Come along with me for a ride ... on a commuter railroad with short headways. As an engineer on the commuter railroad your daily assignment is to operate (run) trains from one point to another making two to four trips per day. It is the same four trips at the same time, and while weather conditions change not much else does. Every day is the same consist or one very close to it. It is commuter rail. Some systems may have old vs new equipment and have more variance between number of engines and cars but your trip on this railroad isn't different day to day. Unless you're running from the extra board you're seeing the same patterns, day in or day out. It doesn't matter what that pattern is ... if it is seeing approach after approach because of short headways or always seeing clear. The pattern is there. Ask any experienced engineer ... they will tell you something like: "We run track two from CP X with every signal clear ... diverging clear at these three CPs. We normally get an approach at CP Y and occasionally get held at the next signal for opposing traffic. Once that train clears we get a diverging clear to continue and then due to traffic we see a lot of approach signals until we reach the terminal." If you don't want to refer to that as chasing the same pattern, fine. Life goes on. Call it what you want it is still the same pattern every day. That is what running trains on a tight schedule createsObviously traffic patterns exist and an Engineer on a regular run becomes familiar with them. I still don't understand how you are equating that to the Engineer running with his eyes closed guessing the signals because he's "learned" the pattern.
Where have you worked? Do you "run" trains in a 'cab, no wayside' environment? How about a system with grade timed signals?So what is it that you do again? If you are not an Engineer, your opinion based on your "over 20 years you been at this", does not mean shinola.
I'm not questioning engineers' professionalism or skill. But I've been at this for over 20 years, and I think I know a few things about rail operations at this point in my career. Pre-action exists. You gave a wonderful example yourself when you said:
"One quality of a good Engineer is beating the code drops to the punch, knowing the location and sequence of the normal code changes. You have to very much be aware of what you are doing, and remember to put on brake. If you did not realize, you would be hitting that code."
Exactly. You don't know exactly where the code change is; you "feel" it, and you're on the brake before you hit the code. Couldn't have explained it better myself. PTC will have a similar effect approaching speed restrictions.
As an Engineer you know where the majority of code drops occur, and I am not pulling that info from my subconscious. You are entitled to believe whatever it is you want, just as I am entitled to tell you your wrong.
I'm not going to argue this point. It's already been proven, time and time again. The Long Island Rail Road (amongst others - I'm just using this one because they run the most trains) actually incorporates engineer pre-action in their network simulations because it HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. If they don't account for this conditioned behavior, the simulations turn out too optimistic (i.e. they don't correlate with reality; trains run "better" in simulation, consistently).What network simulations? Can you provide exmaples?
Your statement "You never approach a stop signal expecting it to change to a more favorable aspect..." is demonstrably false every single day on PATH, where engineers run up on Stop signals because they've become conditioned to the timing system. They're not sitting in their cabs with a stopwatch; they have become conditioned at each location to the "feel" of the timing. They "know" that the signal will upgrade just as they reach it. They have not memorized their physical characteristics or learned the book of rules so well that they know how to do this. It's conditioning.
How do you know those PATH Engineers would not be able to stop their trains if the signal did not improve? Again, I am not a PATH Engineer nor have I run on a system with timer signals. I have been on PATH trains and Subways where the Engineer/Motormen was following the timer, and a few instances I was able to look out front and observe the signals. Every time I watched, the Engr/Mmen approached the signal with caution, knowing that it should change, I assumed due to the timer, but in such a way that the train could be stopped if need be.
Did you perform an interview of PATH Engineers? Have you ever run a train on a timer system RR? Then again, what do you do?
Sounds like the PATH Engineers has simply learned the signal system and KNOW (keyword) when the signal will improve.