THE magazine of railroading

SEARCH TRAINSMAG.COM

Enter keywords or a search phrase below:

Weekend and Holiday Scheduling of Freight Trains

1333 views
11 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    September, 2007
  • From: Georgetown, Texas
  • 2,764 posts
Weekend and Holiday Scheduling of Freight Trains
Posted by Sam1 on Saturday, July 06, 2013 9:59 AM

From the perspective of my favorite train watching spots, freight train movements on weekends and holidays seem to be fewer than during the week.  Do the freight railroads reduce train movements on weekends and holidays?  Or is it just my imagination?

Alpine, TX is a crew change point for Amtrak and UP.  Because the Sunset Limited is a three day a week train, it is possible that an El Paso to Alpiine crew can be stuck in Alpine for three nights before they can work Number 1 back to El Paso.  

Although I have not checked for a couple of years, at one time Amtrak would drive the crew back to El Paso and then return them to Alpine two days later so they could work Number 1.

If the UP had an imbalance in freight train movements through Alpine, thereby resulting in too many crew members in Alpine, who might be there for three or four days, would the railroad drive them back to El Paso or San Antonio?

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 1,614 posts
Posted by PNWRMNM on Saturday, July 06, 2013 10:37 AM

Sam,

Rail operations are demand driven. Shippers tend not to load or unload on Saturday and Sunday, so fewer cars are available to move from origin terminals on Sunday and Monday. The tendency to annul trains for lack of traffic is somewhat mitigated by the need to meet service commitments and to position power and crews. This interaction is both highly local and varies from week to week. 

I offer no comments about ATK at Alpine TX.

As to freight crews accumulating to excess at Alpine, most labor agreements provided a penalty payment if crews were held at the away terminal, which I suspect Alpine is, in excess of 24 hours. Assuming that to still be the case, then UP has to decide whether or not to deadhead crews home, under pay, or hold them at Alpine. That decision will be made by a Corridor Manager/Chief Dispatcher based on what (s)he can predict about traffic flow over the next 48-72 hours.

Unless prohibited by labor agreements crews can be deadheaded on freight trains, passenger trains, bus, or crew van. I suspect van would be last choice due to cost.

Obviously this is a balancing act. The UP does not want to deadhead crews home from Alpine today and then deadhead to Alpine the next day.

Mac McCulloch

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: North Dakota
  • 4,881 posts
Posted by BroadwayLion on Saturday, July 06, 2013 10:53 AM

LIRR can and does  deadhead crews on the train. IT IS A PASSENGER TRAIN!

But I do not think that crews can dead-head on a freight train, since there is no caboose. Every person on the locomotive must have a seat. (Diesels do not have dog houses). Is there not some sort of regulation that trailing locomotives cannot be occupied.

The VAN is the cheapest and most efficient way to move crews. 200 miles = 3 hours by van or 8+ hours by train. Once a crew outlaws do they not have to be off the property (or something)

LION is just guessing, but there are those here who are in the know.

ROAR

The Route of the Broadway Lion The Largest Subway Layout in North Dakota.

Here there be cats.                                LIONS with CAMERAS

  • Member since
    July, 2003
  • From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
  • 13,303 posts
Posted by cacole on Saturday, July 06, 2013 11:07 AM

BroadwayLion

But I do not think that crews can dead-head on a freight train, since there is no caboose. Every person on the locomotive must have a seat. (Diesels do not have dog houses). Is there not some sort of regulation that trailing locomotives cannot be occupied.

I don't think there's any regulation saying that dead-head crew members cannot ride in the cabs of MU'd locomotives on freight trains, and have some videos showing people riding in those cabs.

  • Member since
    December, 2006
  • 813 posts
Posted by diningcar on Saturday, July 06, 2013 11:30 AM

Sam1,  your question is significantly related to the location where you have the experience.

On the BNSF Transcon it may not be busy if you are situated near origination points like Chicago or LA because those trains most likely left late Friday or Friday night. However if you are situated in Winslow, AZ; Belen, NM;  Kansas City or Amarillo, TX  where the trains are in transit from their Monday - Friday departures you may experience a  significant density of freight trains.

 

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 1,614 posts
Posted by PNWRMNM on Saturday, July 06, 2013 11:33 AM

Lion,

The deadheaded crew gets paid on same basis as if working. Put them on an intermodal and odds are will be no overtime.

No rules against riding cab of trailing units.

Mac

  • Member since
    October, 2008
  • From: Calgary
  • 1,001 posts
Posted by cx500 on Saturday, July 06, 2013 11:58 AM

Most freight crews on main line trains are in a pool, rather than being assigned to any particular train.  At the "away from home" terminal trains are usually crewed on a "first-in, first-out" basis, with some minor variations depending on mandatory or voluntary rest.   So a crew won't be stuck there for days while others run around them.

Imbalances do happen, and sometimes a crew will be deadheaded home, either because they will be needed for more outbound trains or because the union contract has a limit on how long they can be held at an away terminal.  Sometimes they will be deadheaded out if there is a flood of inbound trains.  Poor management has even be known to result in a crew being deadheaded both ways.

