Toots...is there a code?

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Will be traveling across the country in a month..and we don't live that far from a train track..just wondering, is there a system to the train horn signals? Like a "long and a shor", etc....mean anything?
 

none

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Long - long - short - long means the train is at or near a grade crossing (intersection) with a road...
 

KrazyKoala

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This is slightly different. From the Federal Railroad Administration, Rule 14, in the safety section.

14 (a) o Applying air brakes while standing.

14 (b) – – Proceeding. Releasing air brakes.

14 (f) o o – Acknowledging a flagman's stop signal.

14 (g) o o Acknowledging any signal not otherwise provided for.

14 (h) o o o Backing up.

14 (j) o o o o Calling for signals.

14 (l) – – o – 1. Trains or engines approaching public highway grade crossings shall sound the horn at least 15 seconds, but no more than 20 seconds before the lead engine enters the crossing. Trains or engines travelling at speeds greater than 45 mph shall begin sounding the horn at or about, but not more than, one-quarter mile (1,320 feet) in advance of the nearest public crossing. Even if the advance warning provided by the horn will be less than 15 seconds in duration. This signal is to be prolonged or repeated until the engine or train occupies the crossing; or, where multiple crossing are involved, until the last crossing is occupied.

2. Approaching tunnels, yards, or other points where railroad workers may be at work.

3. Passing standing trains.

14 (m) o Approaching passenger station.

14 (o) o – Inspect train for a leak in brake pipe system or for brakes sticking.

14 (p) Succession of sounds Warning to people and/or animals.

14 (q) – o When running against the current of traffic:

1. Approaching stations, curves, or other points where view may be obscured: and

2. Approaching passenger or freight trains and when passing freight trains.
 
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Devil's Advocate

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Maybe I'm completely turned around on this, but where I live the horn syntax seems to vary by train/engineer. When the trains sound their horn and what pattern they use does not seem to be nearly as lock-step as I expected. Some seem to start and/or end much earlier or later than others. Some only seem to sound the horn at the last possible moment. Some honk only once or twice while others just keep on blaring from far before to well past the crossing. Anybody else ever noticed that?
 

KrazyKoala

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Maybe I'm completely turned around on this, but where I live the horn syntax seems to vary by train/engineer. When the trains sound their horn and what pattern they use does not seem to be nearly as lock-step as I expected. Some seem to start and/or end much earlier or later than others. Some only seem to sound the horn at the last possible moment. Some honk only once or twice while others just keep on blaring from far before to well past the crossing. Anybody else ever noticed that?
I have, and I've tried to look into it. I use to know a guy that worked for BNSF and everytime he heard a train, he'd stop everything he was doing and listen, then say how fast (MPH) the train was going. I've always wanted to look it up online and kept forgetting until about two months ago. I tried looking it up and found nothing about speed anywhere. Except that depending on their speed, is when they start sounding the horn.

Honestly, it wouldn't surprise me if freight engineers were dosing off and notice a crossing at last minute to sound the horn. Im sure engineers who travel the route several times a week have a better mental note on when to sound the horn than an engineer who only goes by couple times a year.

Also, there are additional codes that each railway company has that is specific only on tracks they own...there's so much information out there and nothing looks consistent.
 

the_traveler

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AFAIK, just like an Amtrak engineer, a freight engineer has to be certified on a specific route - and works that segment all the time. Thus because they work the same route day after day, they know the route and where the signals are.

It would by similar to if you work for (say) IBM. You would not expect to work in the NYC office for 3 months, then go to LA for 5 months, then go to PDX for 2 months then go to ORL for 4 months before returning to NYC for the same cycle. And all this time you're an office manager. You would expect to hold the same position in NYC for all 12 months of the year.

Thats why all railroads (both Amtrak and freight) have "crew change" points. An engineer works a train from one point to the next and is then relieved by a new crew. After staying in the "crew change" location overnight or maybe longer, (s)he operates a train back to the original "crew change" point - their home base. The same engineer does not operate a train from Chicago to LA or MSP to FTW.

Please correct me if I am wrong about this.
 

