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Classification Lights Discontinued

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Classification Lights Discontinued
Posted by Don Strack on Monday, February 8, 2021 11:57 AM

Can anyone tell me when in the 1980s the Federal Railroad Administration mandated that if a light is not functioning (such as the classification lights on EMD locomotives), it must be removed. As near as I can tell, it would have been in the early 1980s. This was because UP's last SD40-2s were delivered in 1980 with classification lights, and the Missouri Pacific SD50s were delivered in 1986 without classification lights. Maybe we can narrow it down a bit using the locomotive deliveries of other railroads.

Don Strack

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Don Strack http://utahrails.net
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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, February 8, 2021 12:52 PM

Don Strack
Can anyone tell me when in the 1980s the Federal Railroad Administration mandated that if a light is not functioning (such as the classification lights on EMD locomotives), it must be removed. As near as I can tell, it would have been in the early 1980s. This was because UP's last SD40-2s were delivered in 1980 with classification lights, and the Missouri Pacific SD50s were delivered in 1986 without classification lights. Maybe we can narrow it down a bit using the locomotive deliveries of other railroads.

Don Strack

https://utahrails.net/

FRA has always stated that if a device is on a locomotive that it must function as intended.  In the late 80's most all the Class 1 carriers changed their Operating Rule Books so that TimeTable and Train Orders was no longer a method of Dispatching trains and thus Class as defined in the priority of trains in the TTTO form or operation no longer existed. 

The FRA did not order the carriers to remove Class Lights - the carriers, knowing that if the lights were on the locomotives they were required to work, made the decision to REMOVE the lights so that they would not get in the position of having something that was NOT NEEDED for operation under their rules from preventing operation because that feature existed and was not operating.

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Posted by rdamon on Monday, February 8, 2021 1:19 PM

Is this similar in timing to the removal of rotating beacons?  I remember them disappearing from the BN and ATSF in the 80's, but the SP held on to them into the UP merger.

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Monday, February 8, 2021 4:49 PM

I believe it applies to rotating beacons as well, which seemed to disappear simultaneously on many roads so as to not cause a unit to be bad ordered. 

Santa Fe seems to have made an effort to eliminate remaining Gyralites in 1982.

It sounds like BaltACD knows what he's talking about and I don't doubt that it was a FRA rule before the 1980's. But it's my understanding that FRA inspectors did suddenly get nitpicky in the early 1980's about non-working accessories that were in disuse due to not being utilized anymore or lighting packages that were optional and not a necessity for the safe operation of a train, leading to widespread elimination of such features.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Monday, February 8, 2021 4:52 PM

The UP adopted the General Code of Operating Rules in 1985.  That first edition still had rules for movement by time table and train order (it was the only GCOR to have them) but didn't have the rules for train classification signals.  A 1986 or later order for UP wouldn't need class lights.

Until fairly recently (and the way I lose track of time that might be 9 or 10 years) new GE locomotives still had a blank spot for a toggle switch on the back wall of the cab labled for "Class lights."

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Monday, February 8, 2021 10:27 PM

Were classification lights equivalent to flags? For running extra, etc?

Is there no such thing as running extra now? 

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Tuesday, February 9, 2021 10:05 AM

Classification lights were equivalent to flags.  Except for GM&O, I have never seen flags or lights displayed on locomotives for operating purposes.

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 Tuesday, February 9, 2021 10:19 AM

Lithonia Operator
Were classification lights equivalent to flags? For running extra, etc?

Is there no such thing as running extra now? 

Without Timetable schedules and priority of direction all movements can be considered as 'extra' since all movements are extra there is no need to identify the movements as extra.

Flags were used for daylight notification of sections and extras, lights performed the same function for night operations.

A Red Flag, under the proper circumstance, denotes the end of a movement in daylight and a red light performs the same function at night.

EOT's that Class 1's use are much more sophisticated than a simple red flag or red light.

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Posted by Don Strack on Tuesday, February 9, 2021 10:31 AM

BaltACD

The FRA did not order the carriers to remove Class Lights - the carriers, knowing that if the lights were on the locomotives they were required to work, made the decision to REMOVE the lights so that they would not get in the position of having something that was NOT NEEDED for operation under their rules from preventing operation because that feature existed and was not operating.

Thanks. I guess what I am looking for is some kind of memo or letter saying that non-functioning accessories (in this case, classification lights) should be removed to prevent confusion concerning a possible FRA violation and write-up. I have seen numerous references to the GCOR of 1985 and 1986, but I would like to see some other source. This is another example of how hard railroad research is for anything after 1980. Does anyone have a copy of the 1985 GCOR?

