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BNSF Railway shows how Amtrak and freight can coexist

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BNSF Railway shows how Amtrak and freight can coexist
Posted by diningcar on Saturday, November 6, 2021 11:35 AM

Bill Stephens writes in the December issue of Trains a very good analysis of what is required from track, signaling, dispatching and supervision to keep Amtrak 3 and 4 on time. 

I have a very personal connection with this after having been a survey Party Chief with Santa Fe's Engineering Dept. when Santa Fe was upgrading this railroad that was built in 1882-1885. Yes, I am proud of what we accomplished and what was done after I retired.

 

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Posted by rrnut282 on Saturday, November 6, 2021 11:50 AM

Tools (two tracks, cross-overs every ten miles) are useless without a craftsman that knows how to use them and bosses that will let them.  This is often where other railroads drop the ball.  

Some still need better tools to make it work and that takes money.  You were lucky to be able to supply those tools.

 

Mike (2-8-2)
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Posted by diningcar on Saturday, November 6, 2021 12:00 PM

Mike282?  My birthdate is 2-08-1932. Do we have a connection?

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Posted by zugmann on Saturday, November 6, 2021 12:59 PM

rrnut282
Tools (two tracks, cross-overs every ten miles) are useless without a craftsman that knows how to use them and bosses that will let them.  This is often where other railroads drop the ball.  

But people cost money.  Think of the shareholders!  /s

  

The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of

my employer, any other railroad, company, or person.

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Posted by SD60MAC9500 on Saturday, November 6, 2021 3:12 PM
 

The Southern Transcon only has the SWC to deal with for the most part. What if the SWC had 3 round trips per day instead of 1? A pair of pass trains is easier to deal with. When you get multiple pass trains the scenario changes. BNSF probably can't fit any more pass trains without adding some sections of 3MT or more... It's the speed that eats capacity. 

 
 
Rahhhhhhhhh!!!!
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Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Saturday, November 6, 2021 5:42 PM

They also do a decent job with the Empire Builder California Zephyr all the California traffic in the inland Empire plus the Illinois traffic they have.  It's called the BNSF isn't beholden to the shareholders that want maximum profits from each dollar of revenue.  Also they still believe in speed over tonnage on trains for the most part.  

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, November 6, 2021 6:19 PM

BNSF is a piker when it comes to the volume of Amtrak they handle.

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

              

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Saturday, November 6, 2021 6:37 PM

BaltACD

BNSF is a piker when it comes to the volume of Amtrak they handle. 

But when you see what they do with the Chicago racetrack and Metra's commuter traffic, they perform very well. Amtrak has four trains that are also in that mix.

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Posted by greyhounds on Saturday, November 6, 2021 7:18 PM

Electroliner 1935
But when you see what they do with the Chicago racetrack and Metra's commuter traffic, they perform very well. Amtrak has four trains that are also in that mix.

I formerly commuted on that line.

They've got all of 38 miles of CTC triple track. That's the commuter line. 38 miles. They can do a whole lot with that on those 38 miles.

Try it on a single track line and there are real problems.

"By many measures, the U.S. freight rail system is the safest, most efficient and cost effective in the world." - Federal Railroad Administration, October, 2009. I'm just your average, everyday, uncivilized howling "anti-government" critic of mass government expenditures for "High Speed Rail" in the US. And I'm gosh darn proud of that.
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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, November 6, 2021 7:51 PM

Electroliner 1935
 
BaltACD

BNSF is a piker when it comes to the volume of Amtrak they handle.  

But when you see what they do with the Chicago racetrack and Metra's commuter traffic, they perform very well. Amtrak has four trains that are also in that mix.

We aren't talking about METRA.

If you are, however,  CSX also has to deal with VRE, MARC and MBTA and all their daily rush hour trains in addition to Amtrak.

CSX also sold track segments from West Palm Beach to Miami to South Florida for the Tri-Rail commuter system between those points, after operating that service for over 20 years, as well as a segment of tha A Line for Sun Rail to originate and operate their commuter system.

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Posted by CShaveRR on Saturday, November 6, 2021 11:44 PM

Electroliner 1935
But when you see what they do with the Chicago racetrack and Metra's commuter traffic, they perform very well. Amtrak has four trains that are also in that mix.


