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printman2000

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This last trip was my first with a scanner in hand. I have a few miscellaneous questions that I came up with...

1. Does the crew of Amtrak trains care if you have a scanner? I was listening to mine most of the time but with headphones. The scanner was usually tucked beside me unseen. I did not think there would be any problems with anyone knowing, but better safe than sorry.

2. When other Amtrak trains past us (and sometime freight), they would radio something like "49, you look good on this side." What is that about?

3. Often I would hear long beeps (like pressing a touch tone phone button) and heard a reference once about calling someone. Is this some sort of "calling" method or what?

4. On #3, we had a freight unit put on the front (SD70MAC 9515). Can any Amtrak engineer jump into a freight unit and drive? Or do they have to be checked out on each piece of equipment?

5. Does Amtrak use GPS anywhere on a train? It is hard to believe in the 21st century that the LD trains do not have anyone on the crew with a GPS device. I showed my laptop running Microsoft Streets and Maps with GPS to my car attendant. She really thought it was neat. I do not know how the attendants can do there jobs without knowing where they are at night. It would be very hard for me to get any sleep not knowing. I would have to have something like a GPS phone.

Thanks!
 

WhoozOn1st

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When other Amtrak trains past us (and sometime freight), they would radio something like "49, you look good on this side." What is that about?
I'd like to know the answers too! On this one, engineers at a meet or pass will do a sort of ride-by inspection, looking for anything obviously amiss on the other train. Not sure if it's a rule, or just a matter of professional courtesy.
 
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the_traveler

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Whatever siding I'm sitting on!
I don't believe the crew cares if you have a scanner. As long as you do not transmit from it! Why else would they sell scanners? Besides, having a scanner means you probably have more information than the CA! (I have heard that some crew even ask the person with the scanner for info about what is going on!)
 

WhoozOn1st

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(I have heard that some crew even ask the person with the scanner for info about what is going on!)
Quite true. On the Coast Starlight Tehachapi run I was getting information on delays from scanneroids then, intrepid reporter that I am (HA!), relaying it to my sleeper attendant, who was clearly out of the info loop. The conductor made announcements, but they were as nothing compared to the lowdown available via scanner.

That was also the only time on Amtrak that I've seen scanners being used without headphones, and nobody complained. With the high railfan factor, everybody wanted to listen, at least in certain areas of the train.
 

AlanB

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1. Does the crew of Amtrak trains care if you have a scanner? I was listening to mine most of the time but with headphones. The scanner was usually tucked beside me unseen. I did not think there would be any problems with anyone knowing, but better safe than sorry.
There are no rules that prohibit the use of a scanner on the train. Most employees probably wouldn't care that you were using one, and many have seen my scanner at least in my room. Some railfans actually carry their scanner in their hand; I however always keep it tucked under my shirt when I'm not in my room. So you can't tell if I've got an Ipod, radio, or what. I have revealed things to Amtrak employees on occasion, but I'm usually a bit careful about whom I tell things to, as well as what I tell them.

2. When other Amtrak trains past us (and sometime freight), they would radio something like "49, you look good on this side." What is that about?
It's considered a courtesy that crews passing one another will look over the other train, at least that which they can see, checking for wheels that aren't on the rails, at night maybe a glowing wheel indicating that it's too hot, dragging equipment, and most importantly what they most commonly refer to as markers. That's the red light(s) on the rear of the train that indicate the last car of the train. And on freight trains that red light is on something referred to as FRED (Flashing Rear End Detector), which is a device that not only flashing the red warning light but can also apply the brakes in an emergency.

3. Often I would hear long beeps (like pressing a touch tone phone button) and heard a reference once about calling someone. Is this some sort of "calling" method or what?
Many times in passenger service, the engineer upon starting up from a station will key in a code that activates the gates. This is done to avoid having the gates lowered while the train is busy discharging or boarding passengers. There are also other things that can be done with those tones, I'm not sure of all the applications though.

