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Thought for the Day. (Or a Lifetime.)

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Thought for the Day. (Or a Lifetime.)
Posted by greyhounds on Saturday, April 3, 2021 3:49 AM
“Movement in everything and everywhere is essential,” Haupt lectured Burnside one day. “Trains must not stand still, except when loading and unloading, and the time for this should be measured by minutes, not by hours.”
 
Hess, Earl J.. Civil War Supply and Strategy (p. 498). LSU Press. Kindle Edition.
 
Haupt was pretty much the Union's railroad logistics expert in the east during the US Civil War.  He sure got it right a long, long time ago.
 
Please, no PSR hate posts.  PSR is supposed to keep freight moving.  I know, there have been some problems in implementation.  Let us get past that.
"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 tree68 on Saturday, April 3, 2021 7:13 AM

Terminal time and velocity have been a bain of the railroad world for ages.  

Concepts such as pre-blocking try to get past that, of course.  It's been my impression that railroads tend(ed) to work yard to yard (hump or flat-switched), sorting the cars every single time.  That takes time, perhaps a day per yard, which could add a week or more for a coast to coast transit.

That said - the trains are moving, even if the cars aren't.  Even with today's "land barges," Deshler has been seeing 50-60 trains per day.  You can't set your watch by them, but it's pretty close for the regulars.

 

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, April 3, 2021 8:59 AM

One has to think about how ALL TRANSPORTATION service their end customers!

DAILY - once every 24 hours, except Saturday & Sunday in many cases.

If you 'rush' your service so a Saturday delivery can be accomplished, but the customer won't accept delivery until Monday - What have you accomplished?

USPS, UPS, FedEx in most cases only make daily deliveries in most cases.

To have any effect - any enhancement of the transportation function must improve the Origin-Destination elapsed time by a day - or nothing has been accomplished.

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Posted by Euclid on Saturday, April 3, 2021 9:29 AM

 

Do the monster train “land barges” speed up delivery, slow it down, or have no effect?

 

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Posted by Convicted One on Saturday, April 3, 2021 10:08 AM

Euclid
Do the monster train “land barges” speed up delivery, slow it down, or have no effect?

I was under the impression that  the land barges were primarily a cost control tool, 

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Saturday, April 3, 2021 10:41 AM

Convicted One

 

 
Euclid
Do the monster train “land barges” speed up delivery, slow it down, or have no effect?

 

I was under the impression that  the land barges were primarily a cost control tool, 

 

And that the freight being moved was not time sensitive.

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Saturday, April 3, 2021 10:49 AM

     My industry- building materials- is having acute shortages of a lot of things right now. A lot of the peskier issues are with hardware that comes from Asia. The standard answer we get is that our shipment of widgets has been in a ship off California waiting weeks to be unloaded.

     I wonder how that situation affects the rail shipment of the goods once they're unloaded? Is transit time faster because there is less of that kind of traffic on the rails? Typical American patience- if the ships are 6 weeks behind, we want the railroads or the truckers to try and pick up 20 minutes here and there to make up for it.

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Posted by zugmann on Saturday, April 3, 2021 12:25 PM

greyhounds
Please, no PSR hate posts.  PSR is supposed to keep freight moving.  I know, there have been some problems in implementation.  Let us get past that.

Sorry, but no.  It's a point in history (current history at that) that should not be allowed to be brushed under the rug so quickly.  

 The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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Posted by Euclid on Saturday, April 3, 2021 1:00 PM

Convicted One
 
Euclid
Do the monster train “land barges” speed up delivery, slow it down, or have no effect?

 

I was under the impression that  the land barges were primarily a cost control tool, 

 

Well, the implication of “Precision Scheduled” in PSR was that it would speed up delivery.  Why else care about a precision schedule?  In any case, a speed up of delivery was also directly claimed in the promotion of PSR.  However, now PSR seems to have evolved to mean longer, but fewer trains as exemplified by the monster train land barges. 

If the monster trains are primarily intended to control (limit) costs, what effect do they have on delivery speed?  Do they speed it up, slow it down, or have no effect?

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, April 3, 2021 1:14 PM

greyhounds
“Movement in everything and everywhere is essential,” Haupt lectured Burnside one day. “Trains must not stand still, except when loading and unloading, and the time for this should be measured by minutes, not by hours.” 
Hess, Earl J.. Civil War Supply and Strategy (p. 498). LSU Press. Kindle Edition.
 
