communicate"
Posted by Murphy Siding on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 11:20 AM

     'Got an e-mail this morning from BNSF asking if an empty rail car was still sitting out on our spur. I replied that it was, and that it still showed on their webiste that it was sitting there. They said they'd probably pick it up in a couple days. I wondered who they call to find a locomotive. Geeked

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Posted by CShaveRR on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 12:03 PM

"Naah, it's not here any more.  Oh, hey, next time you're in town check out our new line of steel structural products...supply's limited!"

Carl

Railroader Emeritus (practiced railroading for 46 years--and in 2010 I finally got it right!)

CAACSCOCOM--I don't want to behave improperly, so I just won't behave at all. (SM)

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Posted by Gramp on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 12:49 PM

Fresh graffiti... "Temporary Storage Here!"

 

"What a way to run a railroad."

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 1:58 PM

Try as they may - carriers do lose cars.

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Posted by samfp1943 on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 2:17 PM

BaltACD

Try as they may - carriers do lose cars.

   COMPUTERS, Ya gotta love 'em! Sigh     

Proof positive of the old addage, Bang Head   "...Garbage in, Garbage out..."  

OR, "...It really takes a computer to screw things up...":   Crying     

 

 


 

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Posted by mudchicken on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 3:30 PM

When I was roadmaster in Los Angeles, I found a boxcar that had been missing for 20+ years (and 4 roadmasters ago)near LAX. It was so old it had archbar trucks! (It had been re-painted prior to being lost. The primer brown paint still looked fresh and no graffiti!, It had been gone so long that it had been removed from the computer database.) 

Embarrassed

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
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Posted by Murphy Siding on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 3:40 PM

BaltACD

Try as they may - carriers do lose cars.

 

What would have happened if I had told him the car wasn't there? Mischief

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 3:41 PM

Update: They picked up the car at noon so they must have found some locomotives too. The crew that picked it up is the same one that dropped it off.

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 3:46 PM

When setting up Newport News for Chessie Systems Terminal Service Center operation it was necessary to have a 'complete terminal' walking check of ALL tracks.  The check revealed a track 'in the boondocks' that had 20 loads of what had started out to be coal - they had a 'forest' of 15 & 20 foot trees growing out of the tops of the cars.  The 'side cards' that were attached to the cars indicated that they had arrived 15 years prior to be 'found'.

All systems - computer and manual - have holes into which railroad cars can fall and take quite some time to be discovered.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 7:58 PM

A shame more steam locomotives weren't 'lost' that way......

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 10:15 PM

SD70Dude

A shame more steam locomotives weren't 'lost' that way......

 

Big Smile

 

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Posted by seppburgh2 on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 10:16 PM
I think that is why there is still a NYC Mohawk in the 21th century. The story is it go hidden somewhere on the NYC as a snow meltter. B&O set aside two of their 2-8-8-4s for preservation, but an Accountant found them and order them scraped to add to the cash ledger. That is what I recalled reading over the years.
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Posted by Paul of Covington on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 10:18 PM

Murphy Siding
I replied that it was, and that it still showed on their webiste that it was sitting there.

   I don't get it.  If it showed on their own website, why did they have to ask you?

_____________ 

  My mind's made up.   Don't confuse me with the facts.

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 10:39 PM

Paul of Covington

 

 
Murphy Siding
I replied that it was, and that it still showed on their webiste that it was sitting there.

 

   I don't get it.  If it showed on their own website, why did they have to ask you?

 

I don't get it either. I was looking at the customer portal of their website that i have access to. Maybe the company portal that he has access to showed something different?... Or maybe the guy just need a little bit of reassurance because everything else today had gone wrong?... Oh, wait. That might have been my day, not his. Clown

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Posted by SD70Dude on Thursday, January 14, 2021 12:24 AM

When I was working a regular switcher assignment, I learned not to completely trust the paperwork.  The track lists were often wrong and customer switch requests were often different from what the customers actually wanted.

Being lazy, I found that calling the customers and confirming what they actually wanted would save us from doing unnecessary switching.

How do the errors happen?  Some are computer glitches (the AEI scanners mess up more than anyone will admit), some I suspect are from managers moving cars around in the computer to hide delays, but most are due to the understaffed and overworked clerk centre forgetting to move cars around properly.  Train crews don't always report their work properly either, which compounds the problem and adds to the clerk centre's workload.

The various internal computer systems don't always talk to each other properly, so it is very possible that the clerks, crews and customers each see something different.  

I don't know about BNSF, but CN still uses several systems that appear to have been developed in the early 1980s.

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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Posted by greyhounds on Thursday, January 14, 2021 1:35 AM

Over 40 years ago I was a college student.  I got a summer position with a freight forwarder in Chicago.  We handled a lot of LTL for the west coast, but we also handled TOFC loads for the GM assembly plants in California.  Those plants have long since been closed.

GM would normally move components out of places such as Flint, MI by boxcar.  The SP served the plants and they got the line haul west from E. St. Louis.  GM ran the plants with low inventory even then.  They kept a sharp eye on those boxcars and if a load was delayed they'd dispatch a TOFC trailer to be moved on the Santa Fe.  Many of the TOFC loads were "Shut Down Loads".  That means if the trailer didn't get there on time with the auto components the factory would have to shut down.  That's kind of the ultimate transportation sin.

