Posts Tagged ‘traffic’

Direct Traffic Control – An Overview

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Direct Traffic Control (DTC) is, put simply, a computerised version of Train Order Working. Station Yard layouts differ to those in Train Order territory and DTC is a much safer and more flexible system.


In Remote Controlled Signalling (RCS) territory, a standard is applied to the way signals are identified. Below is a drawing of a typical RCS crossing loop showing how each signal is identified.

Each signal number is prefixed with a mnemonic to identify the station location. For example, if the above map represented “Flinders”, then the mnemonic would be ‘FS’. Therefore, the Up Home signal at Flinders would be ‘FS14’. In most cases, points are motorised and are operated from the Control Centre.

DTC has been described by many as the “poor man’s RCS”. This is because a station yard layout in DTC territory is almost identical to RCS except “Block Limit” boards (left) are used where colour light signals would normaly be location (see below). These “Block Limit” boards have a signal ID plate on them, just like a colour light signal does in RCS territory. Standard QR “Beacons” (right) are used in place of Approach signals. These do not have an ID plate. In many cases, Trailable Facing Points are used, set for directional running. This way, two trains can cross without crew members having to manually operate the points.

How it works

The basis of DTC is similar to Train Order. The Train Controller issues the driver of each train a computer generated DTC Block Authority to proceed to a particular Block Limit board. This is done by means of computers and a series of numeric codes transmitted by two-way radio.

The Train controller has a workstation that is very similar to a UTC workstation used in RCS territory. Just like UTC, the DTC workstation has a schematic diagram of the track in that Controllers territory.

The driver of each train that enters DTC territory is issued a laptop computer. Locomotive cabs have been fitted with special “soft” cradles and plug in power supplies for the laptops. These laptops are pre-programmed with information that a driver may select from e.g. line section (see below).

Starting up

Before a train can enter DTC territory, the driver must perform computer start up procedures whilst the Train Controller “Builds” the train into the DTC system. The following procedures are carried out:-

Train Driver

  • Mount laptop in cradle and connect power supply lead
  • Boot up Computer
  • Set time and date
  • Select section of line to be traversed (eg. Charters Towers to Stuart)
  • Enter train details
    • Train Number (eg. 6239)
    • Lead locomotive number (eg. 2810)
    • Location (eg. Charters Towers)
    • Block limit board train is facing (eg. CT21)
  • Start up details will be displayed on screen
  • If details are correct, hit “Enter”
    – system will generate two “Start-up” codes
  • Transmit codes to Train Controller

Train Controller

  • Select “Start up code” button from menu
    – Start up code screen appears on workstation
  • Enter codes into system
    – a screen will appear requesting train length
  • Confirm train length with driver
  • Enter length into system
    – system will generate a “Display” code
  • Transmit display code to driver

Train Driver

  • Enter display code into laptop
    – This will generate a DTC authority showing the current location of the train
  • Read authority back to Controller
  • “Driver of 6239 – 2810, starting in Charters Towers yard. Must not pass Block Limit Board CT21”

(This dialogue is actually shown on the drivers laptop screen).

Train Controller

  • Check details and click “Accept” or “Reject”, as the case may be
  • If accepted, confirm with driver
    – Train 6239 will appear on the Train Controllers DTC workstation at Block Limit Board CT21
  • If rejected, repeat process.

Although this seems like a lengthy and complicated procedure, it only takes a few minutes and only needs to be done at the beginning of the trip.

Issuing DTC Block Authorities

Once the ‘Start Up’ procedure has been completed and the train is ready to depart, the Train Controller can issue the driver with the first authority to proceed. The basic operation of the Controller’s workstation is very similar to the UTC system. To set a path for a train in both systems, the Train Controller clicks his mouse on the train icon then clicks on the track block at the termination of the route.


This action drives all motorised points to the desired position then clears all signals between the train and the route termination. The route and all applicable signal icons will turn green when complete. This is the end of the process.


When the route is selected, it turns flashing green and a ‘command’ code is generated. The following procedure is carried out.:-

Train Controller

  • Contact Train Driver and tell him to be ready to receive an authority.

Train Driver

  • Select ‘New Block Authority’ from menu on laptop.
    – The ‘Command code’ screen will appear.
  • Inform Train Controller that he is ready to receive the authority.

Train Controller

  • Transmit the ‘command’ code to the driver.
  • Click ‘accept’ on the workstation.
    – The ‘drivers code’ screen will appear on the workstation.

