Less Than 1% Of Train Accidents Brake Related?

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Less Than 1% Of Train Accidents Brake Related?
Posted by Euclid on Friday, September 29, 2017 11:49 AM

The railroad industry that first embraced ECP brakes for its advantages over the status quo is now searching for reasons to reverse their enthusiasm.  This recently came to a head with the federal mandate for ECP brakes on oil trains.  Here the focus of ECP was on the safety it could provide to oil trains, and so the AAR said, “ECP brakes will not result in fewer accidents, and will not provide significant safety benefits.”

Going further with their pushback, they say, “Safety Data Do Not Support an ECP Mandate.  Less than 1 percent of all train accidents are related to a failure in brake equipment, and there have not been any brake-related accidents involving a crude oil or ethanol train.”

But is this telling the entire story?  Their reference to “A failure in brake equipment” typically implies an inability to apply brakes for controlling speed or stopping when needed.  Yet there are other types of accidents that ECP braking will prevent besides just the accidents caused by a failure to stop.

For instance, consider the recent CSX wreck in Hyndman, PA.  From what was reported about that derailment, it appears that it was not caused by a brake equipment failure, so the AAR would have us believe that ECP brakes would not have prevented this accident.  And yet there are several possible ways in which ECP might have prevented it.  Here are four points to consider:

  1. For one thing, ECP may not have been susceptible in a way that caused the conventional brakes to present problems that required the train to stop and restart on the descending grade.  ECP brakes are much less prone, if not immune to undesired emergency applications for instance.

     

  2. ECP would have made re-starting the train far less risky due to its feature of graduated release.  That train re-starting on the mountain grade with conventional brakes did not have graduated release, so once it committed to move ahead, the brakes had to go to full release.  From that point, braking would have been immediately needed to keep the train from gaining enough speed to get beyond the point of retardation. However, if the brakes are set too heavily here, it will stop the train again, which can lead to a dangerous process referred to as urinating away your air.      

     

  3. One way of taking the risk out of re-starting is to use a number of handbrakes set to hold the train back somewhat at the starting upon release of the air brakes.  Ideally, the handbrakes would be released once the train is rolling under control of air brakes and dynamic brakes.  But there is no way to release the hand brakes once the train is moving.  One option would be to set the handbrakes so lightly that they could just drag without sliding wheels. But for proceeding with handbrakes set for supplementing air brakes, the handbrakes were probably set too tightly because they had been set originally for the purpose of securement.  So reducing their set would have required the task of releasing each handbrake and re-setting them to a lighter application.  CSX guidance on re-starting with handbrakes set was posted in one of the previous threads about this derailment, but it did not stipulate how tightly the handbrakes were to be set if used in this manner.  It did stipulate that no handbrakes be set on empties.  As I understand it, handbrakes were set on empties, which was okay for securement, but not for re-starting with handbrakes set.  We have not been told what role the set handbrakes played in this derailment, but it is possible that they directly caused the derailment by causing wheels to slide.  In any case, the use of handbrakes to aid in re-starting would have been unnecessary had the train been equipped with ECP brakes.

     

  4. It is also possible that the train makeup may have played a role in the cause of the derailment, perhaps in combination with the set handbrakes.  When conventional airbrakes are applied, they retard empties more than loads, and they also apply to cars near the head end faster than cars near the rear end.  Due to these two factors, if empties are grouped near the front of the train and loads are grouped behind the empties, exceptionally high buff force can develop when slack runs in during the application of conventional airbrakes.  However, ECP brakes do not produce this high buff force during application on this same train makeup.  For one thing, ECP brakes apply to all cars at the same time, so the head end is not slowing down before the hind end runs in.  ECP brakes can also be combined with car load sensors.  They sense the loading of the car and then control the brakes to apply maximum braking power for a loaded car.  Otherwise without this feature, conventional air brakes must limit the application on loaded cars to what is appropriate for empties.  So with ECP and load sensors, all brakes apply at the same time and there is no disparity in braking retardation between loads and empties.  For these two reasons, there is no exceptionally high buff force created during ECP braking. 

