Freight Train Speeds & Train Length?

Discussion in 'The Real Thing- North America' started by RobertInOntario, Jun 11, 2007.

  1. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, David -- that's very helpful and clears away my confusion! Cheers, Rob
  2. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    I think David has explained this quite well. Simply put, in order for the railways to better manage their lines, they arbitrarily divide their lines into subdivisions or simply "subs".

    On CP the Winchester sub runs from Dorval to Smiths Falls. One train crew runs a train from Dorval to Smiths Falls. At Smiths Falls, the crew gets off and another train crew gets on to run the train from Smiths Falls to Toronto. Smiths Falls is referred to as a "division point" - a place where the trains change crews.

    Another example is CP Rail's Laggan sub from Calgary to Field BC, Mountain sub from Field to Revelstoke, and another sub from Revelstoke to Kamloops.

    In the old days of steam, the division points were usually determined on the distance that a steam locomotive could run before it required servicing. It usually was also the maximum length of time that a train crew could operate the train. Typically in the old days, this was about 125 miles - eg on CN's mainline Montreal to Brockville, Brockville to Belleville, Belleville to Toronto.

    With the advent of diesels, the division points got reduced so that CN trains run from Montreal to Belleville and Belleville to Toronto.

    One can also get lop-sided subs such as CP Rail's Winchester sub is about 125 mile long but the Belleville sub is about 250 miles long. The time, however, to cover these two different distance is about the same as train crews spend a lot of time pulling trains out of downtown Montreal before they can highball it at 50 - 60 mph. On the Belleville sub, however, they're up to 50 - 60 mph in about 10 minutes.

    Bob M.
  3. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Bob. This is great and explains it very well! You've cleared up a lot of questions and explained terms that I really did not understand (i.e. division points).

    Because of the huge distances in Canada (and USA) I would think that subs and division points would be much more crucial than they are in Britain. So that's probably why I had not (knowingly) come across these terms in British "railway language".

    On the other hand, I'm sure that there is/was a similar practice in the UK but that they'd use different terms. While Britain is geographically smaller than Ontario, I could still see the need for some sort of division points -- can anyone comment further? The trip from London to (say) Glasgow is pretty long, for example.

    (I realize this is getting off the original topic!)


  4. galt904

    galt904 Member

    CP's St. Thomas sub is about 33 miles long. :)
  5. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Yes, mileposts start from 0 again on each successive subdivision.
  6. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks again, Triplex. I'm finding this really interesting and it totally makes sense. I'm kind of annoyed (embarrassed) I didn't know this earlier ! wall1

    I'm still curious to find out if they have subs and division points in the UK. I'm sure they have something similar, but on a smaller scale, and almost certainly will have different terms! :mrgreen: I'll have to try to ask my British friends these questions!

    Thanks, Rob
  7. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Hey Rob, the only embarrassing question is the one you don't ask. That's why this forum is here - to increase our knowledge and enjoyment of this great hobby of railroading - whether it's Z, HO, O, G, or even 12" to the foot.

    Bob M.
  8. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Bob. I agree -- I've sure learned a lot from this forum. Rob
  9. kutler

    kutler Member

    Employee timetables

    The best place to find information on train speeds is employee timetables. Permanent speeds and speed restrictions are placed there.
    Temporary speed restrictions are issed by general bulletin orders.(GBO)

    Canadian Pacific Historical assoc. has a website which has access to old employee timetables. It might be amusing to compare old speeds in relation to current ones. I suspect the most disparity would be found on branchlines which used to be well maintained, but have become areas of deferred maintenence.
  10. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Just though I'd post the legal speed limits in the US...

    49mph or track conditions...whichever is lower...for un-signaled lines.
    79mph or track conditions...whichever is less...for track signals...but no cab signals.
    Unlimited for track & cab signals.

    Typically, each locomotive has an efficiency curve...and railroads want their engineers to be at the peak of the curve without exceeding track speed...that way they're moving the most freight at the lowest cost. On steam locomotives...the throttle being wide open is known as "the company notch"
  11. ChadYelland

    ChadYelland Member

    Speedlimit is 45mph unless otherwise posted and its posted alot, i guess 2 guys in a highrail truck can't maintain the miles of track that 2-4men per 10miles used too. speeds are restricted mostly due to track condition, I've walked a few miles doing my research for my layout, bolts missing from joints, hammered rail tops, mushroomed rail heads, rotten or even missing ties, the speed around here was down to 15mph, just broke a rail a couple days ago here, bet they were glad they were only going 15mph
  12. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Chad! Good point about track conditions -- I'm sure that's part of it.

    I think, I've come to a partial answer on all this. I believe that the speed limits on many subs around Toronto are lower. Last fall, I was near a rail line in my home town of Ingersoll, Ont. (where I remember seeing very fast freight trains), and a freight suddenly thundered through doing something like 70 mph. My uncle said that freight trains routinely fly through around 70-80 mph and that residents sometimes complain about it.

    So I think speed limits are higher in more rural areas, such as SW and E Ontario, and probably slower around Toronto.

  13. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    The speed limit will depend upon the track conditions and whether the track is operated by the major railways (CN and CP) or by a shortline operator.

    A shortline operator will put very little time and effort into maintaining the track. They don't need to as they can take their time picking up and delivering freight cars the short distances (relatively speaking) to the industry.

    However, the majors are running time-sensitive intermodal freights which need to arrive on time. Otherwise they will be charged penalties. So, the majors invest a lot of time and money into track maintenance.

