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 Post subject: Re: PTC and Steam
PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2017 7:39 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 26, 2010 11:43 am
Posts: 419
Location: Floyd, AR
My assumption is that most PTC activation would be the result of a non-responsive crew. In 'theory' the crew that can start the injector, bail off the engine brakes, turn the blower on, etc, would of already responded to the warnings to slow down or stop. Many of the recent wrecks were apparently (obviously?) the result of a crew that was asleep or unconscious.

Also worth noting that sleep apnea testing is probably about to be a MUCH bigger part of any DOT operator's life.

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 Post subject: Re: PTC and Steam
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 12:53 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 9:54 am
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Location: NJ
The most likely steam engines to operate where PTC would be required would be probably larger, more modern engines, like UP 844 or NKP 765. I believe they both have front end throttles, and the rodding to those devices could be modified with some sort of air cylinder that would shut off the throttle. Boiler and fire management could also be automated; if an emergency stop is activated by the PTC system, it wouldn't be too difficult to turn on the feedwater pump and blower, and shut down the stoker (or oil valve) automatically.

I'll go out on a limb here, though, and suggest that we are over-thinking the incapacitated crew scenario. Its very rare (unheard of?) for a large engine like 844 or 765 to go anywhere without a tool car or crew car. And in that car would be other steam-qualified personnel, all of whom should be capable of shutting down a steam locomotive in the event of an Arthur Hailey 'Runway Zero Eight' situation. In addition, the host road would have a road foreman or trainmaster nearby, if not actually on the engine.


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 Post subject: Re: PTC and Steam
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 2:39 am 

Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2007 8:03 pm
Posts: 905
Location: Brampton, Ontario
One classic story is of a CNR 4-8-2 that had one of the larger steam pipes in the cab burst. Both the engineer and fireman bailed out of the cab via the cab windows, and of course both the Feed Water Pump and Stoker were going full tilt when the incident happened. I believe the engineer was ultimately able to make his way to the front of the locomotive and open the angle cock to stop the train. The account I read was told by the fireman, who noted that when he bailed, he had no idea if the engineer made it out or not until the train came to halt when the engineer opened the angle cock on the pilot.

This may have been what motivated CN to retrofit an emergency brake valve just outside the engineer's door on most if not all of the fleet.


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 Post subject: Re: PTC and Steam
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 9:01 am 
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Purchasing a suitable PTC suite and hardware for a steam locomotive is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Once you have the equipment, it has to be installed by trained and certified technicians. Then it has to be set up and calibrated by trained and certified technicians, and maintained and periodically inspected by trained and certified technicians. You are not going to see the random organization volunteer out there tinkering with the PTC equipment. Everything relating to it is going to be done by people who are specifically authorized to work on it.

PTC is an anticipatory system. It programmed with braking curves to meet a variety of situations, and which of those is applicable (if any) to the equipment it is installed on has been determined by running standard consist instrumented test trains on a predetermined signal course. The test crew approaches restrictive signals at various speeds and they take the “hit”, then the lead electronic technician and his assistant go out on the ground with a long tape measure and confirm that the consist has stopped within a specified range of distance from the signal or the other equipment.

All of this is dependent on the deceleration rate of the equipment in braking. On freight railroads and commuter railroads, this has been tested and confirmed with standard consists and test trains. But no such database of deceleration performance exists for the various individual steam locomotives and random consists of vintage passenger cars.

That means that you are likely to have to finance and run a test train to actually confirm and record the braking performance and stopping distance of your equipment on a standard test course hosted by a major railroad. And once the curves have been calculated there will be no changes made to the braking system. No running with the driver brakes cut out by the mountain cock. If anybody makes unauthorized alterations to the braking system or the PTC they are likely to incur fines big enough to cost them their house.

Everybody who will come in contact with PTC needs to take a look at the rules that apply to it, and also needs to read the sections on record keeping requirements and the fines and penalties associated with failure to keep records or to properly maintain the equipment. There are some colossal fines and penalties associated with infractions regarding these safety related systems. It is likely that the people you have working to maintain and document this equipment will be hired from specialty organizations and will have to carry insurance comparable to companies that provide services to nuclear power plants.

And do not expect that railroad and equipment builder retirees are going to come out and help you with this equipment. The liability involved in “helping” on these types of systems is colossal, and nobody is going to want to bet their house that a bunch of enthusiasts, no matter how capable they may be with steam, are going to properly maintain and document PTC equipment. You are going to be hiring specialists, you are going to be paying for training, and everything you do with PTC is likely to cost a lot of money.

