Road Foreman of Engines

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Road Foreman of Engines
Posted by PJS1 on Monday, January 20, 2020 9:07 AM

What are or were the duties of the Road Foreman of Engines?

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Monday, January 20, 2020 12:16 PM

I was just about to ask that exact question myself.

In a book I'm reading that has true-life accounts, the RFEs seem to constantly ride trains, assuredly to check on how the engineer and fireman were doing.

Ive always assumed an RFE taught rookies to run engines. But in this book, there are often no trainees in the cab.

One very interesting account is by a man who had been in some sort of clerical job, then was suddenly informed he was being promoted to Asst. RFE. He had zero engine training. The RFE told him to ride trains, virtually all the time, for months. He was taught by the engineers on those trains. That seemed like an odd scenario, to me. I guess management saw him as a bright, capable guy, and that was a post where they needed such a man.

The article did not continue much into the phase after he was trained.

So I also am curious re what RFEs do, all told.

 

I only met the GARR's RFE once; that guy was a real character, he seemed like a character out of some Southern Gothic movie set in the 30s. An intimidating and fascinating individual. He wore a well-worn, jaunty hat (maybe had a feather in it) like a B-grade private eye in some old B/W movie. 

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Posted by caldreamer on Monday, January 20, 2020 3:05 PM

A now  retired RFE who worked out of Enola yard for Conrail and then NS explained that hs job was to ensure that all engineers and conductors were qualified for the districts in which they worked.  He was often out on the FRA required yearly certifiction runs with crews to recertify them.  He also would be the engineer on the officer special trains.  He would certify and crew or deadhead to Altoona to pick up the train and bring it to Phildelphia to big up the big wigs.  Told me it was an enjoyable job with a stateroom all for himself at night.  He ate the same good food as the bosses as well.

    Caldreamer

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, January 20, 2020 3:31 PM

Until EHH eliminated the position on CSX.  Each Engineers run district would have a Road Formen of Engines to be the supervisor of all the engineers running on that district.  All the RFE's that I knew had previously been Engineers on some territory of the company, not necessarily on the territory that they are peforming RFE duties on.  They would perform the necessary paperwork and efficiency testing on the engineers on the territory; additionally they would make the necessary FRA check rides for engineers to maintain their FRA qualification card.  Additionally they make the final check ride with a trainee engineer that is being promoted to the engineers position.

RFE's did not do the training of trainee engineers - that is left to the qualified engineers on the district.

On CSX prior to EHH.  Each Division had a Senior Road Foreman of Engines to whom all the other RFE's reported to.  On the Baltimore Division - there was a RFE for the Baltimore-Philadelpia territory, another for the Richmond-Baltimore/Brunswick territory, a RFE & Asst. RFE Cumberland-Baltimore territory, a RFE for the Cumberland-Connellsville territory including the S&C to Johnstown, a RFE for the Connellsville-Territory including Newell to New Castle, a RFE for Cumberland to Grafton, a RFE for Grafton to Huntington including up to Wheeling & Marietta.

EHH eliminated all the RFE positions - I have no idea how CSX is currently handling the FRA requirements for maintaining engineer qualifications.

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Posted by PJS1 on Monday, January 20, 2020 3:53 PM

BaltACD
 I have no idea how CSX is currently handling the FRA requirements for maintaining engineer qualifications. 

Presumably an engineer is qualified or licensed by the FRA.  What are the re-qualification requirements?  

All all engineers required to be FRA qualified?

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Posted by jeffhergert on Monday, January 20, 2020 8:00 PM

PJS1

 

 
BaltACD
 I have no idea how CSX is currently handling the FRA requirements for maintaining engineer qualifications. 

 

Presumably an engineer is qualified or licensed by the FRA.  What are the re-qualification requirements?  

All all engineers required to be FRA qualified?

 

The license is issued by the individual railroad. The heading on mine reads, "Union Pacific Railroad - FRA Certificate".  The fine print reads, "This certificate is issued pursuant to requirements established by the Federal Railroad Administration in 49 CFR Part 240 and Part 242 and is the only item required to identify the holder as qualified to operate locomotives or eligible to perform as a conductor or as a passenger conductor in the classes of service listed."

The classes of service listed on the back are: 01-Train Service Engineer, 02-Locomotive Servicing, Engineer, 03-Student Engineer, 06-Remote Control Operator, 07-Student RCO, 08-Conductor, 09-Passenger Conductor.  I don't know what happened to 04 and 05.  I'm good for 01, 06, and 08.  I haven't held positions of RCO or Conductor in 15 years, but I'm still legal for them. 

Road Foreman of Engines may also be known, formally or informally, as Road Foreman of Equipment or Travelling Engineers.  The current title on the UP, and maybe some others, is Manager of Operating Practices.  We also have had a reduction in MOPs, but they aren't totally eliminated.  All these positions are what the FRA would call, Designated Supervisor of Locomotive Engineers.  To be a DSLE, one has to be a qualifed engineer.  The supervisor also have to have a check ride every so often. 

Since the railroads have to have a DSLE to certify and give periodic check rides, I would guess that CSX absorbed some of the RFEs into trainmaster's positions, having them do double duty for the same price.

