Question Re Train Operation During Local Construction

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Haselsmasher

New Member
New member here. I'm really glad to have found this site. I have a question re signals and how railroad companies implement the following.

Background: I live along a BNSF line in northern CO. The track is about a 1/10 of a mile from my house - and I have clear line of sight to the tracks. We live at the mid-way point of a 2 mile stretch that has no street crossings in that stretch. So we never get horns being blown when trains are close by.

The city is currently constructing a bike path that will go under the track. There is work going on on both sides of the track as they dig the tunnel. During this construction the train blows it's horn as it approaches the construction area. They do so only during weekdays - nights and weekends they don't blow it in this area.

So how do the engineers know to do this? Are signs put up along the track? Or is there some sort of "notice to engineers"? Some other method?

I'm simply curious. I've always been kind of fascinated by "operations" - be they railroads or airports or whatever. I've lived on these tracks for over 20 years and as time goes by I enjoy the trains going by more and more.

Thanks.

Jim
 

Pete Sakes

New Member
There is probably a "Form B" during the time work is going on. A Form B is a railroad work zone where a foreman "owns" a section of track where work is going on. The work doesn't have to be railroad related, like tie replacement, for example. It could be any kind of work that is going on adjacent to the track, or over the track (like a crane lifting bridge pieces), or in a situation where workers or machinery might have to cross the tracks constantly. During a Form B, the train crews must call the foreman on the radio and get his permission to pass through the Form B territory. Before granting the train permission to pass through, the foreman will warn workers that a train is coming and make sure they are out of the way and no equipment will foul the track (for example, the boom on a crane). Train crews are also required to blow their whistle whenever there are men and equipment near the track. That's the reason why you're not hearing whistles at night. The Form B probably is only during weekday hours when workers are there. Occasionally there will be weekend or 24 hour Form B's, but they are rare.
 

Haselsmasher

New Member
Thanks! This makes tons of sense.

It sounds like it's the Form B scenario for sure. There is a curve in the tracks just to the north of the work site. A southbound train blows the horn right before it rounds the curve.

This is a pic of the work site - taken from the side of my front porch.

Thanks again. Very interesting.

20161020_172427.jpg
 

Crow

Member
Also anytime a train sees roadway workers (crews in orange vests) they train is required by federal law to blow it's horn to alert the roadway workers.

I agree there is a Form B at this location due to the work, but just seeing the roadway workers is reason to blow the horn.
 

Pete Sakes

New Member
So how do the engineers know to do this? Are signs put up along the track? Or is there some sort of "notice to engineers"? Some other method?
When a train crew goes on duty, they get a set of "General Track Bulletins" that are printed for their train. In those bulletins, in the case of this bike path construction, there will be a Form B listed that will have a date, start time and end time, as well as the mileposts of the limits and the foreman's name. There may be other information, such as which tracks the Form B applies to, for instance, if there were two main lines and a siding, but there is no work in the siding, it will just list the two main lines in the Form B. When the train crew approaches the Form B, there will be a yellow/red flag (actually, it's a reflective metal sign, but it is referred to as a flag) placed along the track usually two miles away from the beginning of the Form B limits. The limits themselves will be marked by a red flag at each end that is visible to oncoming trains. The yellow/red flag is a warning to train crews that there is a Form B ahead. Crews will call the foreman on the radio with their engine number and their direction of travel, and the foreman, once he/she is sure workers and equipment are in the clear, will grant the train crew permission to pass by the red flag at milepost XX. The foreman may or may not give additional instructions, such as requesting bells and whistles or requiring a train to not exceed a certain speed through his limits. At the end of the work day, when the Form B is over, the foreman will take down the flags. Trains not encountering the flags after or before the Form B time limits do not need to call the foreman or blow the whistle.
 

Haselsmasher

New Member
When a train crew goes on duty, they get a set of "General Track Bulletins" that are printed for their train. In those bulletins, in the case of this bike path construction, there will be a Form B listed that will have a date, start time and end time, as well as the mileposts of the limits and the foreman's name. There may be other information, such as which tracks the Form B applies to, for instance, if there were two main lines and a siding, but there is no work in the siding, it will just list the two main lines in the Form B. When the train crew approaches the Form B, there will be a yellow/red flag (actually, it's a reflective metal sign, but it is referred to as a flag) placed along the track usually two miles away from the beginning of the Form B limits. The limits themselves will be marked by a red flag at each end that is visible to oncoming trains. The yellow/red flag is a warning to train crews that there is a Form B ahead. Crews will call the foreman on the radio with their engine number and their direction of travel, and the foreman, once he/she is sure workers and equipment are in the clear, will grant the train crew permission to pass by the red flag at milepost XX. The foreman may or may not give additional instructions, such as requesting bells and whistles or requiring a train to not exceed a certain speed through his limits. At the end of the work day, when the Form B is over, the foreman will take down the flags. Trains not encountering the flags after or before the Form B time limits do not need to call the foreman or blow the whistle.
Thanks. Great stuff.

This is a photo taken from the crossing that is almost a mile north of the work site. This is a "yellow flag" as you stated?

I'll have to look closely along the tracks closer to the site - there might be red versions of this sign.

What a cool forum this is! Thanks for the info. It's great to learn more about how the train systems work.

20161025_081405-1-1.jpg
 

Pete Sakes

New Member
That yellow flag designates a temporary slow order. The flag warning of an upcoming Form B would be half yellow and half red.
 

Bill Anderson

Well-Known Member
You might look at purchasing a scanner. Monitoring conversations between the dispatcher and trains passing by your house will really add to your railfan experience.
 




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