Those Are My Rolling Stock

Discussion in 'The Real Thing- North America' started by Bob Collins, Aug 13, 2003.

  1. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member

    I am curious about whether or not railroads in the US make any effort at all to track where their rolling stock might be? Granted the unit trains for hauling coal are usually the same brand name as is on the motive power, but it seems to end there.

    For instance, the UPRR builds so many box cars every year, most likely based on what they have learned is the normal age for such a car to last. But if they add 100 (example) new box cars this year, how do they find the ones they want to retire?

  2. Dave Flinn

    Dave Flinn Member

    Where Is That Car??


    I don't know all the details of how it is done; but it is my understanding that every railroad knows where all its rolling stock is at any time. After all, they have to pay, and get paid, the appropriate per diem charges. I also believe that they try to route the cars to be retired "home" as quickly as possible.

    Perhaps someone who works in the industry will jump in here and give a more detailed explanation.
  3. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member

    Hi Dave;

    I have been thinking about it a little more since making the posting and wonder if in this day and age the railroads might even have a barcode on each piece of rolling stock that can be scanned and reported electronically to some central repository for such info. That would take care of the per diem issue as well as allow them to direct the cars needing to be taken out of service toward the shops.

    Makes sense to me, but might no to the railroads!!

  4. Hoghead

    Hoghead Member

    Most cars roaming the country today are in pool service. Cars are kept track of by the railroads. They are tracked by where they are loaded, interchanged, switched out and delivered. Just about every yard that I have been to has a "camera" outside the limits of those yards. As the train passes each car is recorded. The yardmaster will then print up a consist for the conductor which has the cars initials and ID number, the lading and destination.

    However, from time to time things do get misplaced, about 5 yrs ago we had a message in our orders to keep an eye out for a missing locomotive and report it to the dispatcher.
  5. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member

    Years ago, when I was in the service and assigned overseas, my furniture sat in a boxcar in San Diego for six weeks while someone supposedly was looking for it.

    It must have slipped by the camera when it was looking the other direction:D :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

  6. Hoghead

    Hoghead Member

    That might have been before the camera's came into service. before that the carriers used that old bar code system.
  7. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    When the U.P. first took over the S.P., they had things so screwed up, it is a wonder they had any idea where any rolling stock was. A friend works for a company here in So Cal that makes pvc pipe. The U.P. lost three tanks car loads of chemicals coming to So Cal from Texas. His company gave got fed up with U.P., and switched all of their business to BNSF. 3 months after the cars were due for delivery, they got word that the three tanks, shipped from Texas to So Cal, were found- in Chicago!
  8. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member

    I'm aware that the UPRR had some monumental problems during the time of the take over of the SP, especially in the Houston area where the federal government was going to get involved if things didn't get better in a hurry, but there is a reason for that, if not a valid excuse.

    What caused me to wonder was really just everyday operations. I imagine it is important for every railroad to know where their grain cars are located at harvest time and where their car carriers are in relationship to the automobile manufacturing facilities, but I also imagine that there is a great need to know where the cars to haul general cargo are at any given time.

    I suppose that if you have lots more cars than you need you probably don't have a real problem, but that would be terribly ineffecient!! But then, of course, railroads have that reputation too!!

  9. Dave Flinn

    Dave Flinn Member

    Further Rolling Stock Comments

    It just dawned on me that lots of freight cars have colored bars on the side. It is my understanding that this, at one time, was a means of car identification, and I think these were read by the "camera" mentioned in other posts. I believe I also read that this system is no longer in use, but I'm not sure. If not, I don't know what system is used presently. And, yes, we've all heard of "lost" cars and shipments, but I would guess they are probably in the minority.

    Once again, I look to those more familiar with present day operations to fill us in on the gaps here.
  10. Hoghead

    Hoghead Member

    The meltdown of '97-'98 affected the whole UP system and yes it started in Houston and spread quickly. Mainlines and sidings became parking lots with crews sitting on the trains for 12 plus hours and not moving an inch. in some cases the same crews sat on the same trains after being rested and called back to work.
  11. CarlFidy

    CarlFidy Member

    Look for the grey bar....

    I think most cars are tracked electronically. If your looking at the side of a railcar, towards the right side on the bottom "sill" you'll see a grey rectangle about 4" by 9". This looks like the same type of device many states use for "automatic" toll collection on toll roads. As the car goes by a stationary "antenna" location, the grey box transmits it's indentification.

    BNSF Cherokee Yard in Tulsa used to have a camera system(I think one camera at each end of the yard, with a flood light that would come on as a train passed at night). And the multi-colored bar labels were a identification system at one time, maybe used with camera's and computer sytem to translate the colored "barcodes".
  12. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Cars are now tracked by computer.When it comes time to retire or
    rebuild a car that car is located,then a note is attached saying:
    DO NOT RELOAD RETURN TO HOME ROAD.Then the car is return to the road that owns it and then is sent to their car shops for repair,rebuilding or retirement...Now sometimes these cars is sent to a contract car re-builder to be rebuilt.Light running repairs,such as a broken coupler,airhose etc, can be made by any road.
  13. interurban

    interurban Active Member

    That`s about right brakie, when we did the C P yard tour up here in Toronto we saw it in action.:D
  14. Hoghead

    Hoghead Member

    The newer Tropicana reefers have GPS tracking. Which doesn't really mean much where I work since they have a whole train dedicated to hauling orange juice.
  15. pcentral

    pcentral Member

    It is my understanding here in CA they use the barcodes that pass a scanner as mentioned earlier. When we toured the UP's Roseville, CA yard about two years ago, part of the tour included the hump yard. As cars came to the throat they passed a scanner which read the barcode and sent the info to 2 computer operators inside the nearby office who then input data that showed up on a message board outside that the brakeman? read and knew where to break the cars at. The car or cars would roll down into the yard on whichever track the computer operators had designated. It was really something to watch!
  16. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Old barcode system

    Dave Flinn, you remember the old tracking system. This had the coloured bars that were read by a trackside scanner.
    This was retired because of problems. The bars were unreadable when dirty and, I heard, there were a lot of errors in the coding.
    There was a funny cartoon a few years ago showing a trackside scanner going mad trying to read a holstein cow.
    Now what was that system called?

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