Train Driver

  • Repeat ‘command’ code to Train Controller whilst entering it into the laptop.
    – This will generate a ‘Drivers’ code
  • Transmit the ‘Drivers’ code to the Train Controller.
  • Press ‘Enter’ on the laptop keyboard.
    – The ‘Control code’ screen will appear.

Train Controller

  • Repeat ‘Drivers’ code to Train Driver whilst entering into workstation.
    – This will generate a ‘Control’ code.
  • Transmit the ‘Control’ code to the driver.
  • Click ‘accept’ on the workstation.
    – A dialogue detailing the limits of the authority will appear on the workstation.

Train Driver

  • Repeat ‘Control’ code to Train Controller whilst entering it into the laptop.
    – A dialogue identical to the one on the Train Controller’™s workstation should appear.
  • Read the dialogue to the Train Controller.
  • Press ‘Enter’ on the laptop keyboard to confirm.

Train Controller

  • If dialogue is correct, click ‘Accept’ and inform Train Driver he may depart.
    – The route display on the workstation will show the train icon occupying ALL blocks for which the authority is current. This includes ‘Head of train’ and ‘Tail of train’ icons.
  • If dialogue is NOT correct, repeat procedure.

To put this procedure into words makes it sounds very complicated and longwinded. In practice, a Block Authority can be completed in 30 to 45 seconds. A Train Order, on the other hand, can take up to 8 minutes even if a CATOS terminal is used. Here is an example of a two-way radio dialogue between a Train Controller and a Train Driver when receiving a Block Authority. Keep in mind, a ‘Start up’ procedure has already taken place:-

TC ‘West Control, Townsville to the Driver of 6239, over’
DR ‘Driver 6239 receiving, over’
TC ‘6239 are you ready to receive your authority to proceed?, over’
DR ‘Control, 6239 is ready, over’
TC ‘Driver 6239, your command code is 301-683-796, over’
DR ‘Command code 301-683-796’¦.. Drivers code is 475-294-094, over’
TC ‘Drivers code 475-294-094’¦.. control code is 898-147-357, over’
DR ‘Control code 898-147-357’¦.. Authority reads ‘˜Driver on Train 6239 locomotive 2810, proceed into Stuart, obey signal ST49 at Stuart’™, over’
TC ‘Driver 6239, Block Authority is correct, you may proceed, out’
DR ‘Acknowledged, Control, Driver 6239 out’.

Releasing Blocks back to Train Controller

After a train has traversed one or more block sections, he may release blocks behind him at his own discretion or as instructed by the Train Controller. The following procedure takes place

Train Driver

* Ensure blocks to be released are clear and no part of his train is occupying any of them.
* Press ‘R’ on the laptop and use the arrow keys to select the blocks to be released.
* Press ‘Enter’
– This will generate a ‘Release’ code and a dialogue.
* Transmit the code to the Train Controller.

Train Controller

* Click on ‘Tail of train’ icon on the workstation.
– The ‘Block Release’ screen will appear.
* Enter the ‘Release’ code given by the Train Driver.
– A dialogue detailing the block(s) to be released will appear on the workstation.
* Read the dialogue to the Train Driver.

Train Driver

* Confirm message is correct.
* Press ‘R’ to release blocks.

Train Controller

* Receive confirmation from Train Driver.
* Click ‘Accept’ on workstation.
– Route diagram will update ‘Tail of train’ icon to current location.

System Capabilities

The DTC system is capable of issuing a Block Authority from one end of a line section to the other. Each ‘line’ (e.g. Stuart – Mount Isa) is broken up into ‘line sections’ (e.g. Stuart, Charters Towers, Charters Twrs, Hughenden etc).

Stations at the border of line sections are manned for all train movements and have locally operated signalling systems (note, if the signals are colour light, they do not come under RCS rules). Once a train has arrived intact inside the ‘Home’ signal, the Block Authority can be relinquished and the train is under the control of the Station Master.

A Train Controller will generally give a train authority to proceed to either of three points:-

1. To the first station where shunting or other duties are to be carried out, or
2. To the first station where that train will cross an opposing train or allow a following one past, or
3. To the end of the line section, if traffic permits.


If a train is required to shunt at a station, that train must arrive intact at that station, release his DTC authority and be issued a ‘Shunt station’ Authority. This will block all lines at that station and prevent other trains from passing through. The train bearing the ‘shunt station’ authority is permitted to use any track at that station and may proceed into the block section, for shunting purposes only, as far as the ‘Limit of Shunt’ board (See map above). Once the shunting is complete, the ‘Shunt station’ authority is relinquished and a Block Authority issued to continue its journey. If, for some reason, the train is to depart a different line to that where it arrived, the Train Controller must be informed so he can update the DTC system and give departure from the correct Block Limit Board.

