September, 2000: 6’3”, 180 #s, waist 36
September, 2017: 6’3”, 200 #s, waist 37
September, 2018: 6’2’’, 200 #s, waist 37

I am 71, and as recently as last year I was 6’3”, 200 #s.

About 2 months ago I noticed that my jeans were dragging the ground when worn; I had to turn up the pants’ legs. This particular brand of U.S.- made jeans (Agave), when first purchased, have always been an inch or so too-short for my waist size. BUT, when I washed them, I would stretch the legs when wet and let them dry hanging from the legs. Within 2 washings, they were stretched enough to be personally comfortable (presentable). They were never placed in the dryer.

Clearly, I had somehow managed to stretch that pair too far. So, I tried on another pair … and another pair … and another pair. They were all too long. My significant  training in statistics made me understand (as in Daaaaahhhh!) that the issue was not the pants. Rather, it was ME! . . . I had shrunk. Quick to the internet, and YES!, shrinking at my point in my life was clearly likely. Who would have thought? The benefit is that I can now place my jeans in the dryer – which leaves them soft and flexible.

So Ron! What’s your point?

Most of the freight railroads in the U.S., as well as across the globe, continue to depend upon the same traffic control “jeans” from a century ago, i.e., conventional signaling driven by the vitality of track circuits and control points. These jeans will begin to come up short, if not already, to handle increasing freight traffic requirements that continue to expand in the U.S. largely due to the introduction of intermodal traffic. And, the predictions by some Class I railroad executives predict major constraints of the current jeans to meet the projected requirements by 2025. So! The jeans need to be stretched or possibly replaced.

In the minds of conventional railroad-management thinking, the only way to handle forthcoming shortages is to build more railroad using the same jeans, which is unquestionably the MOST COST-INEFFICIENT way given both the extensive capital investment and on-going maintenance required for CTC wayside infrastructure. Rather, I propose 2 other ideas to meet the future demands without building more railroad: 1. STRETCH, and/or 2. REPLACE / COMPLEMENT the jeans, as follows:

The Federal mandate for PTC has FORCED the major freight railroads to install a wireless data infrastructure. Until that 2008 mandate, only several Class Is were giving serious consideration to implement such infrastructure. It is the Mandate, and NOT the functionality of PTC, that provides the opportunity for business benefits by delivering both train SPEED and actual POSITION of trains in that CTC can provide neither. That is, such data are required to advance the real-time management of the primary assets, including track utilization, locomotives, cars, yards, crews, and maintenance forces. With such data the railroads can deploy PROACTIVE asset management of those resources by using mathematics-based tools to quickly adjust to changes in operations – versus the CRISIS management procedures that have existed for a century. In the U.S., Norfolk Southern (NS) has taken the lead to do so. To be clear, this is not the same as CSX’s pursuit of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR). PSR is an extremely important concept, but its value is constrained by the other railroads with which CSX interconnects that are not operating to schedule. Proactive operations are required by all railroads to dynamically adjust to each railroad’s individual perception of scheduled operations.

In the September, 2018 issue of Railway Age, my article regarding Virtual Railroading (VR) describes an advance traffic control, asset management, and enforcement (PTC) approach that has yet to be considered by U.S. freight, even though it is in revenue service elsewhere. The primary basis of VR is the deployment of the ultimate jeans that is achievable with the shift from the analog world to a digital/virtual one. I refer to this as Virtual CTC (VCTC) which requires minimal wayside infrastructure, e.g., switch monitoring devices, in addition to a WIRELESS DATA network (now provided via the PTC mandate) in concert with, or replacing, the current extensive wireless voice network. CTC uses virtual positioning of the locomotive via augmented GPS as well as end-of-train positioning depending upon the complexity of the traffic pattern. Hence, no wayside positioning or vital infrastructure, e.g., signals, track circuits, and control points, is required. VCTC can operate as either fixed and/or virtual block as well as provide train integrity. As to broken-rail detection for VCTC that does not use track circuits, there are several ways to provide it if indeed the railroad requires such (many European railroads do not) including down-graded track circuits and fiber sensing technologies now being deployed by major railroads.

The reason that VCTC has not been implemented in the U.S. is several-fold. First, with little to no maintenance, Labor is going to have a major issue as it does for 1-man crews and driverless operations. Second, traditional manufacturers don’t want to provide systems that greatly reduced revenue both as to capital expenditures and on-going maintenance. Third, U.S. freight railroads technicians are just that. They are not technologists that apply the business case for technological alternatives. Fourth, railroads’ upper management are not being presented, and/or don’t involve themselves with designing a strategic technology plan in sync with a strategic marketing plan.

BTW, as to that human-shrinking issue, keep in mind the following. It so happens that I had a chiropractor visit several weeks ago for some relief from “inconveniences” that sometimes occur due to my hardcore skiing over the years. An MRI was taken, and my height was measured, and indeed I was 6’2”, maybe 6’ 1’ now. My chiropractor explained with a simple analogy for my spine health. Dr. Carter said: “Think of a bank account for which you cannot deposit and only withdraw. Your (mine) spine only has so much form which to withdraw. Use that spine equity as you will … and you will likely continue to shrink some more in any event.”

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply

Leave a comment or send a note
  1. (required)
  2. (valid email required)
  3. (required)
  4. Send
  5. Captcha

cforms contact form by delicious:days

Follow StratRail on Twitter
Strategic Railroading™
Given recent tech advances there is now an unprecedented opportunity to advance railroad operations and the integration of high speed rail with freight. Real-time traffic management and communication is possible without significant development and deployment costs, but it will take a technology strategy working hand-in-hand with an operational strategy, it will take Strategic Railroading.™
Full Spectrum - Quarterly Journal

Full Spectrum is a quarterly railroading journal authored by Mr. Ron Lindsey. The majority of executives in the US railroad industry, including top members of the FRA and the major railroads, have subscribed to Full Spectrum for the past fifteen years.

Full Spectrum subscriptions are available by contacting Ron via email. If you are concerned with staying abreast of the newest advances in rail technology or operations strategy, it is highly recommended you subscribe in order to maintain your competitive advantage.

Back issues are on sale here.

Purchase Full Spectrum Issues
Your cart is empty
Visit The Shop