Jeff

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Posted by PJS1 on Monday, January 20, 2020 8:18 PM

Jeff,

Thanks for your thorough response.  I appreciate it.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 12:34 AM

CN calls them Engine Service Officers, ESO for short.

Their main functions are overseeing the training of student Engineers, being a on-call troubleshooter (which includes downloading data from locomotives), and working as Engineers when there are no regular ones available.

They do not make many (if any) trips with student Engineers during the training process, but they check in with them regularly and consult the trainers during that time to determine the student's progress.   They do have to ride with the student during the final, qualifying run, which is usually done on a train that is known to be difficult to handle.

ESO's have to be qualified Engineers, but not all worked as Conductors and Engineers in the past.  Some were previously other managers who then went through the fast track "training" process.

The best ones have lots of previous experience running trains over multiple different territories.  The current head ESO for western Canada is a former BC Rail man who cut his teeth running lumber trains on the Kelly Lake Hill near Lillooet. (nearly 30 miles of 2%+ grade, I think it's the longest in North America)

Greetings from Alberta

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Posted by PJS1 on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 8:58 AM

Speaking of student engineers, I was a full-time flight instructor for 3 years and a part-timer for longer than I care to remember.

If a student busted the check ride with an examiner, h/she was usually given additional training and a second opportunity to pass the check ride.  If he/she busted the second check ride, we did not work with them any further.

If a student engineer fails to qualify, is h/she given a second chance?  Also, what are the most common reasons a student engineer does not qualify?

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Posted by Deggesty on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 10:53 AM

Quoting our articulate malcontent: "... qualifying run, which is usually done on a train that is known to be difficult to handle." Ah, yes; do not give the aspirant something that is easy to handle; make sure the aspirant is able to handle difficult situations.

And, in the old days, the RFE knew how to handle locomotives that were giving trouble, especially after being shopped--as there is the tale of the RFE who went along on an engine that had just come out of the shop--when the engineer was having  trouble with it, the RFE laid his crocheting down, sat on the engineer's box, and calmed the engine down.

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Posted by Paul of Covington on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 12:38 PM

   Sounds to me like a more appropriate title would have been road forman of engineers.

_____________

   "A stranger is just a friend you ain't met yet."  ___ Dave Gardner

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Posted by PJS1 on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 1:11 PM

Deleted

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 8:48 PM

When I was still a Operator on B&O's St. Louis Division the company got a 'brand new' movement.  Iron Ore from interchange at E.St.Louis to Armco Steel at Middletown, OH.  To that point in time iron ore had NEVER been hauled in in train load volumes on the St. Louis Division and no one on the Division, in any capacity, had any operating experience with the train.

As I recall, it took two 16 hour crews WITH Road Foreman supervision to get the train from E.St.Louis to Washington, IN and two more crews with Road Foremen to get the train from Washington to Cincinnati and turn it over to the Toledo Division to get it from Cincinnati to Middletown.

It was 'learn as you go' for the engine crews and the Road Foremen.  As I recall the 2nd and subsequent trains were handled without issues.

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Posted by nsecbuengineer on Tuesday, January 28, 2020 8:20 AM

BaltACD

Until EHH eliminated the position on CSX.  Each Engineers run district would have a Road Formen of Engines to be the supervisor of all the engineers running on that district.  All the RFE's that I knew had previously been Engineers on some territory of the company, not necessarily on the territory that they are peforming RFE duties on.  They would perform the necessary paperwork and efficiency testing on the engineers on the territory; additionally they would make the necessary FRA check rides for engineers to maintain their FRA qualification card.  Additionally they make the final check ride with a trainee engineer that is being promoted to the engineers position.

RFE's did not do the training of trainee engineers - that is left to the qualified engineers on the district.

On CSX prior to EHH.  Each Division had a Senior Road Foreman of Engines to whom all the other RFE's reported to.  On the Baltimore Division - there was a RFE for the Baltimore-Philadelpia territory, another for the Richmond-Baltimore/Brunswick territory, a RFE & Asst. RFE Cumberland-Baltimore territory, a RFE for the Cumberland-Connellsville territory including the S&C to Johnstown, a RFE for the Connellsville-Territory including Newell to New Castle, a RFE for Cumberland to Grafton, a RFE for Grafton to Huntington including up to Wheeling & Marietta.

EHH eliminated all the RFE positions - I have no idea how CSX is currently handling the FRA requirements for maintaining engineer qualifications.

 

This is basically the same on NS. I retired a year ago and on our Raleigh District in North Carolina for the last few years, the survisory Trainmaster on the district was also a Road Foreman of Engines. He handled the yearly train rides required by the FRA. As far as I know nothing has changed in that part of the operations. 

