• Changing ends / direction

  • Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.
Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.

Moderators: Komachi, David Benton

  by granton junction
There is a discussion on the Amtrak forum about changing ends /direction at stations and why this is not common in North America. I think that my response may be interesting for this forum, and maybe we can have some discussion about differences among North American, European, and other railroads worldwide. This is my response on the Amtrak forum:
Changing ends / direction is quite common in Europe since major stations, for examples, in Germany and Switzerland are often stub-end or partially stub-end. "Riding backwards" is more common in Europe and is more accepted. European equipment is very different (couplings, brakes, engines, seating) from North American equipment, and therefore relatively fast engine and directional changes are possible. Safety rules and operating procedures are different (NOT better or worse), and again this facilitates fast engine and directional changes. 5 minute engine and directional changes are common. European railroads have a density of (passenger) traffic not found in North America. Major trunk routes often have hourly service in Western Europe so fast engine and directional changes are necessary. In North America with often only one train a day with slow schedules on some routes a fast engine / directional change is hardly an important issue.
  by ExCon90
I think an important difference is in established custom. In America, when 4-axle coaches were introduced, they had a center aisle with reversible seats--I don't know where they got that, because in stagecoaches passengers sat facing each other, but the practice was apparently universal right from the beginning, and Americans expected to ride facing forwards. An interesting practice of running backwards in America was on the PRR between Washington and the West, where trains ran backwards from Washington to Baltimore because there was no practical way to wye the train there; when trains between New York and the West served Broad Street Station in Philadelphia, they also ran backwards from New York, apparently because they were competing with the New York Central and couldn't afford to waste time wyeing in Philadelphia--it was bad enough having to change ends. Also, it just occurred to me that back in the day many, perhaps most, important trains had an observation car on the rear, and in addition the established practice was to put the sleepers on the rear to keep them away from the engine. Partly as a result of that, passengers continue to expect to ride facing forward.
  by johnthefireman
Thanks, chaps. Interesting conversation. Let me add a few other comments:

- Europe has far less space available than the USA, not just for wyes (what we would call triangles) but even for a run-round loop to allow the locomotive to get to the rear of the train.

- Timetables are tight and crowded so running a loco around a train not only takes time but also blocks the movement of other trains.

- Both the above also mean that even space for a spur for a spare loco to stand while waiting to go onto the rear of a train is limited, and getting the loco from the spur to the rear of the train potentially blocks the paths of other trains.

- In Europe generally and in UK in particular there are fewer and fewer loco-hauled passenger trains. Multiple units are increasingly the norm. These trains already have cabs at both ends.
  by David Benton
Thanks Granton Junction, and welcome to the Worldwide forum.
I saw the Amtrak forum subject too , and started a reply , but lost my way.
I think the biggest factor is frequency of use. Your average American may have ridden once or twice , if ever. Almost all Europeans would have used trains regularly at some stage in their lives.
If you have never ridden backwards before, it probably feels weird. Regular riders may welcome the different view perspective riding backwards. The amount of "view" is exactly the same , yet some feel they are missing out on the view travelling backwards. For railfans, a chance to see the locomotive is a obvious reason to want to face forward.
Then there is face to face seats , usually with a table in between. Some people welcome the social interchange, others would rather have a bit of privacy offered by a seat back . Face to face offers more window per set of customers. On the other hand , if the person opposite you decides to stretch out , they invade your foot space.
I think , given the choice on a infrequently traveled route , I would face the front, in the days I traveled by train regularly( daily in London), I wouldn't really care.
Probably more of a factor in what you will see , is which side of the train you are on. Again, all else equal , railfans would probably choose the side facing the opposing double track.