 

I think it is fair to say that the Hyndman derailment would not have happened if the train had ECP brakes.  In fact, the entire incident may not have happened.  So, why then has the industry soured on ECP brakes after such a warm reception earlier?

Cost appears to be the reason.  The cost for the entire ECP conversion of all U.S. rolling stock was estimated in 2006 to be $7.5-billion.  If this were mandated for an industry with deep pockets, the cost could easily overrun to double or triple. 

Standardization reaps great rewards in efficiency, but it also inhibits progress in improving the state of the art.  Standardization requires that things like couplers and air brakes have to all work interchangeably.  So if you change one detail of standardization, you have to change every instance of that detail all at once.  It is like changing the gage of an entire railroad.  The best way to do it is overnight.  This is the tyranny of standardization.

Apparently, when ECP was first introduced, the industry thought they could phase it is gradually as time and money permitted.  But this would have required dual purpose brake systems, and that has since been deemed to be too costly.  So now it is an all-or-nothing option.  And the industry probably eyes the Federal mandate on oil train tank car conversion to ECP as being a slippery slope to a full mandate on all rolling stock and locomotives. 

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Posted by mvlandsw on Friday, September 29, 2017 8:33 PM

Load sensors have been in use for at least 50 years. They do not require ECP.

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, September 29, 2017 8:39 PM

Hyndman was caused by improper train make up with trailing tonnage issues.

         

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Posted by tdmidget on Friday, September 29, 2017 9:31 PM

Tell us about your experience with ECP brakes.Indifferent

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Posted by oltmannd on Friday, September 29, 2017 10:08 PM

There is the ECP that "is" and the ECP that "could be".  The ECP that "is" isn't much help.  It relies on feeding power from the head end and doesn't utilize the "smart" trainline for anything other than braking.  The AAR is correct that it really doesn't get you much.

The ECP that "could be" would be integrated as part of a "smart train" that would sense and control much of what goes on in the train.  The benefits outside of "just braking" could make it valuable enough to install.  But that takes a bit more vision...  And, railroads are currently completely distracted by PTC implementation to even dream about ECP.

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Posted by Euclid on Tuesday, October 03, 2017 7:06 AM

 

oltmannd

There is the ECP that "is" and the ECP that "could be".  The ECP that "is" isn't much help.  It relies on feeding power from the head end and doesn't utilize the "smart" trainline for anything other than braking.  The AAR is correct that it really doesn't get you much.

The ECP that "could be" would be integrated as part of a "smart train" that would sense and control much of what goes on in the train.  The benefits outside of "just braking" could make it valuable enough to install.  But that takes a bit more vision...  And, railroads are currently completely distracted by PTC implementation to even dream about ECP.

 

Don,

Regarding your distinction between “ECP that is” versus “ECP that could be”:

When I say ECP could have prevented the possible causes for the Hyndman derailment, I am referring to the “ECP that is,” meaning just basic ECP brake system with a hardwire signal line to control the brake valves, and a hose line to deliver the air to the reservoirs.  I understand that it is the ECP system that is being mandated for oil trains. 

It is not the “ECP that could be”, as you describe meaning ECP with a “smart trainline” and a variety of train monitoring systems that could send data over that smart trainline.  That system has more features, but comes at a higher cost.  Each system provides a range of improvements for its price tag.  Also, each system can be purchased separately.  I think that just “ECP that is” offers a lot of benefit, but not enough to justify the price.  Does it really need to cost $40,000 per locomotive?

But if the “ECP that could be” were deemed valuable enough to buy, it seems like the logical place to start would be to buy the “ECP that is.”  That approach allows the industry to start small and gradually phase into the “ECP that could be.” 

The biggest problem with the “ECP that is” is that it needs to be added in a total system conversion all at once.  The “ECP that could be” does not need to be applied in a full, simultaneous conversion of all cars and locomotives.  Unlike the “ECP that is”, the “ECP that could be” add-on could be done gradually without limiting interchangeability.

In any case, don’t expect ECP to ever become standard in this country.  The only applications really suited for it are those specialized railroads that don’t interchange and particularly those that engage solely in the heaviest hauling.