AlanB

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Honestly, it wouldn't surprise me if freight engineers were dosing off and notice a crossing at last minute to sound the horn. Im sure engineers who travel the route several times a week have a better mental note on when to sound the horn than an engineer who only goes by couple times a year.
An engineer trying to doze wouldn't get very far before the engine applies the brakes and brings the train to a stop. Of course the blaring horn inside the cab that would wake anyone who isn't dead, would wake him/her up before the computers actually start applying the brakes. But it's pretty hard to doze in today's modern engines where you must be doing something (ringing the bell, blowing the horn, changing speed, applying the brakes) at least once every 2 minutes or hitting the Alerter button to indicate that you are still alive & awake to the computer.

Additionally, engineers must be qualified on the route that they're running the train on. Qualified means that you know where you are at all times, know signals, switches, crossings, land marks, etc. It's hard enough to qualify on more than a couple of runs, so that typically means that most engineers see the route more than just a couple of times per year.

One cannot casually drive an engine down unfamiliar territory like you can jump in your car and venture down a Highway or a road that you've never seen, or at least haven't seen in many months.
 

KrazyKoala

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They have an "alert" button? Sounds pretty cool and feels a little safer. But I can emagina being an engineer half awake just staring at that button to only keep pressing it like a robot.
 

MattW

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Except on some stretches of Amtrak routes, there would be another person in the cab, and they're supposed to be calling signals to each other, so it's unlikely the engineer could just go into "robot mode." Could they both doze? Possibly, but that's unlikely. Even more so if they're required to call signals over the radio as well as to each other. Amtrak makes signal calls over the radio because the conductor is in the train away from the engineer, but I don't know if freight crews call over the radio or not.
 

railiner

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Another variation can be done by what used to be called "whistle artists".....that is if the horn can be 'quilled'....that is gradually reducing the pressure on the valve so that the blast level trails away. Almost musical. Many so-called 'artists' can be identified by the way they blow the horn.
 

RRrich

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Listening to the horn and estimating train speed - you should be able to do so by noting the doppler effect frequency shift, but I expect you would need more accurate frequency measuring devices than the human ear - particularly MY ears :hi:
 

the_traveler

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They have an "alert" button? Sounds pretty cool and feels a little safer. But I can emagina being an engineer half awake just staring at that button to only keep pressing it like a robot.
I know it was a movie (and they take liberties), but if you remember the movie "Silver Streak", the engineer had to keep his foot on the pedal or the train slowed down. Then the crook put a tool box on the pedal to keep the pressure on.

Now, most locomotives have a button called a "deadman's switch". If that button is not pressed every ## seconds, it is assumed nobody is awake or driving, and the computer automatically stops the train!
 
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AlanB

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Now, most locomotives have a button called a "deadman's switch". If that button is not pressed every ## seconds, it is assumed nobody is awake or driving, and the computer automatically stops the train!
It's actually called the alerter. And the idea is that if the engineer doesn't move the throttle, apply the brakes, ring the bell, blow the horn, etc. then after XX seconds (and its a random amount of time each time) a light starts flashing on the console and the engineer must hit that alerter button to let the computer know that he/she is still in control of the train.

If they don't hit the button after a few seconds the computer will get mad and start blowing this obnoxiously loud horn within the cab. I've nearly had my eardrums blown out when the darn thing goes off during a radio transmission from the cab. I wasn't kidding when I said that it would just about wake the dead.

Bottom line here being that were an engineer to actually fall asleep or worse be incapacitated in some way, at most that train would continue its journey for about 2 more minutes before the computers bring it to a halt.
 

SP&S

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I believe the alerter, or at least it's more widespread use, came about from the head on collision near Hinton Alberta in 1986. It was believed that the entire crew of a Via train had defeated the dead man's pedal and had fallen asleep. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lq0Rtc2zNEQ

Back to toots; on the matter of the crossing signal, long long short long. In Morse code that's the letter "Q". Is there any relationship or just coincidence?
 

Agent

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Back to toots; on the matter of the crossing signal, long long short long. In Morse code that's the letter "Q". Is there any relationship or just coincidence?
I've heard it's for "Here comes the Queen."
 

ehbowen

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I used to live in an upstairs apartment next to a grade crossing. I never minded the long-long-short-long; I knew that they were required by law and I would just sleep through them. But there was (at least) one [unprintable expletive deleted] who loved to blow through the residential neighborhood at two a.m. sounding a continuous blast on the horn...two full minutes, sometimes longer. May the fleas of a thousand camels infest his armpits...and other regions....
 
