• Control stand preference

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by RailRoader93
I was reading hot times on the high iron, and the author, J.D.,said that most engineers preferred standard control stands over the desktop version. I am not sure why, it seems like the desktop is much more accessible. Could a real engineer or railroader please inform me? It will probably be a really obvious reason, but I just have no clue.
  by DutchRailnut
The Author does not speak for all engineers, most likely freight engineers prefere the AAR stand specialy if units are used in reverse or as road switcher.
Passenger engineers probably like the desk control stand, but Im sure even there are a few exeptions.
  by 10more years
My opinion only: When the desk tops first came out, it was a drastic change over what we had been used to. They're not designed for switching, and it's difficult to see someone on the front of the engine giving hand signals. But, we've adapted to them. I think most of us like the wide body style. Air conditioning and room are primary considerations, although there are few things hotter than a wide body with defective or no A/C. A lot of old guys are still used to running with the old conventional control stand. Maybe, think about learning to drive a car with all the controls (radio, gear shift, heat and air) on one side and then getting a car with the controls on the other side. Maybe, I should use the analogy of driving on the right side of the street, and then going to England instead.

Now, all I really care is to have a wide body cab with A/C that works.
  by RailRoader93
So it's more about the change than about the control stand it's self, right?
  by Jtgshu
Although Im a passenger engineer, I prefer the good ol fashioned AAR Control Stand. To me, it just feels more natural.

One of the reasons why I don't like the desktop stands is Im pretty tall, and I can't ever get real comfy with the seat and the floor and the pedals on the floor. it also seems that the desktop stands are further away from the side window, which can be a real pain when you have to make a precise spot for a station stop or a platform or whatever. My RR doesn't use nice sign markers up at eye level or anything, it usually is looking for something on the ground or a tree or pole or whatever ( a bag of water bottles is a favorite), so being closer to the side window gives a little better visibility. Also, if i gotta pull real close (but not couple) to another train, or even couple up, i find the desktop gets in my way and makes it harder to see right down in front of me. You just can't beat the forward visibility in a Geep with a standard AAR control stand. It also makes it easier to keep an eye on the train and make tight spots if the mirror is busted or flopping around and won't tighten up.

The full width cabs (and bodies) with broken AC can be a real sauna. No forward door to open up, no rear door to open and have air pass through :(
  by SooLineRob
Comparing apples to apples:

I routinely operate GE C44AC units, both AC4400's and ES44 "Evo" widebodies. Desktop or Standard? Desktop for me.

GE placed the air brake handles about 8 inches TOO far rearward on the standard AAR control stand. No matter what I do, I can't reach SOMETHING without twisting and bending a part of my body. And I'm 6'2".

If I sit facing forward, towards the track (0 degrees centered), my left arm is crooked reaching back for the handles. Like making the old "stop" hand sign used in driving an automobile. Then I must reach my right hand across my waist to bail off.

If I sit sideways, facing the left window (away from the track, 60 degrees off center), my hands can reach both handles, but my head/neck is twisted to the right in order to look out the window. My chin is inline with my right shoulder.

If I move the seat ALL THE WAY back, it's still not far enough to comfortably reach the handles AND face forward. I must still turn sideways (towards the headlight, 30 degrees off center), and turn my head/neck to the right, although not as much. But then I can't reach the IFD.

And for switching ... forget it. You can't turn the seat 90 degrees to the left to face the control stand and look out the back for a hand signal. The seat is TOO CLOSE to the control stand, nowhere to put your legs! Not to mention there's no side window that opens to even look for a hand signal. Only the forward side window opens; the rear window is fixed. So, the seat can be turned sideways, find a place to put your legs, you can look forward and backward through the windows, but you can't lean out the window to see a hand signal because of where the seat is fixed to the floor. The rear window doesn't open, and it wouldn't matter anyway. All the seats are high-backed captain's chairs.

Another minor issue I have is the headlight switch placement. Down low below the air brake handles. When you're in the clear meeting an opposing train with your lights off and you reach down to turn them on to do a roll-by at night, you reach down in the dark and fumble around to find the Front headlight switch. Yea, I know ... it's the one that's forward of the three. Three? Yes, three. All three switches down there feel the same ... Front headlight, Rear headlight, and Heater/AC. All three have the same knob. And the Ditch Light switch is by itself above the air brake handles.

I personally prefer to "switch" with a desktop and look out the side window using the mirror when required. But nowadays, the rules have been modified to all-but prohibit using hand signals. No legal hand signal for "three point/step" protection. No legal hand signal for "(switch name) lined, locked, and checked for (normal/reverse) position. No legal hand signal for "(derail name) in (derailing/non-derailing) position". So, in everyday practice, hand signs are not used anymore, and the control stand type is irrelevant when switching. But in road service, I do prefer the desktop for the above mentioned reasons.

