PTC and Davis Jct.

PTC and Davis Jct. 


Be sure to check your messages on MYUP. There’s a one pager in there about how to get by Davis Jct. southbound off of the Lesperence Industrial Lead. 


At Davis Jct. there are a couple rules that come into play. 9.17 - Entering the Main Track at a Hand Operated Switch and 8.9.3 Part B - Hand Operation of a Spring Switch Before Making a Trailing Movement.


GCOR 9.17 details the process for entering the main track at a hand operated switch and Part B details the exceptions to when waiting 5 minutes or hand operating a spring switch would not be required. With PTC, even though you may have a restricting signal to enter the main, you will still have to wait the 5 minutes. You do not have to hand operate the spring switch or get any type of authority to pass the signal . If you have your track warrant, simply select the track you’re on and wait 5 minutes. You will need to be fairly close to the signal within 1,500 feet, but you do not need to pull closer than 400 feet. This is giving time to wake up the PTC system. After the wait, the red hash beyond the switch will go away and then you can go. Do not take it upon yourself do a soft cut-out to bypass the process. You cannot do this on your own without authority from the dispatcher. 


There is one more critical part of the process not to forget if after waiting the 5 minutes and the red hash has gone way. If you do not meet one of the exceptions to hand operating the switch and waiting the 5 minutes, PTC does not relieve you of this. You must still go through the process. Remember with TWC/ABS, trains going the same directions can have the exact same limits. If you do not follow the process correctly, you could end up entering the main in front a train with limits from Iron Mountain Jct. to Barracks’s.


If you do not meet one of the exceptions to hand operating the switch or waiting the 5 minutes you have to look at 8.9.3 B. The process for establishing block signal protection with a spring switch is a little different. For example, let’s say you have a track warrant to enter the main at Davis Jct. with Box 3, Proceed from Davis Jct. to Barracks. As you approach Davis you see that the signal to enter the main is a Stop Indication. If you do not meet any of the exceptions listed in 9.17, this would be the process. In this case you do not need to call the dispatcher because he has no control of the signal. You simply stop short of the signal, walk up and line the switch for your movement, and wait 5 minutes while standing at the switch. After the 5 minute wait and the red hash is gone from your PTC screen, pull the engine beyond the signal but not the switch, line the spring switch back normal and proceed at restricted speed to the next signal.


Let’s say you come up to Davis Jct. with a proceed track warrant, same limits, and the signal is a restricting. Although normally you would not have to wait the 5 minutes, PTC will still make you wait. In this example you would not have to hand operate the switch.


Let’s look at one more example. In this circumstance you have a track warrant with Work Between limits and the signal is red. In this example you meet one the exceptions in 9.17. Without PTC you would simply stop and enter at restricted speed with no 5 minute wait. If you have PTC, you must select your track, wait the 5 minutes for the red hash to go away, and then go. No need the operate the switch in this circumstance either. 


Hopefully this helps to clarify Davis Jct. and PTC. If you have any further questions, you’re welcome to ask me or one of the managers for clarification.



Drone Testing


   They are back to using Drones to FTX Test as of May 1st. 
Just FYI 

Denny D’s Did You Know - PTC and Restricted Speed

Did You Know that when using PTC when passing a signal requiring restricted speed, you must be at 16 MPH or slower. Did You Know that when using PTC and operating at restricted speed that the system will not allow you to exceed 20 MPH by even 1 MPH. Did You Know that if the PTC system stops you because you failed to comply with the prompts that it could be handled as a critical rule violation. Did You Know that PTC cannot see a red flag, rear of a train, improperly lined switch, derail that is on, or other obstructions. It is also  still up to you to operate at a speed that allows stopping within half the range of vision. There are few rules to keep in mind when operating at restricted speed with PTC engaged.


Critical Rules

GCOR 18.7 - PTC System Inputs and Prompts (No attempt to slow or control speed)

Simply put, if you fail to control your speed or slow down and the PTC system puts you into a penalty brake application, it is a critical rule violation.


SSI Item 10-B: Positive Train Control (PTC) Operations

Part 9 Operating at Restricted Speed

When Restricted Speed Rule 6.27 is required the following applies:

  • The system will provide a warning at 19 MPH.
  • The system will stop you at 21 MPH.
  • The system will ask for switch alignment approaching hand operated switches.
  • The system will stop you if it predicts an overrun.


GCOR 9.10 Initiating Movement Between Signals

Restricted speed until your leading wheel pass the next signal is required.

  • When entering a block between signals.
  • Previous signal is unknown
  • Movement in the opposite direction from which the block was entered.


