• PSR and Amtrak

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

  by andegold
 
Forgive the new topic if there is an existing one that would be more appropriate.

Is PSR (Precision Scheduled Railroad?) a misnomer or am I just misunderstanding its goal? I would think that a railroad that is run on a "precision schedule" should be able to accommodate Amtrak much more easily than one that is not. Amtrak delays are constantly blamed on the freight dispatchers yet at the same time we are told that PSR and Amtrak are anathema to each other. What am I missing here? Is it that the freights can't coordinate handoffs between themselves or is Amtrak responsible for more of the delays than we are lead to believe here?
  by STrRedWolf
 
I'm looking more at PSR and thinking "Okay, do you accommodate for train break downs?"

If PSR doesn't account for trains breaking down, loosing cars, breaking couplers, etc, then it's crap.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Mr. Gold, considering that the only man who truly envisioned Precision Railroading (or the PSR acronym you note) is six feet under, will anyone truly know what "Saint Ewing" actually intended.

But from what little I can glean regarding operating practices implemented long after I had left the industry, I think such is looking at a road likely over a three day period (with the help of a bit more computer power than the 48kb desktop from back in my day) much the what a Chess Grand Master can look at the board and envision every move he will make, adjusting for his opponent's countermoves, to checkmate his King, before the timer first rings.

Looking at a microcosm easily understood, let's say that a crew would previously operate a train for 300 miles in about ten hours. They then would be transported to "suitable lodging" (generally defined as a major "econobrand") where they would await a call to return to service at least ten hours distant. If that call did not come within sixteen hours, they could claim Held Away from Home pay (called "Alimony Pay" on some parts of my road), and of course looking at Meals and even "double lodging" (2 nights at the hotel, even if only one is actually used).

Now Precision Railroading envisions two trains operating in opposite directions that will "meet", say, 150 miles into that noted 300 mile run. There the two crews will meet, "smoke and joke" for a few minutes, refill the coffee Thermos, and will return home with their new trains. Result, no lodging or HAFHT.

Such could even entail a "fleet of trains".

Now interject a scheduled passenger train into that operating plan. Sure, if it could be slotted in to run ahead of the other trains, fine. But that is a big maybe, especially since this operating plan will not always come "same time daily".

All told, this is why I hold passenger trains will simply interfere with Precision Railroading. Indicative of that thought is the "performance" of The Canadian (and why I think "it's done for") over the road where PSR was born.
  by andegold
 
Thanks GBN. What you're describing sounds more like Just In Time railroading (to borrow a phrase from the automotive industry) than Precision Railroading. I still fail to see why any of these roads can't manage to keep a train on schedule when that schedule is known days, weeks, months, and even years in advance but I suppose that, like the inability of NYC grocery stores to properly display prices even when dealing with only 1/3 the shelf space and selection of a suburban store, will remain a mystery.
  by WhartonAndNorthern
 
PSR was EHH's master plan to cut costs and increase profitability. Hence articles suggesting that he wanted to single-track the Water Level Route (NY would have said something, they're already fighting for a third, high-speed track) and eliminate helpers (since helper crews cost money) on Sand Patch Grade by requiring crews to "double" or take the train over in two trips. Likewise eliminating "hump" classification yards is another trademark move of his. Humps are efficient when classifying 1800+ cars per day, but require an expensive to maintain infrastructure of retarders, controlled power switches, and tower crews (retarder operators, hump controllers, etc.)

It really doesn't allow for congestion or contingencies especially when rationalization often removes extra trackage. It really isn't scheduled at all. NS did claim when they unveiled TOP21 that they were looking at clean sheeting schedules to ensure connecting moves arrived at the correct times and that trains were scheduled to depart at times that would result in less congestion on the road or at the destination yard. I'm not sure how well this worked in actuality.

The core of PSR and the origin of its name is the goal to eliminate small and medium unit trains that show up at the convenience of shippers and receivers. Instead of originating a long coke train every few days, EHH wants to switch your plant daily, pick up a cut of cars, and move them as part of a daily, scheduled manifest train. In other words, make the customers conform to the railroad and eliminate extra trains (and crews).