Don Strack http://utahrails.net
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Posted by timz on Tuesday, February 9, 2021 10:32 AM

Lithonia Operator
Is there no such thing as running extra now?

Today's rulebooks don't include anything about scheduled ("regular") trains, do they? So no such thing as running un-extra, so no such thing as running extra.

A schedule gives a train authority to run. Nowadays, no train has authority to run until someone gives it authority?

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Posted by jeffhergert on Tuesday, February 9, 2021 11:15 AM

The first GCOR of 1985 (I do have a copy of it.) was the only edition to have rules for time table/train order operation.  The second edition of 1989 no longer had those rules.  The first edition had track warrants, but not Direct Traffic Control rules.  The second edition also had DTC. 

My copy shows only UP system adoption.  I believe SP adopted it in late 1985/early 1986 and they used DTC.  An SP copy probably would have a DTC section.  The 1989 edition also was the last GCOR to use the traditional numbering of rules.  The 3rd edition started the "power point" style of rule numbering.

As noted in an earlier post, the rule for train (classification) signals was eliminated.  Also, there was no longer a train order form for creating sections of a schedule.  As I recall, the article on dispatching on the KATY in 1986 or so, mentioned that the new rule book they had recently adopted no longer had a provision for sections of a schedule.  Because of this the MKT time table for the territory the article focused on had a "dummy" schedule that dispatchers could use for convenience.  It was not tied to an actual operating train symbol. 

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Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, February 9, 2021 3:00 PM

As it happens, last night I was going through the pictures in "Know Thy Late Mohawks" by Thomas R Gerbracht. One thing I found interesting was the captions pointed out that Mohawks on New York Central proper in the 1940's didn't have marker/classification lights, but ones assigned to the Big Four or Canada Southern subsidiaries did. In some cases, the author could get an approximate date for an undated picture by whether or not the marker lights were there.

So apparently although the rules about having markers / classification lights were in the general rules for some time, it was only to guide railroads that wished to use them. There apparently was no requirement for a railroad to use them if they didn't wish to, even in the steam era.

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Posted by cv_acr on Tuesday, February 9, 2021 3:21 PM

Don Strack

Thanks. I guess what I am looking for is some kind of memo or letter saying that non-functioning accessories (in this case, classification lights) should be removed to prevent confusion concerning a possible FRA violation and write-up.

Your question is backwards.

There's no requirement to remove anything, there's a requirement that anything that is actually there works, whether you actually use it or not.

Since class lights aren't used anymore once timetable operation was done away with, during engine rebuilds or major shopping many railroads remove those features so they don't have to maintain them.

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, February 9, 2021 4:33 PM

wjstix
As it happens, last night I was going through the pictures in "Know Thy Late Mohawks" by Thomas R Gerbracht. One thing I found interesting was the captions pointed out that Mohawks on New York Central proper in the 1940's didn't have marker/classification lights, but ones assigned to the Big Four or Canada Southern subsidiaries did. In some cases, the author could get an approximate date for an undated picture by whether or not the marker lights were there.

So apparently although the rules about having markers / classification lights were in the general rules for some time, it was only to guide railroads that wished to use them. There apparently was no requirement for a railroad to use them if they didn't wish to, even in the steam era.

Suspect it was dependent upon which sets of rules that at carrier would operate 'assigned' power over.  Multiple track territories did not operate under Timetable & Train Order method of operation.  Most of the major parts of the NYC were operated over multiple track territory and class was not a factor in identifying trains.

Single track territories did operate on the Timetable and Train Order method of territory and thus Class entered into identification levels of the operation.  I suspect the Big 4 and Canada Southern had numerous single track territories that operated under TTTO.

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Posted by Don Strack on Tuesday, February 9, 2021 5:23 PM

cv_acr

Your question is backwards.

There's no requirement to remove anything, there's a requirement that anything that is actually there works, whether you actually use it or not.

Since class lights aren't used anymore once timetable operation was done away with, during engine rebuilds or major shopping many railroads remove those features so they don't have to maintain them.

Backwards or not, my question is when did it happen. I know it was because the railroads stopped using classification lights, and the the GCOR of 1985 and 1986 were likely the first not to show classification of trains. That information is easy to find on the internet.

The mystery to me is when did the railroads start to remove the classification lights. It seemed to happen over a two or three year period. Was it some kind of group hug that they all started doing at the same time. Maybe a finding at one of the Locomotive Maintenance Officers Association (LMOA) conferences. Or maybe it was something (a letter or memo) from the FRA strongly suggesting that if something wasn't being used, it should be removed, per existing locomotive safety standards. I have received questions regularly to my UtahRails web site asking when UP and other railroads began removing classification lights, and why. The why is easy, but the when is a mystery.

