• Cost Issues in the Rail Freight Operating Processes

  • 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 Marin
Perfect fulfilment of the various railway operations is crucial for the quality of the rail transportation process, as the tight interlinkage of this process causes that failure in only one operation may generate serious disturbances in multiple fronts, such as:

- Delays
- Railway network conflicts
- Extra operational costs
- Generation of unexpected waiting times
- Capacity occupation
- etc.

In order to examine and understand how railway operations are planned, executed and controlled requires serious research and understanding how the procedures for movement and conveyance of railway vehicles (engines, trains, wagons, shuttles etc.) are interacted with the conditions of the track layout and the signalling system.

Specificity of railway operations are intimately connected with the type of Movements of Railway vehicles, which are divided into two main groups. These are:

- Train movements
- Shunting movements

Both groups of movements are characterized with different rules in different countries. The first symptom of this is given by the definition for train movements. For instance, according to German rules Train movements are all movements on main tracks outside the home signal limits. According to British rules Train movements (also called “running movements”) are all movements on main tracks outside the station limits.

How are characterized those movements in US?

  by SRS125
Trains here move under there a wide group of ruleings as well. Fraght trains are classed to move at govered speeds pending on the types of cars they have in tow as well as passenger trains.

Movements in Yards, Train Stations, and out on the open main line are all goverened by what each state or rail line sets its speeds.

In the Yards trains are set at a speed of no more than 2-10 miles an hour while on the move with speeds around buildings and shops being around 2-5mph.

Major Rail Stations are set under the same speed restrictions as the yards with great care to equipment and passengers..

On the main lines them selves speeds are goverend accordeing to the condtions of the track. Meaning there maintaince profile which has a great affect on things. The higher the number in a class the higher the speeds permited for each Spur, Industrail Track, Branch Line, ect....

Class 1 5-10mph Spur and Industrial lines
Class 2 10-30mph Some Short Line railroads and industral sideings
Class 3 30-40mph most short line railroads and branch lines
Class 4 40-60mph avrage speed on most fraght lines
Class 5 60-80mph some Fraght Lines and passenger operations
Class 6 80-120mph high profile passenger lines

In general there most likeley have a program in europe for the shippers to call the railroad direct to let them know of delays in loading/unloading of railcars like they have here in with in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico right?

  by Marin
WEll, yes, there are "information and connection" problems in between the rail freigh service provider and the client itself. It generats idle times and undesirable delays! In such cases, should be clarifyed who's wrong who's right in order to see who is going to pay the demurrage charge.
  by Marin
Specificity of railway freight operations strongly depends on Modes of Operations. This is how the movements of trains are authorized. All types of freight operating procedures by rail regarding authorization movements are divided into two basic categories:

- Signal - controlled operation – here the movements are governed by signal indications, mainly placed in the beginning of each block section and at interlocking.
- Non signal-controlled operation – here the movements are governed on verbal and/or written authority.

In the latter category there are three specific cases to be considered:

1st - so called “Dark Territory“– operations are fulfilled without any signalling system. Usually this occurs where a rail line has a very low traffic density.
2nd - Verbal – controlled operations – movements are governed by verbal orders
3rd - Written – controlled operations – movements are governed by written orders

In execution of railway freight transportation process a set of authorities is involved. In other words, this is the organizational structure of Railway Freight System that consists of obligations, significations, engagements and responsibilities of the operating authorities, supplemented by operating documentation and operating personnel.

Are there any specific authorizations and/or authorities that are in effect in US?

  by SRS125
We operate with many signaling systems all of which are vary close to the european system in which you have discribed. There are a few extras thow that are not rilly used here but will list all in order:

Automatic Block Signals (A.B.S.) sets the signals one after anouther both in front and behind a moveing train leting them know whats ahead of them at the next signal. This system dose not work to well with high speed operations. Th system is used on all Major railroads in North America.

Automatic Train Control:

Centralized Traffic Control (C.T.C.) Is a block system under which train movements are authorized in block signals whose indications superede the superiority of trains for both opposing and following movements.

Manual Block: An alternate to time spacing is the space interval system in which, at any given time, a train may have use of a langht of track. This system provides a high degree of protection. The condition of each block is known at all times. Befor a train may enter a block, permission must be obtained from the Operator. The operator, in turn, detemines from the next operator in line whether or not the last train has cleared the block.

Track Warrant Control (A.K.A Form D in North America): A method of authorizing movements of trains or engines or protecting men or machines on main track with in specified limits in territory designated by special instructions or general order.
  by Marin
Roughly speaking operating documentation consists of all the documentation and blank forms by means of which the real operation process of freight trains is executed. The operating documentation varies from railway system to railway system, so they are not mostly common.

As common documentation we can fine:

• Bookrules;
• Timetables;
• Scheduling (“Traffic diagrams or String graphs”)
• Dispatchers Sheets;
• Operating Sheets;
• General Orders;
• Bulletin Orders;
• Notices

Is the same documantation in US?

  by SRS125
This is correct. Athow the mores code system was still used in Mexico right up to the late 90's. The Hoop was also droped when radios came to the railroad industry but once and a while the hoop dose see its use.
  by Marin
Operating personnel is defined from the scope of the working position that a given employee holds or in other words these are all staff engaged in execution of the real freight train operation process. Taking into account a variety of working positions existing among the railway systems the staff might roughly be grouped, as follows:

• Superior Personnel – these are employees that govern the execution of real - train freight operations i.e. control officers, dispatchers. Their working place is a command centre.
• Inferior Personnel – these are employees that are directly commanded by the Superior Personal in the execution of the real – train freight operations i.e. traffic managers, describers of freight trains. Their working places are Railway Stations, Terminals, and Marshalling Yards
• Executors – there are employees that drive engines and freight trains and as well as manipulate with railway devices i.e. enginemen, levermen, towermen etc.