With these operations, every train can benefit significantly from ECP and the rolling stock and locomotive fleets are relatively small compared to the U.S. interchange fleet.  Also, even though “ECP that could be” offers more performance, it comes at a still higher price.  I suspect that much of ECP that could be is still on the drawing board, and the state of the art will shift continuously going forward.  So any widespread application will run the risk of obsolescence before the installation is even finished.  So, as expensive as “ECP that is” is, the cost of “ECP that could be” is likely to the moon and back.  

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, October 03, 2017 8:48 AM

Here's the thing that I think keeps getting lost in the static:

FRA has only been given rulemaking authority over matters of safety, and with respect to ECP that has come to be (mis)interpreted primarily as a matter of emergency-braking performance.  With the adoption of accelerated application in one-pipe systems, it is easily demonstrated (and has been, from a variety of sources without, so far as I know, any denial) that any 'advantage' of ECP for emergency or penalty braking is no more than 3% over what is already paid for and installed on most if not all interchange hazmat cars.

The AAR and other 'objections' to ECP are, I think, responses to the threat of a FRA 'mandate' to install the equipment under the nominal excuse of improving safety.  I don't think anyone argues about the prospective benefits of graduated release, rapid setup in service applications, and the other areas where one-pipe braking remains a significant compromise, but the argument has been (and of course remains) that there's both a high price and limited utility associated with ECP rollout in general interchange service, and the railroads so far have been unwilling to assume the cost of adoption even in limited unit-train or other designated service -- perhaps concerned about camels' noses -- let alone be a 'first adopter' expensively solving the range of prospective implementation problems for the benefit of other railroads that sat back with the popcorn ... perhaps there is similarity with the development of practical random-access memory chips for personal computers.

To my knowledge, the current designs of ECP equipment are reasonably 'frozen', and later improvements in technology would almost certainly follow the Vail model of tolerance for all 'built' equipment in upgrades.  The operational issues of rollout (although not either the sunk-capital or mandate issues) are already addressed by the availability of systems that essentially 'bolt' between the existing brake valve and its piping, and can be easily switched in the field from one-pipe to ECP very simply and, I believe safely, when a complete trainline for the power and logic is available; the domestic brake-systems providers thought carefully about ways that ECP could be incrementally implemented and approaches such as these are a logical result.

The issue that has been raised about 'the good is enemy of the best' should be discussed further.  To my knowledge, none of the existing ECP systems are set up with autonomous logic, and it might indeed be dangerous to attempt to adapt them to do so.  It is not difficult -- in principle -- to provide the extra capability in sensors, harnesses, power, and logic to do so; you can read reports from, say, Siemens on their development of smart infrastructure and IoT-enabled locomotives and cars in many places in the trade press and in scholarly papers.  If some of the IoT infrastructure develops 'properly' over the next few years, the practical cost of implementing some forms of ECP may drop fairly dramatically but would involve much the same cost to 'do' current versions of ECP equipment as to convert from one-pipe in the first place.  I, personally, think that is rightly a concern, particularly for would-be early adopters.

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Posted by oltmannd on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 8:32 AM

Overmod

Here's the thing that I think keeps getting lost in the static:

FRA has only been given rulemaking authority over matters of safety, and with respect to ECP that has come to be (mis)interpreted primarily as a matter of emergency-braking performance.  With the adoption of accelerated application in one-pipe systems, it is easily demonstrated (and has been, from a variety of sources without, so far as I know, any denial) that any 'advantage' of ECP for emergency or penalty braking is no more than 3% over what is already paid for and installed on most if not all interchange hazmat cars.

The AAR and other 'objections' to ECP are, I think, responses to the threat of a FRA 'mandate' to install the equipment under the nominal excuse of improving safety.  I don't think anyone argues about the prospective benefits of graduated release, rapid setup in service applications, and the other areas where one-pipe braking remains a significant compromise, but the argument has been (and of course remains) that there's both a high price and limited utility associated with ECP rollout in general interchange service, and the railroads so far have been unwilling to assume the cost of adoption even in limited unit-train or other designated service -- perhaps concerned about camels' noses -- let alone be a 'first adopter' expensively solving the range of prospective implementation problems for the benefit of other railroads that sat back with the popcorn ... perhaps there is similarity with the development of practical random-access memory chips for personal computers.