4. On #3, we had a freight unit put on the front (SD70MAC 9515). Can any Amtrak engineer jump into a freight unit and drive? Or do they have to be checked out on each piece of equipment?
An Amtrak engineer must be qualified to drive any type of engine. In fact, very few Amtrak engineers can drive both a P42 and say an AEM-7. In fact, this is the reason that the regional crews still change in New Haven, as the contract was written back when they still changed to diesel service at NHV. I was talking about this crew change in another topic recently. Acela on the other hand does not have a crew change in NHV, since they were hired under a slightly altered contract.

5. Does Amtrak use GPS anywhere on a train? It is hard to believe in the 21st century that the LD trains do not have anyone on the crew with a GPS device. I showed my laptop running Microsoft Streets and Maps with GPS to my car attendant. She really thought it was neat. I do not know how the attendants can do there jobs without knowing where they are at night. It would be very hard for me to get any sleep not knowing. I would have to have something like a GPS phone.
To my knowledge Amtrak has not yet implemented GPS on most of its trains. The Cascades service does have it, so that the monitors can display the train's position along the route.

As for the attendants, they pretty much know the route so well that they can just tell from what's outside the window as to what stop is coming up and how soon. Both the engineer and the conductor also know the route that well too! Returning to the attendants, they don't go to sleep during the night if they are on duty usually. Generally what happens is that most attendants trade off. So for example on a train with two sleeping cars and attendants fictionally named Mary and Sam, Sam will stay up all night going westbound working both sleepers on the Capitol Limited while Mary sleeps. On the eastbound return, Mary stays up all night while Sam sleeps.
 

printman2000

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4. On #3, we had a freight unit put on the front (SD70MAC 9515). Can any Amtrak engineer jump into a freight unit and drive? Or do they have to be checked out on each piece of equipment?
An Amtrak engineer must be qualified to drive any type of engine. In fact, very few Amtrak engineers can drive both a P42 and say an AEM-7. In fact, this is the reason that the regional crews still change in New Haven, as the contract was written back when they still changed to diesel service at NHV. I was talking about this crew change in another topic recently. Acela on the other hand does not have a crew change in NHV, since they were hired under a slightly altered contract.
We must have just lucked out that our P42 engineer was check out on the SD70MAC. Also, the replacement crew that came on in La Junta must have also been good with it. What are the chances of that?
 
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wayman

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Northampton MA
We must have just lucked out that our P42 engineer was check out on the SD70MAC. Also, the replacement crew that came on in La Junta must have also been good with it. What are the chances of that?
Well, I would guess that your engineers were BNSF engineers and not Amtrak engineers, once you got the loaner power. Maybe an Amtrak engineer rode third-seat or something, but I doubt he would have had control of the engine. Depending on the shift-clock, you may have gotten a new BNSF engineer at La Junta, or maybe you kept the same engineer (who still had a lot of hours left, having come on-shift at an unusual time) while the Amtrak train crew (conductors) changed there?
 

jackal

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SGF
2. When other Amtrak trains past us (and sometime freight), they would radio something like "49, you look good on this side." What is that about?
It's considered a courtesy that crews passing one another will look over the other train, at least that which they can see, checking for wheels that aren't on the rails, at night maybe a glowing wheel indicating that it's too hot, dragging equipment, and most importantly what they most commonly refer to as markers. That's the red light(s) on the rear of the train that indicate the last car of the train. And on freight trains that red light is on something referred to as FRED (Flashing Rear End Detector), which is a device that not only flashing the red warning light but can also apply the brakes in an emergency.
It's more than just a professional courtesy--it's a requirement. See section 6.29.1 in GCOR (the rulebook used by the UP, BNSF, and other railroads west of the Mississippi).

Also, the FRED on a freight also transmits the rear-end brake pressure to the engine so the engineer knows there is continuity in the brake pipe the entire way through the train. (If a valve gets closed somehow three cars behind the engine and the engineer is trying to pump up the brakes, the engineer would see that the FRED is not reporting an increase in brake pipe pressure and would know that there is a blockage.)