Haupt was pretty much the Union's railroad logistics expert in the east during the US Civil War.  He sure got it right a long, long time ago.
 
Please, no PSR hate posts.  PSR is supposed to keep freight moving.  I know, there have been some problems in implementation.  Let us get past that.

Remember Haupt formed his ideas in the era of Sundial timing and not atomic clocks.  Logistics is restricted most by the speed that the shippers and receivers of goods can changed the status of the vehicles from loaded to empty and vice versa.  Transportation of the vehicles cannot commence until those actions have been completed.

My readings of history indicate that the congestion of the railroads that happened in WW 1 was because of the railroads hauling more traffic to the ports for shipment overseas than the ports could handle.  When the government looked at the situation the only thing they could see were the 'clogged' railways and came up with USRA as the solution.  PSR was not a factor. 

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Posted by jeffhergert on Saturday, April 3, 2021 4:43 PM

PSR is about the railroads' bottom line.  It really doesn't keep cars moving better then what the way they used to move freight.  In my experience, it just alleviates dwell time at the major terminals and moves it to smaller terminals.  Instead of 24 hours at North Platte, cars spend 10 or 12 hours there but another 10 or 12 hours downstream because they were moved on out of NP on a train generally directed towards the destination.  The cars get setout at an intermediate point to wait for the proper train.  I think it actually leads to cars being handling more than they used to be. 

They recently changed the air brake rule to allow cars to be off air for 24 hours before a new air test is required.  It used to be 2 hours, went to 4 hours and now went to 24 hours.  Why?  To allow a solid block (air tested) of cars to sit longer somewhere waiting for the next train (one going to or towards the actual block's destination) to pick them up.  We have a few manifests that routinely need to be recrewed because of the assigned work events and locations.  You can almost expect that all trains that need to work a specific yard, seem to turn up at the same time.  The work events themselves are often bigger.  Sometimes picking up or setting out (or both) 5, 6, 7 thousand feet of train.  

Someone coined what PSR really stands for:  "Pick up, Set out. Recrew."  

If they cared about service, maybe instead of one train a day to specific destinations, maybe two trains dispatched.  (Remember DRGW's "Short, Fast, Frequent" chronicled in Trains' back in the 1970s?)  

But either way, lone land barges or frequent shorter trains may not matter, when you've told the customer you're only going to switch them certain days of the week.  We used to run two 5 day a week wayfreights, one west the other east out of my home terminal.  Now we run one wayfreight.  It alternates going west three days a week, going east three days a week.  The major customers the wayfreights serve don't like it, but being bulk agricultural commodities handled they don't have much of a choice.

Or do they?  We've seen a few customers expand their truck loading/unloading facilities because of the railroads not wanting to service them daily.  They say them now want to grow volumes and business.  Yet they're still stuck on getting the big home runs while losing the runs batted in. 

Jeff 

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Posted by Psychot on Saturday, April 3, 2021 8:26 PM

The Class 1's are on the fast track to re-regulation... or oblivion, whichever comes first. I guess every service business tests customer tolerance to some extent in the eternal quest to cut costs, but the C1s seem to take it to extremes.

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, April 3, 2021 9:27 PM

Psychot
The Class 1's are on the fast track to re-regulation... or oblivion, whichever comes first. I guess every service business tests customer tolerance to some extent in the eternal quest to cut costs, but the C1s seem to take it to extremes.

It has been my experience - every 'fad' that strikes the industry eventually ends up with a 'come to Jesus' meeting between the company and the revenue providers.  After that meeting adjustments get made.

Wall Steet 'hedge trimmers' created PSR.  When the revenue providers trim Wall Street, the worm will have turned.  If the attempt to re-regulate the industry gains a foothold, watch the hedge trimmers try to get lost in the grass.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Saturday, April 3, 2021 10:12 PM

greyhounds
“Movement in everything and everywhere is essential,” Haupt lectured Burnside one day. “Trains must not stand still, except when loading and unloading, and the time for this should be measured by minutes, not by hours.”

Maybe Colonel/General Haupt's concern was that unmoving trains were a sitting target.

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, April 3, 2021 10:19 PM

MidlandMike
 
greyhounds
“Movement in everything and everywhere is essential,” Haupt lectured Burnside one day. “Trains must not stand still, except when loading and unloading, and the time for this should be measured by minutes, not by hours.” 

Maybe Colonel/General Haupt's concern was that unmoving trains were a sitting target.