    While there are no section crews that maintained a 5 - 10 mile chunk of track, the track today is maintained in "better condition" than in previous years. It's just that everything has gone high-tech. For example, CP inspects their track between Toronto and Montreal every 3 months using a special train pulled by a GP9. The train consists of 3 stainless steel cars. The last car has a large "bay window" with two "operators" looking at each rail. Each operator has a computer in front of them. As they see defects in the roadbed and trackwork, a click of the mouse automatically notes the mileage and problem. At the end of the run, the information is given to the roadmaster responsible for the subdivision who then makes sure the work is carried out.

    Then there's the Sperry Rail Services vehicles that regularly patrol the rails. The SRS self-propelled cars (and their new 10 ton Hy-Rail trucks) do a "magnetic imaging" of every section of rail. This magnetic imaging detects cracks and flaws in the rails so that the rail can be outchanged.

    And there are track maintenance crews stationed at Division points or at key places along the way. However, they no longer travel to the job on putt-putt speeders as in days gone by. And they no longer wield spike mauls. They travel along the highway in their hy-rail 10 ton trucks. The trucks have hydraulic booms to lift ties and rails. The spikes are driven in by hydraulic spike hammers that look like a jack hammer. The bolts are tightened by hydraulic-driven impact guns. The rails are cut by motorized cutoff saws that resemble a chain saw with a 14" carborundrum blade.

    Ties are replaced by specialized crews and equipment that operate out of Toronto and Ottawa. The equipment consists of Fairmont-Harsco hydraulic tie removers, tie inserters, and spikers. If you are interested in buying some of this equipment used, visit the CP Rail Asset Disposal website.

    Two additional pieces of equipment consists of the hydraulic ballast tamper that tamps the ballast underneath the tie, making sure that the transition over the section of track is smooth, that the ties are level between rails, or have the proper super-elevation on curves. The ballast regulator then "trims" the ballast so that the crushed stone is flush with the tops of the ties and properly sloped on the sides of the roadbed.

    The ballast tamper and ballast regulator also operate alone retamping and re-levelling the track.

    So, it all depends on which railway line and railway you're looking at. And, just because a few spikes might have worked loose doesn't mean that the rails are about to spread apart. It takes a lot to move those rails.

    And it also depends on the "philosophy" and money that each railway puts into track maintenance. In the case of CP Rail, their track maintenance budget has been over $150 million a year. Quite a chunk of change, eh!?

    Bob M.
  14. ChadYelland

    ChadYelland Member

    Well, X-ray or mangneticaly tested maybe, and yes i've seen the sperry cars. This track sees pretty regular loaded grain trains as you can tell by the shine. still doesn't look good to me. but maybe my standards are higher then nessisary.
  15. galt904

    galt904 Member

    There's a standard for so many good ties per mile to maintain a certain class of track....
  16. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Wow -- that's an interesting pic. I don't think I've ever seen gaps like that in the track. So I guess the gaps that are in my layout's track then are more prototypical than I thought! :mrgreen:

    At any rate, this makes me want to have a closer look at some of the track in the GTA.

  17. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    A few years before I retired, I was sent out to San Bernardino to repair some cab air conditioning units on BNSF ballast tampers. This was right after the merger between the BN and the SF. Of course all of the guys at San Bernardino were SF people. I asked the supervisor I was working with what he thought of the merger. His respons was that BN had slowed the Santa Fe down ten years! In effect the Santa Fe was back to running at the speeds they ran ten years previous. I don't know if they have picked up speed since then or not. I presume they have.
  18. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    For several years at least, the ties on the mainline through here were... well, they didn't look exactly like that, but just as bad. They're finally starting to re-tie the line, but I did wonder how it managed to hold up under frequent heavy trains. Incidentally, until this year, I'd thought many model railroads were over-ballasted. Then, a few months before starting re-tie-ing (how exactly should I write that?), they added a substantial excess of ballast. A lot scattered over the ties, and the shoulders were raised several inches from the middle! I'll never look at sectional roadbed track the same way again. It's too neat, yes, but I can no longer say it looks like too much ballast.
  19. puddlejumper

    puddlejumper Member

    As to freight train speed... I watched a video once of the Super C and it was impressive, 5 SD45s and 70 MPH is impressive. I worked with an ex-PRR/PC/CR engineer fairly regularly before he retired from CSX and he used to tell storys of 70/80/90 MPH trains on the NEC... back when it was still accepted practice to exceed speed limits to make up time while the officials looked the other way.

    As far as my experience I can remember the newsletters CSX used to put out, striving to break 20 MPH average train speed. This was back in the 1998-2002 time frame right after the CR takeover and average train speed was down to 12-13 MPH for awhile there. I don't remember the name of the reports but it showed terminal dwell time, foreign cars online, locomotive leases, average train speed, etc.

    I always wanted to pull a true "fast freight" but the closest I ever came was 60 MPH on the RF&P. I guess that is fast freight at it's best nowadays, at least in the east.

  20. santafewillie

    santafewillie Member

    Ditto what Russ said. Around here ATSF lines received more regular maintenance before the merger than they received after the merger. I know a thirty-year BN maintenance guy who was amazed at frequency of the ATSF maintenance. They have stepped it up in the last six-seven years and trains are back to 60+ mph (I pace them on a parallel highway), between Ft Worth and Gainsville. During the late 90's I paced many of them around 50 mph...normally had to lose them due to other highway traffic tailgating me.

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