How do Switches work in Real life Opperations?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by smullen, Dec 6, 2006.

  1. smullen

    smullen New Member

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    I was looking some railroad tracks around my house on maps.google.com (nerdy, I know) and saw several sites that had switches for multiple track choices, which made me wonder...

    How are these controlled? Where from? The Train? Remote location? where???

    Can anyone shed some light on how this works on a real opperation???

    It would make me kinda nervous heading for one of these at about 60 MPH (or whatever average train speed is) and not being the one in control....
  2. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

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    In the olden days, they were manually switched. Now they are remotely controlled by some command center that monitors the train movements. Sort of like traffic control in an airport I suppose.
  3. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

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    Back in the olden days, I think they used Interlock Towers...

    Basically, all the turnouts in a yard are mechanically linked to levers in an interlock tower, where the operators with a good view of the whole yard will throw those big levers in their tower to set the turnouts. They are in constant communication with train conductors via signal lamps or flags before radio communications came along I think.

    These days I think the turnouts are usually electrically remote-controlled by a central dispatch/operations center.

    Just my guess. I have never worked for railroads so I don't know for sure.
  4. railohio

    railohio Active Member

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    Depends entirely on the railroad and situation. Most mainline turnouts for crossovers and sidings in signaled territory are controlled remotely by dispatchers. These are electrically operated by switch motors from distant control centers, the location and design of which depends on the railroad. Some instances have these turnouts controlled locally, from a control tower as stated by the previous posters. This can include yard trackage or mainline towers that were never converted over to the centralized location. There are also hand-throw switches, just like on model railroads. These are used for industrial spurs and on low-density rail lines. They are thrown by the conductor, or sometimes brakeman or utility man, if one exists for a particular job.
  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

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    Denser mainlines are centrally controlled and the signals are interlocked with the switches -- a route is set and then the signals are cleared; if the switch is curved the signals are set for a slower speed. (Canadian style operations.) Sidings are usually slower speed anyway, and most don't come directly off the main line.
    However, there are exceptions. Some railroads don't have signals (!) and the train crew finds out when they see the switchstand. There have been a number of accidents lately where a switch has been left reversed and the crew wasn't expecting it.