Crossing (Refer map on Page 1)

Imagine the above map is Reid River (RR) and two opposing trains are required to cross here. The Up train will be given an authority as far as Block Limit Board RR16, the Down train to RR23. Let’s say the Up train is first to arrive and stops at RR16. The driver performs a brake leakage test to confirm his train is complete. He then releases the block)s) behind him to Control. The Controller may then update the Down trains’ authority to continue past RR23 and into the next section. When the Down train arrives, the driver of the Up train will observe the ‘Rear of Train signal’ is in place on the Down train and radio that driver to inform him of the fact. The Down train releases the block(s) behind him and continues his journey. The controller can then issue the Up train with an authority to resume his trip.

Positive aspects of DTC

For the most part, no electric signalling equipment is required, only signage, manually operated points and a reliable two-way radio system. Laptop computers are used on locomotives so it is not necessary to fit every locomotive with a computer. Only purpose designed ‘soft’ cradles and external power sources.

Logic would dictate that this should be the first point mentioned but corporations the world over these days tend to opt for economy over safety. However, DTC achieves both. Rules are in place to cater for all types of situations including computer and/or radio failure. The Train Controller has access to safety controls never before seen in ‘dark territory’ operation. For the first time, it is possible to ‘block’ a track to allow maintenance staff to work safely on track. This facility prevents the Train Controller from issuing authorities over the closed section of track. Not even the older CATOS system has this capability.

As mentioned, a DTC Block Authority can be issued in 30 to 45 seconds whereas a Train Order takes from 3 to 8 minutes. DTC specific radio operations are conducted on a separate channel to the normal main line radio channel. This is a ‘party’ channel where a driver can listen in and obtain details and whereabouts of other trains in the area. Therefore it is no longer necessary for the Train Controller to issue each train with a ‘Train Working Advice’, a cumbersome task in itself.

User friendly:
For the Train Driver and the Train Controller. Easy to understand screen layouts are employed and ALL dialogue is generated by the computer system. You don’t even have to think about what to say!! Commands are kept simple and everything is in plain English. Even the most jaded drivers can use this system.

Rail fans:
Well? Not necessarily a positive point to QR but rail fans love DTC. If you have a radio scanner tuned in to the DTC specific channel (the freq escapes me), you know EXACTLY where trains are at all times. Rail photographers need never endure poor quality pictures because the camera equipment was set up in a hurry. With DTC, you can anticipate the arrival of a train and have your equipment set up in good time ready for that perfect shot!

Negative aspects of DTC

Radio failure:
DTC relies heavily on the usage of Two-way radios. Therefore it is imperative that the best possible, most reliable radio system available is used. Despite this, it is still more economical than RCS.

Traffic density:
No ‘dark territory’ safeworking system was ever designed for use in high density traffic areas. DTC is no different although it is possible to run more traffic in DTC territory than any other ‘Dark’ territory.

Human Error:
The biggest enemy of any ‘dark territory’ train operations. The Train Controller has no choice but to take the drivers’ word that he is in fact clear of sections he is releasing back to Control. This is no different to Train Order territory so operations depend on the strict discipline and training of the train crews. Fortunately to date, this has never been an issue.

B17 Class

Thursday, April 15th, 2010
Total Number of Engines Built 21
First Engine Built 1911
Last Engine Built 1914
First Engine Written Off 1950
Last Engine Written Off 1960
Number of Engines in Class on the Books as at:
31/12/00 31/12/10 31/12/20 31/12/30 31/12/40 31/12/50 31/12/60
21 21 21 18


These were the largest non superheated six coupled engines to operate in the state. The class was introduced when it was proposed to increase the size of the Sydney Mail (via Wallangarra). They were originally used for this train and mail trains between Brisbane and Rockhampton. By 1930s, with the availability of superheated engines they were relegated to lesser duties. Four engines were attached to the Central Division during World War 2 and they worked as far north as Bowen. Upsurge of traffic during those hostilities caused them to again be pressed into heavy main line passenger work. In their final years they were restricted to slow goods and shunting trains. Like many saturated engines, they were heavy on coal and water. They were generally unpopular with crews particularly with poorer coals and heavy loads. Superheating was trialled on two engines, N°678 and N°610, in 1917 but proved unsuccessful, apparently due to problems lubricating the slide valves. Superheaters were removed when the engines were reboilered between 1929 and 1931. The class contained a number of unusual features. The safety valves were contained in a small dome mounted behind the large regulator dome. There was a large gap between the second and third sets of coupled wheels. One standard Sellers injector was fitted on the fireman’s side whilst the other was a Davies and Metcalfe combined injector and clack valve mounted on the boiler back plate. They were the first engines to be fitted with what became the standard QR whistle for the next 35 years. Scrapping of the class commenced in 1950 and the last two engines in service, N°689 and N°690, were written off in November 1960.