To my knowledge, the current designs of ECP equipment are reasonably 'frozen', and later improvements in technology would almost certainly follow the Vail model of tolerance for all 'built' equipment in upgrades.  The operational issues of rollout (although not either the sunk-capital or mandate issues) are already addressed by the availability of systems that essentially 'bolt' between the existing brake valve and its piping, and can be easily switched in the field from one-pipe to ECP very simply and, I believe safely, when a complete trainline for the power and logic is available; the domestic brake-systems providers thought carefully about ways that ECP could be incrementally implemented and approaches such as these are a logical result.

The issue that has been raised about 'the good is enemy of the best' should be discussed further.  To my knowledge, none of the existing ECP systems are set up with autonomous logic, and it might indeed be dangerous to attempt to adapt them to do so.  It is not difficult -- in principle -- to provide the extra capability in sensors, harnesses, power, and logic to do so; you can read reports from, say, Siemens on their development of smart infrastructure and IoT-enabled locomotives and cars in many places in the trade press and in scholarly papers.  If some of the IoT infrastructure develops 'properly' over the next few years, the practical cost of implementing some forms of ECP may drop fairly dramatically but would involve much the same cost to 'do' current versions of ECP equipment as to convert from one-pipe in the first place.  I, personally, think that is rightly a concern, particularly for would-be early adopters.

 

I generally agree - particularly with your assessment of the FRA and AAR public positions.

One of the problems with ECP as it currently exisits is powering the system solely from the head end.  The intercar connectors have been a major source of trouble and are not as easily replaced as an air hose.  I see this a a fundamental, and perhaps fatal flaw in the current ECP systems.  

I think a smart freight car could help improve the reliability of rail freight transportation a great deal.  I don't think RRs are spending much time looking at it for two fundamental reasons.  One, they are preoccupied with other things like EHH and lowering operating ratios and cutting staff (that might be doing the R&D on this!).  Two, the "siloed up" management structure often misses or devalues benefits that cut across department lines.  "I have to pay X for this.  I only get a benefit of 0.5 X to my budget."  I don't care who else benefits and how much.  If I blow my budget, no merit raise for me!"

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Posted by Euclid on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 10:22 AM

oltmannd
One of the problems with ECP as it currently exisits is powering the system solely from the head end. The intercar connectors have been a major source of trouble and are not as easily replaced as an air hose. I see this a a fundamental, and perhaps fatal flaw in the current ECP systems.

Don,

Can you provide some technical references that define and evaluate this problem with ECP connectors that you say have been a major source of trouble?  I would like to see what has been tried and why it failed.

I have heard about this connector problem, but only in the form of passing complaint in the most generalized sense.  So I have to wonder if it is somewhat of a trumped up issue being used to downplay ECP and thus reduce the risk of being forced into investing in it either by mandate or consensus. 

I can see connectors starting out as being under-engineered and not being able to stand up to the rough environment of freight car applications.  But surely this cannot be a showstopper.  Elon Musk is going to colonize Mars and he is not worried about connector problems.  

Also, ECP is not in some experimental infancy as is implied by the AAR.  It is developed technology in use in large applications.  Those big users don’t seem to be having connector problems. 

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Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 1:16 PM

Euclid
Elon Musk is going to colonize Mars and he is not worried about connector problems.  

Trust me, he's worried about connector problems...

Perhaps the problem with the ECP connectors is with frequent connections/disconnections.  Corrosion notwithstanding, a connector that stays connected (ie, unit trains) isn't going to give you many problems.  Connectors that must part and then be reconnected each time a car is switched, etc, are where the problems are going to arise.

And a problem like this would be a showstopper for implementing ECP for the general freight car fleet.

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Posted by Euclid on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 1:35 PM

tree68
 
Euclid
Elon Musk is going to colonize Mars and he is not worried about connector problems.  

 

Trust me, he's worried about connector problems...

Perhaps the problem with the ECP connectors is with frequent connections/disconnections.  Corrosion notwithstanding, a connector that stays connected (ie, unit trains) isn't going to give you many problems.  Connectors that must part and then be reconnected each time a car is switched, etc, are where the problems are going to arise.