Make that eight:  Two SWCs, two CZs, and four state-sponsored runs.

Carl

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Posted by JC UPTON on Sunday, November 7, 2021 7:45 AM

Did you mean California Zephyers & not Empire Builders?

BNSF handles the EB west of St Paul...

 

from the Far East of the Sunset Route

(In the shadow of the Huey P Long bridge)

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Posted by CShaveRR on Sunday, November 7, 2021 9:30 AM

Fixing it.  Sorry, and thanks!

Carl

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Sunday, November 7, 2021 1:20 PM

I was talking about the racetrack between Chicago and Aurora. Shadow brought up the Empire Builder which uses CP and Metra North (formerly C&NW/UP) between Minneapolis & Chicago. And yes, I said four trains but since each train makes a round trip, it is eight trips. And as for CSX and VRE, I think that it shows what CAN be done when the motivation to cooperate is present. When one party doesn't want to cooperate, things go sour. We all remember when a parent tells a child to eat something they don't want to eat.

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Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, November 7, 2021 4:25 PM

Electroliner 1935
I was talking about the racetrack between Chicago and Aurora. Shadow brought up the Empire Builder which uses CP and Metra North (formerly C&NW/UP) between Minneapolis & Chicago. And yes, I said four trains but since each train makes a round trip, it is eight trips. And as for CSX and VRE, I think that it shows what CAN be done when the motivation to cooperate is present. When one party doesn't want to cooperate, things go sour. We all remember when a parent tells a child to eat something they don't want to eat.

In the CSX/VRE/Amtrak 'cooperation' shows what can be done when there are 'come to Jesus' meetings between ranking CSX Officials and ranking political personnel of both the State of Virginia and the US Government.

At one point in time CSX had a senior operating official that didn't give a flying flip at a rolling confectionary about operating trains with people anywhere near the scheduled time - right up until he participated in said 'come to Jesus' meeting.  His attitude changed a immediate 180 degrees.

Train Dispatchers can implement any kind of operating plan the company wants run - they can delay passenger trains if that is what the company wants or they can have them run freely - pay your money, take your choice.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, November 7, 2021 5:42 PM

I think Canadian Pacific does and excellent job as well as BNSF.

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Posted by SFbrkmn on Monday, November 8, 2021 6:54 PM

DS8 handles the territory between Rico Puerco-Lupton. This stretch of the Gallup Su where much of the sorting of traffic takes place. By not having to deal directly w/the terminal @ Belen, helps a great amount. 

I was an alum Gallup Sub nine yrs, working local board 15 @ Gallup, and seen it happen. 

Sam 

 

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Monday, November 8, 2021 7:00 PM

BaltACD
 Electroliner 1935
I was talking about the racetrack between Chicago and Aurora. Shadow brought up the Empire Builder which uses CP and Metra North (formerly C&NW/UP) between Minneapolis & Chicago. And yes, I said four trains but since each train makes a round trip, it is eight trips. And as for CSX and VRE, I think that it shows what CAN be done when the motivation to cooperate is present. When one party doesn't want to cooperate, things go sour. We all remember when a parent tells a child to eat something they don't want to eat. 

In the CSX/VRE/Amtrak 'cooperation' shows what can be done when there are 'come to Jesus' meetings between ranking CSX Officials and ranking political personnel of both the State of Virginia and the US Government.

At one point in time CSX had a senior operating official that didn't give a flying flip at a rolling confectionary about operating trains with people anywhere near the scheduled time - right up until he participated in said 'come to Jesus' meeting.  His attitude changed a immediate 180 degrees.

Train Dispatchers can implement any kind of operating plan the company wants run - they can delay passenger trains if that is what the company wants or they can have them run freely - pay your money, take your choice. 

What was the thing (motivater) that caused him to change his mind?

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, November 8, 2021 8:07 PM

Electroliner 1935
What was the thing (motivater) that caused him to change his mind?

He met Jesus - in the form of State of Virginia officials and US government officials that he knew had the power to make CSX's life with those agencies absolute hell on a daily and continuing basis.