See Wikipedia for more info. (Yours truly wrote a bit of that article and took one of the pictures...)

3. Often I would hear long beeps (like pressing a touch tone phone button) and heard a reference once about calling someone. Is this some sort of "calling" method or what?
Many times in passenger service, the engineer upon starting up from a station will key in a code that activates the gates. This is done to avoid having the gates lowered while the train is busy discharging or boarding passengers. There are also other things that can be done with those tones, I'm not sure of all the applications though.
I've never worked in an area where activating gates at stops is a problem, so I don't know anything about what Alan was saying, but what you were hearing in your instance had nothing to do with gates and is the normal way to summon the attention of the train dispatcher.

Since train dispatchers are generally responsible for a wide area of territory which covers multiple radio towers, they can't listen to the radio traffic in all of their areas at once. Therefore, each radio tower is assigned a code (usually two digits). When the train crew needs to summon the attention of the dispatcher, they look up in their System or Division Special Instructions (aka "Employee Timetable") the area that they are currently traveling in for the proper call code and punch it in. What you'll hear is exactly what you heard: a couple of touch tones followed by a long beep. The touch tones are generated by the on-board radio, and the beep is generated by the radio tower to signal that it recognized the call tones. A light then appears on the dispatcher's control panel, and shortly thereafter, you should hear the dispatcher come on the line (unless he or she is busy elsewhere on the system), and a conversation between him/her and the train crew will commence.

For an example of call codes, see the Alaska Railroad System Special Instructions, sections 82.24 and 82.25 (pages 42-43, or PDF pages 44-45).

4. On #3, we had a freight unit put on the front (SD70MAC 9515). Can any Amtrak engineer jump into a freight unit and drive? Or do they have to be checked out on each piece of equipment?
An Amtrak engineer must be qualified to drive any type of engine. In fact, very few Amtrak engineers can drive both a P42 and say an AEM-7. In fact, this is the reason that the regional crews still change in New Haven, as the contract was written back when they still changed to diesel service at NHV. I was talking about this crew change in another topic recently. Acela on the other hand does not have a crew change in NHV, since they were hired under a slightly altered contract.
I'm still not clear on this one. I'm very curious about this, too. I would have assumed that any freight units would be run by their respective employees, but when you confirmed for me in your trip report thread that it was the Amtrak engineer who was running that unit, I had to change my assumptions.

I think it's pretty unlikely that the Amtrak engineer called for your train just happened to be dual-qualified on that specific type of BNSF engine (BNSF could have assigned any other type of engine--AC4400CW, Dash 8 40-BW, GP40-2, or whatever), so that leaves only two options (that I can think of): either all Amtrak engineers are dual-qualified with Amtrak locomotives as well as the locomotives of the host railroads Amtrak travels over, or the host railroads (or at least BNSF) simply have an agreement that allows all Amtrak engineers to operate any of their locomotives (at least in the case of an emergency). Honestly, most diesel engines are more alike than they are different (unlike Alan's example of the AEM-7--that's a totally different beast whatsoever, since it's electric-only), so this latter arrangement would not surprise me.

5. Does Amtrak use GPS anywhere on a train? It is hard to believe in the 21st century that the LD trains do not have anyone on the crew with a GPS device. I showed my laptop running Microsoft Streets and Maps with GPS to my car attendant. She really thought it was neat. I do not know how the attendants can do there jobs without knowing where they are at night. It would be very hard for me to get any sleep not knowing. I would have to have something like a GPS phone.
To my knowledge Amtrak has not yet implemented GPS on most of its trains. The Cascades service does have it, so that the monitors can display the train's position along the route.