Unlike delayed in the block and  next governing signal, there is not an exception for PTC to this rule.


Normally when we swap crews and the crew tells us what the last signal was, we may operate under the delayed in the block rule. However, when operating with PTC, the system does not know what the last signal was. You must operate at restricted speed until you knock down the next signal. This applies even when you get within 1,500 feet of the next signal, the system recognizes that signal, and it shows favorable with a clear block beyond it. It is important not to forget this at Dexter and Jefferson City. You may be able to see the signal through the trees, but there is still a little distance left that you cannot see the track to between you and the signal. A red flag could very well be sitting in front of the signal around the corner.


GCOR 9.11 Movement From Signal Requiring Restricted Speed

When a train passes a signal requiring restricted speed, the train must move at restricted speed until its leading wheels pass the next signal or the end of the block system.


Unlike delayed in the block or next governing signal, there is not an exception for PTC to this rule.


This rule applies whether you have PTC or not. Remember, when you pass a restricting signal, delayed in the block does not apply. I can think of many times when this could come into play, here is one example. On the Chester Sub, a northbound train ahead of you is stopped at the crossing before ICG. To pull up the crossing behind that train, you pass the block signal at 12.2, which is a Restricted Proceed. As that train moves, you pull up to the crossing at ICG. After sitting for a few hours, the signal clears up as well as the PTC system. It is imperative to remember that you passed a Restricted Proceed at 12.2. If you have a light train with a lot of power, it would be very easy to exceed restricted speed before you pass the next signal at ICG. There are many places on the service unit where this scenario takes place all of the time. After sitting for several hours, it can be easy to lose our situational awareness. A conductor I have worked with gave a new hire some good advice to adhere to anytime before moving. Take a minute to regroup. What was the last signal and let’s look at our bulletins to make sure we’re not sitting in or near a slow order or Form B.


18.6.1 Comparison of PTC Display Information

When the PTC display information does not conform with a wayside signal indication, maximum authorized speed, mandatory directive, Timetable, or special instruction, be governed by the most restrictive.


This rule is what keeps us at restricted speed when swapping crews and equipped with PTC. Even though the last crew told us that they came in on a clear and we would normally only be prepared to stop at the next signal. However, the PTC system is keeping us at restricted speed until our leading wheels pas the next signal. Because of 18.6.1 we must comply with the most restrictive.


There is one single most important aspect of operating at restricted speed that is critical to remember. PTC cannot determine a speed that allows stopping within half the range of vision. That is still your responsibility. Keeping these few rules in mind when restricted speed will help us all stay compliant and safe. If you have any other questions about PTC or any other rule, feel free to ask me or a manager.







Talked with Some UP Managers on PTC Issues They have had some reports of crews putting a higher Equipment speed in PTC to allow to run couple miles an hour over speed without Over Speed warnings. Management has stated they will consider this as tampering with Safety Equipment Critical Rule violation and possible Desert! (Not Happened on STL Service Unit that they know of yet) Be sure when making pickups and setouts update PTC before departing.
If you have to do a soft cutout account PTC issues such as getting by signals and through form Bs You must stop at earliest convenience and reengage PTC.

Potential fraud alert: United Healthcare member receiving scam calls

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, March 15 — It has been brought to our attention that some United Healthcare members have received unsolicited phone calls from Tennessee and Georgia area codes from individuals posing as United Healthcare representatives. These calls have been identified as a scam. 

The caller from the Georgia area code used the number 678-384-4965 to make the call, and left a message to call back on 888-315-7524 and ask for United Healthcare options. The caller also asked for personal information, such as the member’s social security number. Don’t respond to any calls from phone numbers you don’t recognize.

Members could receive calls from other area codes claiming to be United Healthcare. They should not answer/respond to any of these calls or provide any personal information. 

United Healthcare does not place calls to members asking them for their social security number. Do not provide any information to these callers. 

It is important to be diligent about any phone call that seems suspicious:

• If you receive an unexpected call or text from any area code/phone number you don’t recognize, never answer it. If it is someone with a legitimate inquiry, they will call back or leave a message.
• If you do answer it and you believe the call is suspicious, call the Member Services number on the back of your medical ID card to speak with a Customer Service Representative.
• Always be sure to review your phone bill carefully and contact your carrier about any suspicious charges.
• If you or someone you know becomes a victim of a phone scam, you can file a complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission ( and the Federal Communications Commission ( under the “For Consumers” tab.

Drones Are Watching:Railroad Irks Workers With Unmanned Aircraft

From the Wall Street Journal:


Union Pacific Corp. UNP -1.46% riled employees recently when it started flying drones over some of its railroad yards to ensure workers were following safety guidelines.

