Browsing Tag: Railroad

    Why the World’s Smallest Country Has a Railroad
    Articles, Blog

    Why the World’s Smallest Country Has a Railroad

    August 8, 2019

    This video was made possible by Brilliant. Start learning intuitively with Brilliant
    for 20% off by being of the first 424 people to
    sign up at So I hear you want to learn why the world’s
    smallest country has a railroad. Well, the Vatican has a railroad because the
    Roman Empire was awesome. There’s the answer. Now I know what you’re thinking—“you
    just gave me the answer why should I stick around for the rest of the video?” The Vatican, like Canada, is a pretty cool
    place. It has the world’s highest density of Popes,
    the world’s highest wine consumption per capita, and compared to me it’s pretty huge. Compared to other countries, though, it’s
    on the smaller side. It’s about 3,000 feet wide and 2,500 feet
    tall. If you took the tallest building in the world,
    the Burj Khalifa, and laid it on its side over the Vatican you would be responsible
    for the death of thousands. Despite its small size, the Vatican is a fully
    recognized and sovereign country with its own government, its own banks, own stamps,
    own passports, postal system, radio station, police officers, fire fighters, and, of course,
    railroad. Being smack dab in the middle of Rome, it’s
    not exactly hard to get to the Vatican. There are no border controls between it and
    Italy so anyone can pretty much stroll into the country without even realizing and there
    are also, of course, roads going in and out. Now, considering the runway of the nearby
    Rome Fiumicino Airport is more than twice as long as the Vatican is wide, there is no
    airport in the country. This isn’t all that unique. Four other countries don’t have airports—Andorra,
    Liechtenstein, Monaco, and San Marino. Now, it would’t be unreasonable to think
    that the Vatican, the smallest country in the world, also doesn’t have a railroad
    because plenty of countries don’t have railroads. Libya, the 16th largest country in the world,
    does not have a foot of functional railroad track but there are a lot of things Libya
    doesn’t have… like a functional government. Even some of the world’s most highly developed
    nations like Qatar and Iceland lack trains. I don’t know if it’s related but both
    countries have some interesting beliefs—Iceland believes in Elves and Qatar believes in wealth
    disparity. The Vatican though, has a railroad and quite
    fittingly, it’s the smallest national railroad in the world. But why? Now for the worst part of the video—the
    bit you actually learn stuff. So, back during the Roman Empire Italy looked
    like this—it was all together. But then the Roman Empire stopped existing
    which was a bummer unless you were Theoderic the Great who ruled a united Italy under the
    Ostrogothic Kingdom until that fell and they eventually became part of the Frankish empire,
    which frankly sucked, and so Italy fell apart faster than a Kickstarter funded startup into
    a bunch of city-states as it remained for the next 1000 years until people remembered
    how awesome the Roman Empire was and decided that Italy should be united once again. Everyone thought that was a great idea except
    the Pope who controlled this land—the Papal States. The new Kingdom of Italy disagreed with the
    Vatican’s obviously irrational desire to keep hold of the only territory they had so
    they took it and so the Pope wasn’t happy. For the next 60 years the different popes
    did not leave the presently unrecognized country of the Vatican at all as a way to protest
    Italy’s claim to Rome which is exactly the level of stubbornness I admire. That was until 1929 when the two parties signed
    the Lateran Treaty which said, “hey, we’re chill,” in exchange for money, a recognized
    sovereign state, and a free railroad. The Vatican rail line originates in Rome at
    a nearby rail station, curves off over a viaduct, then enters the state through a 35 ton iron
    gate that’s closed when there’s no traffic to keep Italy from invading by train which
    I guess was a concern? Immediately on the other side of the wall
    is the Vatican City train station. While this whole branch is run by the country,
    only about 200 feet of track are actually within the Vatican which definitively makes
    this the smallest national railroad in the world. You could walk from one end of the line to
    the other faster than you could walk to the moon. This railroad has been occasionally used by
    Popes to get to the Papal summer palace south-east of Rome, but nowadays its main purpose is
    to get food and supplies in and out of the country without having to drive trucks through
    the crowded streets of Rome. With the exception of a once-weekly train
    for tourists, there are no scheduled passenger trains to the station. If you become the next Pope and decide to
    extend the rail line to two or maybe even three stations there are a lot of things you’re
    going to need to learn like which bank angle to use so that trains can go around curves
    without derailing, how much to adjust timetables to account for slower running during repair
    work, and how to open the Vatican’s secret underworld housing the real Slim Shady. Luckily, you can learn two of those three
    things in’s classical mechanics course. This course, like all Brilliant courses, makes
    learning complex topics simple by first breaking concepts down into their intuitive principles
    then combining those to build up to the answer. It’s seriously the best way to learn. If classical mechanics isn’t your thing,
    they have loads of other courses on topics like probability, astronomy, machine learning,
    and my favorite, logic. Best of all, you can try Brilliant for free
    by going to and then the first 424 people to use that link will also
    get 20% off their annual premium subscription.