PC

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 Post subject: Re: PTC and Steam
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 9:27 am 

Joined: Tue Jan 25, 2005 4:03 pm
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EDM wrote:
The most likely steam engines to operate where PTC would be required would be probably larger, more modern engines, like UP 844 or NKP 765. I believe they both have front end throttles, and the rodding to those devices could be modified with some sort of air cylinder that would shut off the throttle.


This is already starting to have an influence on the scope of the 765's operations.

We're anticipating the development of a similar solution this year. It's pretty much imperative. Given the unique nature of it, we'll have lots of help but share what we come up with.

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 Post subject: Re: PTC and Steam
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 1:39 pm 

Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 1:37 pm
Posts: 895
"PTC requires a non-overrideable throttle shut-off and non-overrideable braking capability - not exactly possible with steam."

Gee whiz, I suppose that all those many installations of ATC under the Esch Act, most of which were on steam locomotives, weren't possible either... /sarc

It is true that some of the responses 'back in the day' were a bit Mickey Mouse, including the old favorite "stall the train with full air braking whether or not the locomotive remains under steam" (which produces the desired 'safety' result but at unacceptable cost for any locomotive owner), but there was a range of 'proper' answers, too. The most logical is to install something like a ThrottleMaster or Franklin Precision air throttle, and arrange for its actuation to be "predictable' in the cab or to modify the mechanical linkage so the throttle can be closed without damage to the 'historical fabric' of what's installed on the locomotive -- this might even be done with "one-time' emergency parts that would have to be replaced after a penalty application. (Consider from the WCR experience a year ago why ability to stop a steam locomotive quickly and effectively might be important...)

An alternative is to provide a Wagner throttle or equivalent in the steam path from the throttle down to the cylinders (the ACE3000 proposal used four, one for each HP cylinder end) which is a fluidic amplifier requiring very little external power to provide positive and progressive steam shutoff. Not difficult to modify the linkage slightly so it gives proportional blower as the exhaust draft ramps down, then reduces blower proportionally to bring the fire down and minimize water loss through the pops. Etc.

Braking is a bit more complicated, but only if you feel some need to approximate blended braking, in some legal fashion, by adding some modulation of the independent brake on a steam locomotive to a PTC application of the train brake. I doubt you will find anything OTS from Wabtec or other suppliers that will do this, and in my opinion any half-qualified engineering student team could build you a device that would do anything required with independent brake (because it has inherent proportionality and graduated release, etc.) RELATIVE to what the PTC system commands the train brake to do.

For organizations that would have to hire high-priced consultants to design, spec, build and maintain a PTC system, it's probably out of economical consideration. But the actual setup to allow a steam locomotive to respond safely under PTC when running is not nearly as extortionate.

I agree with Mr. Cook that, were steam locomotives to operate in regular line service in the connected national system, "highly trained and certified people" following properly-documented procedure would be needed for all aspects of the equipment and its maintenance. But that is not what we are discussing here: it is the question of whether a long and heavy excursion train full of people should not have PTC enablement on some level even if its steam power has some sort of FRA-legitimate waiver of the PTC mandate. Is 'the best the enemy of the good' to such an extent that no PTC at all is preferable to documentable 'self-coverage' and periodic test passing? Is there not, say, an extension to the 92-day card process that would simply test the response of the equipment to a standardized level of performance achievement?

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Last edited by Overmod on Thu Feb 09, 2017 2:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: PTC and Steam
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 2:16 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 03, 2004 9:42 pm
Posts: 2431
Most excursions these days have a diesel in the consist, it's my understanding that Amtrak requires it for their excursions.

Is there conceivably any means of using the PTC on the diesel? Obviously you can't have both locomotives in control, but I wonder if there would be some means of having it tapped into the brake system in a multiple unit type manner?

Yes, it's vague and fuzzy and probably not feasible. Just tossing it out there....


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 Post subject: Re: PTC and Steam
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 2:38 pm 
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My understanding is that if you have a locomotive with PTC operating with another locomotive that does not have PTC, the locomotive with PTC must be in the lead in PTC territory.

One reason for this is that the distance from the GPS antenna on the PTC locomotive to its front coupler is calculated into the train length and stopping distance programming.

Please excuse the "approximate" answers I provide. I was remotely involved in the early days of this program but am not now, and I do not plan on getting involved in it again any time in the future.

PC

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 Post subject: Re: PTC and Steam
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 2:59 pm 

Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 1:37 pm
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"Is there conceivably any means of using the PTC on the diesel?"

As Mr. Cook noted, the GPS antenna location either has to be physically near the front of the train or be 'corrected' in some way to provide a reliable indication of the physical location of the front of the train, both for the reasons he provided and to give an idea of 'nonfouling' at switches or areas of restricted clearance.

