• Scheduled Operations and Safety

  • 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 Caseyjim
Wouldn't scheduled operations make things safer for train crews by having them know when they will be working consistently instead of the unpredictable schedules so many of them are on? It seems to me that a scheduled railroad would achieve better safety and reliability and a shipper would stand a better chance of having his goods arrive intact and safely than under the current unpredictable schedule. Put the freight trains on timetabled schedules just like the passenger trains and have them stick to them and crews could have the consistecy need to make this dangerous job a whole lot s afer.
  by BR&P
This is not a new idea at all. Most of that makes sense and indeed that is the argument for going to "scheduled" railroads. The problem comes with the disconnect between theory and reality. You slip that one phrase in
and have them stick to them
If it was only that easy! When a train pulls a drawbar, the power dies, the train ahead hits a auto at a crossing, the track gang takes a track out of service, a conveyor breaks at a power plant unloading a unit train, a heavy snow hits....well, it could fill the entire page but you get the idea. Any of those things can make the schedule go out the window. And if it's a train which gets handed off to another crew, now THAT crew has to start later, or else spend half their shift sitting on their butts waiting for the train (and probably outlawing before they get to THEIR terminal).

Another factor is that carloads are not constant. As shipments ebb and flow, a branch line may generate 15 cars one day and 55 the next - or even more.

A scheduled railroad can be desired and planned for - CN has done a lot on that concept - but there still will always be a degree of uncertainty. It's not as easy as it seems, and some times it makes good business sense to deviate from the schedule. Your train from A to B is SCHEDULED to leave at 8AM each day. Today's train has 15 cars, but at 11:30 another train will arrive with 85 cars to go from A to B. Do you run one train at 8AM with only 15 cars, then call an extra for noon for the other 85? Ooops - "call an extra" - guess THAT's not scheduled, is it? Or do you set back the 8AM crew to noon and take all 100 at once? Or do you let those 85 cars sit till TOMORROW's 8AM train, and hope that another 85 don't show up in the meantime?
  by 2nd trick op
Having been around for both the last great "rail boom" of the Vietnam era and the near-collapse of the industry in the 1970's, I can definitely attest that a lot more of the industry runs in a fairly predictable pattern than was once the case.

I live within a few yards of NS' major line into the NY/NJ Metro area, which sees about three dozen freights on a typical day; of those, I'd guess that more than half -- mostly the intermodal and automotive moves but quite a few general freights, are usually predictable. The others .... coal, ethanol, and municipal waste, tend to run when power and crews are available.

That ought to allow a little more leeway for "bid" runs......assignments to those predictable moves for a fixed number of trips per week (truckers used that pattern in the days when most line-hauls were terminal-to-terminal and pickup and delivery were handled locally); but it would likely increase the instability of the work patterns for those whose lower seniority left them out.

Also borrowing from the trucking industry, the bid system could be temporarily suspended when an event susch as a snowstorm or major wreck disrupted the usual pattern.
  by UPRR engineer
Yep it would never work. Theres alot people asking for what your talking about it. The kicker on stuff like that is it makes a good case for them not to have anyone down there.
  by slchub
The only place this applies is in passenger operations. However, there are some caveats here as well. Many factors come into play again such as weather, rail conditions, mechanical problems, crew issues, etc. While I work for Amtrak and can determine pretty much when I will be called and needed for work, since we run over the Union Pacific RR we are at the mercy of their operations and can run into issues requiring us to be flexible in our schedule as well.
  by atsf sp
Wasn't the ATSF's thing was that it had scheduled freight?
  by 10more years
There are a whole lot of pieces of the puzzle to put together to get a train out "on time", and then to keep it on time. In the "Old Days", there was a printed "timetable" (CSX, or SCL, SBD or whatever used to come out with a new timetable every 6 months when the time changed.). Every train had a scheduled time by every station.
Even now, every train has a schedule (on CSX anyway, I imagine the class 1"s all do). The terminals all have routines, schedules to go by. A lot of the "extras' run on a less pre-determined time frame. And it doesn't take much to throw a train behind schedule.

A lot of us would love to have a more regular schedule, but then we'd lose the excuse of, "Sorry, darling, I'd love to go to your mothers, but I'm first out and might go to work any time."
  by 2nd trick op
Some ofthe younger members here, or those without a lot of exposure to the industry, ought to be informed that the dispatching system in use until about twenty years ago conferred actual time table authority --- exclusive rights to the track --- to higher priority movements. If a conflicting movement showed up, it could not occupy that track and proceed until all "superior" trains had passed unless specific authority was conferred by written orders.

Many major roads, particularly the eastern trunk lines with multiple-track mains, published schedules for their freights, but these were intended for informational purposes only. The development of Centrralized Traffic Control, under which trains moved by signal indication. diminished the need for both published schedules and written orders,