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Saturday, April 3, 2021 10:20 PM

jeffhergert

PSR is about the railroads' bottom line.  It really doesn't keep cars moving better then what the way they used to move freight.  In my experience, it just alleviates dwell time at the major terminals and moves it to smaller terminals.  Instead of 24 hours at North Platte, cars spend 10 or 12 hours there but another 10 or 12 hours downstream because they were moved on out of NP on a train generally directed towards the destination.  The cars get setout at an intermediate point to wait for the proper train.  I think it actually leads to cars being handling more than they used to be. 

They recently changed the air brake rule to allow cars to be off air for 24 hours before a new air test is required.  It used to be 2 hours, went to 4 hours and now went to 24 hours.  Why?  To allow a solid block (air tested) of cars to sit longer somewhere waiting for the next train (one going to or towards the actual block's destination) to pick them up.  We have a few manifests that routinely need to be recrewed because of the assigned work events and locations.  You can almost expect that all trains that need to work a specific yard, seem to turn up at the same time.  The work events themselves are often bigger.  Sometimes picking up or setting out (or both) 5, 6, 7 thousand feet of train.  

Someone coined what PSR really stands for:  "Pick up, Set out. Recrew."  

If they cared about service, maybe instead of one train a day to specific destinations, maybe two trains dispatched.  (Remember DRGW's "Short, Fast, Frequent" chronicled in Trains' back in the 1970s?)  

But either way, lone land barges or frequent shorter trains may not matter, when you've told the customer you're only going to switch them certain days of the week.  We used to run two 5 day a week wayfreights, one west the other east out of my home terminal.  Now we run one wayfreight.  It alternates going west three days a week, going east three days a week.  The major customers the wayfreights serve don't like it, but being bulk agricultural commodities handled they don't have much of a choice.

Or do they?  We've seen a few customers expand their truck loading/unloading facilities because of the railroads not wanting to service them daily.  They say them now want to grow volumes and business.  Yet they're still stuck on getting the big home runs while losing the runs batted in. 

Jeff 

 

I would have thought the FRA dictates how long a cut of cars may be left standing before a new brake test is required. No?

I like your analogy about home runs and RBIs. Quite apt, it seems.

When railroads made their comeback, I'd read that "in the old days, RR's expected everything to be done on their terms, take it or leave. But now RRs listen to the customers."

The pendulum has swung back again. It seems like that old mentality has returned, at least in regard to non-giant customers.

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, April 3, 2021 11:34 PM

Lithonia Operator
 
jeffhergert
 
They recently changed the air brake rule to allow cars to be off air for 24 hours before a new air test is required.  It used to be 2 hours, went to 4 hours and now went to 24 hours.  Why?  To allow a solid block (air tested) of cars to sit longer somewhere waiting for the next train (one going to or towards the actual block's destination) to pick them up.  We have a few manifests that routinely need to be recrewed because of the assigned work events and locations.  You can almost expect that all trains that need to work a specific yard, seem to turn up at the same time.  The work events themselves are often bigger.  Sometimes picking up or setting out (or both) 5, 6, 7 thousand feet of train. 

 

Jeff 

I would have thought the FRA dictates how long a cut of cars may be left standing before a new brake test is required. No?

I like your analogy about home runs and RBIs. Quite apt, it seems.

When railroads made their comeback, I'd read that "in the old days, RR's expected everything to be done on their terms, take it or leave. But now RRs listen to the customers."

The pendulum has swung back again. It seems like that old mentality has returned, at least in regard to non-giant customers.

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Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Saturday, April 3, 2021 11:45 PM
 

I believe its time railroads got out of the mind frame of just worrying about trains moving... Shippers are moving toward freight tracking for schedules instead of truck tracking, trailer tracking you name it. If railroads dare go this route being concerned with the actual knowing, understanding, and schedule of the freight on board this will naturally improve rolling stock utilization, crew HOS, dwell, etc... Dare I say even lower cost due to improved service?

 
 
 
Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!
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Posted by Euclid on Sunday, April 4, 2021 9:36 AM

The monster train concept seems to be especially appealing to the industry.  I believe they tried to go down that road back in the 1950-60s by the introduction of M.U. capability naturally arriving with dieselization.  But that still require all the power to be on the head end, and that was the limit to train length. 