    Workin’ on the Railroad: CSX Careers | Fast Forward
    Articles, Blog

    Workin’ on the Railroad: CSX Careers | Fast Forward

    August 8, 2019

    On Fast Forward, we’ve met environmental
    engineers, process engineers, acoustic engineers, mechanical engineers,
    electrical engineers, structural design engineers, technical development
    engineers, flight control systems engineers, agricultural engineers, civil
    engineers, and industrial engineers… Just to name a few. But we just found one kind of engineer we haven’t met yet. Today’s the day! Today, Fast Forward is visiting CSX, a company that combines cutting edge technology with one of the nation’s most
    established modes of transportation. CSX is the biggest railroad east of the
    Mississippi, with more than 3000 people across the state of Georgia working on
    the railroad. So I’ll let them tell you a little more about the place. CSX hauls freight anywhere from grain, ethanol, propane, gasoline, plastics… Just about anything that you would come in contact with on a daily basis was hauled by a train across the United States. We mainly deliver for the east coast. We run as far south as Florida, all the way up to Canada. Everything you see within this room, within in your classrooms, where you’re at at one time or one form is probably riding on one of our trains. And it’s how I make my living Nice! So how big is this operation? CSX operates 36,000 miles of track throughout its 23 state network. 36,000 miles?! That’s a lot of track to–well keep track of. And CSX employees actually weld
    all those rails together. A little help?? That’s Cullen’s expertise there. Then he’s the perfect person to tell us about the different types of welding. The electrical welding is what everybody thinks of when we when we talk about
    welding. That’s where they’re striking the arc and you see the guys wearing a
    welding hoods and what not. Thermite welding is pretty railroad specific. Thermite welding? It’s actually a chemical reaction. What we do is in order to make the rail bond, we have to heat the rail ends up 800 degrees and that gets the metal consistency where we need to let the molten steel bond to it. But the actual thermite itself is a powder. It’s aluminum oxide and iron ore powder. And we use a magnesium starter and that ignites it. And once it ignites, the chemical
    reaction actually produces so much heat that it melts the steel. The pure iron will drop down into the mold in between the two rails, fuse them
    together and it makes our rail the clickety-clack. And the joints, they’re out there we get rid all that. We make it a smooth transition. It’s no more speed bumps for the trains. Now if only you could do something
    about those speed traps. So tell me about the trains. The lightest rail car that we have is over 15 tons. And that is one car. So a standard freight train could haul
    over a hundred cars, could be tens of thousands of tons. CSX trains, depending on the track,
    passenger trains from travel up to 79 miles an hour. The larger locomotives are rated for up
    to 4,000 horsepower. Your smaller locomotives can range anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 horsepower. That’s a lot of horsepower. And speaking of that… time for a teachable moment. Horsepower is simply a way of measuring power. And to understand exactly what power is, you need to start with force, which is the push or pull exerted on an object
    measured in Newtons. When you measure that force over a distance, such as the energy it takes to move a 50,000 ton train a thousand miles, you get the work measured in joules. And when you measure that work over a period of time, you get the power. Or in this case, horsepower. That’s a cow. Better! Anyhow… Inventor James Watt first coined the term
    “horsepower” back in the 18th century while looking for a way to measure the
    power of his steam engine. Because there was no accepted unit of measurement at
    the time, he used horses as a benchmark for comparison. Therefore one unit of horsepower
    equals the average effort generated by a single draft horse. Later, a different unit of measure was developed that could be used in
    conjunction with the metric system. This new unit was named the watt, after James Watt. And 761 watts are about equal to one unit of horsepower. Sorry, guys. so what kinds of jobs do you have here at CSX? The railroad has jobs available for
    all aspects of talent. We look for people that are high school graduates all the way up to college graduates. We can start off with conductors, yard masters. You have train masters,
    you have terminal superintendents division managers and you even have other departments such as safety, health and environment. We even have personnel here that do personal training for us. So a lot of opportunity. And CSX is also a great place to work if
    your future includes military service. Military has become a very important part of CSX And the people that come from the military have a discipline that is needed to work
    in the railroad industry. In fact one out of every five CSX employees
    has a military background. Anyone? I am actually in the Army Reserves. The US Army National Guard. I went in the military. I got the GI Bill.
    And now I’m utilizing it. I’m working here for CSX and getting my
    college paid for by the GI Bill. So after high school, whether you’re heading to the military or college or getting straight to work, CSX could work for you. I really enjoy watching the young
    people come through here. We have men, as well as women, that are very well trained and good at their job. You know the biggest benefit of working for CSX is that you know that you’re working for a company that’s making a contribution. A company that is that is really
    helping to drive our economy. As the railroad goes, so does our American economy and so does the Georgia economy. I think the opportunities here
    are beyond the limits. Limits never pay too much attention, which is probably why Fast Forward and
    CSX are such a great match. Right now, I’ve got a train to catch. But I’ll see you on another episode of Fast Forward.

