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Author Topic: Techniques to avoid getting stuck at high-angle railroad crossing?  (Read 3063 times)
plyonsMC9
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« on: September 09, 2011, 10:11:58 PM »

Hi folks,

The property we are moving into has a high-angle railroad crossing.  At least, it looks like a high angle to me.  We have a 40' MC9.  

Any techniques or thoughts on how to approach this?  I was planning to have a spotter, and stop if it looked like I was going to touch bottom.  The tracks are lightly travelled and I have the schedule.  Also, I was "thinking" that if I approach at somewhat of an angle that may help.  But I'm not really sure.  Thus my questions.    And I do realize that at some point, no "technique" will help.

Thanks all!

Phil
« Last Edit: September 09, 2011, 10:13:31 PM by plyonsMC9 » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2011, 04:16:28 AM »

the more the angle the better - that is as near 180 degrees as you can - not 90
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« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2011, 04:46:34 AM »

Might be to early: try first!  would be a good time to install air bag level system. Easy to lift coach 5 inches with it. Simple mech system would do for this case.  Fill you in when we see you at Choo-Choo.   Bob
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« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2011, 06:15:35 AM »

Absent a leveling system, which I wish I had,too, I would suggest you have the train dispatcher's verified phone number handy in case of an emergency. No law says an unscheduled train, work train, inspection or test equipment can't come along that track at ANY time. No room for complacency here. I guess leveling boards might work in a pinch, too. But most importantly, don't loligag around those tracks without being in touch with the dispatcher.  Also, I'm told,in "automatic block" territory, it is possible to simulate a rail car on the track, fooling the electronic system into posting a stop signal for rail traffic, by short-circuiting the two rails together with jumper cables. I hope never to see that information verified. Take that "I'm told" part for what it's worth. Safer method; call the dispatcher. Well...unless you want an articulated bus.
Dennis   
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« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2011, 06:32:39 AM »

Ha! No Dennis, I DON'T want an articulated bus.  Cheesy  Will find out dispatcher # just in case.  Trains don't run on the weekends, but I would feel much better having that dispatcher number just in case.

I can get a little angle on the crossing, but it is a single-lane deal with not a huge amount of area to play with.  Air leveling system sounds tremendous.  However, $ and timing are tight as we have to be at that location before October 1st and also before Choo Choo bus rally!  I do have a couple-three weeks to play with in the interim and will be studying the situation with lots of caution 4 sure.  Don't want to be on the 6 o'clock news for the 'bonehead of the week award'.   Tongue

Kind Regards, Phil
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« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2011, 06:43:54 AM »

Sounds like you are not going to be at the crossing till october but if you get there without the bus you can do some quick tests with 2 people some string and 2 rulers.
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« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2011, 08:08:29 AM »

Robert once mentioned his simple leveling system that just involve some cables to the leveling valves.  Perhaps you'd have time for something like that. 
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« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2011, 08:12:46 AM »

Just for interest - when trains crossings here are on minor roads in rural areas and don't have automatic barriers, a 'phone is provided beside the crossing to warn the signalman (despatcher) in case you are likely to be slow across the tracks



Jeremy
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« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2011, 08:14:56 AM »

?
« Last Edit: September 10, 2011, 08:17:17 AM by luvrbus » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2011, 11:47:30 AM »

Lin!  I would be interested in learning more about that system.  Is it easy to construct?  I do have a mechanic friend & maybe we could do? 

And - I do have some string measured for our wheelbase,  grabbing the tape measures.

 Grin

Kind Regards, Phil
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« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2011, 12:23:49 PM »

If it's steep enough that you are concerned about high centering, then you also need to be concerned about approach and departure angles, especially at the rear.

So, here is a little sketch to illustrate what I am thinking.  The red line represents a string that you and a helper could walk the path with.  Hang some weights from the verticals and keep them on the ground as you walk.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2011, 12:35:17 PM by Len Silva » Logged


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« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2011, 02:05:08 PM »

Phil, email or PM Robert Giles.  I would like to see a picture of what he did if you get one.
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« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2011, 07:45:15 PM »

Is the crossing on your property ?  ( with an easement )   If so, can you fill in the slope to make is a lower angle?  Just a thought.
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« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2011, 08:04:10 AM »

Another option would be to hit it at about eighty miles per hour.  It should clear just fine then.
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« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2011, 08:37:20 AM »

I did that at 3am in a VW vanagon once. Just don't freak out and apply the brakes while in the air, like I did.
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« Reply #15 on: September 11, 2011, 01:45:28 PM »

Thanks Lin, am in touch with Robert.  Smiley  Good suggestion.

