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Alstom demonstrates level 4 autonomous switching

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Alstom demonstrates level 4 autonomous switching
Posted by Overmod on Thursday, December 1, 2022 3:46 AM

See this story.

https://www.railjournal.com/innovations-showcase/alstom-demonstrates-driverless-shunting/

Massive sensor fusion at 200Hz or better.

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, December 1, 2022 7:21 AM

Overmod

The act of switching is not about the locomotive, it is about the actions of person(s) on the ground, making cuts, throwing switches, making couplings.

Most carriers in the US are now using RCO - Remote Control Operations with a person on the ground, equipped with a belt pak remote control transmitter to control the operation of the locomotive.

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, December 1, 2022 8:02 AM

I get the impression that the level 4 capability is to permit 'fire and forget' RCO moves.  It'll be interesting to see how the system handles unattended shoves Dunce  My guess is with remote cameras and sensors in the equivalent of a FRED popped on the cut.

Oh, and as a stalking horse for zero-manned train assembly/disassembly at yards, transfer moves, and branch runs.  With the level 4 autonomous superconductor service trucks handling the grade-crossing flaggings...

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Posted by bogie_engineer on Thursday, December 1, 2022 10:02 AM

The video shows the shunter approaching a rail car, buffers touch, then it pulls the car away. So how did the drawhook get coupled and the air lines connected? 

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Posted by SD70Dude on Thursday, December 1, 2022 4:13 PM

Overmod

It'll be interesting to see how the system handles unattended shoves Dunce  My guess is with remote cameras and sensors in the equivalent of a FRED popped on the cut.

How will the FRED get moved from car to car as the switching progresses?

Greetings from Alberta

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, December 2, 2022 9:40 AM

SD70Dude
How will the FRED get moved from car to car as the switching progresses?

Drones, of course.  It's the 21st Century!  The answer going forward always involves drones!

The arm that deploys the antitheft submunitions system can easily be adapted to link to a fitting on top of the FRED, and charge/self-test/program it as necessary while in flight.  Think of it as evolution in action.

Somewhat more seriously: the point of the level 4 enablement is that it need not long be limited to switch engines.  Soon every car will have its eyes and ears, all networked together via the cloud, and even the concept of a blind shove will begin to wither away.

And later still, we'll dispense with yard engines entirely, and the cars will switch themselves. 

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Friday, December 2, 2022 9:54 PM

Overmod

And later still, we'll dispense with yard engines entirely, and the cars will switch themselves. 

This has been discussed on the forum a few years ago...

My take back then was to have small axle drive generators charge a battery on the car. The battery would be charged while the car was part of a locomotive hauled train - perhaps tied in with the air brake system to charge when braking and thus assist with the braking. When arriving at the terminal, the generators would be used as motors to move the car to its final destination. The process would be reversed for assembling the train.

Who nows, we may seee the return of loose car railroading.

 

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Friday, December 2, 2022 11:51 PM

The sh

bogie_engineer

The video shows the shunter approaching a rail car, buffers touch, then it pulls the car away. So how did the drawhook get coupled and the air lines connected? 

 
 
The shunter has an automatic coupling device.  Saw it and also demonstrated on the thread of european auto trains. 
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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, December 3, 2022 7:48 AM

blue streak 1
The sh 
bogie_engineer

The video shows the shunter approaching a rail car, buffers touch, then it pulls the car away. So how did the drawhook get coupled and the air lines connected?  

The shunter has an automatic coupling device.  Saw it and also demonstrated on the thread of european auto trains. 

So all the cars within the shunters switching area also have 'automatic' couplings so they can be coupled and uncoupled at will?  At whose will?  The Janney coupler is 'automatic' when its locking mechanism can be controlled, relatively easy to do on a locomotive, much harder to do on all the cars needing to be coupled and uncoupled on the normal day of a yard switcing job.

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Posted by Psychot on Saturday, December 3, 2022 9:04 AM

Erik_Mag

 

 Who nows, we may seee the return of loose car railroading.

 

 

What's that I hear? I think it's the sound of John Kneiling rolling over in his grave...

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Saturday, December 3, 2022 4:53 PM

Psychot

What's that I hear? I think it's the sound of John Kneiling rolling over in his grave...

Good one....