The aerial spotters were looking for any number of behaviors that deviate from the railroad’s rule book, from passing between railcars that are less than 100 feet apart to climbing off moving equipment.

The response from the railroad workers’ union? Urging the rank and file to flood Union Pacific’s safety hotline with complaints that the drones make their jobs more dangerous.

Workers say that rather than promote safety, the drones create a hazard by distracting them when they should be laser-focused while around 200-ton locomotives and railcars moving along the tracks, according to Steve Simpson, general chairperson with the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers. “They are no longer looking ahead or at their task at hand,” he said. “They’re looking up.”

Mr. Simpson, whose general committee represents 1,600 conductors, engineers and other rail workers in the southern U.S., also advises members on complaints to the Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Railroad Administration. He said there is no way to distinguish a drone flown by Union Pacific from one operated by an unauthorized party.

As of March 1, Union Pacific temporarily grounded the aerial observation so it can share its findings with the unions but plans to resume the program in coming weeks. “Their leadership will help us establish a collaborative process to address unsafe behaviors and protect employees,” Union Pacific spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza said.

Safety RecordUnion Pacific's personal-injury rate edged up in 2017 after hitting a record low.Source: the companyNote: Reportable personal injuries per 200,000 employee-hours worked

Mr. Simpson said he suspects safety isn’t the company’s only motivation. Workers see drones as a means to discipline them, he said, with escalating penalties that can lead to termination. There is no indication anyone has been fired for an infraction spotted from up to 400 feet in the air, but Mr. Simpson said workers have been cited for violations as a result.

Ms. Espinoza said Union Pacific has been using drones to conduct federally mandated field testing and will coach employees to correct behavior that could cause serious injury. “We are finding drones are valuable tools that can help us reach our ultimate goal of operating in an incident-free environment and ensure employees go home safely,” Ms. Espinoza said. She added that the company hotline has received only one complaint about the use of drones.

Union Pacific last year reported its second safest year on record, though the reportable personal-injury rate of 0.79 per 200,000 employee hours was 5% higher than in 2016. The amount of money it sets aside for personal-injury liability has declined in each of the past three years.

Drone use is still in its infancy in the railroad industry. Companies have sought to incorporate it into operations to inspect bridges and track, assess damage after natural disasters and map their networks. Other proposed or active uses have included spotting trespassers, air-quality tests and aerial photography.

Earl Lawrence, who runs the FAA’s drone-integration office, said he was unaware of any other industries where employers are using drones to enforce safety rules. “Every day we see inventive ways of using aerial platforms,” he said.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s BNSF railroad, which, like Union Pacific, operates in the Western U.S., has worked closely with the FAA to find ways to incorporate drones into its operations. After obtaining waivers to fly drones outside the line of sight of their operators, BNSF in 2015 flew an unmanned, fixed-wing aircraft over 270 miles in New Mexico to inspect tracks. The railroad said it was the first commercially operated drone to fly beyond its pilot’s line of sight within the lower 48 states.

Since then, BNSF has received permission to conduct tests on more than 2,000 miles of track, including at night.

Norfolk Southern Corp. uses drones only for bridge inspections, a spokeswoman said. CSX uses the aircraft to monitor its rail network, collect data and conduct security checks. Drones also have been used as part of installing so-called positive train control, a new, federally mandated safety system, a spokesman said.

Union Pacific first received FAA approval to use drones in 2015. It now has 126 employees on staff certified to fly them and has used them to inspect bridges and flood damage, among other uses. Union Pacific plans to have as many as 250 trained drone pilots by the end of 2018 and is also looking into self-flying drones.

Union Pacific first deployed drones to monitor employees in December 2017 at a rail facility in Ste. Genevieve, Mo., later expanding to 14 locations. While railroads already make use of fixed cameras to monitor operations, aerial footage provides a new vantage point for yardmasters in facilities that can be more than 100 tracks wide and scattered with visual obstacles like cars and equipment.

“It’s a useful tool,” said Mr. Simpson, the railroad union leader. “But it’s being used as a discipline tool and that worries me.”

Denny D’s Did You Know

Emergency Brake Applications

When moving and your train goes into emergency it is imperative to remember to follow the procedure outlined in the GCOR. The procedure is the same if you place the train in emergency or if it happens on its own.

The are a few keys to remember from GCOR 6.23. 

First, procedure is to be followed if the train is stopped due to an emergency application or severe slack action. Don’t wait to see if your air will recover for the first step. If you are next to another main track or controlled siding, you must immediately warn other trains first, then notify the dispatcher using 911 on the radio. This is important because at this point another train could be close to passing you and your train could very well be fouling their track.