Our crossing does not have the phone setup.  That looks pretty cool tho'.  I'll try to send a picture next weekend when we are at the property again.

The first pass at the crossing with my new "string bus" didn't look as bad as I had imagined.  However, having seen the sketch from Len, I think I need to make another pass at the crossing with something like Len's string bus.  e.g., strings w/weights where the wheels would be.  Looks like I need to keep a minimum 8" clearance going across.  But again, I will verify with the enhanced bus next weekend.  

Ha Ha - and of course, 80 mph.  Not sure I've ever had the Moose going that fast.  Uphill?  hmmm.  Top speed may be 40 mph with the correct wind.   Tongue  Grin

Kind Regards to all & thanks for great suggestions - I will continue to keep all posted on this.  

Phil

« Last Edit: September 11, 2011, 01:48:13 PM by plyonsMC9 » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: September 23, 2011, 08:20:04 PM »

Thanks again to all who offered assistance on our RR crossing.  I've attached some pix of the Moo se's Big Railroad Adventure.   Cheesy

As it turns out, for this particular crossing, the closer I got to the rear duals, leaving the crossing, the closer I came to high-centering.  Probably due to the angle leaving the grade.  I used the string models that were suggested by a couple of the members before-hand.  Also went with a spotter and brought some good sized 2x10s in case we were just too close.  Then we would have ramped-up.  
 
There was also a very sharp 90 degree turn leading onto this very small country crossing.  I'm pretty sure I can shove that sign-post back to its original position.   Grin  

We'll have to be every bit as careful when we head out to the Choo Choo rally in a couple of weeks.  Our approach will be going in the opposite way.   Hopefully that will work out as well.

The closest  we got was about 2 inches from the generator muffler which is about 4 feet in front of the rear duals.  Immediately after the crossing is another 90 degree angle.  I tried to not hit the crossing straight on, but as you can see, the road is very narrow.  Then after the crossing, hit the 90 degree turn.  There are now a lot less weeds around the 90 degree turn.  In retrospect, I'll use a lot more 3 point turns to get around the 90 degree turns next time rather than have to apologize to the neighbors for the extra furrows in their vegetable garden.  :-P

Extended bike rack on the rear hitch did just fine.

Caution, planning, and lots of good insights from the board helped us make it through..   Thanks again!

Kind Regards, Phil
« Last Edit: September 23, 2011, 08:21:46 PM by plyonsMC9 » Logged

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« Reply #17 on: September 24, 2011, 12:29:17 AM »

Congrats on making a successful crossing.

Before long you'll be buzz'n across those like they ain't there!
Grin  BK  Grin
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« Reply #18 on: September 24, 2011, 05:31:48 AM »

Are you still in the same area?  I work in Aurora almost every day.
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« Reply #19 on: September 24, 2011, 08:10:46 AM »

Phil, congratulations on finding that you can get across.  The pictures were helpful -- notice how shiny the rails are.  That is an indicator of the amount of rail traffic.  A couple of things in earlier posts give me great concern.  You refer to knowing the "schedule", and that trains don't run on weekends.  Assumptions can be dangerous, and I'm also concerned about new bus owners who may not think this through.  I'm sure the veterans, like you, are aware -- but a lot of average citizens are not.

Quote from the Railroad General Code of Operating Rules"  "1.20 Alert to Train Movement Employees must expect the movement of trains, engines, cars, or other movable equipment at any time, on any track, and in either direction."

So, how do you mitigate against that?  Approach the crossing as a professional bus driver.  Stop, not less than 15 feet (railroad cars are wider than the gauge of the track), not more than 75 feet from the crossing.  Open the door, driver's window.  Stop, Look, and Listen.  When you know the crossing's clear, proceed directly across, without stopping, and without changing gears, until the rear of the bus is well clear of the crossing.  When I designed a Church Bus Safety Program here, I paid particular attention to how many cars/private buses would stop for traffic signals, with some part of (or the whole) vehicle fouling the tracks.  At one crossing, I was in the left through lane; saw a car in the left turning lane that was afoul of the track.  When the crossing signals activated, I backed up so that when the train hit him, he wouldn't spin around into my car.  The train hit him at low speed, but tore the heck out of the car he'd just picked up from the body shop (with his wife following/watching) from the car behind him.  I gave the railroad crew my business card as a witness, shook my head, and left.

Operation Life Saver


Dennis is right, IF it Automatic Block Signal territory, in an emergency, you can shunt between the two rails (think battery jumper cable).  However, that's a big IF.  Even if that's possible, have someone run up the track (in each direction, at least a half-mile, and plant fusees (think road flares); and call the Dispatcher.  You'll want to know the railroad milepost.  You might look for the closest signalled grade crossing, and look for the 800-number (and crossing code number) - follow through from that. 