"A" for effort, "C-" for execution.

Post Script:

I do prefer being in a widebody locomotive cab for safety reasons. Two co-workers of mine collided with some cars (8 or 10) that "got loose" and ended up derailed on the main track in front of them at NIGHT (unsignalled territory). They were doing 40+MPH, saw the mess ahead of them in their headlights, dumped the air, and collided at 32 MPH. Both engines turned over and destroyed, but both crew members crawled out the the wreckage and were working again 72 hours later.
  by c604.
Since the SD70's and GEVO's went back to the traditional control stand design, it sounds like its a messed up version that has received a lot of complaints. Is there a reason not to use the exact same design of traditional control stands as was found on the the EMD 40 series locomotives and GE U30-dash 7 line and work off of that with modifications if needed? There seemed to be very few complaints about that style. It looks like some Gensets (and new road locomotives built for other countries) are being built new with that design.
  by Jtgshu
The MP20 switcher built by Motive Power (at least NJTs 5 that were rebuilt from GP40FH Passenger locos) uses a standard control stand. Other than a few different switches on the control stand, its just like the Geeps that the locos once were. The best part, is the seat is actually an improvement, comfy and actually has a wheel on the bottom of it so it actually is in contact with the ground and not just held up by that side track!

While there are some things I really do not like about the MP20 (the side windows are WAY too low, and you feel like you are gonna fall out if you lean back with the window open, and it won't let you slide one side of the window to behind you - its on that stupid track with notches - are some of the biggest things) there are some things I really do like - old fashioned switch gear (you can actually hear the loco doing things, not the computer telling you its doing something) but just enough computer info, control and access to be convenient, and of course, the control stand, and good forward and side and rear visibility.

Its nice being able to drill and spot and be able to look down at the ground, with one hand on the throttle, the other on the brake (auto or ind) and not have to think about what you are touching or stretching to reach the throttle or leaning over your arm that is on the brake while trying to look out the window.....

If drilling with a GE with a desktop control stand is anything like that on the P40s I deal with - I have NO IDEA how you guys in freight do that on a daily basis!!!!!!
  by GSC
This might not really apply, but GE's I ran, a 1942 25-tonner and 1 each 1949 and 1950 50-tonner have stands that are quite comfortable, the throttle at a nice level just ahead of your left arm, (at about 10 o'clock from looking straight ahead), you can rest your hand comfortably on the throttle while running, with the brake stand just behind it. Even turning and looking to the rear while half hanging out the window, the controls are still fairly easy to reach. Nice design, got to give the GE designers credit for this.
  by SooLineRob
Jtgshu wrote:Its nice being able to drill and spot and be able to look down at the ground, with one hand on the throttle, the other on the brake (auto or ind) and not have to think about what you are touching or stretching to reach the throttle or leaning over your arm that is on the brake while trying to look out the window.....
I hear ya JT!!!

The control stands (desktop or conventional) on widebody cabs simply don't allow you to lean out the window.

The desktops work best for observing hand signals via the side view mirror.

The conventionals work best for radio comms sitting 60 degrees off center.

Neither work real well for "precision spotting" an industry that uses tank cars or "kicking" out cars while switching.

BUT ... I am very happy with the overall operation of these units. A 10-fold improvement over the locomotives of yesterday. Not to mention the safety aspect, which I noted in my post above!
  by DutchRailnut
Thats why there are switchers and road units, its both railroads and crews who have dimisished this distinction between two type of engines.
  by fizzlejibs
Brand new engineer here, but I prefer the desktop just for the fact that I have someplace to put my orders in a neat and orderly fashion!
  by Jtgshu
fizzlejibs wrote:Brand new engineer here, but I prefer the desktop just for the fact that I have someplace to put my orders in a neat and orderly fashion!
Dah - behind the brake handle on a 26 brake is just fine! :) But you are right, it is easier to spread out your orders and keep everything organized, however, on the ALP46 electric locos i run, the desktop has a nice angle to it, and an 8000hp loco takes off pretty darn quick - so your orders end up in your lap most of teh time. And of course the clip is useless most times
  by roadster
well 10 years throttle time and I prefer the conventional stands, simply because on road trips, the desk top stand makes you slightly hunch and reach forward while operating the controls. After several hours of this my upper back and shoulders/neck get tired and strained. I'm 6'2" so even with the chair as far forward as I can comfortably have it, I find I still need to slightly hunch/reach forward. Conventionals are nicely positioned to prevent strain and I can find whatever handle I need without looking for/at it. The newest GE's still have a small table top infront for orders/bulletins. In older cabs, I simply have a couple magnetic paper clasps to hold my orders. The desktops are getting older and alot of them are loosing the builtin paper clasp and orders/bulletins are slowing slidding off the desk anyway, and now there's no metal surface for my magnetic clasp to attach to.