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PTC for Steam Locomotives

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PTC for Steam Locomotives
Posted by Trainzguy2472 on Saturday, April 14, 2018 7:33 PM

With the deadline for PTC looming, it seems like many questions about it have been popping up.  I'm wondering about whether preserved steam locomotives will need to have PTC installed to go out on mainline excursions.  I would think that they don't need to install PTC (grandfather clause?).  And if they do, how would PTC be able to control a steam locomotive?

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Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, April 14, 2018 7:45 PM

Maybe someone knows more about this than I do, but the last word I've got is if a steam locomotive is going to be run on a line where PTC is required (and some are exempt) it's going to have to have PTC installed. 

I haven't heard anything about "grandfather clauses."  Presumably there aren't any.  Oh, brother.

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Posted by kgbw49 on Saturday, April 14, 2018 8:26 PM

MILW 261 is doing a fundraiser for their PTC.

Their excursion from Minneapolis to Duluth on June 9 and 10 will raise funds for the PTC install.

https://261.com/excursions/261-duluth/

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Posted by pajrr on Friday, April 20, 2018 3:46 AM

PRR steam locomotives had auto-stop equipment back in the 40s - 50s. The big problem is the cost. Bennett Levin will be running his PRR E-8s in the next couple weeks. This may be the last run of these locomotives. Even he can't justify adding PTC equipment to locomotives that only run 1 - 2 times a year.

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Posted by kgbw49 on Friday, April 20, 2018 6:45 AM

I wonder if there is a way they can wire it in to a trailing diesel, so the diesel PTC equipment controls for responding to PTC for monitoring and stopping?

Otherwise the big steam opportunities will be greatly diminished.

Surmising off the top of my head, and by no means a complete list:

The UP fleet will operate, of course, and the 261 crew seem to always make things work out.

2102 on the Reading and Northern, perhaps?

Strasburg 89, 90 and 475 should be okay.

The D&S, C&TS, and White Pass & Yukon narrow gauge lines should be okay.

630 and 4501 in Chattanooga seem to have access to a line, and the Texas State Railroad might be okay if they can stay afloat financially.

Great Smokey Mountain 1701 should be okay.

1225 might also be okay.

3415 in Abilene KS should be okay.

2100 and 4070 in OH should have access to the Cuyahoga Valley line.

D&NE 28 has access to the line along Lake Superior.

4449 and 700 have access to a short stretch of track for Christmas trains.

However, one would think that 3751, 4449, 700, 2926, 765, 611, 557 and 470 could have some challenges getting out on the high iron.

Hopefully there is a solution out there.

 

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Posted by pajrr on Saturday, April 21, 2018 2:18 AM

PTC won't be required on all lines, just major class ones and commuter agencies. Railroads like Strasburg and other short lines don't have to worry about it.

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Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, April 21, 2018 9:36 AM

This could get me in trouble, but here goes....

I know we're not supposed to get political here.  I know and understand that, it's a good rule established for good reasons.  However there's something about PTC that just has to be said.

PTC was a governmental knee-jerk reaction to a wreck that was caused by an idiot motorman who was texting while he should have been paying attention to his work.  By the way, how'd that dummy get the job anyway?

PTC was the result of a "SOMEBODY has to do something  NOW!" mindset.  No they don't, not until all the facts are in and the chances of a repeat occurrance are figured in.  This is an example of the blind, heavy hand of government and pure panic legislation.

A better reaction would have been legislation on the state level providing for severe penalties for operators of public conveyances such as commuter trains, light rail, and buses, including fines and hard time, who operate said vehicles while impared or distracted.  Regular medical physicals of said operators to reveal any health issues might have been added as well.  Penalties for concealment of any known health issues could also be considered.

Many things can be handled adequately on the state level, the Feds don't have to be involved in everything, nor should they be.

So please everyone, take the lesson to heart.  The next time "...they have to do SOMETHING..." crosses your mind, stop and think.  One day "They"  may come after something near-and-dear to your heart, as innocent and inocuous as it may seem.

Don't mean to offend anyone, and if I did I apologize, but I just had to say it.

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Posted by zugmann on Saturday, April 21, 2018 1:20 PM

Firelock76
Don't mean to offend anyone, and if I did I apologize, but I just had to say it.

But to play devil's advocate, cab signals and ATS have been around 100 years or so.  Maybe if the railroads would have been more willing in pursuing technology on their own over the past few decades, the mandate wouldn't have been so forceful.

   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 Firelock76 on Saturday, April 21, 2018 3:21 PM

Good point Zug, but remember the government let them have a way out.  As I understand it long as the trains didn't travel faster than 79mph ATS didn't need to be installed.

Some 'roads installed it anyway, and good for them.

