Posts Tagged ‘PTC’

Dumb question….but why is Caltrain adding more signals?

In December 2012, Caltrain started construction of the second phase of the Signal Optimization Project to place into service additional signals in the cities of San Mateo and Redwood City.

Lead Agency: Caltrain

Contractors: Transit Constructors LP

Project Limits: San Mateo to Menlo Park

Construction Cost: $549,000

Began Construction: December 2012

Completed Construction: May 2013

Caltrain is already spending one-quarter of a billion dollars on a new PTC system. PTC cab signalling largely eliminates the need for trackside signals. Not having to spend money on maintaining trackside signals was supposed to be one of the benefits of the PTC system.

And no, this isn’t because of some stupid FRA rule. The FRA has signed off on signal removal by other railroads with PTC.

Contractors installing new signal

Contractors installing new signal. Note the giant signal house to contain the “complex” electronics.


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PTC Fail

Here is some shock news. Rail operators are asking for an extension the Federal PTC mandate.

PTC (Positive Train Control) was mandated after the deadly 2008 Chatsworth Metrolink collision, when a train engineer was too busy texting to notice a red signal. The deadline for PTC implementation was to be 2015, but our “friends” at the American Public Transportation Association are arguing for an extension:

But a House bill that would dictate the nation’s future transportation agenda pushes back the installment deadline five years. Rail industry officials say more time is needed to deal with the complexity and costs associated with installing and operating the equipment.

“It’s still really in the product development stage,” said Rob Healy, vice-president of government affairs for the American Public Transportation Association, a trade association for commuter rail operators. “There’s not only a dearth of technology, but also expertise in terms of getting this installed.”

This is truly one of those facepalm moments. Automatic train control is a mature technology, not requiring any “product development”. ERTMS (to use one example) is an off-the-shelf worldwide standard. Instead, rail operators have taken a “not invented here” approach, leading to massive cost blow-outs and schedule delays.

BTW, here are some hilarious photos of the prototype PTC proposed for Caltrain. I feel safer already.



A printer…WTF? Caltrain’s PTC application states the following:

Thermal line printer technology which is currently used in various applications such as gas station pumps and rental car agencies could easily be adapted to the railroad environment. The small size and mobility make placement on rolling stock is a non-issue. However, close attention must be paid to maintain adequate paper supply. A document holder that will require relocation and available space for a printer to be mounted on the fireman/observers desk top are depicted in Figure 14.

In case you are wondering, the printer is to provide “hard-copy” confirmation of orders to the engineer. At least they aren’t using stone tablets.


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