BYLINE: Dave Meyer and Mark Rickerby

Canadian Pacific Railway*

INTRO: To get ahead in the capacity game and meet unprecedented growth in container traffic, CPR has introduced remote-control distributed power on its transcontinental intermodal trains

DURING THE first quarter of 2004, there was a huge surge in container imports at North America’s west coast ports. Canadian Pacific Railway’s container import traffic through Vancouver jumped by 27% compared to the same period last year.

Despite this largely unexpected increase in business, over the first few weeks of the second quarter the railway was able to meet the delivery expectations of its customers for 93% of the time. A major contributor to this achievement has been a long-term programme to boost capacity and performance in the increasingly important intermodal sector.

This programme combines some old-fashioned basics - such as rigid adherence to the integrated operating plan and a reduction in container dwell times at terminals - with the introduction to intermodal service last year of remote-control distributed power operation. This has proved successful on CPR’s heavy haul operations over the past 30 years - notably on our coal hauls in western Canada.

December 18 2003 was an important date for us, when CPR became the first railway in Canada to operate intermodal services using distributed power. At present, CPR is sending up to four long intermodal trains a day west from Toronto and Montréal to Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver using remote-control power.

All new main line locomotives ordered by CPR since 1995 have been equipped to operate in leading or remote control configuration. Unmanned units distributed along the train respond to the driver’s control inputs transmitted by radio from the leading unit. Use of distributed power enables us to operate intermodal trains up to 2930m in length, with less need to shorten them because of air pressure loss affecting the braking performance in cold weather.

Technical progress

CPR pioneered the use of remote-control locomotives in its western Canada coal service in the 1970s, making it possible to safely operate much longer trains through the mountains than had been thought possible. The introduction of high-capacity trains was vital to help the Canadian coal industry overcome the competitive disadvantage of being located a long way from ocean ports.

Adapting this concept to intermodal - the fastest-growing sector of the North American rail market and one that is highly service-sensitive - was in many ways made economically viable by those three decades of experience in harsh terrain and a demanding marketplace.

In the early days, the distributed power equipment was carried in a separate ballasted control car, because of the size and weight of the components. This meant that the assisting locos had to be grouped together, around the middle of the train.

The subsequent worldwide revolution in data processing and transmission meant that far smaller, more powerful and cheaper electronic components could be used. The tell-tale dedicated boxcars were no longer required, as the smaller remote control equipment could be easily installed in the locomotives. This in turn enabled us to develop more flexible operating models, and better manage the complexities of train dynamics by distributing the locomotives throughout the length of the train.

CPR’s latest generation of high-power AC-motored locomotives are designed to operate at the head end or almost anywhere in a train, subject to certain marshalling restrictions. The on-board control equipment in each unit is linked through data telemetry, giving the head-end crew full command at all times.

With remote control power, the charge and release times for the train brakes are quicker, as air can also be supplied from compressors in the remote-control locomotives as well as the head-end units. This also means that the impact of winter temperatures is minimal down to about -25íC.

Another benefit has come from a better understanding of track and train dynamics. Industry knowledge of wheel-rail interaction forces has increased exponentially, with test-instrumented wheelsets and computer simulation programs becoming standard practice.

While CPR has operated mid-train locos on bulk trains for many years, the train dynamics were releatively simple, as all cars are either loaded or empty. Operation of intermodal trains is significantly different, as car and loading weights can vary greatly. Many hours of computer simulations were undertaken before distributed power was introduced on intermodal trains. Based on the results, a series of train marshalling instructions was developed to ensure safe operation across all of CPR’s varied territory.

Translating experience

Experts at the Network Management Centre were given the task of translating three decades of coal train experience into the requirements of contemporary intermodal service. The process proved to be more time-consuming than complex, although there were initially some concerns that what worked on one type of train might not work on another.

Some of us who worked for the company in the 1970s could not have imagined two more different types of freight service than intermodal and heavy haul. Coal trains operate as unit trains, with all cars of similar size, tare, gross tonnage and operating characteristics. Intermodal and mixed freight trains are the exact opposite. But testing and development work showed that the differences between the two would be no barrier to the safe and effective use of distributed power, provided that some basic guidelines are followed.

These include specific train marshalling patterns, which were developed through computer simulations that took into account the constraints and performance of both air and dynamic braking systems and the tractive effort and performance requirements. We found that it was not necessary to develop operating procedures that specifically minimise the need to brake and accelerate the long trains.

As might be expected of relatively light trains running on demanding schedules, the expedited intermodal trains with remote-control locomotives boast power-to-weight ratios up to three times those of the heaviest coal trains - a maximum of 1·8 kW per tonne. One of the most obvious differences between the two sectors is train length. CPR’s longest coal trains are around 2100m, whilst the intermodal trains are 830m longer.

The length limitations on the coal trains are imposed more by the lengths of passing sidings and customer loading and unloading facilities. We could operate longer remote-control coal trains - with some modification in the power distribution model - if we were not limited by siding and terminal issues.

It is also the siding length limits which impose a maximum length of 2130m on the intermodal trains - along with everything else - west of Calgary. Further east, a programme of siding extensions allows us to run more trains at maximum length. Other freight trains typically wait in sidings while the long intermodal trains pass - there are virtually no passenger trains on their routes. In northern Ontario, for instance, we have now lengthened about half the sidings to reduce meeting times.