The thing is, I feel sorry for all those good people who put money, time, sweat, tears, probably some blood, and more than a little love into restoring their various steam locomotives, and who are about to have the rug yanked out from under them through no fault of their own.  It just doesn't seem right.

PS:  We like the Limestone Pie.  Everyone else can just wonder what I'm talking about.

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Posted by zugmann on Saturday, April 21, 2018 6:05 PM

Firelock76
Good point Zug, but remember the government let them have a way out. As I understand it long as the trains didn't travel faster than 79mph ATS didn't need to be installed.

Give them an inch...

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Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, April 21, 2018 7:14 PM

zugmann
 
Firelock76
Good point Zug, but remember the government let them have a way out. As I understand it long as the trains didn't travel faster than 79mph ATS didn't need to be installed.

 

Give them an inch...

 

I can dig it.  Money going out versus money coming in.

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Posted by GERALD L MCFARLANE JR on Monday, April 23, 2018 4:24 PM

As stated earlier, PTC is not going to be installed on every single mainline in the U.S., there will still be plenty of secondary lines without PTC that could potentially host excursions.  As I'm sure there are other ways around it as well, would just need to actually read the entire law/act to be sure.

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Posted by Theminer on Monday, April 30, 2018 6:03 PM

You took the words right out of my mouth.  The knee-jerk reaction is part of their aerobics-exercise program along with leaping to hasty conclusions, running around in circles and stabbing people in the back.

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Posted by Big Bill on Tuesday, May 1, 2018 12:46 PM

"The UP fleet will operate, of course..."

Nowhere have I seen anything, anywhere (maybe I'm looking in the wrong places?), about PTC being installed on the Big Boy. Or the 4-8-4. Or the Challenger.

Did I miss it?

I don't see how a diesel in the consist will stop any of these machines.

Maybe I'm all wrong, it's happened before.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, May 3, 2018 7:16 AM

Before we go too far about PTC as an unfunded safety mandate, consider that air brakes, (semi)automatic couplers and various safety appliances were eventually required by Federal statute.

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 daveklepper on Thursday, May 3, 2018 10:44 AM

If PTC institutes a brake application in a diesel immediately behind a steam locomotive, the engnineer in the steam locomotive will certainly know it and immediately close the throttle, with brake application slowing or stopping the train.

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Posted by Sunnyland on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 6:30 PM

from what I hear thru FB friends who work on RR's etc, PTC will not be the end of all accidents, they might help, but many of the systems already in place should have too. From what I've heard PRR had a great system similiar to this and it was torn out many years ago when other RR's took over, it had been installed on the Philly line where the terrible wreck happened in 2015, but was no longer there. 

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Posted by jeffhergert on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 9:59 PM

Sunnyland

from what I hear thru FB friends who work on RR's etc, PTC will not be the end of all accidents, they might help, but many of the systems already in place should have too. From what I've heard PRR had a great system similiar to this and it was torn out many years ago when other RR's took over, it had been installed on the Philly line where the terrible wreck happened in 2015, but was no longer there. 

 

PTC won't prevent collisions when operating under restricted speed situations.  My employer is now requiring every engineer to have at least one stop test made under PTC restricted speed operating conditions every year.

Jeff

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, May 9, 2018 12:20 AM

The PRR ATC system in the NEC was in place and working through Amtrak, and was removed at the Frankfort curve only to permit easier installation of the new PTC system.  Like the CSX-Amtrak passenger train into a freight on a siding situation, it is also case where the process of installation of PTC was the main contributor to the accident!

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Posted by zugmann on Wednesday, May 9, 2018 10:18 AM

jeffhergert
My employer is now requiring every engineer to have at least one stop test made under PTC restricted speed operating conditions every year.

Any different from a banner test?

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Posted by jeffhergert on Wednesday, May 9, 2018 2:00 PM

zugmann

 

 
jeffhergert
My employer is now requiring every engineer to have at least one stop test made under PTC restricted speed operating conditions every year.

 

Any different from a banner test?

 

No, except you have the restricted speed hash box on the screen and if your speed goes over 22 mph, PTC takes your air.  About the same as we're used to with the exCNW's ATC.

Jeff

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Posted by zugmann on Wednesday, May 9, 2018 5:59 PM

jeffhergert
No, except you have the restricted speed hash box on the screen and if your speed goes over 22 mph, PTC takes your air. About the same as we're used to with the exCNW's ATC. Jeff

Same with our LSL.  Although mine aren't big enough to do 22 on a restricting.

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Posted by JDavidA10 on Saturday, May 12, 2018 1:41 PM
3751 already has ATS. If that can be used for PTC, then all should be good.
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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, May 12, 2018 2:30 PM

JDavidA10
3751 already has ATS. If that can be used for PTC, then all should be good.

1940's ATS is not 21st Century PTC.

