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TTCI launches unmanned tests at FAST track


Earlier this year, the Transportation Technology Center Inc. (TTCI) began unmanned testing operations at the Facility for Accelerated Service Testing (FAST) in Pueblo, Colo.

The center has gradually automated train operations at the FAST track. TTCI engineers have implemented a cruise-control algorithm and successfully operated a FAST train with a one-person crew during the past two years. The ultimate goal: operate a train without an engineer in the cab.

TTCI began unmanned train operation trials at 2008’s end. Since January, a 13,000-ton train comprising four locomotives and 80 315,000-pound cars has been operating at FAST at a constant 40 mph speed without a locomotive engineer. The train travels over the 2.7-mile high tonnage loop to determine the impact of heavy-axle-load cars on track components and maintenance procedures.

Automated train movements at FAST are controlled by an integrated onboard computer that uses GPS, track and train makeup information, wayside system data and dynamic train input. The system varies throttle position in response to changing conditions, such as wind, precipitation, rail lubrication and grade. Throttle control is optimized to reduce in-train forces. A real-time onboard track monitoring system will stop the train if a rail break is detected by the track circuit or it’s directed to do so by remote command.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/13/2009