On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

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ApproachMedium
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by ApproachMedium » Tue Jan 17, 2012 8:10 pm

Portables could be used but anything big enough to actually provide what the cars need comes on a trailer and wouldnt be able to be carried just in the back of a truck. It could be possible though, but not all portions of the ROW are accessible. And then what do you do when the train breaks down in the middle tracks of a 3, 4, or 6 track ROW such as the NEC?
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by DutchRailnut » Tue Jan 17, 2012 8:35 pm

keep in mind if the back up generator is not automatic, 90% of crews won't touch it.
no crew members are gone mess with circuit breakers to switch from regular HEP to possible backup hep, they got other priorities.
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25Hz
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by 25Hz » Tue Jan 17, 2012 9:52 pm

Ok, so lets get some things nailed down:

Location of backup power and components, where can the storage (battery pack/fuel tank) be put, what about the inverters & other wiring etc?

Type of backup power? CNG, diesel, electric battery, fuel cell?

Is it in the locomotive, or integrated into one of the cars, or both?

Procedure; will it be automatic switch-over, something a crew member adjusts such as a switch or lever? Will this switch or lever be located inside the car or underneath/outside? What situations should this backup be used for?

I think advertising the backup system should not take place till proven reliable on multiple occasions. Trial then full fleet rollout based on what setup is agreed to make the most sense.

So..?
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by Greg Moore » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:49 pm

Jtgshu wrote:I don't understand why anyone would be against this, especially railroaders. I really don't....heres a few points as to why I simply don't get it.....

1) its a win-win for Amtrak in the sense that when a train breaks down they don't have to worry about passenger comfort and safety by having a lack of HEP. Gives them a little extra time to get things rolling and in some cases, it literally won't be a life or death situation for the stranded passengers. Also, the "back up plan" will be looked at very favorably by the passengers and in some cases, the media, bringing lots of good will towards the company and really making the best out of a bad situation
How about making breakdowns less frequent or having better procedures in place when they do happen. As it is, this is a stop-gap procedure. I don't think it addresses underlying issues.
Jtgshu wrote: 2) its a win-win for the passengers in that when the train breaks down, its not going to be totally dark and hot/cold. It might not be as comfy as regular HEP, especially if all the cars can't be powered, but it will be tolerable.

3) allows for easier rescue by a freight railroad or borrowing a freight loco, as the need for HEP isn't there, as the train can provide it itself. Can get the train underway with whatever power is close by (freight RRs will like that!) and still provide HEP for the passengers.
Suppose. Yes, it's better than sitting there in the semi-dark or heat. But so is getting hit in the head with a foam baseball bat instead of a wooden one. Again, I think the better approach is to look at the root causes of breakdowns, their frequencies and reducing them and having a better response system in place.
Jtgshu wrote:
4) its a win-win for Amtrak MECHANICAL employees, in that "its another thing to inspect in the yard"....that means JOB SECURITY. Heck, it might even mean a few more jobs. Maybe the 300 track guys that were laid off could get first dibs on positions. ANYTHING that requires more skilled workers to work and maintain and inspect things is a wonderful things. Considering the amount of commuter contracts that Amtrak has lost in recent years, anything like this should be welcomed with open arms by the workers. (yes, I went there - haha)
It's job security if they're not made to do more with less. And of course, what you're really saying is "Amtrak should spend more money." As a patron and taxpayer, I'm not convinced.
Jtgshu wrote:
5) its a win-win for Amtrak management, as its a PRO-ACTIVE move, instead of a REACTIVE move, which is a welcome change.
If it works. How many folks here have home generators? How many test them? How many have zero issues when they need them. Despite hours of work this past fall, when I went to fire mine up the other day during a test, the cord broke (a second time!)

If it creates more costs, more failure modes and the like, folks are going to simply complain about "why can't Amtrak get something so simple, right?
"
Jtgshu wrote:
6) its a relatively simple solution to a MAJOR problem.
Ah, here's the crutch. It's not a "relatively simple solution to a MAJOR problem." It's a somewhat complex issue to a what appears to be an infrequent problem (though often a major one when it does occur.)

