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CTC question

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CTC question
Posted by Lithonia Operator on Wednesday, September 22, 2021 10:30 PM

My understand is that on a CTC board, little lights on the track diagram show which blocks are occupied.

But is there anything about the lights which indicates the direction of movement of the trains?

Still in training.


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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, September 22, 2021 11:13 PM

Lithonia Operator
My understand is that on a CTC board, little lights on the track diagram show which blocks are occupied.

But is there anything about the lights which indicates the direction of movement of the trains?

In the 'old time' CTC model boards - trains were only represented by a illumated light.  It was up to the Train Dispatcher to 'document' the light with some form of Train Sheet notation.  Some locations used a rolling graph of track occupancy lines - lines that the Train Dispatcher would document by hand written notation.

Today, the Class 1 carriers are most all using some form of Computer Aided Dispatching Systems or CADS.  I have only worked with CSX's CADS.  On CSX the CADS displays Train ID once the Train Dispatcher associates the Train ID with a train's defined starting track segment.  The Train ID will then track across the model board as the train moves across the territory with a arrow type configuration indicating the direction of travel.  The Train ID also displays a number of crucial factors about the train - Its On Time status, Its High Wide condition, Its Key Train status.

The CADS model board also indicates a number of 'insights' as to how the Train Dispatcher has signals lined on his territory - signals for the one train you are looking at and signals for all the other trains on his territory - IF YOU KNOW HOW TO READ THE BOARD.  Following the simple movement of trains on CADS model boards is straight forward - so easy even a caveman can do it.  Discovering and understanding the data that is 'coded' in the CADS model board is part of the education that Train Dispatchers undergo.  The better Train Dispatchers learn to use all the tools that CADS provides them - the better they can perform their functions of Train Dispatcher.

The following display is not CSX but is typical of CADS

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Thursday, September 23, 2021 1:03 PM

Thanks, Balt.

Still in training.


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Posted by jeffhergert on Thursday, September 23, 2021 7:27 PM

All the crew rooms at crew change points I visit now have displays of the dispatcher's CAD screen.  It's simplified in that it doesn't display all the information they can see, but does display quite a bit.  It lets crews see where their inbound train is.

Engineers aren't the only ones who's job is trying to be automated away.  Train Dispatchers too, are targeted.  CAD, and our new CADX, and other automated computer platforms are designed to automate the dispatcher's function.  Allowing fewer dispatchers to control larger territories.  

Jeff

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, September 23, 2021 8:22 PM

jeffhergert
All the crew rooms at crew change points I visit now have displays of the dispatcher's CAD screen.  It's simplified in that it doesn't display all the information they can see, but does display quite a bit.  It lets crews see where their inbound train is.

Engineers aren't the only ones who's job is trying to be automated away.  Train Dispatchers too, are targeted.  CAD, and our new CADX, and other automated computer platforms are designed to automate the dispatcher's function.  Allowing fewer dispatchers to control larger territories.  

Jeff

That has been the aim of CADS ever since the first CADS was installed.

When 'the Round Building' was opened in Jacksonville on CSX - USS (Union Switch & Signal aka. Union Switch & Swindle) had calculated that the then existing territory could be handled by 26 desks and identified them as AA to AZ.  When that operation was implemented - the railroad just about came to a stop.  Yes - meet & pass sofware had been implemented into the CADS and Dispatchers, initially, were strongly encouraged to use it - Putting Train ID's in 'automatic' and Track Territories also in 'automatic'.  It was amazing how many meets were set up at 'Hold Out' signals. (Hold Out signals protected locations where a lot of industry switching was performed by local freights off the Main Track).  At the time I retired I believe the CSX CADS was on its 5th or 6th iterition of meet & pass software logic - Dispatchers were still 'getting in trouble' for using it in many cases.

I might add, over the years, once the experienced Dispatchers began retiring it was found that the newer dispatchers did not have the 'internal systems' to manage the same amount of territory as their predcessor.  At least eight desks were added and various territories were split among the newly created desks.

That is not to say that Dispatching can't be automated in its entirety - however, the one thing that everybody wants to overlook is that Train Dispatching is not ALL about Dispatching Trains.  A large segment of Dispatching revolves around protecting MofW personnel - and working with and protecting MofW personnel requires verbal communication with the MofW personnel - be that for big gang work like Tie & Surfacing, Curve Patching, Rail Gangs and any other gangs that have multiple machines and 30 or more employees dependent upon track time.  Beyond that there is everyting involved with the local MofW personnel in inspecting tracks and signals as required by the FRA.  Lining switches and signals are the easiest part of Dispatching - facilitating timely and safe operations with MofW is a critical part of Train Dispatching that requires communication and thought between all parties involved.