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Posted by bogie_engineer on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 12:24 PM

This old thread doesn't discuss it, but since I know very little about steam locomotives I have to ask:

If a train hauled by a steam locomtive breaks in two, does the emergency brake application close the throttle as it does on a diesel?

It seems that to install PTC on a steam loco would require such a device yet my mental picture of a steam throttle doesn't include any means to automate it. Do such devices exist?

Dave

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 1:00 PM

 

Remember  - most carriers have equipped their locomotives - a train initiated emergency application doesn't trip the PC Switch for a number of seconds after the UDE is detected - the theory, I surmise, is for the part of the train coupled to the engines to out run the suspected rear part of the train that could run into the head part of the train and create a impact derailment within the body of the train.  Engineers become the PC switch on steam locomotives using the experience, skill and judgement in safe operation of the train.

My understanding is that PTC does not initiate Emergency Brake Applications, just maximum Service brake applications.

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Posted by zugmann on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 1:00 PM

BaltACD
My understanding is that PTC does not initiate Emergency Brake Applications, just maximum Service brake applications.

It can do both. 

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 1:21 PM

bogie_engineer
If a train hauled by a steam locomtive breaks in two, does the emergency brake application close the throttle as it does on a diesel? It seems that to install PTC on a steam loco would require such a device yet my mental picture of a steam throttle doesn't include any means to automate it. Do such devices exist?

This was a hot technical issue at an interesting period in America's past, with the introduction of the interestingly-crafted ATC mandate in the Esch Act of 1920.  This essentially mandated rolling adoption of 'automatic train control' as a condition of abolishing Federal Control early; it had the effect of establishing many test districts (at least one per railroad to start, then increasing in a graduated fashion over time until the full requirement was assured) -- note that the infamous ICC order of 1947 merely applied strict enforcement to the original provisions.

A point to remember is that the initial enforcement in many of these systems was via 'penalty' ATS... and almost all the trains involved were steam-powered in the early 1920s.

We might note at this point that a consist with automatic and independent 'locked on' exerts many more 'horsepower' than locomotive cylinders can exert, so even in an "emergency with disabled engineer" the train would be stopped, either with the drivers physically stalled by the driver brake or with the drivers slipping.  This is relatively crude, but repeated tests established it would be effective.  If all the couplers and draft gear held, and the train did not separate.

The "best" way to handle this situation was to have a power reverse on the locomotive and an arrangement that centered this as part of what the ATC tripped.  An alternative was some form of servo that would accomplish the same thing on a mechanical (or even Franklin Precision) type of in-cab control with proportional setting -- this doubling as a form of speed control enforcement if that were desired.

With the advent of air throttles, as with the one applied to some PRR T1s (and specified for replica 5550), it becomes trivial to arrange a closed throttle independent of control position, without requiring 'intermediate members' in the valve-gear support.  Any of the air-throttle systems being sold for new construction or conversion in the late '40s (as documented in the contemporary trade press or the Locomotive Cyclopedias) like the ThrottleMaster would easily accommodate this.

For older power, the likeliest answer would be installation of a Wagner dome throttle of adequate size, with its control spool connected to the ATS apparatus.  This would not interfere at all with steam flow through the Multiple front-end throttle, but could selectively modulate effective dry-pipe pressure as well as cut off saturated steam; the only issue would be that heavy priming carryover would still flash in the elements and sustain output for a few seconds.

Note the practical differences between relatively crude ATS and what a good modern PTC system does.  In my opinion it would make sense to have servos on both the reverser and air throttle that could implement proper TVM-style 'cruise control' at any speed; a trivial amount of 'human-machine interface' equipment would make its action comprehensible to anyone in the cab.  

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Posted by bogie_engineer on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 8:50 PM

Thanks, that  helps.

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Posted by M636C on Thursday, May 13, 2021 9:45 PM

With the advent of air throttles, as with the one applied to some PRR T1s (and specified for replica 5550), it becomes trivial to arrange a closed throttle independent of control position, without requiring 'intermediate members' in the valve-gear support. 

In the United Kingdom, there was extensive use of  "Push Pull" trains where a steam locomotive and often a single car were used on secondary lines. In one direction, the locomotive driver controlled the train from a driving cab in the passenger car.

Operation of the Vacuum brakes was straightforward but operation of the throttle was not. The fireman remained on the locomotive to tend the fire, operate the injector and possibly to open and close the throttle possibly on command from the driver using an electric bell signal.

However, this made stopping quickly a problem.

Later locomotives intended for push pull use, including some British Railways standard types, had vacuum actuated valves in the steam pipes between the throttle and the cylinders. This allowed the driver in the remote cab to cut locomotive power immediately in case of an emergency stop.

A similar system (presumably air actuated) could simplify the installation of PTC in a steam locomotive.

Peter

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