As others mentioned, deadheading can be by taxi, bus, passenger train or in a trailing unit on a freight.  In rare cases it might even be by air.

John

  • Member since
    March, 2002
  • 8,647 posts
Posted by edblysard on Saturday, July 06, 2013 5:52 PM

We get a BNSF train in from Teague Texas every day….the cars in the train go to our customers on the PTRA,(Houston Tx) are loaded, then switched into other outbound BNSF and UP trains, none of which return to Teague, so there is no return train for them to take.

BNSF has a crew van waiting for them when they arrive and cab the crew back to Teague every day.

Of course, they hog out on the way back, and get some deadhead time too.

  • Member since
    March, 2003
  • From: Central Iowa
  • 2,715 posts
Posted by jeffhergert on Saturday, July 06, 2013 6:29 PM

Because of more eastward trains, they deadhead on an almost daily basis here to the Away terminal.  Anywhere from 3 to 9 crews, with 5 or 6 being the norm.  Except during winter weather conditions, we usually deadhead by contract van.  They try to avoid having us go on trains because of concerns over diesel exhaust in trailing cabs.  We also have a gentlemen's type agreement on the east/west main that they won't deadhead (going by start time) between midnight and 5 AM.  In the past during heavy periods of track work, they deadhead 8 or 9 crews at a time using buses rented from a tour company.  When called to deadhead terminal to terminal (not to/from a train) and not performing any other service, we don't get overtime should the deadhead take longer than 8 hours.  (It's happened, but not very often.)

Our held away begins after 16 hours off duty away from home.  On the east/west line, after being on HA for 8 hours you go back off.  After another 16 hours you go back on for another 8 and so on until called back on duty.  It's unusual to get into a second HA unless traffic is disrupted by holiday or derailment.  On the north/south line they signed an interdivisional agreement a couple of years ago.  One provision includes continuous HA after being off 16 hours.  Just from the way traffic runs, it's not unusual to get a lot of HA.  (The most I've received was 18 hours continuous HA, but it meant I was in the motel for 34 hours.)

Traffic even without weekends or holidays can have it's slow days.  Ours are usually Monday and Tuesday.  Holidays and, to a lesser extent, weekends might also seem slower due to crew availability.  Especially on major holidays, it's not unusual to see a pool board with many people laid off.  On top of that, they seem to have a habit of cutting the extra board before holidays, so there is less to cover the pool vacancies.  (The really fun things to see is when they have trains coming and they deadhead out the few available people.  Part of the reason is that deadheads to the Away terminal are ordered by a different manager than the one that controls the Home terminal.  It's kind of like the left hand not knowing, or caring, what the right hand is doing.)

Jeff

  • Member since
    May, 2005
  • From: S.E. South Dakota
  • 9,561 posts
Posted by Murphy Siding on Saturday, July 06, 2013 11:38 PM

     Jeff-  Maybe I'm misunderstanding the wording, but how can you have more eastbound trains than westbound?  Wouldn't you eventually run out of trains, as they all stacked up out east?Dunce

Thanks to Chris / CopCarSS for my avatar. Otherwise I, too would be in the Lego Witness Protection Program

  • Member since
    March, 2003
  • From: Central Iowa
  • 2,715 posts
Posted by jeffhergert on Sunday, July 07, 2013 1:47 AM

Murphy Siding

     Jeff-  Maybe I'm misunderstanding the wording, but how can you have more eastbound trains than westbound?  Wouldn't you eventually run out of trains, as they all stacked up out east?Dunce

Much of our imbalance (for the short pool on the west side) is due to the directional traffic between Kansas City and north central Iowa, Minnesota and Twin Cities destinations.  Most northbound trains come up the old MP to Omaha, go east over the old CNW and then again turn north.  Either at Grand Jct, mostly empty grain and ethanol trains, or at KC Jct (Nevada) for Minnesota/Twin Cities trains.  The southbound traffic goes down the exRI/CNW Spine to KC and points south.  Once in a while, they'll route an intermodal or auto rack train (both usually reposition moves of empties) from KC and the Golden State route via Omaha to Chicago or the Global yards.

Since these essentially eastbound trains on my territory have no westbound counterparts, the only way to get crews out there is usually by deadheading. 

The Kansas City crews bringing up trains to Omaha usually finish their day by deadheading (combined with service) on to Des Moines to tie up there.  Once rested, they will take southbound trains from DM back to KC.  

Jeff        

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 6,834 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, July 07, 2013 5:15 AM

Murphy Siding

     Jeff-  Maybe I'm misunderstanding the wording, but how can you have more eastbound trains than westbound?  Wouldn't you eventually run out of trains, as they all stacked up out east?Dunce

Carriers frequently have unbalanced traffic patterns on various segments of thier properties.  Deadhead moves of both motive power and crews are made when necessary.

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Trains free email newsletter
NEWS » PHOTOS » VIDEOS » HOT TOPICS & MORE
GET OUR WEEKLY NEWSLETTER DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Connect with us
ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER

Loading...