• Knowing train locations while not working in the cab

  • 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 obienick
I believe conductors, as they are in charge of the train, are required to know where they are at any given moment. If so, how do Amtrak's conductors accomplish this? Looking out windows, any vantage points that the engineers (and freight conductors) would use in this identification would pass quite quickly. And at night, you won't be able to see out a lit car. Do they count the turns? Thanks!
  by Mcoov
The conducter can radio the engineer and ask for a fix on their position. If the engineer can't answer the question, the dispatcher can.
  by Ocala Mike
The engineer calls signals and other information to the conductor via radio. Also, defect detector announcements give milepost information.

Mainly, however, a sharp conductor knows the route like you know how to get from your bedroom to the john without turning a light on.
  by Jersey_Mike
Looking out the side window is usually sufficient you can also get a rough position by feel on the corridor routes. I lay down on the NEC and I can still tell the general location by the noise and feel of the interlockings, bridges and major curves. Anyone who rides it every day would probably be able to identify every curve on the route.
  by Jtgshu
A good railroader knows the railroad better than the streets of their neighborhood.

You use all your senses, especially as a conductor who is in the back of the train and only sees out the side windows/doors, and not from the head end like the engineer.

You feel bumps in the tracks and switches, you feel curves, you hear (and sometimes smell) the brakes coming on, you smell smells that are unique to certain areas, all on top of looking out the window and actually seeing where you are.

the conductor must be physically qualifed just like the engineer, so they must know where they are, the name of the stations, interlockings, where the tracks and swtiches are, etc in case there is some kind of issue the engineer might encounter, and of course, in case the train might have to back up, the conductor would be on the leading end of the train while the engineer backs up....
  by checkthedoorlight
After commuting between GCT and Stamford every weekday day for almost 3 years, even *I* always knew exactly where I was along that route with a quick glance out the window + a timeframe of how long I've been on the train. Even when I ride the NH line now, I only get thrown off course when we pass through the New Rochelle area, since they significantly changed the trackage through there.
  by Acela Express
Mike,Jt, and door light you guess hit it on the nose. Ahhhhhh the wonderful feeling it is to be qualified. Lol. Nothings better than being on a train at night and a passenger asks where are we and within a couple seconds your going thru the roughest interlocking on the railroad.lol.
  by Noel Weaver
In my years of passenger service between New York and New Haven sometimes I would work a job one way and deadhead home. If I was tired, I would sleep as soon as we left New
Haven and I could tell in my sleep where we were. The curves at Bridgeport, the curve and drawbridge at South Norwalk, the curve at Port Chester, New Rochelle and the
changeover approaching Woodlawn. I knew it was time to stir when we slowed for Mott Haven. I got off the train feeling better. It was 16 hours in those days and deadheading
counted as rest too. I did not shed any tears when it was reduced to 14 and then 12 hours and no more deadheading as rest.
Noel Weaver
  by strench707
Jersey_Mike wrote:Anyone who rides it every day would probably be able to identify every curve on the route.
Yup and most notable curves have a speed restriction so Operations employees should be very familiar with each one.

  by DutchRailnut
little a conductor can do about curve speeds, and we hope the engineer knows where he is .......
  by Greg Moore
DutchRailnut wrote:little a conductor can do about curve speeds, and we hope the engineer knows where he is .......
I evidently was on a train once where the engineer didn't. On our honeymoon, while in New Mexico and having lunch, within minutes of the person across the table saying how much smoother trains were now compared to when he was a kid, we had everything on the table slide off and could hear all the plates in the galley crash to the floor.

We stopped shortly and ended up waiting 5 hours for a new crew to be brought in. I don't know what happened to the engineer, but that could not have been good for his career.
  by Penn Central
In the 70s, I worked as a fireman from New Haven to Boston on trains 170 and 183. I would drive from my home in northern NJ and park in Rye, then take a train to NH. I was able to get on 183 in NH on the way home, and it stopped in Rye. The engineer on 183 was known as a speed demon at that time and one night I was in the bar car when the bartender had just poured a beer for a customer. There was a nasty kink in the rail on track 3 before Cos Cob drawbridge and I saw the lights of Riverside station flash by. I reached over and grabbed the guy's beer and braced myself. After we got knocked around a little, I handed him his beer and apologized and told him I thought it was for me. I knew where we were, even though I wasn't in the cab. I'm sure the conductor did as well.
  by Tadman
That is a great story.

I ride the L to work, about 10-15 minutes depending on load. Some days I ride back downtown after work, and I can fall asleep and wake up in time for my stops, both ways. Except the other day when I missed my stop, and convinced myself I was headed for the grocery a stop north anyway... But it's no surprise to me that conductors can tell exactly where they're at.
  by AMTK1007
I haven't worked on the train in almost 9 years now, but still do get out to ride ocasionally.. I Still can tell, usually without looking out the window, where I am. Not only do the sounds and feel help to tell you were you are, but you develop an internal "rhythm", an inner clock that tells you where you should be.. I was on the train one day, and thought something was wrong because we hadn't passed out counterpart... well I was ridiing on a different day, and there was an extra board enginner who ran the train a bit differently, and I forgot that the crew on the other train had to sign up on their rest so that train would depart a few minutes late, thus the meet was in a slightly different location, and i was thrown off by it..