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Remote Control Locomotives May Put Richmond at Risk
September 24, 2006

As BNSF continues its silence on the reported debut of remote control locomotives in Richmond, I continue to get information from a variety of sources. A couple of days ago, I received copies of a portion of what was represented by an anonymous tipster as part of a BNSF survey in preparation for implementation.

The tipster wrote:

“The surveyor who submitted this report was subsequently fired for being truthful. This report would have been that much more negative had there been a “quiet zone” in those days, which would have and still would prevent the use of an automatic crossing horns like those used in Sacramento.”

The purported survey excerpt, which appears to raise several serious safety concerns, is attached as a PDF file. Note that the acronym RCL means “Remote Control Locomotive;” OCU means “Operator Control Unit,” and RCO means “Remote Control Operator.”

It is now becoming clear that BNSF’s obsession with opposing Quiet Zones is linked to their planned introduction of remote control locomotives. I also note that the study indicates that the maximum speed allowed RCL’s at grade crossings is 4 mph, which means it will take trains longer to clear grade crossings than it does now.

An interesting study by the Federal Railroad Administration of RML’s can be found at http://www.fra.dot.gov/downloads/safety/05_007775finalreport_RCL.pdf#search=%22RCO%20RCL%20OCU%22. The study notes that, “For the industry as a whole, RCL train accident rates were approximately 25 per cent higher than the train accident rates for conventional switching operations, i.e., 22.42 vs. 17.89 accidents per million yard switching miles (MYSM)…The study shows that, when comparing all railroads, RCL operations result in more train accidents than conventional operations.”

See Robot Locomotive Files