So anyway, one day we lost one of those trailers.  We had no idea where it was.  We were calling all possible rail ramps in Chicago and the truck line that brought it out of Michigan.  Nobody knew.  The driver who brought it to Chicago, back then, of course didn't have a cell phone and could not be contacted. 

So, we were all just kind of contemplating our corporate doom when one of the guys looked out the window.  He said: "Are you looking for XTRZ123456?"  Yes, we were.  "It's right out there."  And it was.  Parked right outside in full view.  It went over to the Santa Fe's Corwith ramp real quick.

"By many measures, the U.S. freight rail system is the safest, most efficient and cost effective in the world." - Federal Railroad Administration, October, 2009. I'm just your average, everyday, uncivilized howling "anti-government" critic of mass government expenditures for "High Speed Rail" in the US. And I'm gosh darn proud of that.
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Posted by adkrr64 on Thursday, January 14, 2021 5:49 AM

Greyhounds, I just can't believe that story. Next, you will probably try and tell us that people lose their eye glasses on top of their head!  

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, January 14, 2021 7:37 AM

GM and shut down cars bring back old memories of working at Bayview Yard in Baltimore for the B&O.  Bayview was the main track serving yard for GM's Baltimore Assembly Plant in the Dundalk area of Baltimore.

The B&O operated train 396 from Michigan to Wilmington (which also had a GM assembly plant) with all auto parts.  The train would be operated with a caboose marking the cut between the Wilmington parts from the Baltimore Parts.  When the train arrived Bayview a yard engine would operate on the 2nd main track to make the cut behind the caboose and the Wilmington part of the train would depart after the fresh crew got on the power.  Yard engine would then couple up to the Baltimore segment of the train and pull it into the yard and head it down to Penn Mary and Grays Yards on the Sparrow Point Branch.  Both Bayview and Penn Mary were very small yards and could not handle the full switching of the required GM 'deliveries' to the Canton RR that actully switched the plant at that point in time.  At a later point in time the Canton RR would have a strike and the switching was then performed by CSX.

If there were a 'true' shut down car, GM would dispatch trucks to Bayview and the particular car would be stopped at a location where the necessary parts could be transloaded from the railcar to the trucks and the trucks would return to the plants to get the assembly line going again.

 

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Posted by ns145 on Thursday, January 14, 2021 9:42 AM

.

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Posted by samfp1943 on Thursday, January 14, 2021 11:48 AM

seppburgh2
I think that is why there is still a NYC Mohawk in the 21th century. The story is it go hidden somewhere on the NYC as a snow meltter. B&O set aside two of their 2-8-8-4s for preservation, but an Accountant found them and order them scraped to add to the cash ledger. That is what I recalled reading over the years.

Sort like this one?  [ at the Museum in St. Louis, Mo. area]Smile, Wink & Grin

see linked @ New York Central #2933 "Mohawk Locomotive" - National Museum of Transportation (tnmot.org)

 

 


 

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Thursday, January 14, 2021 12:23 PM

Well now I'm curious. Were there other industies that shipped by rail that had shut down cars?

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Posted by SD70Dude on Thursday, January 14, 2021 1:53 PM

It still happens today.  In my own way I've taken part in a few shutdowns and restarts of local mills over the years, when a tank car of whatever chemical did not arrive on time, or we could not get the track time to head over and spot it.  

This isn't a J-I-T type of service, the mills normally have an extra supply stored either in the plant or in the cars themselves, but sometimes everything would run out before new cars showed up.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Thursday, January 14, 2021 11:35 PM

SD70Dude

When I was working a regular switcher assignment, I learned not to completely trust the paperwork.  The track lists were often wrong and customer switch requests were often different from what the customers actually wanted.

 

 

Way back when I was an extra board conductor, I hated catching the way freight.  Doing the work was fine.  It was the paperwork.  The railroad generated work orders were useless.  It was somewhat OK for what you were delivering to this one customer, the yard office would get a fax of the cars they wanted that was in the home terminal yard.  Sometimes it matched the work order sometimes it didn't.  But everything pulled hardly ever matched the work order. 

The customer would place a marker on the last car they wanted pulled from their outbound track.  All this was usually handled as "unscheduled work."  Then when you pulled back into the yard at the end of the run, the AEI reader would take the cars off your train and place them on a pseudo track.  The designated track number didn't physically exist.  You had to manually move the cars in the computer to the proper yard track.  I didn't catch this job very often and it took a few times working it before I found the pseudo track in the computer.  

Jeff

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Posted by SD70Dude on Friday, January 15, 2021 12:17 AM

jeffhergert
SD70Dude

When I was working a regular switcher assignment, I learned not to completely trust the paperwork.  The track lists were often wrong and customer switch requests were often different from what the customers actually wanted.