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Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 11:38 AM

When the guys whose jobs have letters that are FRA USDOT NTSB and they are riding the trains that you're refusing to run properly they can and will get even with in worse ways than you can imagine.  Just imagine how badly the FRA could hammer a railroad on safety or track releated issues on an inspection if they're told no leeway from the big bosses.

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 12:17 PM

YES SIR! 

I hear you loud and clear. I love it.

Now why is CSX showing show much resistance to the Gulf Wind train. They had no problem with the Sunset Limited when it ran to Miami or Orlando.

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 12:43 PM

Electroliner 1935

YES SIR! 

I hear you loud and clear. I love it.

Now why is CSX showing show much resistance to the Gulf Wind train. They had no problem with the Sunset Limited when it ran to Miami or Orlando.

CSX wasn't thrilled with the Sunset when it ran.  When I ran it was a every other day train in each direction, with one day out of seven having the train moving in both directions on the same day.

The current plan for Amtrak is two trains each way each day - that is a whole lot more freight traffic disruption than a train a day.  Not to mention the 13 drawbridges that exist between New Orleans and Mobile that must open for water traffic on demand.

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Posted by Harrison on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 3:26 PM

CMStPnP

I think Canadian Pacific does and excellent job as well as BNSF.

 

I don't know about the midwest, but here on the D&H I wouldn't say we do an "excellent" job. For example, the Adirondack re-qual run was supposed to run to the border and back today, but in Whitehall we had a four train pileup which resulted in them having to go back to Albany. Now, that was partly Amtrak's fault, but we lost our good dispatchers when they retired and the new guys can hardly handle freights, let alone Amtrak. We have (most) of the infrastructure to run Amtraks along side of our four daily freights, we just don't have the brains...

Harrison

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 4:27 PM

Harrison
 
CMStPnP

I think Canadian Pacific does and excellent job as well as BNSF. 

I don't know about the midwest, but here on the D&H I wouldn't say we do an "excellent" job. For example, the Adirondack re-qual run was supposed to run to the border and back today, but in Whitehall we had a four train pileup which resulted in them having to go back to Albany. Now, that was partly Amtrak's fault, but we lost our good dispatchers when they retired and the new guys can hardly handle freights, let alone Amtrak. We have (most) of the infrastructure to run Amtraks along side of our four daily freights, we just don't have the brains...

Back in the day - when CSX initially centralized their Train Dispatching function in Jacksonville in the late 1980's early 1990's - the dispatching districts were established in accordance with the US&S (Union Switch & Signal aka. Union Switch and Swindle) salesman's advice; that US&S Computer Aided Dispatching System (CADS) would allow territories of 500 or 1000 miles.

Several of the Original territories did get split as real world experience demonstrated that field personnel had legitimate voice conversations to transact with the Dispatcher and the size of the territory and the number of field personnel did not allow sufficient hours in a tour of duty for all the required communication to take place.  After those initial issues were 'corrected' the experienced Dispatchers that had 'for the most part' took jobs dispatching the territories they had 'back home'.  Those Dispatchers knew the territory, knew the people and knew the flow of operations.  And then the Dispatchers that had used the establishment of CADS in Jacksonville as the means to have CSX move their family to Florida to facilitate their retirement - and then the retired and CSX began a 'crash' school to vet, select, train and qualify new Train Dispatcher - a six to nine month affair after the candidates were selected.

Once the newly trained and qualified Dispatchers began work the existing territories it became obvious that the size of the territories and everything that had to be accounted for to operate within the rules took the new dispatchers many times longer than it did for the experienced dispatchers they were replacing.  The new Dispatchers had to THINK and review mentally the rules and operating directives for every action they intended to take.  The experienced Dispatchers had all the background thinking committed to years and years of experience.

Once it got to the point that 'new' dispatchers dominated the extra lists, more and more existing territories were split to make them workable for the talent that were actuall going to work them.

Train Dispatching 'Brains' aren't fully formed from training, they grow with the experience a Train Dispatcher has on a specific territory.  Day in day out, night in night out - every tour of duty is a learning experience.

Experience provide VISION as to what WILL happen if a particular decision is made.  

