question on train signals

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Ronnie1a

Train Attendant
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An article in a recent issue of Trains magazine went into some detail on how to read train signals, how they work, and examples of some tragedies when signals were ignored. But it did not answer some obvious questions.

What happens when a signal light burns out or otherwise is not working due to vandalism accident, etc? Does the train stop, keep going?

If a train is doing 80 and gets a red light it takes awhile for it to stop. Wouldn't it zip right past the signal for some distance before it can stop? How far away can the engineer see the average signal?
 

ehbowen

Conductor
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Mar 22, 2011
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Under normal circumstances a "train doing 80" should never "get a red light"...there should be a yellow "Restricted" aspect a full block before the "Stop" signal, warning the train crew to slow down. Now, it is theoretically possible to construct such a scenario...northbound train doing eighty passes a green signal seconds before a southbound train sees his green aspect drop to a yellow before entering the block...but the southbound train will be slowing to restricted speed, and the northbounder should have at least some warning before seeing the red signal. This, however, is why railroads have dispatchers and timetables; two approaching fast trains should have been made aware of each other's presence and a meet point designated in advance...they shouldn't just blunder upon each other without warning.
 

CCC1007

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And around here there is a third less than clear signal indication, advanced approach, or flashing yellow. It means the next signal is yellow, the following signal is currently showing red.
 

Acela150

Conductor
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What happens when a signal light burns out or otherwise is not working due to vandalism accident, etc? Does the train stop, keep going?

If a train is doing 80 and gets a red light it takes awhile for it to stop. Wouldn't it zip right past the signal for some distance before it can stop? How far away can the engineer see the average signal?
Question 1. We treat it as the most restrictive indication. Which would be either a restricting or stop signal. Then we report it to the dispatcher.

Question 2. If a train is proceeding on a Clear Indication at a distant signal and they get to the interlocking and the signal goes to red this is called a drop in the signal. We then stop safely and call the dispatcher. Report the occurrence and proceed according to the rule book. Signal visibility depends on many things, weather, track conditions, i.e. straight track or curved. Type of signal, location of it, and the type of lightbulb. For instance my terminal is in the process of seeing Signal Changes on the trackage rights we cover. One signal you couldn't see until you were around a curve, now that signal is visible before the curve with us being able to see the signal about 1/2 mile or a little more. Another signal was recently moved, the previous signal was high and was easy to see about half a mile before hand. The relocated it to a horrible place we can't see it until we're very close to it. And of course it's displaying stop most of the time. Another signal is visible 1 mile plus once we come around a curve. Every signal is different.
 

SarahZ

Conductor
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Signal light burned-out:

I was on an eastbound Wolverine that ended up stopped in Indiana for about two hours. The conductor informed us that a signal "wasn't working properly", so we were stopped and awaiting instructions.

A short time later, he came through the cars to explain that a signal light had burned out and a crew was on their way to change it.

Once the crew changed the bulb and the dispatcher gave the ok, we continued along the track.
 

railiner

Conductor
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Reading distant signals, on a bright sunny day, is often difficult, That is one reason why having excellent distance vision is a primary requirement of a new-hire engineer.....
 
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Hal

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What happens when a signal light burns out or otherwise is not working due to vandalism accident, etc? Does the train stop, keep going?

If a train is doing 80 and gets a red light it takes awhile for it to stop. Wouldn't it zip right past the signal for some distance before it can stop? How far away can the engineer see the average signal?
Question 1. We treat it as the most restrictive indication. Which would be either a restricting or stop signal. Then we report it to the dispatcher.
On the NEC there are exceptions to treating it as a restricting or stop signal. On some type signals only one indication is possible. In that case when only one signal is possible that indication governs. Also if all possible indicaions are better than a stop and proceed then the train may proceed at restricting.
 
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Hal

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An article in a recent issue of Trains magazine went into some detail on how to read train signals, how they work, and examples of some tragedies when signals were ignored. But it did not answer some obvious questions.

If a train is doing 80 and gets a red light it takes awhile for it to stop. Wouldn't it zip right past the signal for some distance before it can stop? How far away can the engineer see the average signal?
To put it simply, the enginner is going to know before the stop signall is seen that they must be prepared to stop at that signal. Before they see that signal, previous signals will indicate that they must be prepared to stop at that upcoming signal, and reduce speed approaching that signal in order to stop, if it is a stop signal.
 

Hal

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441
Signal light burned-out:

I was on an eastbound Wolverine that ended up stopped in Indiana for about two hours. The conductor informed us that a signal "wasn't working properly", so we were stopped and awaiting instructions.

A short time later, he came through the cars to explain that a signal light had burned out and a crew was on their way to change it.

Once the crew changed the bulb and the dispatcher gave the ok, we continued along the track.
That does not make sense. If it was merely the case of a burned out bulb and the signal had to be taken as a stop signal the dispatcher would be able to give permission to pass the signal.

More likely is that the signal problem was a switch ahead that could not be lined up right or falsely showed to the dispatcher as not being lined right. Or there were other signal problems. So someone had to fix that. Not change the bulb.
 
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Bob Dylan

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Sounds like that Conductor just made up a story to pacify restless riders Hal! ( we know you know your stuff!)
 

Hal

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Reading distant signals, on a bright sunny day, is often difficult, That is one reason why having excellent distance vision is a primary requirement of a new-hire engineer.....
New hire enginners and current engineers have to have visual acuity that meets FRA requirements. New hires have their vision tested and current enginners have their vision tested every year. It is not only distance vision. It is color vision. They can't be color blind.
 
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SarahZ

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/shrug

I can only report what I was told. If I received the wrong info, that's on Amtrak. I had no way to fact-check it at the time.
 