X

X

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If they don't hit the button after a few seconds the computer will get mad and start blowing this obnoxiously loud horn within the cab. I've nearly had my eardrums blown out when the darn thing goes off during a radio transmission from the cab. I wasn't kidding when I said that it would just about wake the dead.
The interval is actually based on the speed the engine is going, higher speed means the alerter bugs you more often. The alarm is a beep, and gets progressively louder and louder until it finally gives up and applies the brakes. What you've heard on the radio is probably just the horn.
 

AlanB

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If they don't hit the button after a few seconds the computer will get mad and start blowing this obnoxiously loud horn within the cab. I've nearly had my eardrums blown out when the darn thing goes off during a radio transmission from the cab. I wasn't kidding when I said that it would just about wake the dead.
The interval is actually based on the speed the engine is going, higher speed means the alerter bugs you more often. The alarm is a beep, and gets progressively louder and louder until it finally gives up and applies the brakes. What you've heard on the radio is probably just the horn.
Yes, the interval is affected by the speed, but it is also still a random amount of time within the parameters set for that speed.

And I know the difference between the horn and the alarm on an AEM-7, even when hearing it on the scanner. Besides, on the NEC there isn't much call to blow the horn anyhow.
 

ns4eva

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It's actually called the alerter. And the idea is that if the engineer doesn't move the throttle, apply the brakes, ring the bell, blow the horn, etc. then after XX seconds (and its a random amount of time each time) a light starts flashing on the console and the engineer must hit that alerter button to let the computer know that he/she is still in control of the train.

If they don't hit the button after a few seconds the computer will get mad and start blowing this obnoxiously loud horn within the cab. I've nearly had my eardrums blown out when the darn thing goes off during a radio transmission from the cab. I wasn't kidding when I said that it would just about wake the dead.

Bottom line here being that were an engineer to actually fall asleep or worse be incapacitated in some way, at most that train would continue its journey for about 2 more minutes before the computers bring it to a halt.
As an NS conductor, I can confirm, the alerter alarm is the loudest beeping sound known to man. As you said, it could wake the dead.

Another thing to note, at least on newer NS motors, the engineer has a countdown on his display as to when the alerter will begin to sound. If no action is taken within XX seconds the entire train will go into "emergency". Most new motors when set into emergency will actually broadcast a transmission to a department within the company to alert them that motor #### has had an emergency application. Sometimes the crew will be investigated at the discretion of the one reviewing the alert. Needless to say, crews avoid any sort of emergency application if possible to keep big brother away.
 

Cho Cho Charlie

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It would by similar to if you work for (say) IBM. You would not expect to work in the NYC office for 3 months, then go to LA for 5 months, then go to PDX for 2 months then go to ORL for 4 months before returning to NYC for the same cycle. And all this time you're an office manager. You would expect to hold the same position in NYC for all 12 months of the year.
When I worked for IBM, the internal joke was that it stood for I've Been Moved. :p
 
G

Gord

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I believe the alerter, or at least it's more widespread use, came about from the head on collision near Hinton Alberta in 1986. It was believed that the entire crew of a Via train had defeated the dead man's pedal and had fallen asleep. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lq0Rtc2zNEQ
Back to toots; on the matter of the crossing signal, long long short long. In Morse code that's the letter "Q". Is there any relationship or just coincidence?
In Canada it's called Reset Safety Control (RSC). The Hinton accident was caused by a CN freight that ran a red signal at the end of a siding re-entering the main and hitting Via's Canadian, head on. Prior to Hinton, units were equipped with a deadman pedal which could be held down with a lunchbox, etc.

The CN crew was at fault and a number of rules were broken but it was never proven exactly why the whole crew was not aware of what was hapening and did not take steps to stop the train and warn the approacing Canadian. RSC was brought in after Hinton and hours of service rules were changed as it was determined that the freight crew had not had enough rest.
 

dart330

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Thanks for posting that video, was an interesting watch. Had never heard about that horrible accident.
 
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