31.1.17

HAVE YOU CONSIDERED BETTER DISPATCHING?

As part of the ongoing efforts to add more Hiawatha frequencies between Milwaukee and Chicago, the freight railroads would like to provide additional capacity for recessing trains, both on the former Milwaukee Road trackage used by the passenger trains and on the Union Pacific's Freight Bypass, which Canadian Pacific freight trains use from Northbrook to Bensenville to avoid obstructing commuter trains for and from Chicago.
One nearly two-mile holding track is planned between Highway 60 in Lake Forest and Rondout near Highway 176, according to the assessment. Another of approximately the same length is planned between West Lake Avenue in Glenview and Techny Road in Northbrook. The third, 1,500 feet long for Metra trains, will extend north from Greenwood Avenue in Deerfield.
The first mentioned track would involve some filling in of wetlands in the neighborhood of the old Armour estate, where the grounds of one mansion have been subdivided for the construction of multiple McMansions, but there is space along the right of way for it.  The second is along the Freight Bypass.  The shorter track will permit additional scoots to short-turn at Deerfield.  You'll note such trains in the current Milwaukee North Line schedules; these must flip back on one of the main tracks.  That can interfere with the movement of freight trains, or of late-running Empire Builders (or other long-distance Amtrak trains, should such ever occur.)

It's the siding along the Freight Bypass that appears to be aggravating the locals.  "Of particular concern in Northbrook is how long delays will be at grade crossings like Techny Road as the freights slow down and speed up because of time spent on the holding track."

To some extent, such delays can be mitigated by sharper dispatching, although I have it from sources among rail professionals that dispatching has become a lost art.  My earlier post on the sidings flap noted a number of other possibilities, including upgrading the Union Pacific Freight Bypass, and restoring the outside sidings elsewhere along The Milwaukee Road.  Maybe I should finish the computer simulation I've been working on, of speeded up service on this line, and see what happens.

For comparison, my summer 1954 Official Guide shows nine frequencies between Chicago and Milwaukee, including two westbound 75 Minute Trains and four eastbound 80 Minute Trains, including two Hiawathas.  The five extra minutes were for recovery margin.  Dispatchers could use the outside sidings at Lake, Caledonia, and Sturtevant to recess freight trains.  And in those days, there might have been less urgency about keeping the freight trains moving, as the Hours of Service Law applied at sixteen hours on call, rather than the twelve hours currently stipulated.

2 comments:

David Foster said...

"I have it from sources among rail professionals that dispatching has become a lost art."

Why? I would think it would be increasingly important as RRs attempt to enhance their schedule reliability.

Stephen Karlson said...

I'll have several opportunities in the next few weeks to investigate further.

One impression for now ... for all those efforts to enhance scheduling, they're still weak at receiving trains from other railroads. If we're doing transfers of loose cars in Chicago, that's an old problem. When 100 cars of coal or Bakken crude shows up off a western carrier headed to an eastern carrier, that's a new problem, and anticipating and providing slots for such trains is beyond some dispatchers' imagination. I have been told stories by Amtrak dispatchers about the hassles involved in getting a train out of Chicago and ultimately onto the freight carrier.