Nevertheless, railroads such as the Milwaukee and CGW routinely ran trains with 5-8 units and more than 200 cars.  The objective for the industry’s love of monster trains is clear; they reduce crew cost per ton.  From just a marketing sense, it drives home the point of the amazing amount of tonnage one man can move compared to arch rival, trucking. 

PSR seems to be directed to meeting customer expectations for a more nimble and cost competitive service.  So I have been surprised to hear railroads proclaiming that the embodiment of PSR is monster trains.  Trains that are miles long, unable to fit into sidings and yards, and spend inordinate time on replacing broken knuckles, and succumbing to brake problems seem like the antitheses of PSR.  I would expect faster, more frequent trains to be the natural expression of PSR.

This may explain why PSR has been so difficult to explain.  Most explanations are full of incomprehensible platitudes and never say anything specific except for the word, “blocking.”  It almost seems like railroads have adopted PSR just as a marketing slogan that merely sounds like a modern, forward thinking concept for a fast and nimble transpiration system. 

“Precision Scheduled Railroading” sounds good and the monster trains are the greatest advancement that the public can actually see.  So the industry links the two concepts together as their marketing pitch.  If this is what is happening, it amounts to symbolic marketing in an era that has moved beyond that kind of marketing.  This is an era in which everything is becoming more difficult, and customers demand real solutions.  They want client-centered marketing. 

Here is a recent attempt by U.P. to explain PSR, once again proving how difficult it is:

https://www.up.com/customers/track-record/tr091019-precision-scheduled-railroading.htm

 

 

An example from the link:

“Here is more good news: With the shift in focus from moving trains to moving cars and establishing a more balanced network, customers’ cars aren’t getting stuck in a congested yard or waiting for a certain train size to get moved – trains may even be more frequent in order to focus on getting the car from point A to point B. While it’s possible that the railroads’ shift to manifest service may result in longer transit times for some customers, the majority should see improved transit times.” 

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Sunday, April 4, 2021 2:05 PM

Good post, Euclid. Good points.

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Posted by Euclid on Sunday, April 4, 2021 3:04 PM

Thanks L.O.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Sunday, April 4, 2021 3:19 PM

Euclid

Here is a recent attempt by U.P. to explain PSR, once again proving how difficult it is:

https://www.up.com/customers/track-record/tr091019-precision-scheduled-railroading.htm

An example from the link:

“Here is more good news: With the shift in focus from moving trains to moving cars and establishing a more balanced network, customers’ cars aren’t getting stuck in a congested yard or waiting for a certain train size to get moved – trains may even be more frequent in order to focus on getting the car from point A to point B. While it’s possible that the railroads’ shift to manifest service may result in longer transit times for some customers, the majority should see improved transit times.” 

That all sounds nice.  Too bad it's a lie. 

Just because someone calls something "precision" and "scheduled" does not mean it will live up to those goals. 

As implemented, so-called PSR seems to consist of railroad upper management coming up with an operating plan they like (long trains, fewer crews etc) and then forcing everything else to fit it.  Customers who don't like it get left behind or driven away, and long trains that don't fit in yards or sidings or between crossings lumber around and cause extra delays at the few spots they can stop for meets, or when they have switching work. 

So-called PSR exists solely to serve as a marketing buzzword to pump up share prices.  Shareholders and executives benefit, everyone else suffers.

Regardless of what the Hunter Harrison fanbois think, I don't see how it is possible to talk about train delays without mentioning the negative effects of so-called PSR over the last 20 years.

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, April 4, 2021 5:40 PM

Before I retired, one of CSX's cardinal metrics for Division Supervision was 'Right Car, Right Train'.  All car movements were scheduled, from pulling the cars from industry - with crews reporting their actions through their wireless 'On Board Workorder' Ipad type devices.  Each move in the car's routing was scheduled and Division Management was graded ($$$$) on the division's performance.

When EHH arrived that all was scrapped.  PSR is nothing more than applying a Buzz Word BS term on a bad operating plan that does not benefit any of the customers.