And a problem like this would be a showstopper for implementing ECP for the general freight car fleet.

 

Well obiously, what I mean is that Musk is not going to throw in the towel on a big idea over some minor detail like a connector when the big idea is expanding our civilization to populate Mars.  I do understand that connectors can be a problem.  Trust me.  I agee that connectors that stay connected will last longer than ones that are disconnected and reconnected frequently. 

But if this connector problem is acually holding up ECP, it should be well documented.  So were is the documention?  I would like to see the details of the problem.

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Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 2:41 PM

It sounds like you almost need to adapt what the OTR industry did.  We have one electrical connection between our trailers and our tractors.  It is 7 pins Male on both sides with a female pigtail running inbetween the connectors.  Cheap reliable as all get out can and does survive multiple uses easy to repair and now is multiplexed to carry more than just power.  We run a multiplexed signal that powers everything on the trailer and also can provide the drivers with an faults with the ABS system via a light on the dash can power if equipped a central inflation system for the tires and some carriers that pull reefers also have it intergrated with their reefer units to send real time data to their HQ on what the unit is doing temp wise and if their are any faults.  We do all that on 7 wires.

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Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 3:37 PM

Shadow the Cats owner
We have one electrical connection between our trailers and our tractors.

And can the driver just lower the legs, pull the pin and drive away?

Or does he have to manually disconnect the cable each time?

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Posted by oltmannd on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 4:10 PM

Euclid

 

 
oltmannd
One of the problems with ECP as it currently exisits is powering the system solely from the head end. The intercar connectors have been a major source of trouble and are not as easily replaced as an air hose. I see this a a fundamental, and perhaps fatal flaw in the current ECP systems.

 

Don,

Can you provide some technical references that define and evaluate this problem with ECP connectors that you say have been a major source of trouble?  I would like to see what has been tried and why it failed.

I have heard about this connector problem, but only in the form of passing complaint in the most generalized sense.  So I have to wonder if it is somewhat of a trumped up issue being used to downplay ECP and thus reduce the risk of being forced into investing in it either by mandate or consensus. 

I can see connectors starting out as being under-engineered and not being able to stand up to the rough environment of freight car applications.  But surely this cannot be a showstopper.  Elon Musk is going to colonize Mars and he is not worried about connector problems.  

Also, ECP is not in some experimental infancy as is implied by the AAR.  It is developed technology in use in large applications.  Those big users don’t seem to be having connector problems. 

 

Most of what I've read and seen is that the connectors overheat due to dirty/poor connection.

If you weren't trying to pass such a (relatively) large amount of power through the connector, you wouldn't have this problem. This seems to me to be a showstopper.  

There other things to try.  Timken developed a cartridge bearing with a built in generator.  Herzog (and others) use solar panels.  

For comm, I've seen a regular air hose with a inductive coupling built into the gasket.  And, these days, there are all sorts of wireless schemes.

None of this really fits with the current ECP scheme.  It would require abandoning that and doing development of a new scheme.

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Posted by oltmannd on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 4:13 PM

Euclid
Elon Musk is going to colonize Mars and he is not worried about connector problems.  

 

If there isn't someone, somewhere in his organization worried about connectors for Mars colonization, I'd be worried!

 

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Posted by oltmannd on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 4:17 PM

Euclid

 

 
tree68
 
Euclid
Elon Musk is going to colonize Mars and he is not worried about connector problems.  

 

Trust me, he's worried about connector problems...

Perhaps the problem with the ECP connectors is with frequent connections/disconnections.  Corrosion notwithstanding, a connector that stays connected (ie, unit trains) isn't going to give you many problems.  Connectors that must part and then be reconnected each time a car is switched, etc, are where the problems are going to arise.

And a problem like this would be a showstopper for implementing ECP for the general freight car fleet.

 

 

 

Well obiously, what I mean is that Musk is not going to throw in the towel on a big idea over some minor detail like a connector when the big idea is expanding our civilization to populate Mars.  I do understand that connectors can be a problem.  Trust me.  I agee that connectors that stay connected will last longer than ones that are disconnected and reconnected frequently. 

But if this connector problem is acually holding up ECP, it should be well documented.  So were is the documention?  I would like to see the details of the problem.