    Part 3: Railroad Signals, reading and meanings. Diverging and Limited speeds, to and at signals
    Articles, Blog

    Part 3: Railroad Signals, reading and meanings. Diverging and Limited speeds, to and at signals

    August 8, 2019

    In the previous videos, we
    introduced you to the basic, 3 head railroad signal
    and the three speeds it indicates: High speed, which
    is maximum track speed limited by the type of
    track and its geometries, which for some
    trains in Canada can be as high as 100 miles an hour. Then medium speed which is 30
    mph, and slow speed which is 15 mph. Now, most switches can only be
    traversed at 15 mph – they are quite sharp curves. Okay – so time is money. The
    railroads want their trains going as fast as
    possible, as much as possible. Slowing down your multi
    million dollar train to 15 mph just to go
    through a switch is annoying – the train waiting for
    you has to wait while you sloooowly get your
    entire train – which could be two miles long –
    through the switch. At 15 miles an hour! So the railroads
    designed high speed switches which have very long,
    gentle curves, enabling the train to transit
    the switch going 25 miles an hour. This speed is
    given its own name – “diverging speed.” That’s faster
    than slow speed, but track speed might be, say,
    75 miles an hour. So how do you tell the train
    operators to slow down to 25 miles an hour through the
    switch? They did this with a very cheap, very simple
    solution which simply modified the signals
    which have already existed for some 100 years: You
    can add a sign to a slow signal. By putting a DV plate on a
    signal, you upgrade that signal’s slow indication to a
    diverging speed indication. Notice for instance
    that the slow to clear signal and diverging to
    clear signal are identical – it’s just a DV plate
    put on the signal. The diverging to stop signal is
    identical to the slow to stop signal, but the
    slow to stop has been upgraded to a diverging to stop
    signal. Again, notice the fail-safe
    incorporated into the system: if the DV plate gets
    covered over with snow, or some foamer steals it,
    the signal reverts to the 15 mile per hour slow
    speed instead of 25 mile per hour. So the train
    would wind up transiting the switch at 10 mile
    an hour slower than the speed the switch was
    designed for. But let’s up the speed a little
    more: let’s make switches with really long curves
    and turnouts, designed to be taken at 45 miles
    an hour. Again, this is new speed with its own
    new name: Limited speed. So you might be able to
    guess what the designers did to show the train
    operators they can take the switch at 45 mile an
    hour. That’s right – they upgrade a
    pre-existing signal. There’s really only one speed
    they could upgrade, and that would be medium speed. So if we take the medium head
    and flash it green, that is an “upgraded” medium
    speed signal – it has been upgraded to limited speed.
    If the flasher fails, it just means the train
    will wind up going through the switch at a slower,
    safer 30 miles an hour instead of 45. Another way
    to upgrade the medium signal is to put a sign
    under the lights – an L plate. If the L plate
    happens to fall off, or gets covered in snow so you
    don’t see it, no big deal – it’s a fail safe system:
    the train will simply go through the switch at
    30 miles an hour instead of 45. So if we have a solid medium
    speed green light it means medium to clear. If it’s
    flashing or has an L plate and it’s green it means
    limited to clear – you can cruise through the
    switch at limited speed – 45 miles an hour, and once
    your entire train is through that switch, you know
    you can crank it up to track speed even if you can’t
    see the next signal, because you were just told what
    the next signal will be – a clear signal. The
    limited signals are read exactly as the medium