You either have to locate them on a revenue car, which takes up space, a cafe car, which takes up space, or a baggage car, which most trains don't have. So you're either sacrificing revenue room, or adding additional rolling stock.

You have to test them on a regular basis to make sure they do work when required.

You have to make sure their fuel source can survive a crash. I'd be surprised if the FRA doesn't have some sort of rules on this.

You have to train employees in their use and in solving problems. While an Automatic Transfer Switch is pretty simple tech these days, what do you do if it fails? And keep in mind, it can fail in a variety of ways. It can fail-on when you don't want it, which has its own set of issues or fail-off when you do want it, which has another set of issues.

Now, who do you train? The engineer? He or she is most likely trying to debug the issue with the locomotive that caused the issue in the first place.
The conductor? How much time do you want them worrying about it vs. their other duties (making sure the train is protected, the passengers are safe, etc.)

Jtgshu wrote: Is it a perfect plan? No, of course, not, but its something, its thinking outside the box, and it has far reaching benefits, far beyond those passengers and crew members who will obviously benefit from it when they are stranded in the middle of no-where with no help at all on the horizon in a snow storm or heat wave. If folks can't see that, there are a lot of cliches that apply then and can be inserted right here: _______________________________________ .

Make it work and stop trying to find faults or negatives, or else the wrong person might read it and agree and kill the whole dang thing.
To be clear, I'm not for or against the concept. I am against willy-nilly thinking any one solution is a panacea. There are trade-offs. There are probably better solutions. Increasing battery storage on the cars and reducing HEP load (moving to LED lights should help some there). Perhaps having simple fans that can be deployed for hot cars to move air. Perhaps having better procedures for deploying "protect" trains.

Personally, I think generators are an overly complex solution to this issue.
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ThirdRail7
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by ThirdRail7 » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:51 pm

First things first:

I sincerely thank everyone who participated in this thread. It was a nice, pleasant exchange of points and counterpoints. The conversation was carried on without malice, name calling...despite the attempted hijacking...by a mod no less! :)

I received a phone call from one of my main "spies in the field." In short, the powers that be (Rolling Stock-Engineering) will not support the idea(s.)

I stress that everyone likes the idea...in principle.

However:

1) it is too late to add them to the order of electric engines (I figured that.)
2) There's not enough room in the future Viewliner baggage cars for the components since no one considered it(as Approach Medium stated.)
3) Modifying the future Viewliners isn't cost effective. This is because very few single diesel trains operate with a baggage car, so why spend the money? (as stated by jstolberg)
4) Including them on future diesels and the next generation high speed train set would somehow increase the engine length by 15 feet. This is because of clearance issues. They can't build "up" and still have a universal diesel that can operate system wide.


I pushed forward and asked them to justify how we already have engines that already have generators and what's so wrong with a longer engine in the name of passenger safety?

Then, the truth came out:

It's all about maintenance and the mechanical department.
Waaah. How are we going to maintain it?
Waaah. It'll cost too much to maintain it!
Waaah. What if it doesn't work when we need it to?
Waaah. If we install it (as a safety device), it'll have to be fully operational at the initial terminal.
Waaah. How would we get in through the tunnels in the Northeast ( I call B/S on that one as there's a special instruction in place for the tunnels leading to NYP.)
Waaah. Basically, every mechanical reason that Approach Medium, Dutchrailnut, Mtuandrew (and probably a few others) stated was given.

Expense is the reason we don't have the MARC diesels for protect. Apparently, it is not worth assuming all costs. The state of Maryland basically pays for the one at Odenton.

The bottom line is it is not worth the extra money when they can apologize, give you a travel voucher and send you on your frozen/sweaty way. To me, this is unacceptable. To the company, it is probably an unfortunate fiscal reality (which I do understand.)

In closing, I guess Dutchrailnut said it best: While it IS feasible, nothing changes.

However, anyone that knows me (Buddsilverliner/Amtrakhogger) realizes I don't like to lose. I am a PEST...with a long memory!