In my opinion, you could use SOME of the equipment 'on the diesel' (for example, the functionality of the SBRs needed to communicate with various aspects of the data-network infrastructure) given appropriate connections from the steam locomotive 'back' to the PTC-equipped locomotive. It is interesting to consider how those connections might be made, kept tested, and be made both reasonably fail-safe and positively indicating when they have failed for any reason.

My own opinion is not to rely on any ad hoc connections between PTC on a standard road engine and a steam locomotive, specifically including wireless communications between the two. If an organization has its own 'protect power' that has to be PTC-enabled, it may make better sense to approximate the 'instrumented passenger car' approach that was mentioned earlier so that there is a minimum of actual equipment added to the locomotive itself. But in that case the robustness, etc. of the connections becomes of great importance in ways that may not be immediately obvious to people from historical running associations.


"Obviously you can't have both locomotives in control, but I wonder if there would be some means of having it tapped into the brake system in a multiple unit type manner?"

Correct me if wrong, but I thought one of the last things you'd want is to have the locomotive brakes, particularly the driver brakes, 'tapped into the brake system' PTC uses 'in a multiple unit type manner'. Diesels can be easily modified to drop field, etc. if there is a UDE or Westinghouse application, and when not under power their axles can be braked little differently from car-truck axles. My impression was that steam locomotives are very different in these respects, especially if full graduated release is not actively in operation at all times (not likely the case in a non-cancellable penalty application!) and if the single-pipe train brake were to be effective at stopping them, a number ... perhaps a large number ... of braked axles needed to be coupled to them (viz. some of the early restored film of 3751 with a consist of empty multimodal cars). If you are going to use PTC to activate or modulate a steam locomotive's independent brake, something very different and, in my opinion, much more complicated has to be provided between the PTC brake-valve systems and the independent equipment on the locomotive. Do not expect any commercial manufacturer of PTC equipment to provide this at present (although you might get somewhere by asking for 'donations' of the engineering services to design and produce it, and perhaps for some of the assistance in building it out to installation and then maintaining it.)

If you think UP/Dickins/whoever is somehow reprehensible for flattening 844's tires by mistake, wait 'til you see what a penalty brake application from high speed and full throttle would be likely to do...

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 Post subject: Re: PTC and Steam
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 4:13 pm 

Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2004 4:02 pm
Posts: 973
Location: Back in NE Ohio
Nearly 25 years ago over dinner, I asked a railroad preservation expert (someone frequently quoted and referred to on this board) what he thought would bring mainline steam excursions to an end? He said it would probably be some technological change beyond the capability of steam era technology to cope with (or words to that effect). Perhaps we are fast approaching that day?


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 Post subject: Re: PTC and Steam
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 4:50 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 03, 2004 9:42 pm
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Overmod wrote:
My own opinion is not to rely on any ad hoc connections between PTC on a standard road engine and a steam locomotive, specifically including wireless communications between the two.


I wasn't thinking "ad hoc" so much as I was thinking using the same connections as a standard multiple unit locomotives would use. Hard wired connections and MU hoses etc. But, as you point out, there are likely compatibility issues that make it impossible or at least highly impractical.


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 Post subject: Re: PTC and Steam
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 5:32 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 23, 2016 7:05 pm
Posts: 67
Quote:
PTC requires a non-overrideable throttle shut-off and non-overrideable braking capability - not exactly possible with steam.


If this throttle requirement is true can someone please tell me exactly where it is in the regs? I have no problem finding the braking requirements, but...

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 Post subject: Re: PTC and Steam
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 6:05 pm 

Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2015 5:55 pm
Posts: 328
How do they handle steam on signaled mainlines in the UK? Steam on their version of an NEC style heavy passenger line is relatively common, and I'll bet some of it has the equivalent of ATS at a minimum. They did run a steam-powered train through a red board a few years back, which is almost unforgivable, so I wonder how they have adjusted their policies in the aftermath.


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 Post subject: Re: PTC and Steam
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 6:55 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 3:01 pm
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Location: SouthEast Pennsylvania
A while back, Ross Rowland described the Automatic Train Stop installed on his steam locomotive 614 and how the throttle could not be allowed to completely close, lest the cylinders loose the lubrication carried by the steam supply.


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 Post subject: Re: PTC and Steam
PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2017 11:06 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
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Location: southeastern USA
That problem was solved over a century ago. Steam was fed into atomizers which picked up the oil as an entrained mist and carried it into the flow of steam to the valve chest. If we have no steam carried into the valve chest form the throttle, perhaps we can place the atomizers at injection points directly at the valve liner where, fed with a its very small amount of saturated steam only onto the passing rings, it would lubricate well without acting on the piston. The other interesting consideration is centering the reverser when the system trips the throttle closed. In this case the valve sits still, and we can just run the steam atomized oil into the cylinder directly on both sides for lubrication as the locomotive slows and stops.

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