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Posted by tree68 on Thursday, September 23, 2021 8:44 PM

jeffhergert
All the crew rooms at crew change points I visit now have displays of the dispatcher's CAD screen. 

ATCS (Advanced Train Control System) is a popular program for railfans, where it's available.  Depending on the set-up, anyone with a computer can see what's going on.  The information is pulled off radio links.

The screen is essentially what the dispatcher sees, minus specific train information.

CSX has gone satellite, however, and areas that used to have ATCS available for railfans no longer do.  Used to use it when visiting Deshler.  Helped answer the question "when is the next train?"

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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Thursday, September 23, 2021 10:52 PM

BaltACD

That is not to say that Dispatching can't be automated in its entirety - however, the one thing that everybody wants to overlook is that Train Dispatching is not ALL about Dispatching Trains.  A large segment of Dispatching revolves around protecting MofW personnel - and working with and protecting MofW personnel requires verbal communication with the MofW personnel - be that for big gang work like Tie & Surfacing, Curve Patching, Rail Gangs and any other gangs that have multiple machines and 30 or more employees dependent upon track time.  Beyond that there is everyting involved with the local MofW personnel in inspecting tracks and signals as required by the FRA.  Lining switches and signals are the easiest part of Dispatching - facilitating timely and safe operations with MofW is a critical part of Train Dispatching that requires communication and thought between all parties involved.

That even is the case with a track warrant railroad, or before that: train orders.  The timetable and train order operation was a true art form that most cannot comprehend today.  I know of more than one instance when a superintendent, while visiting the train dispatchers' office and seeing the dispatcher imply gazing at his train sheet, made the comment to the Chief: "That guy isn't doing anything."  To which the Chief replied, "He's thinking, and planning ahead about what orders he will need to issue.  This is the most critical part of the train dispatcher's job."

Another thing I saw more than once:  A trick dispatcher job was overloaded, so a lot people in the field couldn't reach him/her."  The management solution: Let's put in ANOTHER phone line to the dispatcher!!!!

--Mark Meyer

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Posted by Vermontanan2 on Thursday, September 23, 2021 11:11 PM

BaltACD
Lithonia Operator
My understand is that on a CTC board, little lights on the track diagram show which blocks are occupied.

But is there anything about the lights which indicates the direction of movement of the trains?

 

In the 'old time' CTC model boards - trains were only represented by a illumated light.  It was up to the Train Dispatcher to 'document' the light with some form of Train Sheet notation.  Some locations used a rolling graph of track occupancy lines - lines that the Train Dispatcher would document by hand written notation.

 

We had the rolling train graph.  We were supposed to "connect the dots" and write the train symbol, but sometimes too busy to do that.  We only noted arrrival and departure time at crew change locations and entering and leaving the district on the train sheet.

Before I retired (and no longer a train dispatcher), I was with a couple of other "old head" train dispatchers having a conversation with some of the younger people in the craft who were absolutely flabbergasted at the mere thought of not having a computer that tagged the train ID with the occupancy shown on the screen.  I could tell that the mere thought of having to remember what that occupancy was (the white light) between control points (and all the other occupancies out there) scared the *** out of them.  Especially, since IT MOVED as the train did.

Of course the best thing about the CTC of old which was not linked to a computer like it is now, was that only the dispatcher (or control operator) saw the board - there wasn't another one.  Now, almost any operations employee can access the CTC (or Track Warrant) screen and with it comes the epic second-guessing criticism about "why is he/she doing THAT?"  (Of course no way in hell would most of these people ever consider trying their hand at train dispatching themselves.)

In other words, if you're looking for a job where you never can do anything right, train dispatching could be for you.

--Mark Meyer

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Posted by SD70Dude on Friday, September 24, 2021 3:07 AM

Vermontanan2

Of course the best thing about the CTC of old which was not linked to a computer like it is now, was that only the dispatcher (or control operator) saw the board - there wasn't another one.  Now, almost any operations employee can access the CTC (or Track Warrant) screen and with it comes the epic second-guessing criticism about "why is he/she doing THAT?"  (Of course no way in hell would most of these people ever consider trying their hand at train dispatching themselves.)

They took away all the computers in yard offices last year (budget cuts), but the tablets CN gave us to replace the paper rulebook also have an app for the CTC overviews.  So we can look at what you are doing from the train, and then call you up on the radio to complain about it.

The app is programmed to lock the screen and kick you out if you are moving, but people keep finding ways around this.  So they took the app away a few days ago for "improvements", and it is not known when/if it will return.  

I found it to be a very useful tool that came in especially handy when trying to plan where to stop to avoid blocking crossings.