    signals are, but the speed is upgraded to limited
    speed instead of medium speed. A medium to stop
    signal is upgraded to a limited to stop signal. A
    medium to clear signal is upgraded to a limited
    to clear signal. One quick note before I move on:
    Notice that the plate add-ons have distinctive
    shapes. This is to aid in identification at a
    distance. The DV plate is rectangular. The R plate is
    square. The A plate is round. The L plate is
    triangular. Alright – so we’ve gone through
    these basics of the speeds and how they’re shown on
    the signals: slow speed, diverging speed, medium
    speed, limited speed and high or track speed. Now
    it’s going to get a little more complicated, but
    you’ll see the method to the madness here hopefully. Remember that these signals show
    us not just what to do HERE and NOW, but also
    what we’re going to do as much as two signals in
    advance. This applies to ALL of the various speeds. If we can carry on at track
    speed and the signal is warning us of a slower speed up
    ahead, then the top head will be yellow – indicating
    we can pass this signal at track speed, but
    there’s a restriction up ahead. The next head down will
    be an indication of the speed restriction we’re
    going to encounter. For instance, medium speed. If the
    medium speed is TWO signals ahead, then we flash the
    top head – just like before that is an
    “Advanced” warning, in this case, advance clear to medium.
    We pass by this signal at track speed, expecting
    a medium signal two signals ahead. Now don’t forget, we can upgrade
    that medium signal by flashing it, or putting an L
    plate on it. So this would be advance clear to
    limited. This would be clear to limited. This would be an advance clear
    to slow signal. This would be a clear to slow signal.
    We can upgrade the slow signal to a diverging
    signal with a DV plate. This would be a clear to
    diverging signal – it’s the exact same as the clear to
    slow signal, but the slow signal has been upgraded to
    diverging speed. So we come up to a switch and
    we’re going to enter the siding. Obviously if we have
    to limit the speed of the train passing a signal to
    something slower than track speed, we’re not
    going to use the top head. We’ll make it red as a
    placeholder, indicating we cannot go track
    speed. We’ll make use of the lower two heads to
    indicate what’s going to happen now, and at the next
    signal. But let’s say we’re going to go
    right through the entire siding, which has medium
    speed switches at both ends. The opposing train is
    sitting there on the main track, and we’re going
    to go around him using the siding. We get up to
    the siding and we see this signal. The top signal is red and is
    just a placeholder – we cannot go track speed past
    this signal. The middle head is green, indicating
    medium speed at this signal. If the next signal
    was for track speed, it would just be the
    middle light as green, indicating medium to clear,
    right? But we can’t go through the next switch at track
    speed, so again we use the next signal down to
    indicate what the NEXT signal will be. In this case, it
    is medium speed. So this signal would be medium
    TO medium. Pass this signal and through the switch at
    medium speed, approaching the next signal at
    medium speed. If the next switch was a slow
    speed switch, then the signal would look like this:
    Medium to slow. We are passing by a medium signal,
    with the next head indicating what the next signal
    will be, which is a slow signal. Things get a touch more
    complicated from here on in. Let’s say that the switch
    we’re passing through now is a slow speed switch, but
    the next switch is a medium speed switch? How would
    you indicate it? We need to show slow speed which
    is usually shown by the bottom head – but we need
    the lowest head to indicate what the NEXT signal