 

There are sets of ECP out running and failure data is gathered and categorized.  The problem is, we're still talking about a small sample size.  A failure rate an order of magnitude greater than regular air brakes would be hard to measure on the test fleet.  The failure rate on regular air brake compontents is miniscule.  

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Posted by oltmannd on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 4:19 PM

tree68

 

 
Euclid
Elon Musk is going to colonize Mars and he is not worried about connector problems.  

 

Trust me, he's worried about connector problems...

Perhaps the problem with the ECP connectors is with frequent connections/disconnections.  Corrosion notwithstanding, a connector that stays connected (ie, unit trains) isn't going to give you many problems.  Connectors that must part and then be reconnected each time a car is switched, etc, are where the problems are going to arise.

And a problem like this would be a showstopper for implementing ECP for the general freight car fleet.

 

If I were the king of ECP, I'd do my darnest to try to go wireless.

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

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Posted by Norm48327 on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 5:00 PM

Euclid

Don,

Can you provide some technical references that define and evaluate this problem with ECP connectors that you say have been a major source of trouble?  I would like to see what has been tried and why it failed.

I have heard about this connector problem, but only in the form of passing complaint in the most generalized sense.  So I have to wonder if it is somewhat of a trumped up issue being used to downplay ECP and thus reduce the risk of being forced into investing in it either by mandate or consensus. 

I can see connectors starting out as being under-engineered and not being able to stand up to the rough environment of freight car applications.  But surely this cannot be a showstopper.  Elon Musk is going to colonize Mars and he is not worried about connector problems.  

Also, ECP is not in some experimental infancy as is implied by the AAR.  It is developed technology in use in large applications.  Those big users don’t seem to be having connector problems.

Bucky,

I have to agree with Larry on this. 'Genreous Motors' has improved their connectors tremendously and the means of sealing them from the enviroment in recent years As long as they are not disconected and exposed to the elements they remain in good condition. That can't be said for freight cars that have those connections frequently broken and exposed to the elements.

You keep claiming to have experience but when asked to show that you consistently decline to answer. I'm thinking you should either put up or shut up.

IMO you're simply a troll.

I apologize to others for my opinion but Bucky has nothing worthy of offering. His posts are simply designed to stir the pot.

 

Norm


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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 5:34 PM

oltmannd
If I were the king of ECP, I'd do my darnest to try to go wireless.

Won't help you distribute the 220V power down the length of the trains to work the electrical part of ECP.  The various versions of 'powerline modulation' needed to carry data/metadata down the pair are basically leveraging off the need to have a reasonably good low-resistance isolated pair of conductors already.  The trainline has to be robust against damage and environmental insults, so there's no reason to economize on copper and go to something like POE-on-steroids for the operating current.

I don't think it is at all reasonable to use any sort of battery or wireless-charged storage modality to run ECP on most kinds of consist.  It is certainly reasonable, and there are some advantages in principle, to using some of the modern RFID techniques to implement 'passive antennas' on unequipped cars, to give a quick approximation to full ECP trainline data transfer before all cars are equipped with relatively expensive (and troublesome!) powerline-and-data-modem connections, and that of course would be a wireless solution.  (My own preference would still be to implement powerline modulation on the copper when it finally "eventuates", and modulate it in parallel with the wireless for a little additional redundancy and bandwidth.  How you would power any 'islanded' cars in a consist then becomes an interesting philosophical discussion for the Bucyri among us.

Note that in the foregoing discussions, I'm NOT presuming that ECP is magically applied to all the various kinds of train running on the national system of transportation.  When I bring up hi-rail service, it's in the very specific context of the consists 'specially' introducing ECP -- probably things like oil trains or dedicated hazmat consists -- and I presume that the same kind of attention that keeps wheels trued and profiled on our local coal train consists can be used to guarantee hoses, gladhands, knuckles and pins and other things, to give much the kind of effect Euclid was apparently driving at.