Greetings from Alberta

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Posted by jeffhergert on Friday, September 24, 2021 8:00 PM

Vermontanan2

 

 
 

Before I retired (and no longer a train dispatcher), I was with a couple of other "old head" train dispatchers having a conversation with some of the younger people in the craft who were absolutely flabbergasted at the mere thought of not having a computer that tagged the train ID with the occupancy shown on the screen.  I could tell that the mere thought of having to remember what that occupancy was (the white light) between control points (and all the other occupancies out there) scared the *** out of them.  Especially, since IT MOVED as the train did.

 

--Mark Meyer

 

Just imagine their reaction if they were told all they had to dispatch trains with was a paper train sheet, train order book, time table, standard clock or watch and telegraph/telephone communications with too few lineside operators.  And of course, pens.  Need something to write with on the train sheet and in the train order book.

A couple of years ago, my favorite antique store (owned by a retired engineer with lots of railroad related items) had two plates that came off a RI CTC machine.  The plates were from the rolling graph and had the stations and a simple track schematic for the machine's territory.  The territory being the RI from Muscatine, IA (Culver Tower) to Polo, MO where the RI joined the MILW to Kansas City.

I though about, but didn't purchase them.  On my next visit, 3 or 4 months later, they were gone.

Jeff

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, September 24, 2021 8:31 PM

jeffhergert
...

Just imagine their reaction if they were told all they had to dispatch trains with was a paper train sheet, train order book, time table, standard clock or watch and telegraph/telephone communications with too few lineside operators.  And of course, pens.  Need something to write with on the train sheet and in the train order book.

A couple of years ago, my favorite antique store (owned by a retired engineer with lots of railroad related items) had two plates that came off a RI CTC machine.  The plates were from the rolling graph and had the stations and a simple track schematic for the machine's territory.  The territory being the RI from Muscatine, IA (Culver Tower) to Polo, MO where the RI joined the MILW to Kansas City.

I though about, but didn't purchase them.  On my next visit, 3 or 4 months later, they were gone.

Jeff

When I qualified as a Train Dispatcher on the B&O's Akron-Chicago Division in 1970, the office had three desks.  The Akron Main Line desk handled the Main Line between UN Tower at New Castle and RX Office at Willard; the line was nominally all Rule 251-252 Current of Traffic Automatic Block Signalled double track.  The line between JO Tower at Akron and WX Tower at Warwick was dispatched by PRR/PC at the time.  This desk also controlled the Wooster SD between Lodi and Wooster - which only had a daily local operate on it, until the SD was virtually destroyed by flooding.

The Chicago Desk handled the line from RX Office at Willard to Pine Jct. at Gary, In where the line West became the B&O CT.  The line was Rule 251-252 Current of traffic signalled double track from RX to Sherwood.  From Sherwood to Pine Jct the line was CTC with nominally 8 miles of single track interspercing 8 miles of double track.  There were no crossovers in the middle of the 8 mile segments of double track.

The Branch Line Desk handled multiple dark single track subdivisions using TT & TO method of operations.  Lines included the Lake SD between Painesville and Ohio Jct (near Youngstown), Newton Falls SD between DeForest Jct on the Lake SD and Newton Falls on the Akron Main Line (aka the Old Line), The CT&V SD from RD Tower in Cleveland through Akron Jct to Mineral City (South of Canton), the Cleveland SD from RD Tower in Cleveland to Lester, The Medina SD from Lester to Lake Jct on the CL&W SD, the CL&W SD from Lorain, through Lester to Sterling and from Warwick to Holloway (there are segments of dark double track on both the Upper and Lower CL&W SD's.  Sterling to Warwick was operated on the Akron Main Line SD.

Becoming qualified as a Dispatcher on the Akron-Chicago Div. meant that one had to become proficient with all the methods of operation that were employed on the Division as a Extra Train Dispatcher never knew which desk he would be required to work the next day.

In today's world where a Dispatcher's job is considered 'entry level' by Management - there is NO F'N WAY people could be brought in 'off the street', given a short training period and then turned loose to operate on the 'old' methods of operation - not if you expect to have a level of safety in the operations.

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Posted by ELRobby on Saturday, September 25, 2021 12:13 AM

BaltACD

Regarding having to be qualified everywhere on the Akron-Chicago Division, I don't think Mr. LaMusca would have let you dispatch there if you hadn't been.  He put me (at 18 and really new at this) through his intensive personal exam before he qualified me to work at Sterling in 1969.  Of course to work there, one had to know both the B&O 251 territory rules and the TT/TO operation.  So I think I can imagine what hoops he made you jump through.  A little over 10 years later, it always struck me as amusing that as the rules guy on Conrail's Youngstown Division, I was now more or less his equal. I wound up having to qualify him on the Conrail rules so he could instruct the B&O crews operating between Arlington (by the way, controlled by but not JO) and Warwick.  Not that he didn't know them, but he had to be annually certified.  Not something that I would have envisioned in 1969 as ever happening. 