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Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Sunday, April 4, 2021 6:00 PM

When I get a call from a customer I can tell them within the margin of error of the GPS system where his trailer is at anytime and based on realtime reporting of the drivers HOS give them an ETA of the delivery time if they want.  Yes we now have that capacity here as of our latest update in our ELD software.  Yet my boss can not get an accurate report from either class 1 railroads as to where his cars full of resins are when they will be delivered and sometimes and this one blows our minds where in the USA they freaking are.  Yet I can locate anyone of his 250 trucks to within 20 yards at a given moment.  See why trucking has the better reputation anymore.  Just last week we had a driver breakdown due to an EGR valve failing.  He had a critical load for a plant on.  We had a replacement truck to his location in less than 1 hour a rental from Penske had him on his way while the wrecker towed his into the shop for repairs.  Yet we have been waiting for a delivery of 2 cars from the NS for a week now the cars where in Kankakee at the local yard waiting for the next local.  Well someone at NS saw they were sitting to long and shipped them to PA where they have slowly been making their way back to Illinois again.  When asked why they did that when we finally got thru after 2 hours of holding and being transferred around to various people that would not tell us a freaking thing.  The answer came back it made that yard look bad that a pair of cars where sitting that long and per PSR rules they had to be moved or the Manager of that division would be written up.  So instead of delivering them less than 1 hour away and picking up 15 empties that also needed to be removed they sent it back to PA just to make their numbers look good.  Now you see why we hate PSR as a customer.

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Posted by mvlandsw on Sunday, April 4, 2021 8:06 PM

That sort of thing happens when management concentrates on the currently important metrics and not the overall results.

When I worked at CSX we handled oil traffic from southern Ohio to north western Pennsylvania. The cars were sent when empty to a yard in Akron, Oh. to wait until they were needed for loading. This showed up as excessive dwell time in that yard so they started setting them off in a spur east of Akron. When they were needed the local had to pick them up and move them to Akron. This took more crew time and tied up the main track and slowed down the service but the yard dwell time was eliminated and management was happy even if costs were increased.

The traffic now moves on a more circuitous route via W&LE, AVRR, and B&P, who I assume worry more about moving the cars and less about measuring irrelevent things.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Sunday, April 4, 2021 8:41 PM

Lithonia Operator

 

Jeff 

 

 

 

I would have thought the FRA dictates how long a cut of cars may be left standing before a new brake test is required. No?

I like your analogy about home runs and RBIs. Quite apt, it seems.

When railroads made their comeback, I'd read that "in the old days, RR's expected everything to be done on their terms, take it or leave. But now RRs listen to the customers."

The pendulum has swung back again. It seems like that old mentality has returned, at least in regard to non-giant customers.

 

Yes, the FRA makes (or rather interprets the law and then) makes the rules.  They, the FRA, made the change a few months back.

Jeff 

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Sunday, April 4, 2021 9:34 PM

jeffhergert

 

 
Lithonia Operator

 

Jeff 

 

 

 

I would have thought the FRA dictates how long a cut of cars may be left standing before a new brake test is required. No?

I like your analogy about home runs and RBIs. Quite apt, it seems.

When railroads made their comeback, I'd read that "in the old days, RR's expected everything to be done on their terms, take it or leave. But now RRs listen to the customers."

The pendulum has swung back again. It seems like that old mentality has returned, at least in regard to non-giant customers.

 

 

 

Yes, the FRA makes (or rather interprets the law and then) makes the rules.  They, the FRA, made the change a few months back.

Jeff 

 

When the FRA did that, did they increase the number of handbrakes that need to be tied down?

Visions of Lac Megantic ...

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Posted by jeffhergert on Sunday, April 4, 2021 10:09 PM

Lithonia Operator

 

 
jeffhergert

 

 
Lithonia Operator

 

Jeff 

 

 

 

I would have thought the FRA dictates how long a cut of cars may be left standing before a new brake test is required. No?

I like your analogy about home runs and RBIs. Quite apt, it seems.

When railroads made their comeback, I'd read that "in the old days, RR's expected everything to be done on their terms, take it or leave. But now RRs listen to the customers."

The pendulum has swung back again. It seems like that old mentality has returned, at least in regard to non-giant customers.

 

 

 

Yes, the FRA makes (or rather interprets the law and then) makes the rules.  They, the FRA, made the change a few months back.

Jeff 

 

 

 

When the FRA did that, did they increase the number of handbrakes that need to be tied down?

Visions of Lac Megantic ...

 

The FRA does not have a rule that specifies a required number of hand brakes for securing trains or cars.

Jeff

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Sunday, April 4, 2021 11:00 PM

Thanks.

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Posted by zugmann on Monday, April 5, 2021 7:59 AM

jeffhergert
The FRA does not have a rule that specifies a required number of hand brakes for securing trains or cars.

To add:  but if a RR has a rule, then the FRA has the authority to enforce it. 

 The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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