Brutal, Beautiful, Railroad Steel

Rail switchyards are an inherently dangerous place. How do you train engineers to safely connect train cuts to increase safety and reduce cost in rail yards?Cold Steel

You don’t need to look for new switchyard engineers on the job. You just have to listen for them.

There is nothing kind or delicate about switching operations. The cold hard fact is that a railroad’s rolling steel is totally indiscriminate and unforgiving of any incapacity or neglect. This makes working in switchyards incredibly dangerous and potentially expensive if things go wrong.

A Kiss That Sounds Like Thunder

The sound of two train cuts becoming one. How do you teach an engineer to make this massive, brutal tonnage gently dance and then lightly kiss at just the right moment? For workers, it’s an awkward dance that both railroad and rail service providers are the dance instructors for.

I was impressed to watch a new switchyard training tool in action recently. One of our customers is having PST supply full flat yard switching scenarios involving radio communications with conductors plus the measured practice of safe operations using simulation.

Nothing. Nada.

No fuel burn. No derailments. No car damage or injury. Yet, the simulation is extremely physically and visually accurate. Muscle-memory happens. Safe communications become well-worn habits – long before an engineer steps into a switchyard locomotive.

Invisible Man. Invisible Woman.

“Double check confirmed, switches are lined for track 705. Easy forward. Three cars to a stop.”

Brooklyn switchyard tower provides an overview of safe rail switchyard activities and provides visuals for automated rail yard software which assists in the train building execution.While it’s a team sport, the switchyard conductors are often invisible to the engineers. The train cuts are long enough that an engineer can’t see the conductors and can’t ensure they are clear and safe. Safety protocols and clear communication are what keeps those men and women alive and make sure they get home every night in one piece.

Perfect practice makes perfect.

It’s a Beautiful Thing

The women and men of switchyards have critically essential jobs. They ensure our communal success. It’s why America and Canada thrive the way they do. It’s how homes get built and products get to shelves, and it has to be done safely 24/7.

See for yourself. If you get a chance, experience a tower view of switching operations. The slow-motion dance is mesmerizing,  beautiful, even.


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