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NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Sun Dec 1 10:27:24 EST 2019

Today at my railroad the local crews use a 'hammer head' or in other 
words a Panasonic Toughbook computer, where they report their work 'on 
the fly'.

On a different note here at the big orange pumpkin all TY&E employees 
are issued a 'Rules' iPad which has a 'Living' Rule book, 'Living' 
Timetable etc. By living it means anytime there is a General Order 
issued with a rules change or a modification to the timetable. Those 
updates are placed in the digital rule book and it is 'pushed' to the 
iPad. Gone are the days of having to carry the 'bible' at work to refer 
to for rules etc. It is all now digital and all kept on a company iPad. 
I love it as it lightens my load in my bag significantly. The materials 
that used to be issued with track numbers, spots, etc for us to report 
work is also now on the iPad. Lastly as a road crew if I set-out some 
cars in the local yard, I can report it via the phone known as the VTR, 
I can also report it on the iPad.

Hope this bit of info was handy for knowing how far the railroad has come,


Nathan Simmons

On 11/14/2019 07:04, NW Mailing List wrote:
> A number of big roads implemented programs to the SP's SPINS program.  
> The railroad I worked on in the 1980s-1990s called its program  ZTZ,  
> meaning Zone, Track, Spot.
> The purpose was to give each track, and each spot on each track, a 
> unique identifying number.  (By "spot" I mean a door on a warehouse, 
> or a specific point at a dry or liquid loading or unloading rack, 
> where cars must be spotted.)
> After the numbers were established, track maps coded with the spot 
> numbers  were created and set up in three-ring binders.  The crews 
> were required to carry and access all this stuff, and to enter the 
> numbers on their reports.
> The next step, at least on the railroad I worked on in the 1980s and 
> 1990s, came when all local and yard engines were equipped with little 
> pull-down desk and a small computer screen for the Conductor to enter 
> a report of the required information about his switching activities.  
> I think there was a requirement that the reporting be done within 30 
> minutes, or somesuch.  The engines were equipped with a special radio 
> that transmitted the Conductor's reporting to some Deus Ex Machina 
> (God in the Machine) somewhere far, far away to where all the Smart 
> People in Suits gather to have their coffee.
> The sales pitch given from headquarters was that this magic fan-dangle 
> would give the customers  **instant information on the location of 
> their cars.**   Yeah, you bet.  Everyone knew the real purpose was to 
> get rid of the data-entry clerks back at the yard.
> Implementing these programs cost a vast sum of money.  Smart People 
> from the Ivory Tower had to come out and by hand map all the 
> industrial tracks, and ride all the locals.  Publishing the books of 
> maps was also a menagerie. There were three volumes of maps for the 
> Division I worked on. And there was a constant stream of change-out 
> pages.  The Trainmasters' and Yardmasters' offices looked like lending 
> libraries, what with boxes and bins of binders, maps and revisions.
> Where I worked, the field work and mapping were started about 1982, 
> and probably about 1985 the books were issued and the program 
> implemented.  Of course, all of our train service people had to be 
> given a special class on their new, added duties.  Computers were 
> brand new to such applications in 1985, and most of our older train 
> service people had never laid a finger on a computer, so it was tough 
> on them. I did not have a PC in my office until 1987.
> Before PC's, railroad offices had **dumb tubes**  which were connected 
> only to the mainframe computer in headquarters city, and only a very 
> limited amount of information could be moved each, things like car 
> movements, car locations, waybill information, etc.  When we finally 
> got PC's, and the whole Microsoft suite of programs like Word and 
> Excel, it took us a year or two to get up to speed, but eventually 
> those tools made us MUCH more productive.  Again, the goal in flooding 
> the railroad with PC's was to eliminate our clerical forces.  And it 
> worked.
>  Railroads have never known exactly what to call their freight sales 
> departments, but have tried to keep the names trendy and glitzy.  
> Names like *Account Executive*.  I think the freight sales people 
> eventually wound up being called the *Customer Service Department*.
> *I do not know how the informational-interface between local crews and 
> the system mainframe computer is handled today. * I have been 
> blissfully retired for ten years and have not a fig of interest in  
> *modern railroading.*  But the above information gives you the 
> back-story on what was going on and how things came about.
> However, if you want to buy some Turnips, we can wheel and deal...
> -- abram burnett,
> Chicago Turnip Exchange, LLC
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