A turnout or switch is the device used to divert trains from one track to another. Trackage can be divided into 2 categories: line and yards. The line is the running portion of the railway. A yard is a system of tracks for making up trains, sorting and storing cars, maintaining rolling stock and other activities. At major terminals, large classification yards are used to facilitate the sorting of freight cars. Often a hump is located at one end of the classification yard and freight cars are rolled down by gravity to various tracks to make up trains.
The objective in railway design is to select the route that will give the most economical combination of construction costs and operating expenses. There are 2 basic restraints to train performance: curvature and gradient. Curvature limits speed and leads to high maintenance costs for track and rolling stock. Gradient increases the requirements for locomotive horsepower and leads to an increase in fuel consumption and braking. Single-track routes are also a major limiting factor in performance because of the delays that occur unless trains moving in opposite directions meet at their designated passing tracks with perfect timing.
Railway traffic control is provided by means of a signal system. The basic element in most railway signal systems is the block, a length of track to which entrance is governed by signal indicators, usually coloured lights. In the Automatic Block Signal system (ABS), block signals are activated by the presence of a train in the block, or the position of track turnouts (switches). Though ABS provides collision protection, it does not provide a means of authorizing train movements - a severe limitation for a single-track or even a double-track railway with trains of varying speeds. This problem can be overcome by Centralized Traffic Control (CTC), by means of which a dispatcher at a central control panel can actuate all power-equipped turnouts for a certain segment of track. Thus the dispatcher can control the routing of trains either meeting or overtaking. The dispatcher can also monitor track-mounted detection devices for hot wheel bearings, dragging equipment, broken wheels and shifted loads. Computer-aided dispatching can be used on congested lines. One of the innovations in some other countries is in-cab signalling. By means of coded track circuits the status of track-side signals is continually displayed in the locomotive cab. An extension of in-cab signalling is the Automatic Train Control system (ATCS). With ATCS, the locomotive automatically responds to reduced speed requirements or is automatically stopped if the engineer does not respond. A further refinement of ATCS is an on-board control unit that computes the train's braking distance and controls the train's speed to maintain a safe braking distance between trains.
Author JEFFERY YOUNG
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Pacific Railway
The CP Rail website features information about the company's extensive services and operations. Click on "General Public" to access the multimedia "Our History" section.
Collection Profile: Rail
An extensive overview of Canada's railway history from the Canada Science and Technology Museum.
Canadian Railway Hall of Fame
The Canadian Railway Hall of Fame honours Canadian achievement in the railway business. It fulfills a need to recognize various technology, communities and individuals that have been instrumental in the development of this vital Canadian transportation system.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...