Driver training

In-transit monitoring of the long intermodal trains includes the crews’ normal vigilance over brake performance, and the information received from conventional Sense & Braking Units (SBUs) at the rear end of the trains. No modifications have been needed to the settings of the heat-sensing hot-bearing and brake detectors, dragging equipment detectors and signals spaced out along the track.

Although standard observation and inspection rules apply, there are some additional limits related to the dynamic braking factors of all locomotives and the length of each ’basic consist’ in between. Drivers were given special training to help them recognise the difference between true and false brake-pressure gradients, and to adjust their braking techniques accordingly.

Whilst all CPR drivers are trained to operate long trains, further corridor-specific orientation is provided in the use of remote control power. This makes use of driver training simulators programmed with the profiles of the individual subdivisions, but the final crew qualification is a ’live’ exercise.

Investment continues

The introduction of remote-control locomotives is only one part of CPR’s renewed commitment to intermodal efficiency. Another critical element is the renewal of the intermodal wagon fleet. We are introducing 5500 new individual four-axle vehicles to carry double-stacked containers; over 2000 are already in service, and the remainder should arrive by the end of this year.

The combination of longer trains and higher-capacity vehicles will give us an estimated 28% increase in containers per train and a 16% reduction in the number of intermodal train departures, freeing up capacity across the network to accommodate more traffic. The investment in new stock will also enable us to cut the intermodal fleet by about 1300 wagons without any reduction in capacity.

The current programme builds on a long tradition of investment in intermodal infrastructure over several years. For instance, the lengthening of passing sidings to accommodate the long trains was not accomplished overnight.

A few years ago, we completed a major expansion at our largest and busiest intermodal terminal, at Vaughan, just north of Toronto. This increased the working track capacity to 8400m and storage track capacity to 14700m. Construction of a new loop track created flexibility in assembling and handling longer trains quicker and more efficiently. We now have the scope to put together a 2930m long train without directly affecting the working track capacity.

It is investments such as these which have helped CPR to manage successfully a 40% increase in productivity across all the different sectors of its business during the last five years. These investments will benefit our customers for many years to come, but judgment befitting a supreme court will always be needed as demand growth continues to test the railway’s mettle.

Executive Vice-President, Operations & Marketing, Fred Green recently warned that ’we are approaching capacity on some corridors’, and that careful evaluation will be needed to decide how we address this. ’Because our business is cyclical, it’s important to have a balanced strategy, in the same way an individual might strive for a balanced investment portfolio. We have to price our services to get the most yield, acquire and lease physical equipment when required, use our assets to best advantage, and maximise workforce productivity.’

In the coming years, the sight of high-performance locomotives distributed throughout long intermodal freight trains will be a clear signal that CPR remains determined to put productivity ahead of tradition.

CAPTION: Canadian Pacific Railway is currently operating four long intermodal trains a day between Toronto and Vancouver; use of distributed power allows the operation of trains up to 2 930 m in length

CAPTION: CPR has over 30 years’ experience of remote-control locomotives in heavy-haul coal service; improvements in communications technology have enabled the elimination of the intermediate control car, with miniaturised equipment fitted to every new loco since 1995

CAPTION: Use of distributed power locomotives minimises the impact of winter temperatures on air-brake performance down to around -25íC

CAPTION: Investment in CPR’s Vaughan intermodal terminal near Toronto has expanded capacity and simplified the assembly of very long trains

Mettre la charrue avant les boeufs

Afin de faire face à l’accroissement sans précédent du trafic par conteneurs, le Canadian Pacific Railway a introduit la traction répartie commandée à distance sur ses trains intermodaux transcontinentaux, mettant à profit 30 années d’expérience dans le domaine de la commande à distance sur ses trains lourds de charbon de l’ouest canadien. Avec un programme d’allongement des garages en ligne, cela a permis à CPR de faire circuler des trains de 2930m de longueur. L’introduction d’ici la fin de l’année d’un parc de 5500 nouveaux wagons autorisant le gerbage sur deux niveaux, accroîtra 28% la capacité de transport de conteneurs de CPR, avec un nombre de départs de trains en baisse de 16% et une réduction globale de 1300 véhicules appartenant au parc intermodal

Den Wagen vor die Pferde(stärke) spannen

Um dem unvorhergesehenen Wachstum des Containerverkehrs Herr zu werden, fügt die Canadian Pacific Railway ferngesteuerte Zwischenloks in ihre transkontinentalen Containerzüge ein und baut dabei auf 30 Jahre Erfahrung mit Fernsteuerung bei ihren schweren Kohlezügen in Westkanada. Zusammen mit Verlängerungen der Doppelspurinseln erlaubt dies der CPR nun, Züge bis zu 2930Metern Länge zu führen. Der Einsatz einer Flotte von 5500 neuen Doppelstockwagen bis zum Ende dieses Jahres steigert die Container-Kapazität der CPR um 28% bei einer gleichzeitigen Reduktion der Anzahl Züge um 16% und einer Verringerung der Anzahl Fahrzeugen in der Flotte für den kombinierten Verkehr um 1300 Einheiten

Formar los caballos del combinado

Para hacer frente al crecimiento sin precedentes del tr