Some of these changes were made possible with newer technology. With DPUs some trains could be made longer or they could make the grade without helpers.

Some good articles and discussion threads out there
http://cs.trains.com/trn/b/fred-frailey ... route.aspx
https://trn.trains.com/bonus/huntersway
http://cs.trains.com/trn/f/111/p/263053/2966003.aspx
https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/ ... ?1,5026891
I can just imagine in the great beyond, EHH runs into his former boss and he says to EHH, "you idiot, I meant for you to move the businees, not run it off."
  by Arborwayfan
 
A retired transportation engineer I know often talks about how frustrating it was to deal with "efficiency experts" who wanted to build, staff, and plan the railroad/terminal/whatever for the ideal case. They'd set up a system that would move a little more freight a little faster for a little less money when it worked, and then totally screw up the railroad/terminal/whatever for hours/days when it failed -- or at least it would deliver the lucky carloads a day faster, but regularly deliver the unlucky ones a day or two slower. All because the slack -- the resilience -- wrung out of the system by people who never really looked at a train/ship/terminal/piggpacker/etc. (I could make an analogy to current hospital capacity policy, but that might get political. :wink: )

Just-in-time does sound like a good description there. Since just-in-time manufacturing/distribution/etc. is all about reducing inventory to the barest possible minimum, it depends on scheduled deliveries that are predictable over the relatively long term and/or on the manufacturer/distributor being able to get unscheduled shipments in and out on short notice. Neither of those sounds totally compatible with PSR, even though they come out of a similar notion of how to maximize profits.

Back to Amtrak and PSR:
In the age of smartphones, online ticketing, few or no paper timetables, why not set up Amtrak LD schedules like this: Fixed departures from origin and from one or two big intermediates; fixed arrival at the endpoint. In between, the host railroad can have the train run early in some places, late in others, according to its needs. When passengers book from intermediate stations, they get a three-hour window (e.g. 12 noon +/- 1h30m). A couple of days before a passenger is due to board, they get an email/text/call telling them a half-hour window, based on the railroads PSR plans.
The railroad wins because it can treat the Amtrak train more like a unit train, allowing it to gain time on a part of its run where it's possible that day, and use that to offset a known or possible delay further along.
Amtrak wins because it gets better OTP to endpoints and major intermediates, and because there are not so many passengers complaining about late arrivals as a kind of broken promise.
Passengers to/from major intermediates or endpoint win because they get better OTP. Passengers to/from little intermediates win because they (or their rides) are less likely to show up at the station two or three hours before their train.
Or maybe I am totally mistaken. I talk so much that that happens a lot. :wink:
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Meanwhile, back on passenger trains. Prof. Martens, I think your idea of "run 'em over the road when you can" is where I think VIA should go with The Canadian - if it ever comes back.

OK, two departures a week in each direction sounds like eight a month both ways. Simply label the departures A through H and passengers would book whichever best fits their travel desires, or "supply and demand". They would be notified first when their train departs, not less again than 24 hours. a preparatory five hours, and finally one hour prior to expected departure. Their business would be "shot", if it hasn't been already, with the high end tour operators, but better this "we go when we can" plan than a bunch of disgruntled and litigious clients, who are accustomed to having the world revolve around their desires.

Finally, I admit to going on some guided tours overseas in this life, such as "The Sound of Music", Hitler's Eagles Nest and the Salt Mines (only to find out they wouldn't let me go - age). But all inclusive multi day? Forget it. I remember talking with a gal from South Carolina in Salzburg as her gang was being loaded aboard the bus. I asked her where was next stop? Her answer "Oh, who knows, I pay them to worry about that".

Pay - and plenty!!!
  by John_Perkowski
 
My one comment on Percision scheduled railroading and Amtrak is Amtrak does “not exactly” have a reputation for high-quality on time performance. I remember one time just before Covid that I saw the southwest chief Eastbound in Kansas City at midnight. Yes, it was 16 hours off the advertised.