Way back when I was an extra board conductor, I hated catching the way freight.  Doing the work was fine.  It was the paperwork.  The railroad generated work orders were useless.  It was somewhat OK for what you were delivering to this one customer, the yard office would get a fax of the cars they wanted that was in the home terminal yard.  Sometimes it matched the work order sometimes it didn't.  But everything pulled hardly ever matched the work order. 

The customer would place a marker on the last car they wanted pulled from their outbound track.  All this was usually handled as "unscheduled work."  Then when you pulled back into the yard at the end of the run, the AEI reader would take the cars off your train and place them on a pseudo track.  The designated track number didn't physically exist.  You had to manually move the cars in the computer to the proper yard track.  I didn't catch this job very often and it took a few times working it before I found the pseudo track in the computer.  

Jeff

You too!?

We also have "lost tracks".  It is common for cars to end up there, but at least they would send us a list of that track, as a sort of heads up that there were extra cars somewhere in the yard. 

The tablets we are now given are supposed to eventually allow crews to rearrange track lists ourselves, but so far that capability has not been enabled.  We can only "tag" cars we have pulled from a customer, but we cannot show where we have placed them or note cars that we have spotted to customers. 

I got in trouble once for following the paperwork exactly.  A new trainmaster had taken charge and insisted that we follow the written instructions without questioning them, as they could never be wrong.  So I pulled loads from a customer and did not spot them any new empties, in reality there were plenty of available cars but due to a clerical error they were showing in a 'hold' (long-term storage) status in the computer, and therefore were supposedly not available to spot, so they did not appear on my paperwork. 

I don't believe this particular example caused the customer to shut down, but other similar cases have. 

I got a statement for my trouble, but in the end I still work here, and that trainmaster does not. 

Greetings from Alberta

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Posted by jeffhergert on Friday, January 15, 2021 7:20 PM

On an industry job one time I spotted a box car.  There was already a box car there.  I didn't have anything on it, not unusual if it wasn't released, the industry had a few spots for box cars.  When I got back to the yard office to update my paperwork into the computer, that car that was already there didn't show up on that track.  I searched and found it listed on another of those pseudo tracks that was assigned to the industry.

I tried to move the car in the computer.  I couldn't do it, not even as "unscheduled work" because the pseudo track was assigned to a different yard number that wasn't on the route of my industry job.  So I called the system center that has the actual car clerks.  The person I talked to didn't seem to grasp what I was saying.  I told her the actual physical track this car was on.  She said the track it was showing on was assigned to the customer.  I said it shows on a track that's assigned to a different yard with the Des Moines complex.  The long and short is that she didn't move the car in the computer.  Maybe when the car was released it magically appeared where it was, I don't know.

That customer no longer has direct rail service.  (Maybe they still use a team track.)  The bridge needed to access it was condemned when it was discovered the river was undermining some of the piers.  

Jeff

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, January 15, 2021 8:09 PM

SD70Dude
When I was working a regular switcher assignment, I learned not to completely trust the paperwork.  The track lists were often wrong and customer switch requests were often different from what the customers actually wanted.

One reason that customers will tell crews upon arrival at the plant to do something other than what the paperwork for the plant specifies is that the industry wants cars moved in a way that constitutes a 'intraplant switch charge'.  Railroads don't move cars inside customer's plants for free.  Customers are entitled to one placement and one pulling of a car for 'free'.  All other moves of the car are 'intraplant switches'.  Industries that have the need to move cars multiple times for their own convience end up purchasing a locomotive or a car mover so their own personnel can make the moves and they don't have to pay the railroad to do it.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Friday, January 15, 2021 8:25 PM

BaltACD
SD70Dude
When I was working a regular switcher assignment, I learned not to completely trust the paperwork.  The track lists were often wrong and customer switch requests were often different from what the customers actually wanted.

One reason that customers will tell crews upon arrival at the plant to do something other than what the paperwork for the plant specifies is that the industry wants cars moved in a way that constitutes a 'intraplant switch charge'.  Railroads don't move cars inside customer's plants for free.  Customers are entitled to one placement and one pulling of a car for 'free'.  All other moves of the car are 'intraplant switches'.  Industries that have the need to move cars multiple times for their own convience end up purchasing a locomotive or a car mover so their own personnel can make the moves and they don't have to pay the railroad to do it.

There is a section on our paperwork to designate extra moves like inter or intraplant switches, along with a list of codes to use for each type of move.

What I'm talking about is the clerk centre or customer service ignoring customer requests for cars to be spotted or pulled altogether, or failing to make cars that are already in the yard or customer tracks officially available to us. 

It is common to get an instruction to pull all the released cars from a customer track and not spot any new ones in their place, or vice-versa (our clerks and computers seems to think I can spot more cars even if the track is already full).  Even though it is known that the customer works daily and always needs more cars.  Not to mention that cars spotted at their destination track usually no longer count as "delayed", and if they are it's the customer's fault, not the railroad's. 

One good thing about the tablets is that crews can now see cars being released in real time, instead of having to go by what the original paperwork says (it is usually generated a couple hours before the crew's on duty time), or having to contact the clerk centre or trainmaster to get official authority to deviate from the paperwork's instructions.

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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