I have 20 years to go. This is NOT over! When you're stranded on a dead train in 2028, and you're toasty, you can say Thirdrail7 said he'd never give up! :)
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Jtgshu
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by Jtgshu » Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:54 pm

A few things -

1) Caterpillar can come out and maintain/respond to the broken down generator, they are kind of a big company and have roving repair trucks. If it does happen to not start or not work, then we are in the exact same situation we are in today. No HEP, no lights, no heat, no AC, no nothing. Nothing gained, nothing lost. But I think this would be a rarity. I think they would work more often than not. You guys are making it sound like they are going to not start every time. And thats nonsense. The super-large majority of times it would work, and everyone would be happy and safe and warm or cool. These are extremely reliable motor/generator sets, and any time I have had problems with them on NJT's Geeps, it always started back up after stalling and would be fine, or else keep running for a while then stall again, but would always restart - each time seemed like a fuel filter problem or something simple, but ive seen hour meters on these things well into the 5 digits...

2) those various circuit breakers are too complicated - Im talking about 1 BIG circuit breaker that kills entire car. Not this one does this and that one does that - I know there are many 480V undercar circuit breakers - ive used them. Im talking about one that in an emergency allows the entire car to have all HEP draw on it bypassed. So the crew can flip one circuit breaker and be done with it. If it doesn't exist or doesn't work that way, design it and make it work. Actually I think thats a feature that should be on every car, kinda like an EFCO (emergency fuel cut off) switch, but for HEP that can easily be triggered and the entire car go dead,but keeping HEP on the other cars on the train. But simple instructions on what circuit breakers to kill would work as well if something like this couldn't be designed or retrofitted.

3) Give the crews a penalty claim if they have to run emergency HEP generator. You can bet your bottom dollar that it would be the FIRST thing they did, especially if it meant an extra 8 hours pay.

I KNOW this isn't a hard thing to do - ive done it myself! And AM, you know what im talking about. Ive had to install/reinstall 480 cables, set the switches on the HEP panel to their proper settings, ive had to start the motor up, (push a few reset buttons then the start button) let it warm up a few min, then rev it up to the speed it needs to be at (turning a switch) and close the contactors (another switch) In case your wondering, a train I was running hit debris and yanked everything out inbetween cars, so we had to "start fresh" out trackside and put everything back together.

Big freakin deal.........

Some people here are almost making it sound like Amtrak crews wouldn't be able to do this procedure - and if crews on a lowly commuter railroad can do it, im SURE the BIG BOYS at Amtrak can! ;)
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by Jtgshu » Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:14 am

Im sorry to hear that Thirdrail - its a shame, but not surprising.

Everyone should be happy now, we can stay inside the comfort of our boxes and not think outside of it....YAY!

Of course there are trade offs, and of course its a stop gap - we would all LOVE for every appliance to work 100 percent of the time. Amtrak should work on the bigger problem and prevent breakdowns. But as you said in your post Mr. Moore, gotta look at underlying issues - which the biggest is funding from the Feds. I don't see THAT problem getting solved any time soon, and there will continue to be breakdowns. Will the new electrics solve the problem? Maybe on the NEC, but the HHP8s aren't that old, and they have had PLENTY of breakdowns in their relatively short life span (so far). the P42s aren't young either. Are we going to start doubling or tripling up on them in the hopes that the train makes it to the destination or next service location with everything still running? In that case, which would be cheaper, adding another loco or having a HEP motor on board to provide power incase the engine breaks down?

Maybe im in the minority here, but if a train is gonna be disabled, id much rather have lights and heat/AC. Of course, id prefer if it didn't break down at all, but this isn't a perfect world last I checked....

Also, one of these times, someone is going to get severely injured or die on one of these disabled trains or during a transfer because of no HEP. With HEP running, a train wouldn't need to be evacuated so quickly. Then the question of being "penny wise and pound foolish" will come into play.....
On the RR, "believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see"
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ApproachMedium
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by ApproachMedium » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:33 am