Amtrak seems to be more a part of the problem than a part of the solution.
  by Arborwayfan
 
Has any neutral observer ever picked apart all the reasons for late Amtrak trains and figured out how much is host railroad dispatching and how much is Amtrak equipment failure/not having a new crew in time/taking too long to load/etc? And how many late arrivals/hours of lateness are caused by occasional unavoidable things like a freight derailment up ahead, a pedestrian or car strike, a forest fire, snow at the once-or-twice-a-year level, trackwork, signal failure, etc. -- the occasional and more or less unavoidable delays. Most of what I hear is pretty much from one side or the other.

Amtrak and its fans (like me) can talk all we want about trying to force or pay the host railroads to let Amtrak trains follow pretty ambitious schedules that basically assume accelerating as fast as possible to the speed limit and staying there as long as possible, but what if the cheapest way to improve Midwest corridor OTP was to have one additional set of equipment at Chicago to protect against late arriving equipment or equipment that arrived with a mechanical problem of some kind? Or to have two more crews on the payroll in case of late arriving crews, sickness, or other glitches in getting crews to trains? Or to start start taking/letting people onto the platform at CUS five minutes sooner, to get the trains out of there on time more often? Or to put a little more money and time into one particular area of maintenance that can be identified as causing a large number of late departures from the originating terminal?

Once someone suggested to me that you could account for an hour or so of lateness on any western LD trains just by recognizing that it's easiest to avoid a penalty brake application by staying 1 mph under the speed limit -- something they said Amtrak's schedules don't account for.
  by JimBoylan
 
So, "Precision Scheduled Railroading" is not the same as "Predictable Scheduled Railroading"?
  by ExCon90
 
Based on ever-increasing train lengths and the time it takes to clear grade crossings I think of it as Procession Scheduled Railroadng.
  by ctclark1
 
WhartonAndNorthern wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 11:17 am The core of PSR and the origin of its name is the goal to eliminate small and medium unit trains that show up at the convenience of shippers and receivers. Instead of originating a long coke train every few days, EHH wants to switch your plant daily, pick up a cut of cars, and move them as part of a daily, scheduled manifest train. In other words, make the customers conform to the railroad and eliminate extra trains (and crews).
Slightly OT for Amtrak, but it would seem no unit train was safe from this - a number of Youtubers out of Florida have lamented the death of the Juice Train as a unit train, as under EHH it was getting tacked onto manifests or intermodals heading north on a regular basis. I'm not sure if the goal was ideally to speed up the manifest cars since they were now being lumped in with the "hottest" train on the East Coast, or just keeping with his desire for fewer longer trains, but it seems to me like that could cause problems by not having that train dedicated and routed as a "hot" train.

As I understand PSR from an extremely boiled down explanation, it basically means instead of having 2 unit trains and a manifest from Buffalo to Selkirk (as an example), there was now only one train per day, large and DPU'd, per day which would encompass as much of the freight as possible. If the freight wasn't ready to go by the time the train left the originating station, it waited for the next day's train. I could be misconstruing it though.
  by Literalman
 
"When passengers book from intermediate stations, they get a three-hour window (e.g. 12 noon +/- 1h30m)."

I wouldn't like that. When I ride a long-distance train, I am typically going to see someone where I'm going, either being met at my destination or switching to local transportation. Noon plus or minus an hour and a half might be something I could plan around. Not 7 am or 10 pm, though, much less the middle of the night. I have to plan for connecting local transportation in Alexandria, too, and being at the station at 5:30 am rather than 7 am is a big pain. I have to allow for delays so as not to be late for a wedding or graduation, for example, but not knowing till a few days ahead of time when my train is expected to leave Alexandria or get to its destination is not good enough for me.
  by bratkinson
 
In my 7 years at CSX Intermodal, I witnessed more than a few freights and intermodal trains 'depart on time' only to stop 100 feet down the track for 5-10 minutes before they finally got rolling. One of my favorites was the high/wide detector about 1/4 mile out of town that would be triggered by 3" of snow on top of a double stacked container forcing them to stop and check the train. That would happen a couple times every winter! Being in the company truck verifying inbound containers with the radio on, I had a 'front row seat' listening to 'grumble, grumble' on the radio...