Don Strack http://utahrails.net
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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, February 9, 2021 6:03 PM

Don Strack
 
cv_acr

Your question is backwards.

There's no requirement to remove anything, there's a requirement that anything that is actually there works, whether you actually use it or not.

Since class lights aren't used anymore once timetable operation was done away with, during engine rebuilds or major shopping many railroads remove those features so they don't have to maintain them. 

Backwards or not, my question is when did it happen. I know it was because the railroads stopped using classification lights, and the the GCOR of 1985 and 1986 were likely the first not to show classification of trains. That information is easy to find on the internet.

The mystery to me is when did the railroads start to remove the classification lights. It seemed to happen over a two or three year period. Was it some kind of group hug that they all started doing at the same time. Maybe a finding at one of the Locomotive Maintenance Officers Association (LMOA) conferences. Or maybe it was something (a letter or memo) from the FRA strongly suggesting that if something wasn't being used, it should be removed, per existing locomotive safety standards. I have received questions regularly to my UtahRails web site asking when UP and other railroads began removing classification lights, and why. The why is easy, but the when is a mystery.

When FRA inspectors started 'shopping' engines for inoperative Class Lights that were not otherwise needed for successful operation - the carriers started removing them so the engines could not be shopped for that defect.

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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 9:51 AM

Don Strack
The mystery to me is when did the railroads start to remove the classification lights. It seemed to happen over a two or three year period. Was it some kind of group hug that they all started doing at the same time. Maybe a finding at one of the Locomotive Maintenance Officers Association (LMOA) conferences. Or maybe it was something (a letter or memo) from the FRA strongly suggesting that if something wasn't being used, it should be removed, per existing locomotive safety standards.

Since they weren't required to have them in the first place, there would be no notice or requirement to remove them. It's kinda like asking "what date did US railroads decide to stop buying steam locomotives?" Steam purchases just kinda petered out over a period - some railroads continued to buy or build steam long after others had committed to dieselization. When a railroad decided it no longer needed to use marker / classification lights, they started removing them so they didn't have to worry about maintaining them. Once a railroad quit using them, they quit having info about them in their rulebook. It wasn't some big group decision or regulation to remove the lights.

Stix
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Posted by cv_acr on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 11:58 AM

Don Strack
The mystery to me is when did the railroads start to remove the classification lights. It seemed to happen over a two or three year period. Was it some kind of group hug that they all started doing at the same time.

Different railroads discontinued at different times.

Canadian railways changed over their systems and got rid of the old train order offices in the early 1990s. Others have mentioned US rulebooks that no longer covered TT&TO rules by the end of the 1980s.

You can still see the class lights today on some older engines that never had them removed...

A popular local practice in the yard here around Christmas is to turn on one green class light and one red marker (most Canadian units had green, white and red class lights and markers all mounted together) on the yard engine to show red & green. But they don't mean anything anymore. It's just a "festive" thing.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 12:47 PM

I like to turn the green and white ones on, as red is still in the rulebook as a rear marker.  

For a few years in the early 1990s CN was getting new and rebuilt units with only red and white lights, but no green.  The first order of Dash-9's (C44-9WL 2500-2522) were the last to have class lights of any kind, they only came with white lights on the front, no green or red.  

The class lights take the same small 75v bulb as the cab interior lights, and replacing them is not particularly hard.  

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Posted by VGN Jess on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 4:07 AM

VGN used white flags on it's diesels to show the train was an "extra".

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 4:24 AM

In regard to the removal of classification lights, this interesting and well researched article on Santa Fe's SD45-2 fleet states that "in 1986, the FRA issued a regulation that required all intact equipment on railroad locomotives be maintained in operating condition".

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 9:18 AM

VGN Jess
VGN used white flags on it's diesels to show the train was an "extra".

In the Day - White Flags or White Class Lights denoted Extra Trains (flags by day, lights by night}

Green Flags or Green Class Lights denoted a following section of the schedule that was represented by the engine.

Those conventions stopped when railroads eliminated the Timetable & Train Orders method of operation in the late 1980's.  Schedules were 'tools' of the Train Dispatcher to run the railroad.

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Posted by mudchicken on Friday, April 9, 2021 9:54 AM

(Amusing: CRRM-Golden just did the reverse...It put the class lights back in the front nose of their DRGW tunnel motor)

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west

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