The next important part to remember is what to do when notified that a train you are about to pass is emergency. You must pass the train at restricted speed until it is known that the train is not fouling your track. If your air recovers and an inspection is not required, it would be wise to wait until you get the train moving again before notifying the dispatcher that trains may pass at normal speed.

Finally, we need to know whether or not a walking inspection of the train is required.  If your air does not come up and you have to walk and end up finding the problem, remember that you still have to inspect the rest of the train as well. You only have to meet one, not all, of the exceptions to be relieved of inspecting the train. 

• Solid loaded bulk commodity trains

• Train is made up entirely of double stack well cars and/or five-platform articulated single-level spine cars.

• Speed is greater than 20 MPH

• Train is 5,000 tons or less

If you are a key train or experienced severe slack you are walking regardless of the exceptions. If there is a condition that prevents walking, bridge or something like that, you can pull the rest by at 5 MPH.

Compliance with 6.23 is critical. There is more at stake that just getting into trouble. This also about looking out for our brothers and sisters out here. Think about passing a stopped train at 60 MPH only to find cars from their train on their sides on your track. Take it another step further, imagine that car is tank car loaded with hazardous materials.

Denny D’s Did You Know (Safety Stops)

Did You Know there was a Superintendent Bulletin recently issued making a few changes to the safety stop requirement?


It is required when initiating a movement of 400 feet or greater to the following: 


• Making a coupling


•Moving through gates or doorways (notice that this does not specify only while shoving). A place that come to mind is Hillcrest.


•Shoving equipment to a spot


•Shoving to clearance point. 


The big change to requirement is the exception. The only exception is a safety stop is not required while making a coupling with light locomotives. As a side note, Safety Rule 81.13 only states that you cannot ride a car to a coupling. It does not say you cannot ride a locomotive to a coupling. Speaking from experience, when coupling to a locomotive, be sure that the air hose is not stuffed into the coupler. 


The switching exception is no longer in the bulletin.


I’m sure you have all read this by now, but   I thought a reminder would be helpful.

Vice President Tolman testifies before House on PTC

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, February 15 — BLET Vice President and National Legislative Representative John P. Tolman urged Congress, the railroads, and governmental regulators to ensure that Positive Train Control (PTC) is fully implemented by the current deadline of December 31, 2018. During his testimony, Vice President Tolman also discussed the problem of electronic device distraction (Trip Optimizer and LEADER); the government and industry’s failure to address rail worker fatigue; the danger of excessive train lengths; and the need for two person train crews.

Tolman began his testimony by expressing his anger and frustration at having to yet again testify at a hearing where preventable rail accidents and fatalities were the main topic of discussion.

“We strongly urge you to take all appropriate measures to ensure the current PTC deadline is met,” Vice President Tolman testified on February 15 before a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials. “It is time to get past decades of the industry’s ‘can’t do’ excuses, and it is time for all of Congress to get on board the safety train.”

With passage of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA), Congress mandated the implementation of PTC nationwide by the end of 2015, then — under pressure from railroads — extended that deadline until the end of 2018. Many PTC-preventable crashes and deaths have occurred during the three year deadline extension.

“Some railroads have dragged their feet since the [2008] mandate and persuaded Congress to go along with the dithering and — with the [2015] deadline looming in the face of threats to cripple the economy and strand passengers — Congress granted an eleventh hour extension,” Vice President Tolman testified. “We warned Congress in 2015 that their actions would result in people dying from collisions that PTC could prevent. Congress was convinced by the railroad industry that more time was needed. Here we are years later and PTC is not fully implemented. Safety has waited too long and lives have been lost during the last extension.”

According to a 2015 report from the National Transportation Safety Board, PTC could have prevented 145 rail accidents that killed 288 people and injured 6,574 since 1969, when the agency first recommended the technology.

Regarding electronic device distraction, Brother Tolman was critical of the Trip Optimizer and LEADER systems in use on certain North American rail carriers. “Human factor issues will require close attention to be paid to human-machine interface problems as more screens with more buttons and submenus come online to interface with PTC,” Tolman said. “We also recognize the challenges PTC will place on train crews who will be forced to interact with more computer screens in the locomotive cab. This will only increase the potential for electronic device distraction, given the already widespread use of technologies such as Trip Optimizer and LEADER.”

While PTC was mandated by the RSIA of 2008, the law also addressed the issue of rail worker fatigue. However, the fatigue has not been sufficiently addressed in the past 10 years. Vice President Tolman reminded Congress of this glaring oversight during his testimony.

