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Thread: How Do They Do It?

  1. #1
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    How Do They Do It?

    How do railway companies keep track of where all their freight cars are? Is that engine in the middle of the train remote controlled or something?

    Long story - I got stuck at a railway crossing just as a slow moving freight was going by. There were two engines(lots of black smoke), eighty-four cars, another engine (also apparently working quite hard) then fourty-three more cars. I didn't see anyone obvious in the middle engine.

    --Dave

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    Re: How Do They Do It?

    Interesting question. Yes I think it is remote controlled. What I've seen here is something similar with passenger trains: there is an engine at the back pushing the train and the driver is in the front carriage (with a cabin for the driver) where he can control the engine. The benefit of that system is that the train can easily change direction at a station with only one engine. I don't know why the freight train you describe has an engine in the middle, maybe they plan to split that train later on.
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    Re: How Do They Do It?

    Saw this on PBS, or maybe Modern Marvels a few years ago. Something to do with barcodes and RF scanners. These scanners are placed at intervals along the track and when a train passes by, the scanner reads the cars as they pass. Info such as current cargo, destination/origin, weight, and such are recorded. The extra engines are tethered into the main control engine and thus controlled by it. Trains of considerable length have helper engines to be powered up when needed.

    In the US, every mile of track is mapped out at control centers throughout the nation. Companies know where every train and car is at in real time and can plan routes, diversions, breaking and joining and a whole host of other things. Hell, now there some trains that are even entirely remote controlled! Follows a preplanned route, the computer uses GPS to know where its at, and can speed up and slow down accordingly. And funny thing is, pound for pound, kilo for kilo, trains get better mileage than your average economy car! 1,000,000 tons of cargo on a gallon of diesel fuel! (This last line is from a commercial!LOL)

    At any rate, Railway logistics is simply amazing. Everything just has to work, the equipment, people, its baffling.

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    Re: How Do They Do It?

    On a different note I read (cannot retrieve it but the source was a known newspaper) that in France there is close to 1 million euros worth of lost train cars. Not freight or anything, whole cars ^^
    The article stated the train company rents some out and looses them, some are stuck in remote garages and get forgotten etc. I did not cross check the info at the time.
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    Re: How Do They Do It?

    Considering how much those train cars must be worth, I wouldn't think a million euros worth are that many? I was reading that a box car can be worth around 100,000 *dollars*.
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    Re: How Do They Do It?

    Quote Originally Posted by VTPoet View Post
    Considering how much those train cars must be worth, I wouldn't think a million euros worth are that many? I was reading that a box car can be worth around 100,000 *dollars*.
    Well, the article was a little biased. This was half of the company deficit at the time, during a raise in train tickets. So quite controversial..
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    Re: How Do They Do It?

    The trains don't move by themselves and they don't carry product for free. You don't need high tech gadgets to track a train car worth six figures with often with another six to seven figures of materials inside. There are already a ton of people whose jobs it is to route, plan, and execute those shipments. There are 108,000 people in the United States working as logisticians according to the BLS.

    Deciding how, when, and where to send things via rail, truck, air, etc is fairly complex. Its not like they just release them into the wild and then try to look for them a year down the line.

    http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-...gisticians.htm

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    Re: How Do They Do It?

    Quote Originally Posted by echotech2 View Post
    How do railway companies keep track of where all their freight cars are? Is that engine in the middle of the train remote controlled or something?

    Long story - I got stuck at a railway crossing just as a slow moving freight was going by. There were two engines(lots of black smoke), eighty-four cars, another engine (also apparently working quite hard) then fourty-three more cars. I didn't see anyone obvious in the middle engine.

    --Dave
    Quite likely that the "empty" locomotive in the middle was a mid-train bank engine that was controlled electrically or by radio.
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  9. #9
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    Re: How Do They Do It?

    Thanks all for the infomation.

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    Re: How Do They Do It?


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