I think there are reasonably good solutions for the 220V connector issue, and for the connections that have to be checked or remade if there is a 'breakaway' away from the protected connector pair itself.  That requires no more than the sort of detail design that made the American aircraft industry so good after the late '20s.  I also think that Siemens will be making a substantial contribution (at least in principle and in design alternatives) as they get further into their smart-rail and IIoT push in the next few years.  It's fun to say "it'll break, so don't bother", and heaven knows there's been enough 'conventional wisdom' about engineers underestimating both the rigors and the culture of the railroad industry.  But there's no need to mock Euclid for Pollyanna engineering or trolling with that assumption, I think.

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 5:41 PM

Laymen totaly underestimate the challanges of the railroad enviornment that assults the equipment on a 24/7/365 basis where any unscheduled maintenance is to be avoided and that scheduled maintenance period is FIVE years for air brake testing.

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

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Posted by Euclid on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 5:45 PM

Norm48327
 
Euclid

Don,

Can you provide some technical references that define and evaluate this problem with ECP connectors that you say have been a major source of trouble?  I would like to see what has been tried and why it failed.

I have heard about this connector problem, but only in the form of passing complaint in the most generalized sense.  So I have to wonder if it is somewhat of a trumped up issue being used to downplay ECP and thus reduce the risk of being forced into investing in it either by mandate or consensus. 

I can see connectors starting out as being under-engineered and not being able to stand up to the rough environment of freight car applications.  But surely this cannot be a showstopper.  Elon Musk is going to colonize Mars and he is not worried about connector problems.  

Also, ECP is not in some experimental infancy as is implied by the AAR.  It is developed technology in use in large applications.  Those big users don’t seem to be having connector problems.

 

Bucky,

I have to agree with Larry on this. 'Genreous Motors' has improved their connectors tremendously and the means of sealing them from the enviroment in recent years As long as they are not disconected and exposed to the elements they remain in good condition. That can't be said for freight cars that have those connections frequently broken and exposed to the elements.

You keep claiming to have experience but when asked to show that you consistently decline to answer. I'm thinking you should either put up or shut up.

IMO you're simply a troll.

I apologize to others for my opinion but Bucky has nothing worthy of offering. His posts are simply designed to stir the pot.

 

 

Norm,

You are a pot that stirs too easily.  Do the GM connectors you refer to need to be frequently disconnected, reconnected, and exposed to to the elements?  If they don't, GM will not add the cost of making them capable of withstanding those hardships.  And GM will tell you not to frequently connect, disconnet, and expose to the weather.

But if a connector does need to be able to withstand those adversities, it can and will be made to do so.  It will be a relatively higher cost than connectors that don't have to withstand frequent connecting, disconnecting, and exposure to the element.  But if you need it, you pay for it. 

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Posted by oltmannd on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 8:32 PM

Overmod
It's fun to say "it'll break, so don't bother", and heaven knows there's been enough 'conventional wisdom' about engineers underestimating both the rigors and the culture of the railroad industry. 

True enough.  Lord knows I've seen my share of it.   I'm not saying "don't bother, it will just break".  I'm saying "not quite yet.  This stuff ain't ready for prime time."  I am sure all connector issues can solved.  

And the 220 Volt trainline?  Yuck. 

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

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Posted by Euclid on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 9:07 PM

oltmannd
 
Euclid

 

 
tree68
 
Euclid
Elon Musk is going to colonize Mars and he is not worried about connector problems.  

 

Trust me, he's worried about connector problems...

Perhaps the problem with the ECP connectors is with frequent connections/disconnections.  Corrosion notwithstanding, a connector that stays connected (ie, unit trains) isn't going to give you many problems.  Connectors that must part and then be reconnected each time a car is switched, etc, are where the problems are going to arise.

And a problem like this would be a showstopper for implementing ECP for the general freight car fleet.

 

 

 

Well obiously, what I mean is that Musk is not going to throw in the towel on a big idea over some minor detail like a connector when the big idea is expanding our civilization to populate Mars.  I do understand that connectors can be a problem.  Trust me.  I agee that connectors that stay connected will last longer than ones that are disconnected and reconnected frequently. 

But if this connector problem is acually holding up ECP, it should be well documented.  So were is the documention?  I would like to see the details of the problem.