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Posted by jeffhergert on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 7:19 PM

About 5 years ago, the wife and I took an Amtrak trip to San Francisco (Emeryville) and back.  (California Zephyr out of Ottumwa IA.)  We arrived in Emeryville 20 minutes late.  Which is pretty close to, if not considered, on time.

The return trip got us into Ottumwa about 3 1/2 hours late.  We lost about 2 hours on the UP across Nevada and Utah.  I had my scanner, the big delay was when a no-fit manifest died on the HOS short of where the outbound crew could get to it.  They lost another hour in Denver picking up some private cars on the rear end.  (Took 3 times to get the pin to drop on the coupler to make the joint.)

A one of my co-workers has a son who started out as a conductor and then went into dispatching.  He was one of the many who were "purged" a year or so back.  Those dismissed were given severance packages. 

Now my co-worker has said that his son, and others given the boot, are being recruited to come back to work again as dispatchers.  They're being offered to have their seniority restored and some other deal sweetenings to get them back.  They are having trouble finding new dispatchers off the street who can cut it.

Jeff 

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 8:07 PM

jeffhergert
...

Now my co-worker has said that his son, and others given the boot, are being recruited to come back to work again as dispatchers.  They're being offered to have their seniority restored and some other deal sweetenings to get them back.  They are having trouble finding new dispatchers off the street who can cut it.

Jeff 

Despite what the carriers are trying to claim - Train Dispatchers ARE NOT entry level positions for anyone coming 'off the street'.  Not if you want your railroad to run efficiently.

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Posted by mudchicken on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 8:47 PM

But that same mindset made the DS territories too darned big and responsiveness too darned slow. (but the financial types claiming efficiency and money saved were all wet - better solution would be to reduce their numbers down to only those still living in the real world instead of the spreadsheet fantasy land they call home.)

- I don't see mention anywhere in here of the Southern CA and SJ Valley circus that BNSF has either.

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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Posted by blue streak 1 on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 11:22 PM

BaltACD
 

Once the newly trained and qualified Dispatchers began work the existing territories it became obvious that the size of the territories and everything that had to be accounted for to operate within the rules took the new dispatchers many times longer than it did for the experienced dispatchers they were replacing.  The new Dispatchers had to THINK and review mentally the rules and operating directives for every action they intended to take.  The experienced Dispatchers had all the background thinking committed to years and years of experience.

Once it got to the point that 'new' dispatchers dominated the extra lists, more and more existing territories were split to make them workable for the talent that were actuall going to work them.

Train Dispatching 'Brains' aren't fully formed from training, they grow with the experience a Train Dispatcher has on a specific territory.  Day in day out, night in night out - every tour of duty is a learning experience.

Experience provide VISION as to what WILL happen if a particular decision is made.   

The almost daily screw up that occurs on the  Crescent both ways south of Atlanta makes one wonder if this is the  case on those various dispatching sections ?.  Is it because that rather new dispaatchers are being assigned to this section by NS?  Are more experienced dispatchers avoiding these districts because of the many too short sidings and maybe lack of sidings ?  Anyone have any idea if any siding extensions and maybe new siding(s)  are scheduled to be installed during the Jan - FEB maintenance disruption of the  Crescet Mondays - Thursdays.? 

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Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 11:49 PM

I figure railroad dispatching is rather like chess.  There are moves you can make, depending on a variety of factors.  Most chess players (at least the good ones) are several moves ahead of the current action.  

As long as the other player makes the "right" moves, the plan will work.

LarryWhistling
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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, November 10, 2021 8:39 AM

blue streak 1
The almost daily screw up that occurs on the  Crescent both ways south of Atlanta makes one wonder if this is the  case on those various dispatching sections ?.  Is it because that rather new dispaatchers are being assigned to this section by NS?  Are more experienced dispatchers avoiding these districts because of the many too short sidings and maybe lack of sidings ?  Anyone have any idea if any siding extensions and maybe new siding(s)  are scheduled to be installed during the Jan - FEB maintenance disruption of the  Crescet Mondays - Thursdays.? 

As I have stated - Dispatchers implement the policy that their superiors dictate.  It is no suprise whan NS policy is for The Cresent.

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