“[Fatigue] has been wrestled with for decades and Congress made an attempt to alleviate it in the RSIA in 2008. However, the regulator’s effort in meeting the requirements of the Act has not produced any measurable results a full decade after Congress mandated that the management sit down with labor and work out genuine fatigue mitigation plans.”

Vice President Tolman warned Congress about the danger of excessive train lengths. “Freight trains have been getting longer and heavier in recent years. Some of these trains have been over three miles long. This creates technical challenges with maintaining brake pipe pressure that aids a train in slowing and stopping. There are currently no federal regulations or laws that address train length. This needs to change.”

Vice President Tolman encouraged all members of Congress to consider bipartisan support for two-person crew bills that are progressing though the House and Senate. He thanked Representative Don Young for introducing the Safe Freight Act (H.R. 233) and Senator Heidi Heitkamp for introducing S. 2360, a companion bill in the Senate. Both measures would require two-person train crews on freight trains.

“On the railroad, train crews consisting of Engineers and Conductors form a solid team that moves trains across the United States safely every day,” Vice President Tolman said. “True safety requires two crew members on every freight train, and such a goal should have no party lines.”

The hearing was titled “Oversight of Positive Train Control Implementation in the United States.” Additional witnesses included: Richard Anderson, Chief Executive Officer, Amtrak; Juan D. Reyes III, Chief Counsel, Federal Railroad Administration; Robert Sumwalt, Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board; Edward Hamberger, President and Chief Executive Officer, Association of American Railroads; and Paul Skoutelas, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Public Transportation Association.

A copy of Vice President Tolman’s testimony can be found here (PDF):

Criminal prosecution for unintentional mistakes is blatantly unfair to locomotive engineers and trainmen


INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, February 12 — In the wake of recent dramatic and highly visible railroad accidents in the United States and Canada, there has been a trend to criminalize railroad workers and prosecute them as the sole cause of these tragedies. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen stands opposed to such actions. 

It is a travesty that criminal charges were filed against three former employees of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway for the tragedy of July 5, 2013 in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. The trial against them began in September of 2017 and concluded on January 19, 2018. What jurors found out is that railroading is a complex system of operations, and many factors go into a safe operation. Determining the root cause of a particular accident is far more complex than simply blaming the workers, but that all too often is what many rail carriers and government agencies have done.

In 2017, criminal charges were brought against the locomotive engineer of Amtrak train 188, which crashed in Philadelphia on May 12, 2015. Those charges were dismissed in 2017 after a judge ruled that the crash was accidental, not criminal. The engineer’s lawyer argued in part: “The law recognizes there’s a big difference between an accident and a crime.” However, a second judge has ruled that dismissal of those charges was wrong, and has reinstated charges of reckless endangerment, involuntary manslaughter, and one count of causing a catastrophe. 

The operating employees who crew trains and locomotives — locomotive engineers, conductors, brakemen and switchmen — have extraordinary safety-critical tasks and responsibilities not found in other industries. An operating employee’s readiness for safety-critical constant vigilance is a personal obligation. But this personal duty must be effectively supported — not thwarted — by a management devoted fully to the fundamentals of safety. 

Railroad crew members sometimes go on duty without being allowed sufficient rest, and with accumulated sleep deficits, consequently constituting a profound safety problem on and along the tracks. Laws are such that crew members are not given enough time to simply rest and have a normal life. On the Amtrak property, many of our locomotive engineers work six-day assignments resulting in operations in excess of 2,500-3,000 miles per week. At times, the crew members are harassed and intimidated if they repeatedly request to lay off for needed rest. Moreover, they have to contend with abiding by unrealistic attendance policy standards imposed by the carrier that often result in disciplinary action despite the fact that additional time off is both necessary and fully warranted. Crew members who are harassed and intimidated by railroad managers are less likely to provide feedback regarding unsafe operations. Such feedback is crucial to safe train operations. 

To please Wall Street investors, railroads have furloughed so many workers that the few who remain are often overworked and stretched too thin. Railroads are increasing the length of freight trains to dangerous levels, trying to do more with fewer workers. Well-rested crew members are essential to safe train operations. 

Railroad crew members sometimes complain that they are not given sufficient familiarization trips to become acquainted with the lines over which they operate. Proper training is essential to safe train operations. 

At times, crew members protest to railroad managers about hazardous operations, but their protests simply go unheeded. Properly maintained equipment and tracks are essential to safe train operations. 

This is not to make excuses, but an effort to explain that it takes more than just blaming the worker to determine the root cause of railroad accidents. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims, families and workers touched by the accidents mentioned above. But criminalizing the worker is not part of the solution to eradicate similar tragic accidents from happening again.