As for the attendants, they pretty much know the route so well that they can just tell from what's outside the window as to what stop is coming up and how soon. Both the engineer and the conductor also know the route that well too! Returning to the attendants, they don't go to sleep during the night if they are on duty usually. Generally what happens is that most attendants trade off. So for example on a train with two sleeping cars and attendants fictionally named Mary and Sam, Sam will stay up all night going westbound working both sleepers on the Capitol Limited while Mary sleeps. On the eastbound return, Mary stays up all night while Sam sleeps.
My sleeper attendant on the CS in May, Cruz, had a GPS in his roomette. Of course, he was rarely in his room, so I'm not entirely sure what he was using it for!

Installing a GPS solely for the passengers' benefit is, for the most part, an unnecessary expense (it's nice but not something that a cash-strapped Amtrak can do). And GPSes are not (yet) in widespread "official" use (i.e. for granting track authority to trains), although that is beginning to change. Railroading has been around for a long time, and many of the operating practices are still based on the way things were done in the early 20th century. Manual methods--manually giving the train authority between two certain points over the radio--is still common on many thousands of miles of track in this country. Even the most modern method employed by the freight railroads, CTC, still uses a pretty basic system of detecting track occupancy: passing a small current through the rails. GPS has only been around a relatively short while, and railroads are only now beginning to devise ways to implement it. PTC, or Positive Train Control, is the next step forward in railroad traffic control, and it's still in its development stages--see this video by BNSF on their implentation. Locomotives and even some rail cars are starting to be equipped with GPSes for tracking and inventory purposes (I don't know if Amtrak's are), too, so when that becomes more ubiquitous, perhaps Amtrak can tie an on-board display into those systems so Alan can see where he is. ;)
 
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T

Tony

Guest
Returning to the attendants, they don't go to sleep during the night if they are on duty usually. Generally what happens is that most attendants trade off. So for example on a train with two sleeping cars and attendants fictionally named Mary and Sam, Sam will stay up all night going westbound working both sleepers on the Capitol Limited while Mary sleeps. On the eastbound return, Mary stays up all night while Sam sleeps.
In all these years, I have never seen my sleeping car attendant "working" late at night. They are always in their compartment (roomette?), with the door closed and no obvious light. While I have no idea for sure, but with a closed door late at night, I assumed they were asleep or at least in bed. I would never knock on their door, unless I had a true emergency. I mean. something more than the coffee pot is empty. :D

What has been other's experience. Do you regularly see the sleeping car attendant's compartment open, with a light on. way into the night?
 
R

Radparker

Guest
(I have heard that some crew even ask the person with the scanner for info about what is going on!)
Quite true. On the Coast Starlight Tehachapi run I was getting information on delays from scanneroids then, intrepid reporter that I am (HA!), relaying it to my sleeper attendant, who was clearly out of the info loop. The conductor made announcements, but they were as nothing compared to the lowdown available via scanner.

That was also the only time on Amtrak that I've seen scanners being used without headphones, and nobody complained. With the high railfan factor, everybody wanted to listen, at least in certain areas of the train.
Hah, neat. You're making me want to dig out my scanner and take it with on my next trip. Looks like there's a list of frequencies here: http://on-track-on-line.com/amtrak-freqs.shtml
 

printman2000

Conductor
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Messages
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Amarillo, Texas
4. On #3, we had a freight unit put on the front (SD70MAC 9515). Can any Amtrak engineer jump into a freight unit and drive? Or do they have to be checked out on each piece of equipment?
An Amtrak engineer must be qualified to drive any type of engine. In fact, very few Amtrak engineers can drive both a P42 and say an AEM-7. In fact, this is the reason that the regional crews still change in New Haven, as the contract was written back when they still changed to diesel service at NHV. I was talking about this crew change in another topic recently. Acela on the other hand does not have a crew change in NHV, since they were hired under a slightly altered contract.
I'm still not clear on this one. I'm very curious about this, too. I would have assumed that any freight units would be run by their respective employees, but when you confirmed for me in your trip report thread that it was the Amtrak engineer who was running that unit, I had to change my assumptions.