    will be. This is where things get more specific
    and rules-driven. We have the Canadian Rail Operating
    rules where the agreed upon signal configuration
    and meaning is laid out. What was decided was
    that this signal would mean slow to medium. We can’t use the top head
    because that indicates track speed. So we use the
    middle head with a flashing yellow to indicate SLOW
    speed here and now, at this signal. The next
    signal is represented by the bottom head. Obviously
    the next signal will not be track speed, or else we’d
    just stick a green light on the bottom head, called
    it a slow to clear and go home. The next signal is
    not a stop signal, otherwise we’d just make the
    middle head yellow, call it a medium to stop signal
    and pass by at medium speed, stopping at the
    next signal. So that narrows down the meaning of the
    green on the bottom head: It represents what the
    next signal will be, and It has to be a medium speed
    signal. So we pass by the slow to medium
    signal at slow speed, and once our train has
    entirely gone through the switch and past the light,
    we can accelerate to 30 miles per hour, or medium
    speed, because we know that the next signal will be
    medium speed. You can now start to see the
    patterns emerge as you actually read the signals
    instead of just using brute force memorization: This signal is slow to limited.
    Pass this signal at slow speed, expecting to pass
    the next signal at limited speed. It’s the exact
    same signal we just saw, but next, medium signal
    indication has been upgraded to limited speed. This signal is limited to
    limited. Pass this signal at limited speed, expecting the
    next signal to be limited speed. Take a guess before I tell this
    next one, see if you get it right. I’m guessing you probably got
    it: This is a Limited to slow signal. Pass this signal
    at limited speed, the next signal will be a slow
    signal. There’s some minor points to be
    made where the signals were somewhat arbitrary.
    For example, clear to medium can indicate the next
    signal on either the middle or bottom head. But,
    if it uses the bottom head, it was decided to
    make the track speed head green. So this is a clear
    to medium signal. This is a clear to limited
    signal. You’ll also remember that if
    it’s a two-head signal, all they’ve done is
    ditch the bottom head to save on cost. So just imagine
    that bottom head is there, and it’s a red
    placeholder. This is advance clear to medium. This is
    clear to limited. I’ll also just briefly mention
    flashing red lights. This is something that CN does
    not use at all, though they are in the Canadian
    Rail Operating Rules. So basically a flashing
    red light does one of two things: If it’s
    indicating a signal up ahead, it’s warning of a
    RESTRICTING SIGNAL. For example: This is Clear to
    restricting. You can pass this signal at track speed, the
    next signal will be a restricting signal. This is Limited to restricting –
    pass this signal at limited speed, expecting the
    next signal to be a restricting signal. You can
    figure out the various combinations you can get –
    basically they’ve upgraded the placeholder to
    represent a restricting signal up ahead. If they are ALL red, and the
    bottom one is flashing, that means take or
    leave the siding or other track. If we’re taking a
    switch on to a branch line, or into a siding,
    that signal just simply means the switch is lined
    for that other track, you’re going to take it.
    CN uses the flashing arrow in advance to
    indicate if we’re going to take the siding, and
    then we get our speed indication at the siding signal
    itself. Alright, that was a lot to take
    in. In the final segment we’re going to cover how
    to read dwarf signals, which are the short or
    low-mast signals you mostly see in railyards.
    Thanks for watching.