Jtgshu wrote:A few things -

1) Caterpillar can come out and maintain/respond to the broken down generator, they are kind of a big company and have roving repair trucks. If it does happen to not start or not work, then we are in the exact same situation we are in today. No HEP, no lights, no heat, no AC, no nothing. Nothing gained, nothing lost. But I think this would be a rarity. I think they would work more often than not. You guys are making it sound like they are going to not start every time. And thats nonsense. The super-large majority of times it would work, and everyone would be happy and safe and warm or cool. These are extremely reliable motor/generator sets, and any time I have had problems with them on NJT's Geeps, it always started back up after stalling and would be fine, or else keep running for a while then stall again, but would always restart - each time seemed like a fuel filter problem or something simple, but ive seen hour meters on these things well into the 5 digits...
Again becomes access to the ROW, how available is it over the national network? From NY to FL, WAS to CHI, NY to CHI etc. The reason the NJT geeps sets run so well, is because they are doing what they are made to do. Run. You know that old saying if you dont use it you loose it? I dont see them using these generators unless its to test them or when there is an actual failure because if I recall the rules state that the HEP MUST be operating from the LEAD unit at all times possible. If there is a crash, derailment, etc they want the engineer to be the first one to be able to hit that stop button and cut off the power. And no, a generator in the bag cant be turned off remotely we already use all of the lines in our COMM cables and we are not about to add yet another cable between cars that can break.
2) those various circuit breakers are too complicated - Im talking about 1 BIG circuit breaker that kills entire car. Not this one does this and that one does that - I know there are many 480V undercar circuit breakers - ive used them. Im talking about one that in an emergency allows the entire car to have all HEP draw on it bypassed. So the crew can flip one circuit breaker and be done with it. If it doesn't exist or doesn't work that way, design it and make it work. Actually I think thats a feature that should be on every car, kinda like an EFCO (emergency fuel cut off) switch, but for HEP that can easily be triggered and the entire car go dead,but keeping HEP on the other cars on the train. But simple instructions on what circuit breakers to kill would work as well if something like this couldn't be designed or retrofitted.
As I said previously, we do have these. Every car has a mains 480 cutoff breaker. It is physically impossible to relocate this breaker to a place inside of an Amfleet car that the crew could access it remotely from the electrical locker, however a contactor with a low voltage switch could be added in place of it. All other cars have a main cut off breaker accessible inside of the car.
3) Give the crews a penalty claim if they have to run emergency HEP generator. You can bet your bottom dollar that it would be the FIRST thing they did, especially if it meant an extra 8 hours pay.

I KNOW this isn't a hard thing to do - ive done it myself! And AM, you know what im talking about. Ive had to install/reinstall 480 cables, set the switches on the HEP panel to their proper settings, ive had to start the motor up, (push a few reset buttons then the start button) let it warm up a few min, then rev it up to the speed it needs to be at (turning a switch) and close the contactors (another switch) In case your wondering, a train I was running hit debris and yanked everything out inbetween cars, so we had to "start fresh" out trackside and put everything back together.

Big freakin deal.........

Some people here are almost making it sound like Amtrak crews wouldn't be able to do this procedure - and if crews on a lowly commuter railroad can do it, im SURE the BIG BOYS at Amtrak can! ;)
A plenatly claim could work. With proper training I dont see this being an issue. I know its not hard to do cables and whatnot. But theres more to that there that I wont mention or discuss on this forum.
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Tadman
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by Tadman » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:45 am

Thirdrail, thanks for all your investigative work. I think given the current state of affairs, it's not surprising that mechanical put up the fight they did. They're already overtaxed and underfunded, and this is just another system that must work in order to send a train out.

That said, this can still happen. Wait until a congressman is on the next train that gets stuck on NEC in July for three hours and there's going to be some kind of "passenger bill of rights" that mandates a backup system. It'll be implemented despite the above reasons.

What shocks me is Dutch's post about the crew not using the system unless its automatic. I spend most of my time on a much smaller railroad known for doing anything to keep the trains moving, and there's no question the crew would go out of the way to fire up an aux generator, but we're talking about totally different cultures. I'm not used to the east-coast mentality of "not my problem".


And finally, thirdrail, you got me - I jacked the thread. I'm a train junkie at heart and I do dumb stuff occasionally, just don't tell anybody. After I arrive at work on the rr.net Lear Jet every morning, I enjoy talking trains too.
Dig the new rr.net Instagram account: @railroad_dot_net

Patrick Boylan
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Re: On-Board Generators for Passenger Cars?

Post by Patrick Boylan » Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:36 pm

And why is it that you have to take the Lear jet? Don't let you ride in the rr.net private varnish?

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