I first started reading Trains in earnest starting with the May 1968 (first issue I read was June 1967) and remembered JGK's comments about the end of loose car railroading in his series of articles on the "car shortage". He made a good point about the long turn around times for cars as being a poor use of the capital invested in the cars.

Aboout four years before that, I was intrigued by Frank Ellison's comments about "peddler" freight's in the August 1964 issue of MR - this was a reprint of the 1944 series of articles about operation on his Delta Lines layout.

Some thirty years later, my father-in-law gave me his copy of Martin Stevers Steel Trails which was published in 1933. One of the themes of that book was that railroading was best at mass transportation of passengers and freight, with LCL and loose car railroading being much more expensive what we now call unit train operation.

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, December 3, 2022 6:06 PM

Erik_Mag
 
Psychot

What's that I hear? I think it's the sound of John Kneiling rolling over in his grave... 

Good one....

I first started reading Trains in earnest starting with the May 1968 (first issue I read was June 1967) and remembered JGK's comments about the end of loose car railroading in his series of articles on the "car shortage". He made a good point about the long turn around times for cars as being a poor use of the capital invested in the cars.

Aboout four years before that, I was intrigued by Frank Ellison's comments about "peddler" freight's in the August 1964 issue of MR - this was a reprint of the 1944 series of articles about operation on his Delta Lines layout.

Some thirty years later, my father-in-law gave me his copy of Martin Stevers Steel Trails which was published in 1933. One of the themes of that book was that railroading was best at mass transportation of passengers and freight, with LCL and loose car railroading being much more expensive what we now call unit train operation.

With all that being said, not all rail customers, for a wide variety of legitimate reasons, are able to conduct their rail business at unit train levels.  There is a wide gulf of business that is too large for efficient trucking and yet way too small to be considered for unit train operation.  The need for loose car railroading exists, whether the industry will continue service the loose car market remains to be seen in the world of PSR.

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, December 3, 2022 7:13 PM

Erik_Mag
My take back then was to have small axle drive generators charge a battery on the car. The battery would be charged while the car was part of a locomotive hauled train - perhaps tied in with the air brake system to charge when braking and thus assist with the braking. When arriving at the terminal, the generators would be used as motors to move the car to its final destination. The process would be reversed for assembling the train.

More recently here: there are at least two companies, one with over $50M market cap, purporting to design autonomous railcars of precisely this type.

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Sunday, December 4, 2022 12:46 AM

BaltACD

With all that being said, not all rail customers, for a wide variety of legitimate reasons, are able to conduct their rail business at unit train levels.  There is a wide gulf of business that is too large for efficient trucking and yet way too small to be considered for unit train operation.  The need for loose car railroading exists, whether the industry will continue service the loose car market remains to be seen in the world of PSR.

Understood. The fact that unit train operation is usually more efficient than loose car service doesn't negate the fact that there is demand for "less than unit train loads" (LUTL???) and even loose car operation.

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, December 4, 2022 11:25 AM

A significant percentage of 'large train' operation under PSR involves operating multiple consists under DPU control to economize on crew cost or improve availability.  In my experience these are very often 'loose car' consists, or commoditized stack container trains.  Block switching and emphasis on flat switching are 'necessary evils' and we have seen how that, too, is often reduced to a crew-cost discussion.

I suspect that any technology that automates block switching and yard access would be embraced by any actual PSR railroad... as long as the capital cost is borne with OPM and risk can be sterilized from their perspective...

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, December 5, 2022 3:10 PM

Overmod
A significant percentage of 'large train' operation under PSR involves operating multiple consists under DPU control to economize on crew cost or improve availability.  In my experience these are very often 'loose car' consists, or commoditized stack container trains.  Block switching and emphasis on flat switching are 'necessary evils' and we have seen how that, too, is often reduced to a crew-cost discussion.

I suspect that any technology that automates block switching and yard access would be embraced by any actual PSR railroad... as long as the capital cost is borne with OPM and risk can be sterilized from their perspective...

The only way you get to autonomous switching is to greatly modify the persent Janey coupling and air hose coupling system into something that makes each car's individual couplings remotely selectable and wherein the air hose coupling is a part of the coupler, and the coupling needs to be at least as strong as present day couplings.  It can be done, but at what cost?  Will that fleet investment be the gateway to Electronically Controled Braking?  Who is going to foot the bill?

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