I think it's pretty unlikely that the Amtrak engineer called for your train just happened to be dual-qualified on that specific type of BNSF engine (BNSF could have assigned any other type of engine--AC4400CW, Dash 8 40-BW, GP40-2, or whatever), so that leaves only two options (that I can think of): either all Amtrak engineers are dual-qualified with Amtrak locomotives as well as the locomotives of the host railroads Amtrak travels over, or the host railroads (or at least BNSF) simply have an agreement that allows all Amtrak engineers to operate any of their locomotives (at least in the case of an emergency). Honestly, most diesel engines are more alike than they are different (unlike Alan's example of the AEM-7--that's a totally different beast whatsoever, since it's electric-only), so this latter arrangement would not surprise me.
Everything I heard on the scanner made me believe the loco was being run by the same Amtrak engineer. I heard them talking to the crew who had the loco (they had two and they were pushing 11 cars when they hooked it up). They made reference to giving it to Amtrak. They were local guys who happen to have an extra for Amtrak.

When the crew changed, the engineer made a comment about how the unit was running and refered to the engineer whose place he just took as if they knew each other.

Anyway, I am almost certain is was run by Amtrak engineers.
 

AlanB

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Everything I heard on the scanner made me believe the loco was being run by the same Amtrak engineer. I heard them talking to the crew who had the loco (they had two and they were pushing 11 cars when they hooked it up). They made reference to giving it to Amtrak. They were local guys who happen to have an extra for Amtrak.
When the crew changed, the engineer made a comment about how the unit was running and refered to the engineer whose place he just took as if they knew each other.

Anyway, I am almost certain is was run by Amtrak engineers.
Well anything is of course possible, but I suspect that the Amtrak engineers where just in the cab and quite probably handling the radio, since they know the conductors' voices and procedures. Whereas the BNSF crews would not.

I'm not sure of the FRA regs in this area, but perhaps it is also permissible for an Amtrak engineer to operate the locomotive under the guidence of a qualified freight engineer.
 

printman2000

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Everything I heard on the scanner made me believe the loco was being run by the same Amtrak engineer. I heard them talking to the crew who had the loco (they had two and they were pushing 11 cars when they hooked it up). They made reference to giving it to Amtrak. They were local guys who happen to have an extra for Amtrak.
When the crew changed, the engineer made a comment about how the unit was running and refered to the engineer whose place he just took as if they knew each other.

Anyway, I am almost certain is was run by Amtrak engineers.
Well anything is of course possible, but I suspect that the Amtrak engineers where just in the cab and quite probably handling the radio, since they know the conductors' voices and procedures. Whereas the BNSF crews would not.

I'm not sure of the FRA regs in this area, but perhaps it is also permissible for an Amtrak engineer to operate the locomotive under the guidence of a qualified freight engineer.
One more thing that made me know it was Amtrak running without a BNSF guy. At one point somewhere north of Las Vegas, the engine when into what he called "Overspeed" Not sure what it means but it stopped immediatly. The engineer was on the radio and asked for the "help desk" (not what it is called but I cannot remember) to call him. Everything that was said gave the impression he was alone up there.
 
G

Guest

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I'd like to hear from someone who "knows by experience", as I have heard oodles of stories that went something like, "I was called for train 404 and when I walked to the head end, I came dace-to-face with a strange sight. . . .", so I don't think you have to qualify by loco type. At one point in my kidhood, I would see point locos being GP's 7, 9, 18, 30, 35, 38, 39, 40 and 40-2, also SD-35, 40 and 50, and U23B, U25B, U30B, U33C, B30-7 and, for a while, ALCO C630. That would be a LOT of 'qualification" and paperwork.

With the exception of the new comfort/clean cabs and blended brake/throttle and the rare bidirectional controls, all cabs are pretty much identical. If there ARE concerns with a specific loco type, the engineer calls for the TRAINMASTER on the radio-- he knows the idiosynchracies of every model over every mile. Most likely, that's who the Amtrak engineer in this thread was calling.