If you can, somehow, help us find the crossing on the map, so we know which rail line, and location -- I might be able to find the appropriate railroad, milepost, and (maybe) even the Dispatcher contact.

Jeremy has interesting information, but it pertains to User-Worked Crossings in Great Britain.  I'm not aware of any similar structure in the States.

Arthur
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« Reply #20 on: September 24, 2011, 08:58:26 AM »

The pictures probably don't tell the whole story, but it doesn't look that bad to me.  I'm probably used to my bus that has a lot of ground clearance compared to other buses I have seen. 

I know somebody who high centered a motorhome on a very busy railroad crossing in Nevada.  They had no end of fun getting the motorhome off the crossing.  I believe the track is the same route that was the original transcontinental railroad.  Lots of train traffic moving at 70 MPH.  I assume the railroad was notified.
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« Reply #21 on: September 24, 2011, 09:26:31 AM »

Oh yeah, one more thing. If you have the good? fortune to see a train approaching your disabled vehicle, you should run any direction EXCEPT the same direction the train is moving. That locomotive is likely to be knocking/dragging the vehicle and debris along the track for quite a way before it comes to a stop, perhaps a mile and a half down the track. If you think it takes quite a way to stop a bus, try stopping 160 of them. Remember two things; it's nearly impossible for you to judge the speed of an oncoming train, and if he is running "any speed at all", he cannot even begin to slow before he is well past the grade crossing. 
Dennis 
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« Reply #22 on: September 24, 2011, 10:15:01 AM »

A couple of things in earlier posts give me great concern.  You refer to knowing the "schedule", and that trains don't run on weekends.  Assumptions can be dangerous, and I'm also concerned about new bus owners who may not think this through.  I'm sure the veterans, like you, are aware -- but a lot of average citizens are not.

Quote from the Railroad General Code of Operating Rules"  "1.20 Alert to Train Movement Employees must expect the movement of trains, engines, cars, or other movable equipment at any time, on any track, and in either direction."




Any time is train time.  You homestead a grade crossing ... You will lose.

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« Reply #23 on: September 24, 2011, 10:28:04 AM »

Phil, congratulations on finding that you can get across.  The pictures were helpful -- notice how shiny the rails are.  That is an indicator of the amount of rail traffic.  A couple of things in earlier posts give me great concern.  You refer to knowing the "schedule", and that trains don't run on weekends.  Assumptions can be dangerous, and I'm also concerned about new bus owners who may not think this through.  I'm sure the veterans, like you, are aware -- but a lot of average citizens are not.

IF it Automatic Block Signal territory, in an emergency, you can shunt between the two rails (think battery jumper cable).  However, that's a big IF.  Even if that's possible, have someone run up the track (in each direction, at least a half-mile, and plant fusees (think road flares); and call the Dispatcher.  You'll want to know the railroad milepost.  You might look for the closest signalled grade crossing, and look for the 800-number (and crossing code number) - follow through from that.  

If you can, somehow, help us find the crossing on the map, so we know which rail line, and location -- I might be able to find the appropriate railroad, milepost, and (maybe) even the Dispatcher contact.



I don't know where all this "so-called railroad information" is coming from, but it is dead wrong.  

First off, tampering with any railroad signal system is a federal offense and it will get you serious jail time.  Shunting a signal as you put it is dangerous and deadly, how do you know the train you are messing with is "behind the signal" he could very well be beyond that signal ... You could possibly kill someone with your ignorance.  

Secondly, railroad property is just that, "theirs" and you are trespassing whenever you are on it.  As for dialing up a dispatcher and putting down fusee's that is just a load of whooie, a half-mile stopping range on a train that is almost two miles long, is insufficient and unreasonable if it is traveling at track speed (and best believe he will be doing just that, the name of the game on the road, is to get it over the road, first in ... first out.).

As for the Rule Book and all that.  I lived with it 24-7 for over twenty five years, and you aren't even in the ballpark when it comes to rail safety.  Look both ways, cross the tracks, and leave the "railroading" to the people who KNOW what they are doing.  

When you come to a crossing at grade (railroad term) your best bet is to remember one rule of life.  "Railroads are in the railroad business, not the crossing business."  Don't expect it to be to your liking or smoothness.  Like I said, "Look both ways, do your thing, and move on."  

Pretty simple really, all the rest of this is pure mumbo-jumbo and pretty lame.

