Sometime back one of our posters indicated that perhaps a 2nd Transition Period 1966-1976 is a very interesting and historical period for both historians and modelers alike. With that in mind, I'm kicking this off with a brief look at the ACI (Automatic Car Identification) labels/plates.
ACI (Automatic Car Identification) labels/plates were mandated by the F.R.A. in 1968 and were to be installed on all equipment by 1970. They were abandoned as impractical in 1978. After 1978 the plates could be removed, but many were never removed. As the equipment passed by the trackside scanner it was scanned. All information necessary to keep track of the engine or car was then sent to a master location where it was logged.
The AAR had recognized from their field tests that periodic inspection and label maintenance would be requirements to maintain a high level of label readability. Regulations were instituted for label inspection and repair whenever a railcar was in the repair shop, which on average happened every two years.
By 1975 90% of all railcars were labeled. The read rate was about 80%, which means that after seven years of service 10% of the labels had failed for a variety of reasons, most evident on flatcars that had low-mounted labels for example. Dirt, scratches, fading from sunlight and vandalism all contributed to the eventual failure of this system.
Unfortunately the maintenance program never gained sufficient compliance. Without maintenance the read rate failed to improve, and the ACI (GTE KarTrak) system was abandoned by 1977. ACI tags ended. March 1, 1992.