 

 

 

There are sets of ECP out running and failure data is gathered and categorized.  The problem is, we're still talking about a small sample size.  A failure rate an order of magnitude greater than regular air brakes would be hard to measure on the test fleet.  The failure rate on regular air brake compontents is miniscule.  

 

I don’t really care about sample size or failure rates.  I would just like to see some technical documentation that discusses the connector problem, its causes, and what can be done to fix them.  I have heard of the connector problems emerging about ten or more years ago in the testing done by NS.  But that is all the details I have ever heard.  Yet it comes up all the time seemingly as an excuse to not adopt ECP.

Every time it comes up here, it is presented as being a showstopper. It sounds a lot like saying that you can’t have driverless trains because there will be nobody to fix broken air hoses.  

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 9:38 PM

I am precisely of your mind regarding that 220V - I have always suspected it is a European-electricity off-the-shelf or design convention, RIGHT in the most lethal range for accidental human shorting.  It shouldn’t be ‘mains current’ for consumers, and it shouldn’t be waiting at every war-weary, frayed, or pulled connection to make a carman’s or trainman’s life even more neurotic.

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 10:05 PM

You can have anything you want - IF YOU ARE WILLING TO PAY THE PRICE.

US railroads don't want to pay the price for something that does not have an immediate economic return as well as decreasing overall maintenance levels.

If ECP is to be used in general interchange service electrical connectors must be able to separate without human interaction and without damage.  I don't know that the carriers want thier line of road personnel to be working with 220 volts under the conditions that exist on line of road.

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

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Posted by Euclid on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 11:20 PM

BaltACD

You can have anything you want - IF YOU ARE WILLING TO PAY THE PRICE.

US railroads don't want to pay the price for something that does not have an immediate economic return as well as decreasing overall maintenance levels.

If ECP is to be used in general interchange service electrical connectors must be able to separate without human interaction and without damage.  I don't know that the carriers want thier line of road personnel to be working with 220 volts under the conditions that exist on line of road.

 

Yes, I agree that the connectors must work reliably and safely.  I would tend to assume that they are expected to part on their own when the uncoupled cars separate, just like the air hoses do.  But I don't know for sure whether that is how they are to be used, or if people are expected to use their hands to unplug the connectors before cutting the cars. 

In any case, I assume the conectors do have to be connected by people using their hands just as air hoses are.  It may be that in order to be robust enough with a reliable electrical contact, and have waterproof weather shielding, the connectors are too heavy and take so much force to connect and disconect that they are unreasonable for a person to handle. 

I picture an improvement in which the connectors are coupled loosely into a mated and locked position, but with contacts not made.  Then as a second step, a lever is thrown that engages the contacts like throwing a switch.

But for now, I just want to know if connectors are posing a real problem or if problems are just being theorized. 

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Posted by Deggesty on Thursday, October 05, 2017 8:01 AM

What is the line voltage on Amtrak passenger cars? 

Johnny

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, October 05, 2017 10:06 AM

Deggesty

What is the line voltage on Amtrak passenger cars? 

 
For HEP, the voltage is 480V, which seems to be a standard.  The voltage is high enough to require the line to be de-energized when the train is changed from station power to head-end power.
The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, October 05, 2017 10:29 AM

CSSHEGEWISCH
 
Deggesty

What is the line voltage on Amtrak passenger cars?  

For HEP, the voltage is 480V, which seems to be a standard.  The voltage is high enough to require the line to be de-energized when the train is changed from station power to head-end power.

Passenger cars have always been handled with 'kid gloves' whenever switching was necessary.  Car Department personnel are usually on hand to handle the coupling and uncoupling of the 'accessory' lines (steam in that day, HEP in today's world.)

Passenger cars are not humped or kicked in flat switching, as is normally done with freight cars.

         

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, October 05, 2017 10:56 AM

Balt, I think he’s talking about something else: the inability to plug in or disconnect ‘shore power’ while the actual HEP is still powering the load.

In a ’kid-glove passenger treatment’ world, one of the last things a crew would do would be cut off the lights and air conditioning while switching a consist.  But that’s what happens now, and it’s possibly more irritating than coupling shocks would be, even for folks in sleeper accommodations at the time.

 

As I recall, we have discussed the detailed electrical and safety reasons why this is so.

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