Hal

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/shrug

I can only report what I was told. If I received the wrong info, that's on Amtrak. I had no way to fact-check it at the time.
I believe you that the conductor told you that. I don't believe what he/she told you.
 

jis

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BTW, those of you that have read the article titled Reading the Light on signals in the January 2016 issue of Trains Magazine, and are familiar signal rule books, I have been wondering which rule book those signal aspects that and rules that are shown on page 26 come from. After I remove some obvious typographical errors there seems to be significant divergence from the NORAC rules that I am familiar with. It identifies something called the "AAR rule and name". Is this something in GCOR? I honestly don't know and would like to know. Thanks.
 
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SarahZ

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/shrug

I can only report what I was told. If I received the wrong info, that's on Amtrak. I had no way to fact-check it at the time.
I believe you that the conductor told you that. I don't believe what he/she told you.
I know. I'm just explaining that I didn't think to question it at the time because it sounded plausible. It never occurred to me to research it when I got home.

I could be remembering it wrong too. I remember him saying, "The crew is going to come change the bulb or whatever it is they have to do," so it could have been another type of malfunction, as you mentioned. He may have been joking around and I simply didn't pick up on it.
 

FrensicPic

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/shrug

I can only report what I was told. If I received the wrong info, that's on Amtrak. I had no way to fact-check it at the time.
I believe you that the conductor told you that. I don't believe what he/she told you.
I know. I'm just explaining that I didn't think to question it at the time because it sounded plausible. It never occurred to me to research it when I got home.

I could be remembering it wrong too. I remember him saying, "The crew is going to come change the bulb or whatever it is they have to do," so it could have been another type of malfunction, as you mentioned. He may have been joking around and I simply didn't pick up on it.
Perhaps "changing the bulb" was an easy way out (explanation-wise) for the conductor. Most of the passengers he talks to really don't have much rail knowledge.
 

SarahZ

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Agreed.

Most people were just "whatever" about it. That particular conductor is awesome and always keeps us informed of delays, whether due to freight, crossing gates not working, etc.
 

railiner

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Reading distant signals, on a bright sunny day, is often difficult, That is one reason why having excellent distance vision is a primary requirement of a new-hire engineer.....
New hire enginners and current engineers have to have visual acuity that meets FRA requirements. New hires have their vision tested and current enginners have their vision tested every year. It is not only distance vision. It is color vision. They can't be color blind.
I agree...its just that at one time, not sure if its still true anymore, but new hire's had to have perfect 20-20 or better, uncorrected vision....As they aged, it was permissible for them to have corrected to perfect vision.
 

Hal

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Reading distant signals, on a bright sunny day, is often difficult, That is one reason why having excellent distance vision is a primary requirement of a new-hire engineer.....
New hire enginners and current engineers have to have visual acuity that meets FRA requirements. New hires have their vision tested and current enginners have their vision tested every year. It is not only distance vision. It is color vision. They can't be color blind.
I agree...its just that at one time, not sure if its still true anymore, but new hire's had to have perfect 20-20 or better, uncorrected vision....As they aged, it was permissible for them to have corrected to perfect vision.
I don't know when that time was in the US. I don't recall that in my time which goes back a while. I don't know about 40 years ago. So it could have been so at one time. Currently 20/40 is the standard corrected. Hardly perfect. Of course a particular railroad could have more stringent requirements than the FRA requires.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 
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chakk

Conductor
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My latest railfan timetable from Altamont Press lists 19 different signal indications (clear, approach, advance approach, diverging approach, stop, etc.) with anywhere from 2 to 20 aspects (number and orientation of color lights on the signal pole) valid (depending on the railroad) for each signal indication.

I have heard this week Amtrak engineers call out at least five of these signal indications over the radio on my LD train journey across the western USA.
 

jis

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Does it say which rule book it is basing the stuff it presents in the book on? The same signal indication can sometimes be associated with very different rule.
 

NW cannonball

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Does it say which rule book it is basing the stuff it presents in the book on? The same signal indication can sometimes be associated with very different rule.
Yes there are different rule books on the various freight lines in the USA.

BUT - the details are -- details.

ALL RED - means - "stop your train NOW, do not pass this signal, call your dispatcher about why, but DO STOP, blocking the MAIN. losing the Company a few megabucks. but STOP NOW"

ANY YELLOW -- means various details , but the the main idea is "PREPARE for a ALL_RED stop"

Various railroads, various names for the red-green-amber combos. like "approach diverging" and "slow approach" or "diverging approach slow"

But the basic "RED=stop" " YELLOW=caution" "GREEN=get your rig up max track speed ASAP"
 

jis

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Yup. I wanted to know the details and apparently you don't have the information that I was seeking. Thanks for stating the obvious though. Anyway you of course do realize that your response to the material quoted is what would be characterized as "non-responsive blather ". ;)
 
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Thirdrail7

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Reading distant signals, on a bright sunny day, is often difficult, That is one reason why having excellent distance vision is a primary requirement of a new-hire engineer.....
New hire enginners and current engineers have to have visual acuity that meets FRA requirements. New hires have their vision tested and current enginners have their vision tested every year. It is not only distance vision. It is color vision. They can't be color blind.
I agree...its just that at one time, not sure if its still true anymore, but new hire's had to have perfect 20-20 or better, uncorrected vision....As they aged, it was permissible for them to have corrected to perfect vision.
I don't know when that time was in the US. I don't recall that in my time which goes back a while. I don't know about 40 years ago. So it could have been so at one time. Currently 20/40 is the standard corrected. Hardly perfect. Of course a particular railroad could have more stringent requirements than the FRA requires.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
I remember this. It kind of fizzled out in the 80's after a flurry of equal opportunity lawsuits.
 
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