On Amtrak, about 18 months ago, after boarding the Silver Meteor at NYP that was already 3+ hours down coming out of Sunnyside Yard, they went through all the normal departure procedures, started moving, stopped 15 feet later and sat for another 30 minutes while they did whatever they needed to do. And my pet Amtrak peeve - scanning tickets on the platform at intermediate stops! What should be a 3-5 minute stop takes 15-20 instead! That alone 'kills' PSR for Amtrak. Except they put padding in the schedule but that still doesn't keep Amtrak trains within 1-5 minutes of 'on time'.

In short, PSR and even pre-PSR, it's 'more important' for management that trains leave a terminal 'on time' than to suffer the browbeating that inevitably follows a 'late' departure. I quickly learned at CSX not to put a 'late departure' into the computer for Q019, even if I held it until that last of the UPS trailers came in 20 minutes after scheduled departure time. As I couldn't release the train 'in the computer' until everything was loaded and checked, that would happen whenever it was ready to go. But in the daily report...6:15AM. I put 6:20AM one time and I got a 'reaming' from my boss for the late departure! I even got called from Jacksonville a couple of times when the 'release' hadn't happened by 6:45. Never mind that scheduled departure for Q019 was 7:45! And that was several years before EHH!

So why doesn't PSR work 100% of the time, because the 'college degree'/minimal experience management believes everything should work as planned and scheduled and they never grasp the realities of railroading, or any other transportation mode, either. And woe be unto anyone who fails to meet their unreasonable expectations 100% of the time.
  by Railjunkie
 
bratkinson wrote: Sun Oct 25, 2020 10:45 pm
On Amtrak, about 18 months ago, after boarding the Silver Meteor at NYP that was already 3+ hours down coming out of Sunnyside Yard, they went through all the normal departure procedures, started moving, stopped 15 feet later and sat for another 30 minutes while they did whatever they needed to do. And my pet Amtrak peeve - scanning tickets on the platform at intermediate stops! What should be a 3-5 minute stop takes 15-20 instead! That alone 'kills' PSR for Amtrak. Except they put padding in the schedule but that still doesn't keep Amtrak trains within 1-5 minutes of 'on time'.

In short, PSR and even pre-PSR, it's 'more important' for management that trains leave a terminal 'on time' than to suffer the browbeating that inevitably follows a 'late' departure. I quickly learned at CSX not to put a 'late departure' into the computer for Q019, even if I held it until that last of the UPS trailers came in 20 minutes after scheduled departure time. As I couldn't release the train 'in the computer' until everything was loaded and checked, that would happen whenever it was ready to go. But in the daily report...6:15AM. I put 6:20AM one time and I got a 'reaming' from my boss for the late departure! I even got called from Jacksonville a couple of times when the 'release' hadn't happened by 6:45. Never mind that scheduled departure for Q019 was 7:45! And that was several years before EHH!

So why doesn't PSR work 100% of the time, because the 'college degree'/minimal experience management believes everything should work as planned and scheduled and they never grasp the realities of railroading, or any other transportation mode, either. And woe be unto anyone who fails to meet their unreasonable expectations 100% of the time.
I have seen conductors spoken too about "street caring" at station stops. I know Amtrak frowns upon the practice.

A favorite CSX story, one that will help you further understand those college edumucated types. One afternoon while out doing a little buffing I came across a conductor I knew who was switching out a couple of spots on a siding. Getting on and off moving equipment that wasn't quite stopped ect ect.

Suddenly a white hat appears out of thin air and starts to scold the old timer on his too numerous to count rules violations. He stopped his work and smiled and I quote "son theses aren't your F ing daddy's Lionel trains, we cant pick them up and carry them to the next F ing spot."