OVERSPEED has been pretty much beaten to death; it's merely an alarm for traction motor speed-- spinning too fast whips the copper armature wires outward, and they snag on the non-spinning parts of the traction motor. At 600V and many, many amps, it's an electrical disaster as well as a mechanical one too. Overspeed alarms (and their operation) vary not only by railroad, but also by loco model, builder, and even from one order to the next. With the differing gear ratios between passenger and freight locos, it's easy to see an Amtrak engineer to encounter one with a freight loco on the point.

AND, I have yet to meet an Amtrak engineer that didn't know almost every freight engineer (and a lot of conductors) along the way. After all, they work with these people every day, day after day. Just the paychecks are different. My new job has people from five companies, and I already know everyone.

SCANNERS: AlanB is right; the touch-tone turns CERTAIN receiver speakers ON, like dispatcher, trainmaster, signal maintainer, etc. Sometimes you'll hear a reference to their radio "waking up".

There are other signals piggybacking on the railroad radio voice channels; scanners have circuitry that strips it off so you only hear voice. PL (Private Line) is a constant tone that, when it matches what a radio's looking for, turns the receiver speakers on. DPL is just a digital form of PL. There's other stuff too, like indicators for signals and switches. There are websites that tell how to access this stuff; on my scanner, which was a no-name scanner I found in the trash, I tapped off an output pin labeled "demodulated out". A $8 PIC, a few other parts, three tries with simple programming, and I have a digital readout of the FRED on every train I pass (or that passes me).

ON-DUTY CREWS cannot use headphones; it's a safety issue. Headphones can cover other noises indicating trouble. What I frequently run into is a crew member with the typical pre-80's hearing loss keeping their radio running at full blast because they were pretty close to deaf. Lots of fun enjoyment at 2:30 in the morning. . .
 

jackal

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ON-DUTY CREWS cannot use headphones; it's a safety issue. Headphones can cover other noises indicating trouble. What I frequently run into is a crew member with the typical pre-80's hearing loss keeping their radio running at full blast because they were pretty close to deaf. Lots of fun enjoyment at 2:30 in the morning. . .
Interesting, because I worked with an engineer who was also a private pilot, and he had an adapter for his aviation headphones that he used to plug them into the locomotive's radio. (I tried 'em on once--certainly keeps the noise of the GP49s running the Healy Coal Turn down...) I think two or three other engineers (and a couple of conductors) used them, too, on the noisy GPs. (The SD70MACs were like riding in a Bentley in comparison...)

Maybe that's one of those things that varies by railroad. Don't think there's a federal law about that.
 
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Chessie Hokie

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I'm unsure of a requirement to qualify by locomotive model...I think the emphasis has always been, rather, for engineers to qualify on a particular trackage territory so as to know the idiosyncrasies of all grades, curves, signals and other unique situtations that effect train control dynamics. For the most part, track geometry plays a greater part in train operation than individual locomotive characteristics...the locomotive is only part of the equation in operasting a train efficiently and effectively. Pilots used to be assigned to guide newly assigned engineers through new territory and to qualify them on a route...as far as I know this is still done. I am not discounting that their is, or should be, an equipment qualification...but I think it would still be secondary to route qualification. That is why most engineers are usually assigned to a particular route, so that they can know it like the back of their hand and be able to squeeze-out the best train operating characteristics possible.

Back in the "old days" very little, if any, familiarization was done for engineers assigned to new-type locomotives. The emphasis was definitely on route qualification (though there was also a pecking order between passenger and freight crews). I have been doing a lot of reading on the introduction of the Pennsylvania Railroad's T1 4-4-4-4 Duplex steam locomotives. Engineers and firemen assigned to trains pulled by that unique locomotive often had their first introduction to it as they climbed into the cab to make their run. The training program could be summed up as "figure it out for yourself"! As the amount of power available to the drivers of that engine exceeded what most engineers were accustomed to (the K4s Pacific, for example), new engineers accustomed to a heavy hand on the throttle would often have trouble with wheel slippage when starting a train...those who adjusted to a lighter throttle touch soon overcame this problem. Never-the-less, this gained for the T1 a reputation of being a slippery engine, which was actually more reflective of inexperienced hands on the throttle than an engine characteristic.

