Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by ExCon90
 
Thanks. I believe setting back was done back in steam days, with the engine and crew used for the next train out.

What exactly needs to be input for each departure? I would think the train number and number of cars would do it -- what else needs to be done that takes so much time?
  by Backshophoss
 
Current track bulletin needs to entered,
  by ohioriverrailway
 
On bad days, NICTD can have 4 or 5 trains delayed by PTC problems...usually on METRA or changing ends at South Bend Airport.
  by ExCon90
 
Backshophoss wrote: Wed Dec 30, 2020 11:33 pm Current track bulletin needs to entered,
That's something that could take forever if it has to be done manually for each departure from origin, in addition to being a prime possibility for error. You'd think that was something that could be done remotely to all trains affected by a particular bulletin, with all information entered as soon as the engineer inputs the train number. However, I'm not exactly computer-literate.
  by eolesen
 
It could be done programmatically, but with the current system, you know that the crew is aware of the bulletin because they had to enter it in.

If you do it remotely/programmatically, eventually something will be pencil-whipped and overlooked by the crew and someone will die.
  by justalurker66
 
The challenge for changing ends is that there is a different PTC computer at each end. So a normal flip from one end to the other has the old requirements (keys, switches, handles moved depending on type of equipment) PLUS loading the PTC computer at the other end with the required data. Not quite the same as the engineer carrying their bag from one end to the other (or as noted a few posts back, having a new engineer ready to go with all the requisite paper at the far end of the platform after the train stops).
  by Engineer Spike
 
Logging into PTC is not a long process, usually. Sometimes it takes several minutes to download the train information from whatever server. The login process starts with the engineer logging in his ID number, and PIN. The next item is the track bulletin number. This is needed because PTC protects against temporary restrictions, both speed, and work zones..

The next step is the train consist entry. At the beginning of running PTC, all this information had to be manually entered. It was a pain because the numbers have to be scrolled through, instead of typed in. Now the fields are populated, which saves time. I do not know if someone manually enters the train consist or if it is automatic, based on train documentation. The reason why I say this is because sometimes the field of train type (ie. freight or passenger) is blank. Sometimes the lead locomotive is set up as running in the forward direction, other times it is unknown, and has to be entered. For some reason the number of axles comes up wrong, and hast to be corrected.

The next step is to test the PTC penalty application of the brakes. Sometimes this has been done, and can be skipped. The last item is to check the track bulletins in PTC, vs. the ones in your bulletins, which it to make sure that they agree. All this is not too lengthy of a process, but takes about 5-10 minutes, if everything loads up promptly.
  by MattW
 
I appreciate the detailed explanation Engineer Spike! I do have a question though, to anyone if you're not as familiar with some of this.
The next item is the track bulletin number.
Why though? I thought part of the reason for all the radio spectrum the railroads had to acquire was to be able to update this stuff automatically, so PTC would be "always up to date" and out of date information about slow orders would no longer be an issue.
  by justalurker66
 
Engineer Spike wrote: Sun Jan 03, 2021 9:02 pmAll this is not too lengthy of a process, but takes about 5-10 minutes, if everything loads up promptly.
Thanks for the detail. The 5-10 minutes is the point. It is time added to the physical change of ends. Part of the "penalty for progress" of having the system running.
  by ExCon90
 
MattW wrote: Sun Jan 03, 2021 10:35 pm I appreciate the detailed explanation Engineer Spike! I do have a question though, to anyone if you're not as familiar with some of this.
The next item is the track bulletin number.
Why though? I thought part of the reason for all the radio spectrum the railroads had to acquire was to be able to update this stuff automatically, so PTC would be "always up to date" and out of date information about slow orders would no longer be an issue.
Exactly the question that's in my mind; I thought that was supposed to be the whole point of PTC -- to put slow orders "in the track" automatically, just like signal indications.
  by qboy
 
I'm only speaking from my experience of working commuter on the UP side. If everything is working right with the PTC most Engineers can get through the process in about 3-4 minutes. We have cheat sheets for different consist from 4 car up to 11 cars. After awhile you start memorize a lot this info especially if your working with the same consist day in and day out. Something we do on short turns or even when we are not in rush is preload the next trip whether its inbound or outbound. And simply just cutout the PTC which will save the info for your next trip. When your ready you cut in verify your info and bulletins and your ready to go. The PTC does update through out the trip you can and will have bulletins in your PTC that aren't on your paper bulletins. And vice-versa you will have bulletins on your paperwork that aren't on PTC because it been update after your paper copy. Everything still needs to be verified with the Disp verbally that you have it in your PTC. Its not a perfect systems, but overall I like it. Overall I've grown used to it and I don't have to constantly look at my screen when we first started using it 2yr ago. I miss ATC...and ATS was meh! PTC does keep you inline if your not paying attention.
  by metraRI
 
The number of DOB's and bulletins to be entered into PTC also depends on the territory being ran on. For instance, Metra Rock Island only have a Metra DOB to enter while trains on SWS have to enter Metra, Amtrak, NS, and BRC. Each railroad controls their own PTC portion, so if one doesn't load they have to be contacted directly which can cause a delay if it is not done in a timely fashion.

Each train run, at least on the 'Metra' side, has a separately programmed train number using consist information given to dispatchers from layover yards. If a last minute change of equipment occurs, PTC will most likely not be synced correctly and have to be changed. If a loco/cab car does not have an assigned train number, it will not load into PTC.