CP Rail has purchased a spacious motorhome for its Train Dynamics Analyzer (TDA) which is used in Western Canada to help locomotive engineers and trainees learn new train handling techniques.
The computerized TDA is similar in principle to a flight simulator used to train airline pilots, though not quite as elaborate. The motorhome replaces a leased van used to house the TDA since 1977.
Specifications of a given consist and route to be travelled are programmed into the TDA and the operator, using a set of life sized locomotive controls, handles the train over a prescribed course displayed on a video terminal.
CP Rail first incorporated the use of TDAs into the locomotive engineer training program in 1976 with the installation of a stationary unit at Windsor Station.
G.W. (Wally) Norman, manager track/train dynamics in Montreal, said the TDA-equipped motorhome went into service 15 Nov 1982 at Thunder Bay. It will be used in training sessions at the railway's terminals between Thunder Bay and the West Coast while a second mobile TDA will continue to provide the "hands-on" training at railway facilities east of Thunder Bay.
"In the early 1970s, the increasing weight of freight carloads, and the more sophisticated locomotives built to haul them, meant more was required from a locomotive engineer," said Mr. Norman.
"The analyzer, or simulator, is one of the most advanced and sophisticated pieces of locomotive engineer training equipment available today."
CP Rail has about 2,500 locomotive engineers across the system. A little more than a year ago, the company embarked on a rigorous training program in Western Canada to increase their number to handle the growth in freight traffic predicted for later this decade.
Mr. Norman added the TDA teaching program has been expanded to emphasize fuel conservation in train handling. The TDAs permit the comparison of different handling methods in order that locomotive engineers can better understand the impact of their train handling on diesel fuel consumption.
"For example, the AAR (Association of American Railroads) has published a TDA test showing that a four-unit, 12,000 horsepower consist moving through a five mile (eight kilometre) dip, using power braking and Number 8 throttle will consume 64 (U.S.) gallons (242 litres) of fuel to maintain 50 miles per hour (80 kilometres per hour).
"However, by gradually reducing the throttle to the Number 2 setting, using no power braking, and maintaining 50 miles per hour (80 kilometres per hour) only 36 U.S. gallons (136 litres) of fuel were used. This is a considerable saving."
In addition to their training role, the TDAs have proven very successful in helping to determine causes of train derailments.
The running trades members, meanwhile, are able to try out their own theories of train operation in the safety and comfort of the simulators, and this without burning a single ounce of diesel fuel.