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Posted by nhrand on Tuesday, January 28, 2020 9:59 AM

The Traveling Engineers' Examination Book

        A most useful and informative collectible is the examination book published annually by the Traveling Engineers Association.  I have a 1911, 1937 and 1943. They all start with "To Improve the Locomotive Engine Service of Railroads" and state "For Firemen for Promotion and New Men for Employment".  They are in question and answer form, e.g., What are the fireman's duties on arrival at enginehouse previous to going out on a locomotive?  The 1943 edition has 314 pages and is filled with illustrations and diagrams regarding the mechanical details of a locomotive but the 1943 edition has only 12 pages about diesels.  However, it covers such details as automatic driving box wedges, the valve pilot and the multiple throttle.  Seven types of feed water heaters, five types of stokers and two types of boosters are covered.  The 1911 edition covers dated items such as compounds and innovations such as Pyle National and Schroeder headlights.

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, January 28, 2020 12:00 PM

Perhaps the best way to appreciate what the Traveling Engineers Association was doing is to read the 1911 version and get a feel for the sorts of thing expected of a 'fireman learning to be an engineer' in that era.

Note the catechism form.  Popular following Forney's 'Catechism of the Locomotive' ... but even in the first pages you see things being conflated together that have very different purposes and meanings.  As a reminder, this can be valuable: were it to be (mis)used as a training aid, I think it's sometimes verging on dangerous.

Whether or not this also 'selects for' the right vetting and temperament traits that make good running men, I leave for Joe and others with firsthand experience of what works and what doesn't.

You can read the 1943 version (in a different interface) here.

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Posted by zardoz on Tuesday, January 28, 2020 2:15 PM

SD70Dude
ESO's have to be qualified Engineers, but not all worked as Conductors and Engineers in the past.  Some were previously other managers who then went through the fast track "training" process.

Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.

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Posted by Doktor No on Tuesday, January 28, 2020 2:39 PM

BaltACD...The B&O Armco Iron Ore trains....Now THAT would be an interesting story all by itself!

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, January 28, 2020 2:55 PM

Doktor No
BaltACD...The B&O Armco Iron Ore trains....Now THAT would be an interesting story all by itself!

As I recall, these movements were just getting started when I transferred from the St. Louis Division to the Pittsburgh Division in the Summer of 1967, so I don't have more knowledge about the moves other than they happened..

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 10:07 AM

zardoz
Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.

And I assume that you taught yourself the three R's in your childhood.

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 Overmod on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 1:03 PM

zardoz
Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.

And those who can't teach, consult.  (We tell that on ourselves.)

Seriously though, it's been well-established since the early days of the German approach to higher education that good researchers don't necessarily make good teachers, and that the best teachers may be only indifferent researchers.  Both the temperament and the skills can be, and very often are, quite different.

You can easily find, in the literature, reports of many very apt engineers who only grudgingly imparted their knowledge to 'trainees' ... if in fact not actively trying to trip them up or torment them.  On the other hand it's also easy to find accounts of engineers who delighted in passing the various wisdoms of the craft on to 'pupils' who proved apt.  

(And, in the great middle, those engineers who relished someone who could take turns at the throttle on request, perhaps to provide some needed relaxation or even nap time...)

In my opinion, it is much easier to develop and implement attractive systems of 'pedagogy', including study and reading materials, than to develop the 'right stuff' in operating practice ... or in responsibility for proper running ... or with the right eye for the right sorts of character.  So I would weight know-how more than teaching aptitude, provided the right kind of materials and support were available on an ongoing, progressive, and correct basis.  (And that the training engineers, including their RFE backups, were not hostile to or disparaging of trainees except when thoroughly warranted.)

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 3:09 PM

To switch arenas - very few if any 'superstars' in atheletic competitions have become dominant when it come to coaching and teaching the skills necessary to be a superstar in their games.  To the superstars the actions of the game come so easily and naturally to them that they can't comprehend what is necessary to teach those not as gifted.  They didn't know what made them great, they just knew that they were.

By the same token, most of the legendary coaches and teachers of the game, had some skills, but nowhere superstar levels.  What they did however, was research and seek out what the differences were between their own and superstar levels and then began to teach what they found out to improve the level of the to those they were coaching.  Those coaches that are consistantly winning are teaching the fine points of the games to their assistants and players.  Those that AREN't consitantly winning have next to no teaching abilities.

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Posted by NP Eddie on Saturday, February 1, 2020 5:15 PM

Balt:

Why did EHH get rid of the RFE's? It seems like a foolish move to me. Who supervised the engineers?

Ed Burns

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Posted by zugmann on Saturday, February 1, 2020 5:42 PM

nsecbuengineer
He handled the yearly train rides required by the FRA. As far as I know nothing has changed in that part of the operations.

Doesn't even have to do that anymore.  Centralized roadforemen just handle the yearly rides via remote monitoring (using simulators or just a simple engine download).

 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 BaltACD on Saturday, February 1, 2020 6:14 PM

NP Eddie
Balt:

Why did EHH get rid of the RFE's? It seems like a foolish move to me. Who supervised the engineers?

Ed Burns

Why was EHH, EHH?

Fortunately I retired 2 1/2 months before he took the controls.  10 months after I retired the office was moved back to Jacksonville.  Less than a year after that the Division offices were moved from the building I had helped open for CSX in 1978 to some space at the Curtis Bay Coal Pier.  The building that had housed the Baltimore Division offices and Dispatching Center now are occupied by Cowan Trucking.

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