Switch Position Indicator Pilot Program

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Switch Position Indicator Pilot Program

Postby gokeefe » Sun Feb 17, 2019 8:34 pm

Buried deep in an article about service improvements in Vermont ...

Houghton noted that his company is developing a risk-reduction system known as switch position indicator technology, which allows an engineer to confirm for example that a switch at an upcoming siding is in the proper position for a through train.

"We're doing a pilot on the Ethan Allen with Amtrak, between Whitehall and Rutland," he said, referring to New York town where VS-owned tracks receive the train from another company's tracks. "We're actually in the process of deploying the equipment."

Amtrak declined to comment on its role in the pilot project.

The company is however expected to release a report soon on what safety improvements it will require for the Ethan Allen route and others where PTC is not statutorily required and not already in place.


Sounds like an interesting innovation ... "Class 4+" in some respects ...
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Re: Switch Position Indicator Pilot Program

Postby gokeefe » Sun Feb 17, 2019 8:39 pm

Further information from RPA ...

The second level of potential mitigations would be technological in nature but would take the form of relatively simple infrastructural changes that could be installed fairly quickly to add additional safety measures. Examples of such mitigations include warning signs for the crews, or new switch position indicators, both of which would provide additional situational awareness for our employees. The idea is to add these additional layers of mitigation to the system, which may then allow us to remove or minimize some of the more inconvenient operational mitigations we initially put in place.
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Re: Switch Position Indicator Pilot Program

Postby gokeefe » Sun Feb 17, 2019 8:44 pm

Even more interesting ...

While Amtrak did not provide VBM with the analytical reports completed for Vermont, an email from Abrams did note that "in Vermont, we have worked with Vermont Rail System to install signage and they have also begun installation of technology on their switches." The latter refers to so-called switch point indicator technology, which alerts the engineer to the position of rail-siding and spur switches in advance, thus avoiding derailments. Burlington-based Vermont Rail System has developed the proprietary technology.

VRS owns the route followed by the Ethan Allen Express in Vermont. The New England Central Railroad owns the Vermonter's route, about which Abrams did not specifically comment.
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Re: Switch Position Indicator Pilot Program

Postby STrRedWolf » Sun Feb 17, 2019 10:16 pm

The funny thing is, mechanical switch position indicators have been around for some time. They're even advertised in Trains Magazine as commodities.

My question is, if they've been around for decades, why hasn't Amtrak et all deployed them everywhere (except the NEC due to high speed)?
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Re: Switch Position Indicator Pilot Program

Postby Backshophoss » Sun Feb 17, 2019 10:28 pm

A few years back,LIRR used "Distant Switch indictor" Signals to warn if a facing point switch was reversed,FRA wanting LIRR to get rid of Manual
Block signal rules on passenger routes took away it's exemption on passenger train speeds using the DSI signals,knocking down the Montauk
Branch east of Sayville down to 59 mph from 60-65 mph.
That has changed now that Sayvlle- Montauk is now CTC controlled.
Has the FRA approved this "NEW" pilot program? IS this gear applied on all switches and works for both Facing point and trailing point switches?
And Adds new on board gear to be installed on the entire fleet of Locos,Cab Cars and NPCU's.
Is this a byproduct of the ITCS used in Mi and Il?
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Re: Switch Position Indicator Pilot Program

Postby gokeefe » Sun Feb 17, 2019 10:39 pm

It sounds to me as though it's a homegrown reinvention of old technology. I believe based on the articles that this track segment is getting upgraded to Class 4 anyways (which requires wayside signals).

The implications in terms of actual hardware required are unclear. Perhaps this means that every single facing point is now getting it's own specific signal protection?
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Re: Switch Position Indicator Pilot Program

Postby gokeefe » Mon Feb 18, 2019 7:34 am

STrRedWolf wrote:My question is, if they've been around for decades, why hasn't Amtrak et all deployed them everywhere (except the NEC due to high speed)?


It's not exactly clear what type of a system this is. At the moment it would appear that this is a distant signal of some type and not merely a mechanical indicator block attached to the switch stand itself.
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Re: Switch Position Indicator Pilot Program

Postby gokeefe » Mon Feb 18, 2019 8:22 am

From the Vermont Rail Council August 2018 meeting minutes:

Seldon Houghton gave a presentation on the switch point indicator technology employed by VRS. The technology which uses cell service, the cloud, and a database server shows
the position of main line switches. The system is solar/battery powered.

Dan Delabruere said full PTC for the trains in Vermont would cost $300 million. The VRS system is much less costly and Amtrak is willing to look at it. Seldon Houghton noted Amtrak’s signal and safety people have seen the system and agree it is a good system.
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Re: Switch Position Indicator Pilot Program

Postby gokeefe » Mon Feb 18, 2019 2:34 pm

Per this edition of the GCOR Vermont Rail System is an adopting railroad.

They define "switch point indicator" as follows:

A light type indicator used during movement over certain
switches to show that switch points fit properly.


I have seen one study done by Amtrak from 2000 which called for switch position indicators at 12 locations on the route to Burlington.
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Re: Switch Position Indicator Pilot Program

Postby ExCon90 » Tue Feb 19, 2019 2:10 pm

The PRR and LI, and I think also the NYC, used a typical manual-block distant signal, placed at braking distance from a facing-point switch. Clear meant the switch is lined and locked normal; a restrictive indication (on the PRR, "Caution," Rule 285A), indicated that the switch is not lined and locked normal, and to approach the switch prepared to stop. In effect they moved the switch target to braking distance from the switch and made it readily visible to an approaching train. Why the practice was not adopted more widely is a good question; likely it was competition for available funds. If it had been installed at Graniteville we would never have heard of the place. And it's 1930's technology--no need to invent anything.
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Re: Switch Position Indicator Pilot Program

Postby gokeefe » Tue Feb 19, 2019 6:17 pm

It would appear that VRS agrees and that by using cellular service along with solar powered lights they have made it possible to place a distant signal pretty much anywhere without requiring expensive signal cable installations.
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