• Track routes

  • 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 Desertdweller
At smaller terminals with hand-thrown track switches, the conductor or brakeman will line the train into the yard tracks. The switch stands will have reflective panels that turn when the switch points are moved, so the engineer can see where he is lined. He is also responsible, under the restricted speed rule, to check the switch point alignment ahead of the train as he pulls in. Generally, the ground man and the engineer will be in communication, and the brakeman/conductor will tell the engineer what track he is being lined into. This is part of the job briefing. The engineer cannot check to verify he is being lined into the proper track unless he knows where he is supposed to be going.

A larger terminal may use a controlled siding off a controlled main as a yard lead. In this situation, the siding may be signaled with a white light ("lunar white").
With this arrangement, the dispatcher may line the train into the siding with a power switch. The signal indication will change from red to white when the switch is lined for the siding. The train will enter the siding under the restricted speed rule, watching for anything that may be blocking it from an uncontrolled (yard) track.

A really big terminal, like the ones you are referring to, will have their track switches controlled remotely from a tower. The tower operator will line the route into the track the train is to go onto. In the US, these switches will be signaled with dwarf light signals along side them. So, the engineer can look ahead and see what track he is lined into. In other countries, overhead signal bridges are sometimes used in place of dwarf signals.

So no, the engineer does not drive his train blindly into a terminal without knowing where he is going.

Also, remember that engineers are required to make at least one familiarization trip (as an observer) over territory he has not run on before.

  by ExCon90
Regarding the larger terminals mentioned by Desertdweller, there are different signal systems in use: The Northeast Operating Rules Advisory Committee (NORAC) and the General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR) are two of the more widely used. NORAC is essentially a speed signaling system in which the signal indication tells the engineer how fast he may proceed without indicating the specific route. However, there are situations where even a NORAC railroad may have a special aspect to indicate the specific route -- for example, I believe that at New Carrollton, MD, outside of Washington, there is a supplementary arrow indicating whether the route is lined for the gauntlet track enabling freight trains to avoid the passenger platform. GCOR (used primarily in the west) is a route signaling system which tells the engineer which specific route he is taking, and it is his responsibility as part of his qualification to know what speed is safe for that route. Under both systems the previous signal always tells the engineer what to expect at the next one. In the UK, where route signaling is the practice, it is common for the entering signal to display the platform number to which the train is routed.
  by lirr42
Things work very much like Mr. Desertdweller said. An engineer can usually tell where he is going by looking at the signals through the interlocking. That and dispatchers are often in communication with engineers informing them of changes to routings and so on.