The unique operations of Amtrak's Auto Train requires switching immediately prior to departures and arrivals. This is due to the mechanics of loading and unloading the auto racks. There are two very good videos of this process at HyRail Simulations. Thanks to Jason at HyRail Simulations for calling these to my attention.
The procedures below are derived from the videos.
Track designators used in these procedures are taken from Shaun's (aka Noloton) map of the A-Line downloadable at the Run8 Depot.
A GP40-2 has been assigned by Tom to the Auto Train terminal at Sanford
Always verify the placement of the yard switches. Do not assume that they have been left in any particular pattern.
Remember that passengers are on the train. Please be gentle during your movements.
Insure the locomotives have been refueled prior to departure. I don't believe there is a scheduled refueling stop until Florence, South Carolina.
Due to the Sanford Wye being out of service, cars and locomotives are never turned. Seats in the coaches are flipped to face the correct direction. Road engines should always have short hood leading and trailing.
Read the CSX rules governing handling of this train at the bottom of the page. Thanks to TAC1975 for providing them.
Air Brakes Edit
A quick note on air brakes - As many of us know, passenger trains normally charge their brake lines to 110 psi. Freights usually run at 90 psi. During a recent arrival, the switch engine was unable to release the brakes on the auto racks. Hand brakes were released, circuit breakers were good, and the traction motors were duly heating up. On further examination, it was realized that the switcher was set to 90 psi freight service. When the brake system was increased to 110 psi (on the locomotive menu, same one where you start the prime movers) all was well. So, don't forget to double check the brake system pressure on the switch engine!
The brake system must be kept in direct release. This is achieved by setting the valve on the locomotive to the freight position. The setting is toggled between FRT and PASS with the ALT-B key combination.
All of the autos have been loaded into the racks, most passengers are on board. It's time to assemble the train in order to make our scheduled departure.
Prior to train assembly, passenger cars will always be found on Platforms 3 & 4. Auto racks will be on Auto Rack tracks 1 thru 6. Specific track placement is dependent on how train P053 was broken down on arrival. The switch engine will either be on one of the service or auto rack tracks. The road engines will probably be on one of the service tracks, or in the engine house.
Prior to any movements you must locate the road engines to either Platform 1 or 2. This is due to the fact that the assembled train will block access to and from the service tracks.
Assemble all of the strings of auto racks. Due to the layout of tracks and switches, it's recommended that you start with the highest numbered track and work backwards. As the cut of cars lengthen, you will start running through the wash rack. Don't worry, there is sufficient clearance for the equipment.
After assembling the auto racks, come back and pick up the passenger cars on Platform 4. Remember, the cars are occupied!
Once the train is assembled, don't forget to uncouple the switch engine. The switcher will be trapped at its current location until P052 departs.
Move the road engines into position, couple to the train, start the HEP generator, and P052 is ready to go. Don't forget to insure that all switches are lined for departure, and set the train tag to P052!
When P053 arrives, stop short and verify that yard switches are aligned properly for your incoming movement. The switch engine may either be spotted in the service area, or on platforms 1 or 2 for convenience.
Drop the auto racks on the lead for pickup by the switch engine. Spot the last passenger car even with the end of Platform 3.
Shut down the HEP generator and split the passenger section of the train at the front end of Platform 3. Move the front portion over to Platform 4. At this point, the road engines can be uncoupled and moved to the service area. Don't forget to set the train tag from "P053" to "none"!
Now use the switcher to pick up the auto racks and move them over to Auto Rack tracks 1 thru 6. For simplicity of movements, start from low track numbers to high.
P052 has fully arrived! Mark off, and go have a beer (or potable beverage of your choice) and relax!
CSX Rules for Auto Train Operation Edit
Provided through the generosity of TAC1975
4.2 AUTO TRAIN OPERATION
4.2.1 GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS The Auto Train will normally be operated with GE P30 CH locomotives. These units weigh approximately 386,000 pounds and are equipped with 26L type air brake equipment and flat control dynamic braking. The blended braking feature on these locomotives must be cut out and not used when operating this train.
This train will be made up with a mixture conventional and Amfleet type passenger cars and conventional auto carriers.
All passenger cars are equipped with ABDW control valves and disc and/or tread type brake equipment with composition shoes. All passenger cars are equipped with head end power, electric heat, and air conditioning. There is very little slack between the cars that make up the passenger portion of the train.
All auto carrier cars are equipped with ABDW control valves and composition brake shoes. All auto carriers are also equipped with tightlock couplers.
The locomotive regulating valve must be adjusted to provide brake pipe pressure of 110 pounds, and train must be operated with automatic brake valve cut-out valve on controlling unit placed to the In or Frt position. Cars of this train are not equipped with the graduated release feature, therefore the train must not be operated with automatic brake valve cut-out valve placed in the Pass position.
4.2.2 TRAIN HANDLING PROCEDURES
Due to the length of the train and mixture of equipment in the makeup of the train, preplanning is of the utmost importance when using the throttle and braking systems to control train speed and slack.
The engineer must plan the methods sufficiently in advance of desired speed changes to ensure that train speed is within prescribed limits and that train slack is being properly controlled.
When applying train air brakes, the split service method of braking will be used and initial reductions should be made while sufficient power is available to ensure that slack remains stretched throughout the train. The locomotive brakes must be kept released when using train air brakes with power applied.
When making running releases of service brake applications, power should not be increased until air brakes have had sufficient time to release throughout the train.
When conditions are favorable, combined dynamic and train air brakes may be used to control train speed and slack. When so doing, engineer must take every precaution to ensure that dynamic brakes remain applied with adequate force to control train slack in a bunched mode as air brakes apply and release throughout the train.
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