DPU trains (was Re: Thunder on Blue Ridge)

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Mon Jan 17 22:08:38 EST 2011

I have just visited the online version of the West Virginia Code, just to see if the legendary statute does indeed exist. Although I would not call my investigation exhaustive, the only provision in the West Virginia Code that I could find that arguably could be interpreted to bar radio-controlled helper operations, and, by extension, DPUs is the following from Chapter 24 of the Code:


§24-3-1b. Helper units.

(a) Except for operation in its yards or terminals, no railroad may permit or require any crew-controlled locomotive power unit, including helper units, that is not attached to a train to be operated by a crew of fewer than two persons. At least one crew member shall be a federal railroad administrationcertified and licensed locomotive engineer within the meaning of applicable federal statutes and regulations.
(b) As used in this section:
(1) "Crew-controlled locomotive" means a locomotive power unit, single or in multiple, which is operated by on-board personnel, but does not include units controlled by radio or other remote control by a crew on another locomotive power unit.
(2) "Helper unit" means a locomotive power unit placed at some point in a train for the purpose of supplementing the power available from the locomotive power unit controlling a train.
(c) It is unlawful to institute any disciplinary action or other adverse administrative action against any person who reports a violation or acts to enforce the provisions of this section or this article. The person's remedies under this section are in addition to any other remedies that may be otherwise available to such persons.
(d) The public service commission shall, on or before the first day of July, one thousand nine hundred ninety-three, promulgate rules to implement the provisions of this section.

[End of statute]

I am certainly no expert on West Viriginia law, and have never had to look into this before, but the part of the statute that trips me up is the "that is not attached to a train" language. The apparent purpose of the statute seems to me to be to require that a train crew consist of at least two persons, or, in the alternative, perhaps that light power moves be operated by a two-man crew.

I did not check to see if, or whether, the statute has actually been enforced, but I can see that it has been modified some over the years.

In my professional opinion, if the statute is indeed intended to bar non-manned helper operations (and DPUs), then it is most likely unconstitutional and, thus, unenforceable. There are many such statutory provisions on the books intended to regulate railroad operations and corporate activities. Sometimes, railroads decide that, rather than challenge a bothersome provision, it is politically expedient to live by a bogus statute rather than to upset the state legislature.

Also, I don't know whether the state's public utilities commission has some regulation(s) on the books that expand upon the statute and that are more definitive on the issue of helper operations and DPUs. That is sometimes the case, and I suppose I should have thought to check before I began to finish this note.

But then I've probably already put most listers to sleep already.

---- NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org> wrote:


> > Are you all referring to DPU's as remote control or controlled by a crew

> > in the locomotive.


> I am refering to Distributed Power Units, which by its very definition

> implies remotely controled. I am not talking about manned (and thus

> manually operated) pushers/helpers.


> > The old WV law on the H-town District did not permit remote control

> > units in their state.


> Can someone provide a specific reference to this alledged "law"?


> When this subject has come up in the past on other lists/forums (and

> matybe this one too), this law is always mentioned along with other

> people claiming there was no such law and providing other explanations

> (policy change implemented after an upper management change, etc.).

> But everything I've ever seen -- on both sides of the discussion -- has

> been nothing but supposition and hear-say. I have never seen anyone

> provide a definitive answer. Hopefully someone on this list can.


> Thanks,


> Joe Shaw

> Christiansburg, VA

> http://www.krunk.org/

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