I have read similar accounts of engineers assigned to their first trip with a diesel-electric locomotive (during the transition years from steam to diesel) climbing into the cab with no prior instruction and having to make do on their own.

Certainly recalls the old expression: "is this any way to run a railroad?!" :p
 

printman2000

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Amarillo, Texas
OVERSPEED has been pretty much beaten to death; it's merely an alarm for traction motor speed-- spinning too fast whips the copper armature wires outward, and they snag on the non-spinning parts of the traction motor. At 600V and many, many amps, it's an electrical disaster as well as a mechanical one too. Overspeed alarms (and their operation) vary not only by railroad, but also by loco model, builder, and even from one order to the next. With the differing gear ratios between passenger and freight locos, it's easy to see an Amtrak engineer to encounter one with a freight loco on the point.
After the sudden overspeed stop, the engineer could not get "the computer to reset" and that is when he needed to talk to the tech guys. He ended up getting off the train and removing/reconnecting an air hose and that did the trick. I easily heard the air hose disconnect from my roomette.
 

WhoozOn1st

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Southern California
(I have heard that some crew even ask the person with the scanner for info about what is going on!)
Quite true. On the Coast Starlight Tehachapi run I was getting information on delays from scanneroids then, intrepid reporter that I am (HA!), relaying it to my sleeper attendant, who was clearly out of the info loop. The conductor made announcements, but they were as nothing compared to the lowdown available via scanner.

That was also the only time on Amtrak that I've seen scanners being used without headphones, and nobody complained. With the high railfan factor, everybody wanted to listen, at least in certain areas of the train.
Hah, neat. You're making me want to dig out my scanner and take it with on my next trip. Looks like there's a list of frequencies here: http://on-track-on-line.com/amtrak-freqs.shtml
While on the Santa Fe 3751 steam excursion I met my sister and bro-in-law at San Diego for lunch. Bro-in-law said he'd never seen so many people wearing hearing aids before, and wondered if people who have hearing problems have a disproportionate affinity for trains. After laughing myself almost into apoplexy I gave a general explanation of scanners and their railfan uses. Episodes like that are why I sometimes refer to friends and relatives as "rail-challenged."
 

Cascadia

OBS Chief
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Dec 19, 2007
Messages
602
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Washington
Scanner question, seems to fit here, yesterday I was down at our Bellingham Station waiting for the train, my boyfriend was going back up north and I went down there with him for the heck of it.

The station agent had announced that the train was running a little late and should be in around 10:00. There was a fellow in the station who had an Amtrak t-shirt on and a bluetooth-looking earpiece, an older guy, probably from our Rail Museum here.

That guy went over by the phones, I didn't see if he made a call or not. Then he came back and told the Station Agent that "She says 10:12 now". The station agent changed his announcement.

Wonder if they old guy called Julie or what. I figured he had a scanner, and that it was the thing on his belt and the thing in his ear.

How far away can a person overhear things on a scanner? Do you have to be right next to the train or on it to hear what's going on?
 

Cascadia

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jackal

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Didn't go to the link, and I've never owned a scanner, but from my experience listening with a railroad handheld radio (had to give it up when I quit or pay $1800), you can hear the radio tower for dozens of miles (dispatchers, etc.), locomotive radios anywhere from 2-5 miles out, and conductors' handheld radios much less than that (a mile at the max). I would assume a scanner's reception is similar; reception may be boosted if it has a specialized antenna (especially the fixed ones used on the feeds at railroadradio.net--those guys spend more for their antenna assemblies than I would on a whole set-up!).
 
T

Tony

Guest
Oh, I thought it would be a passenger's scanner located on-board the train. That should be close enough to receive all the radio transmissions for the train they are traveling on-board. No?
 
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