Could you elaborate on the staff involved in execution of the freight operationg processes by rail?


  by Marin
Is there anybody from US to answer me?
I really appreciate it

  by SRS125
Sorry so late been busy at work with a large number of projects.

There are many people invalved in the movement of a train such as:

the Dispatchers who control the movements of a train and the head dispatcher who manages over everyone elses actions and makes the harder desitions.

The Engineer and Conductor/Brakemen who do the ground work in the yards and on the road. The conductor/brakmen throws the switches locks and unlocks locks, handles the paper work, replys to the radio, and signal indications.

The Maintaince emploees have some limited power in train operations as far as things go in a serous matter that would require them to close sections of track and govern train speed in there work limits.


  by Marin
I am happy that you are back!

I was thinking our chat is finished!

Thanks for your feedback to my questions ...
  by Marin
The shunting methods in breaking down and making up freight trains can be introduced in following succession:

• Shunting on the flat
• Shunting by gravity

Shunting on the flat can be fulfilled by two methods. These are:

• Locomotive shunting
• Loose shunting

Shunting by gravity can also be fulfilled by two methods. These are:

• Shunting by falling grade
• Shunting by hump

Locomotive shunting

By definition a locomotive shunting is when an attached shunting locomotive starts and controls all the movements of freight cars within the yard.

Loose shunting

By definition a loose shunting is when an unattached motive power unite (shunting locomotive or slug) propels freight cars to start their movements, whereupon the freight cars continue to move unattended by their own momentum.

Shunting by falling grade

By definition a shunting by falling grade is when a failing grade of sidetrack is used to start the movement of the freight cars, whereupon the freight cars continue to move unattended by their own momentum.

Conditionally, the shunting can be fulfilled by two methods. These are:

• Without block separation
• With block separation

The method “without block separation” is when the freight train is not divided into blocks. Respectively the breaking down process is fulfilled with the train entire.

The method “with block separation” is when the freight train is divided into blocks. Respectively the breaking down process is fulfilled as the freight train is preliminarily divided into blocks and every block is pulled and shoved individually by shunting locomotive or slug.

Which of those methods are most common in US and what are their characteristics?

  by SRS125
All of these methods are used in both North and Central America.

Flat Switching seems to be the most common thow with all of the many small, and medium sized yards as well as Fly Switching. Fly Switching which is down in flat yards where locomotives shove cars one at a time at a slow speed then uncouples from them allowing them to free roll.

Major Rail hubs offer Flat Switching and Hump Operations. Out bound trains going out of state or out of country end up being humped while cars going local interstate traffic will be humped as well then pulled and reassorted again in a flat yard for fianl break down. Lets say this is a Conrail Train many of these cars that were in the local yard lets say 45 cars may end up on a train going out of state these 45 cars get droped in anouther location with in the same state lets say 50-100 miles away from where they were just reassorted eather anouther Conrail yard or anouther railroads yard for reassortment and then final delivery.

Sometimes these cars may be moved more than once one conrail train going out of state may drop cars to anouther smaller Conrail Yard who then moves it a 2ed time to anouther short line or regional railroad who may inturn take it to anouther railroad and reverse process.
  by Marin
Malfunctioning railway operations are mainly caused by failures and mishaps that occur during the real time operating process i.e. unexpected complications.

Further, deriving from the simple rule that “two moving bodies on the railway network that are not in the same place cannot meet accidentally and collide”, we consider that a big percentage of failures and mishaps on the real freight train operating process are because of other inherent factors, such as unexpected conflicts on Railway Network, which means that the freight trains operate under disturbances. Usually disturbances occur in case of deviations between long term planned train schedules and real time train operations.

Such disturbances might be:

- Extra trains
- Unavailable equipment - lack of locomotives in operation, for instance
- Unpredictable train delays to the planned schedule
- Lack of infrastructure - short side tacks and occupied sidings for instance
- Closed tracks – closed sections for maintenance

Since one does not know when precisely a disturbance may occur in operation, the train operation process has a stochastic character.

Which are the most frequently occurred disturbances in US?
  by SRS125
Marin wrote:Malfunctioning railway operations
-Extra trains
-Unavailable equipment - lack of locomotives in operation, for instance
-Unpredictable train delays to the planned schedule
-Lack of infrastructure - short side tacks and occupied sidings for instance
-Closed tracks – closed sections for maintenance

Since one does not know when precisely a disturbance may occur in operation, the train operation process has a stochastic character.

Which are the most frequently occurred disturbances in US?
The Union Pacific Railroad would be the biggest railroad with all of the problums listed above with them buying the Southern Pacific, C&NW, and D&RGW, with in 3 months apart of each outher. The railroad has been plaged with crew shortages to run trains, an over flow of unnessary UPS traffic being the major problum overflowing there entire net work of traffic on the railroad. Many lower class trains sit for days or weeks at a time befor locomtives or crews are found to run them. This is a current problum that needs to be fixed.

In 1965 the Penn Central was formed 3 months later it went bankruped by 1976 with the formation of Conrail with the Penn Central and several outher railroads. 13 railroads in all merged into the Conrail system. Locomtives, Rail Cars, and Track were in disrepair and crubleing fast. By 1985 Conrail had managed to dump thousands of miles of unneeded track older locomotives and replace them with newer ones. In 1976 Conrail had 60,000 locomotives by 1985 they had droped to around 6,000 or so locomotives The fleet has droped to about 5,000 or so by the early 90's.