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, September 25, 2021 7:16 AM

ELRobby

BaltACD

Regarding having to be qualified everywhere on the Akron-Chicago Division, I don't think Mr. LaMusca would have let you dispatch there if you hadn't been.  He put me (at 18 and really new at this) through his intensive personal exam before he qualified me to work at Sterling in 1969.  Of course to work there, one had to know both the B&O 251 territory rules and the TT/TO operation.  So I think I can imagine what hoops he made you jump through.  A little over 10 years later, it always struck me as amusing that as the rules guy on Conrail's Youngstown Division, I was now more or less his equal. I wound up having to qualify him on the Conrail rules so he could instruct the B&O crews operating between Arlington (by the way, controlled by but not JO) and Warwick.  Not that he didn't know them, but he had to be annually certified.  Not something that I would have envisioned in 1969 as ever happening. 

Harry Lamusga was the best 'rules' man I ever dealt with in my 51+ years in the industry.  As I recall, when it came time to qualify our 'class' (3 of us) it took two 12 hour days with Harry, Bill Drumm (System Rules Examinar) and Chief Dispatcher Walter Grueder interrogating us on the Rules and how to apply them in various operating situations.  There was also a long day with Harry and Grueder interrogating us on the physical characteristics of all the territories on the division.

All operating personnel have to be qualified - annually - on the Rules for each carriers rules whose territories they operate over.  In today's world I believe that is a FRA requirement.

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Posted by tree68 on Saturday, September 25, 2021 5:48 PM

BaltACD
All operating personnel have to be qualified - annually - on the Rules for each carriers rules whose territories they operate over. 

Rules class - an annual event even for those of us who volunteer on tourist railroads...

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Posted by jeffhergert on Saturday, September 25, 2021 8:38 PM

tree68

 

 
BaltACD
All operating personnel have to be qualified - annually - on the Rules for each carriers rules whose territories they operate over. 

 

Rules class - an annual event even for those of us who volunteer on tourist railroads...

 

Our rules recertification is every 3 years.  I believe I'm due this year.  

I think they may have waivers from the FRA due to Covid to extend the time period.

Jeff

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Posted by jeffhergert on Saturday, September 25, 2021 8:41 PM

A P.S. to rules classes.

It's the only time when taking the safe course might be wrong.

Jeff

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, September 25, 2021 9:14 PM

jeffhergert
A P.S. to rules classes.

It's the only time when taking the safe course might be wrong.

Jeff

For several years CSX held their 'Rules Class' for T&E personnel on 'Pods' - computer equipped rooms where personnel could attend 'at their leasure' - without management having to schedule both the management rules supervisor and the T&E personnel to be in attendence at a specific location at a specific time as well as protecting the needs of sustaining service.  Attendees at the Pods would work their way through a series of computerized question and answer applications that would take between six and eight hours for each individual to complete.

It was found that virtually nobody would attend a Pod until a 'Out of Service' date was announced and then EVERYBODY wanted to attend and there weren't sufficient Pod spaces available.

It was also found that individual questions that each employee may have developed from their own experience weren't be asked or answered as hade been happening with the traditional Trainer/Class enviornment.  After several years the Pod experiment was ended.

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Posted by tree68 on Saturday, September 25, 2021 9:25 PM

jeffhergert
Our rules recertification is every 3 years. 

Ours is two years, but in the off years we cover other topics, so we still get together annually.

LarryWhistling
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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Saturday, September 25, 2021 10:02 PM

jeffhergert

 

I think they may have waivers from the FRA due to Covid to extend the time period.

Jeff

 
?? Because sick people have better memories??

Still in training.


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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, September 25, 2021 10:35 PM

Lithonia Operator
 
jeffhergert
 
I think they may have waivers from the FRA due to Covid to extend the time period.

Jeff 

?? Because sick people have better memories??

Difficulties in scheduling vax/non-vax - large (more than 10) groups etc.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Saturday, September 25, 2021 10:42 PM

The railroads received many waivers at the beginning of Covid becoming widespread in the US.  It was in anticipation of shortages in the railroad workforce due to being unable to work because of sickness.  Or just exposure to someone who tested positive.  I was out of service (paid) for about two weeks last year because I worked with someone who tested positive.  I never became sick.

Some were for testing and inspections of equipment.  I believe one was for field testing of employees. 

One allows me to go operate a train with PTC, not exceeding 40mph, without prior qualification on that track segment.  I joked when that was issued that I would soon be running to North Platte.  Although that could theoretically happen, I think it was more to allow unqualified crews go off their territory to dog catch incoming trains that died on HOS.  (I'm surprised they didn't try to get waivers on HOS.)  They've never implemented this off territory waiver that I know of.

Any manpower shortages to date have been caused by railroad management, not Covid.  AFAIK, they remain in effect.

Jeff

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