If this crossing is of a big concern (and potentially dangerous) report it to the appropriate railroad office and they will work with you to fix it.  (They don't want legal issues because you got hung up on their track, and they came along and clobbered you.)  They will fix it.

Here is another one for the books:  Railroaders have a name for people who are nuts about trains, they call them "foamers."  (You figure it out)

BCO
« Last Edit: September 24, 2011, 10:53:42 AM by boxcarOkie » Logged

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« Reply #24 on: September 24, 2011, 07:03:54 PM »

I do not know what width of the rail road right of way is but after looking at your pictures maybe if there is little enough traffic on that road you could "spill" a couple inches of concrete on the road where your wheels  are at their worst on each side.
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« Reply #25 on: September 25, 2011, 07:17:58 AM »

Thanks for all the good discussion & feedback.  And just in case any new bus conversion folk are reading this - we did approach with huge amounts of caution.  Again, not wanting to make the 6 o'clock news / bonehead Internet posts, etc.,   Plus, safety first!

I did have a spotter outside watching clearance& surroudings.  Plan: if getting at all close to touching, stop & backup!  Take no chances.  Door open, stop well before tracks, look both ways, etc..  Could also see far distance down tracks in either direction.  Always expect a random train to come by.  

Having almost no car traffic on the road helped as well - nobody honking to speed us up.  Quiet, rural area.  

Will take just as much caution going the opposite direction for the first time as well.  

bco - interesting,  didn't think of contacting rail office to offer safety concern if nec.  Thx!

Brian, if spotter had taken pic of us starting to LEAVE the crossing, would have shown a bit closer fit.   Cheesy

thanks all for safety suggestions as well.  train stopping distances, etc.. good stuff to know.  Smiley

Kind regards, Phil

« Last Edit: September 25, 2011, 07:19:37 AM by plyonsMC9 » Logged

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« Reply #26 on: September 25, 2011, 09:51:48 AM »

Thanks for all the good discussion & feedback.  And just in case any new bus conversion folk are reading this - we did approach with huge amounts of caution.  Again, not wanting to make the 6 o'clock news / bonehead Internet posts, etc.,   Plus, safety first!bco - interesting,  didn't think of contacting rail office to offer safety concern if nec.  Thx


Most of it hit too close to the house for me Phil.  I have hit and killed five people in my career working on the railroad.  You can talk all you want about safety and shunting signals and all that, then pull a nine year old kid out of a mangled truck that didnít make it, and trust that it will put a completely different slant on rail safety.  Please believe me, when I tell you ďthat you donít want to have to take that home with you at the end of the day.Ē 

I have lost buddies and friends to gravel trucks, gasoline tankers & oil field heavy equipment.  Simply because some nimrod didnít want to stop for a train.  People park abandoned automobiles on the track for us to hit, they shoot at us with bows and arrows, stand up an old freezer and refrigerator. 

With nary a thought about the hands riding that locomotive.

Every crossbuck in the nation has it ... Stop ... Look ... Listen.  If you do, you will arrive home alive.  It isnít like baseball, the base donít go to the runner, we decide all ties, and you are going to lose.

BCO
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« Reply #27 on: September 25, 2011, 04:11:40 PM »

Phil
     Something else you might want to consider is a leveling system using your air bags that you can use to give yourself more ground clearance in a situation like this.

Tom
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« Reply #28 on: September 25, 2011, 11:28:49 PM »

Thanks for all the good discussion & feedback.  And just in case any new bus conversion folk are reading this - we did approach with huge amounts of caution.  Again, not wanting to make the 6 o'clock news / bonehead Internet posts, etc.,   Plus, safety first!bco - interesting,  didn't think of contacting rail office to offer safety concern if nec.  Thx


Most of it hit too close to the house for me Phil.  I have hit and killed five people in my career working on the railroad.  You can talk all you want about safety and shunting signals and all that, then pull a nine year old kid out of a mangled truck that didnít make it, and trust that it will put a completely different slant on rail safety.  Please believe me, when I tell you ďthat you donít want to have to take that home with you at the end of the day.Ē 

I have lost buddies and friends to gravel trucks, gasoline tankers & oil field heavy equipment.  Simply because some nimrod didnít want to stop for a train.  People park abandoned automobiles on the track for us to hit, they shoot at us with bows and arrows, stand up an old freezer and refrigerator. 

With nary a thought about the hands riding that locomotive.

Every crossbuck in the nation has it ... Stop ... Look ... Listen.  If you do, you will arrive home alive.  It isnít like baseball, the base donít go to the runner, we decide all ties, and you are going to lose.

BCO


Im teared up reading this. My son recently began driving and I just read this to him. He is horrified, but it made quite an impression on him Im sure.
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