Tadman wrote:Lately I've been delayed a few times on a westbound South Shore train because the Amtrak crossing was red. The train contacted the dispatcher, who contacted Amtrak, and permission to proceed was granted. What gives? It's not like the South Shore traffic is a surprise. And couldn't they contact Amtrak ten minutes before, so the crossing is ready?
There are a few things at work at 10th Street. When I was in Ops at NICTD, we reconfigured the schedule to attempt to keep South Shore trains off the crossing at the times that Amtrak trains are on the approach (previous schedules were not closely coordinated, and in fact there were several "direct hits" in the schedules before the change).
Now, if Amtrak trains are running late, Amtrak train directors will absolutely hold the South Shore signals at Stop to allow the Amtrak trains to pass. The interlocking control logic was configured during the CTC installation a few years back to give Amtrak Train Directors absolute control over the signals there; this is due to the fact that Amtrak is the superior railroad at the crossing - this goes back to Michigan Central / CSS days. NICTD dispatchers request a route through the crossing just as they request routes at all interlockings, through the CTC system, and it will clear as long as Amtrak doesn't have a route pulled up or a block on the interlocking; if the signal is
pulled up for the Amtrak move, the NICTD dispatcher cannot "knock it down", even if there is no train in the approach circuit on Amtrak. Amtrak, on the other hand, *can* knock down a proceed signal on NICTD as long as there is no South Shore train in the approach.
I'm in no way accusing the Amtrak train directors as a whole in any way of mischief, but there were times when Amtrak would have the signal pulled up WAY ahead of the Amtrak train's passing time, and refuse to take it down to allow a South Shore train to pass, even when called by phone by the NICTD dispatcher. There were also times when the signal was pulled up for an Amtrak move, the NICTD dispatcher called the Amtrak Train Director's office, and there was no answer for several minutes.
So, NICTD is in an untenable situation at the 10th Street crossing - Amtrak is the superior railroad by history and by interlocking vital logic, and if the Amtrak TD decides to pull up their signal or place a block on the interlocking, NICTD doesn't move.
Now, in the situation you described, it may have been that the Amtrak TD had a "block" up on the interlocking in order to allow some work to be done within its limits. The TD can give the NICTD dispatcher permission to move a train through against a Stop signal after he or she had checked with the Employee in Charge that all workers and equipment are in the clear.