Train Control, Signaling, and Switch Heaters

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Generator housing unit. Modern Railroads

Owing to the remote territory involved on the Eastern Division project, there was no commercial power available from Flanigan east, with the exception of a few isolated locations, such as, Gerlach, Wendover, Wells and Winnemucca. This made it necessary for the signal department to arrange for their own power supply.

Diesel generator sets were constructed by the King-Knight Company of San Francisco, California (Buda Engine distributors), and the D. W. Onan and Sons Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota in conformity with the railroads specifications. These sets were then installed in duplicate at each siding. The two diesel generator sets were complete in one housing with a control panel. Sets operated continuously; one set being operated for a two-week period, while the other operated as an automatic standby. At the end of the two-week period, the sets were interchanged so that the original standby operated as a normal unit. A two-weeks interchange period was established as it was necessary to change lubricating oil at that time, as well as make a cursory examination of the unit. Storage facilities for approximately 400 gallons of fuel oil were available at each location. These tanks would be filled once each month by a diesel peddler car designed and operated by the signal department.

The lube oil was stored in quantity in a bulk tank within the housing. The level of the lube oil supply on each individual unit was maintained through the use of a constant level control device in order to preclude possibility of a shut down due to low oil pressure. The diesel sets were equipped with a number of safety devices to safeguard against overspeed, overheating, low oil pressure and low voltage. The diesels normally operated at 1200 rpm, established to reduce maintenance costs to a minimum. Oil filters, lube oil and water were checked once a week, with a change of lube oil being made every two weeks; lube filters were changed as required. A special fueling arrangement was designed to preclude difficulty with starting standby sets due to air lock on the fuel system. In view of the extremely dusty condition of the Nevada desert, the air intake was filtered and the engines equipped with pusher type fans. These fans would blow against the gravity louvers so that the louvers would normally be shut whenever the individual engine was shut down.

The generators were all 3-kilowatt, 60 cycle, single-phase, 240-volt machines. The Onan sets used two cylinder diesel engines changed from 1800-rpm to 1200-rpm, developing about 10-hp, using about 0.6 gallons of diesel fuel per hour. Generators were changed from four-pole to six-pole and output from 5-kilowatts to 3½-kilowatts. Each unit had a separate 12-volt direct current circuit for charging the starting batteries, also "Synchro-Start" automatic starting equipment was provided for almost automatic starting of the standby set in case of power failure from the operating set. The units, powered by two-cylinder, 10-hp Buda diesels driving 3-kilowatt General Electric generators, built by the King-Knight Company, had comparable specifications and included automatic starters, also King-Knight equipment.

In addition to the above mentioned diesel generator facilities, all signal maintainers, in territories where power was furnished from commercial sources, were furnished with 3-kilowatt portable generators. These generators were found to be necessary due to the susceptibility of commercial feeds to power interruption for long periods of time. This susceptibility to failure of the commercial source was due in part to the inaccessibility of transmission lines throughout the mountain territory.

By the end of 1951 the entire CTC system from Portola to Weso (with 17 diesel-electric power stations using 34 engines) was now in service and construction underway between Alazon and Wendover with eight stations. The control machine for the Alazon-Salt Lake City territory (a distance of 213 miles) would also be controlled from Elko—a distance of 48 miles west of the farthest west control point. Thus, the entire Eastern Division would be handled by the two control machines located at Elko. These two machines also had spare facilities available in the event of installation of CTC on the paired-track territory between Weso and Elko which was then operated through the medium of single direction automatic block, as mentioned previously.

Original semaphore signals between
Weso and Alazon.

The original installation of the two-position Style “B” semaphore signals between Weso and Alazon (a distance of 177 miles) was also being converted to three-indication searchlight signals during1951. In addition to converting the two-position Style “B” signals (original spacing approximately 10,000 feet with 6000 foot overlap), the signals were been re-spaced to 10,500 feet in order to provide adequate braking distance for high-speed tonnage freight trains. Where this interval was not provided, due to physical conditions, the fourth (approach medium) indication was installed. This was in accordance with practice on the CTC installation where a similar spacing had been provided.

Pushing ahead with what was now known as the Traffic Control System ("TCS" is also commonly referred to as "CTC" or Centralized Traffic Control) operation of the automatic train signaling and switching system on July 14, 1952 had now been extended to Wendover, Utah marking the completion of 86% of the mainline project begun in 1943.

Yard track indicators were installed at all yards in the TCS territory in order to facilitate freight train movements into the yard with a minimum of delay with the indicator being controlled by the yardmaster at the respective yards.

Special protective equipment was also installed throughout the TCS territory. These devices consisted of high water detectors, fire detectors and slide fences. The slide fences installed were a prefabricated metal structure designed by the railroad. The prefabricated metal design was adopted as a means of reducing labor costs as compared to the original wood structures.

Large portions of the TCS territory both on the Eastern and Western divisions were subject to heavy snow fall. With the advent of TCS and use of the Time Code Control System many more functions became available to the centrally located dispatchers. Taking advantage of the new possibilities signal forces began installing remotely controlled switch heaters on all power switches subject to snow during the winter months between Oroville and Salt Lake City. Using propane gas, once placed in service very little attention by maintenance forces was needed with the exception of filling the 500-gallon propane storage tank at each location. Seasonal maintenance consisted of cleaning and a complete inspection of the unit in the fall. Consisting of ceramic burners with an igniter, a battery, and pressure switch with bi-metal control contacts the installed heater was mounted along and below the outer ball of the stock rail. Held in place by steel brackets fastened to the ties the burner unit was enclosed in specially treated steel baffles designed to prevent loss of flame due to high winds or the passage of a fast train.

Control of the heaters was from three locations, one in Oroville and the other two at Elko, one on each dispatcher’s panel. Oroville controlled the Feather River Canyon to Portola with Elko controlling all heaters east of Portola. When conditions warranted use of the heaters the controlling code was initiated on the appropriate panel. Once received a field line code storage unit would cause a relay to reverse, which sent current to an operating valve, which would open permitting the flow of propane to the burners. With a flow of gas the pressure switch closed to the ignition circuit allowing a heavy surge of current causing a “hot wire” element to heat and ignite the gas at the burners. Only one igniter was provided with each burner on each side of the rail. Ignition of the other burners was via a flash tube similar to older gas stoves. Once lit the heat produced caused movement in the bi-metal controls that opened the ignition circuit and stopped the flow of current to the hot wire elements. Movements of the bi-metal controls also sent a signal to the dispatcher showing normal operation and allowed the signal department to track usage of the heaters and calculate the quantity of gas remaining.

The entire TCS system was controlled from just two points. The Western Division, Oakland to Portola, was operated by three machines located at Sacramento. The Eastern Division, Portola to Salt Lake City, Utah, was controlled by two machines at Elko, Nevada. The various symbols on the map represent trackage controlled by the five panels. Modern Railroads

When completed in 1953 the entire railroad would have but two division control points, Elko, Nevada controlling the two subdivisions between Portola and Salt Lake City, on the eastern end and Sacramento, California whose control was over the three subdivisions between Oakland and Portola, on the western end. Completion of TCS and signal installation came on January 14, 1953 when at 3:01 pm the last 72 miles of previously non-signaled main line between Delle and Salt Lake City, Utah came under dispatcher TCS control. New CTC remote controls were installed at Wells, Nevada in 1957 eliminating the need for train orders and manual control of switching over between WP and SP tracks at Alazon for operation over the 178-mile paired track between Alazon and Weso, Nevada. With the exception of branch lines this was the last location train orders were used on the Western Pacific.

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