Train Numbering Guide

Monday, April 5th, 2010

The QR train numbering system, in its present format, has been in use since the late 70’s. The first version was very limited. Mainly numeric but the letters A to F were used in the Brisbane Suburban Area (BSA) for second character only. Since then, it has grown to a very complex system that describes a train in great detail. With today’s train numbering system, a seasoned employee or rail fan will know what sort of train it is, what is hauling it, how fast it can go, where it is going and in the case of EMU’s, how many cars long. No other numbering system in Australia provides as much information.

With the exception of suburban passenger traffic, all trains are provided with a second identification, known as a “service” number. In most cases, the service number is the last 3 characters of the “Train” number with an alpha suffix that identifies the business group to which the train belongs (e.g. Q301/301T – ‘T’ = Traveltrain). At present, control software does not support the use of 5 character train numbers but this is being worked on. When complete, the service number will disappear and 5 character train numbers will be introduced. Some train numbers you might hear might be – 1119C, 0FB9Z, C742X, 9Y32M or M594H. So here we go with a character by character description of the QR Train Numbering system.

1st Number designation

0 Diesel-hauled Infrastructure Work Train
1 6 car EMU, SMU or HS/SMU in revenue service
2 EMU/SMU/IMU/ICE empty cars (any length)
3 Diesel-hauled passenger train in revenue service; max 80km/h
4 Diesel-hauled empty coaches
5 Railmotor in revenue service
6 Diesel-hauled freight train; max speed 80km/h
7 Diesel-hauled freight train; max speed 60km/h
8 Diesel-hauled freight train; max speed 100km/h
9 Diesel-hauled unit mineral train
A Electric-hauled passenger train in revenue service; max 100km/h
B Electric-hauled empty coaches
C Electric-hauled freight train; max speed 80km/h
D Electric-hauled freight train; max speed 60km/h
E Electric-hauled unit mineral train
F Electric-hauled freight train; max speed 100km/h
G Electric light engine
H Electric hauled or EMU departmental work train, tuition or test train.
I (Not to be used) – Too similar to ‘1’
J 3-car EMU, SMU or HS/SMU in revenue service
K Standard Gauge train
L Diesel light engine(s)
M Steam-hauled passenger train in revenue service
N Non-Revenue railmotor
O (Not to be used) – Too similiar to ‘0’
P Diesel-hauled passenger train in revenue service; max 100km/h
Q Electric Tilt Train (empty or in revenue service)
R Steam light engine or empty cars
S Diesel yard shunt engine
T 6-car IMU in revenue service
U 3-car IMU in revenue service
U Electric-hauled Coal Services (Pacific National)
V Diesel Tilt Train (empty or in revenue service)
W – redundant –
X ICE or ICE/EMU in revenue service (any length)
Y 2800 class loco hauled freight south of Rockhampton.; max 100km/h – see Note 3
Z On Track Vehicle(s) and some Hi-rail vehicle(s)

2nd Number designation (in order of code)

0 Bowen Hills/Mayne Area
1 Caboolture (Suburban)
1 Saraji mine (Mackay Coal System)
2 Townsville
2 Goonyella (Mackay Coal System)
3 Rockhampton
3 Peak Downs (Mackay Coal System)
4 Gympie North
4 Norwich Park (Mackay Coal System)
5 Beyond Darra to Grandchester (except Rosewood EMU services)
5 German Creek (Mackay Coal System)
6 Rosewood (suburban EMUs only, even numbers)
6 Beyond Grandchester to Toowoomba (all other traffic)
6 Oaky Creek (Mackay Coal System)
7 Beenleigh line (Suburban)
7 Moolabin/Clapham/Acacia Ridge (Freight)
7 Blair Athol (Mackay Coal System)
8 Cleveland (Suburban)
8 Fisherman Islands (Freight)
8 Riverside (Mackay Coal System)
9 Roma Street
9 North Goonyella (Mackay Coal System)
A Shorncliffe line (Suburban)

A Abbott Point (Bowen Coal System)
A Clermont
A Forsayth
B Pinkenba line (Suburban)
B Curragh (Gladstone Coal System)
B Box Flat (Brisbane Coal System)
B Sonoma Mine (Newlands)
B Clermont
C Corinda via South Brisbane (Suburban)
C From Corinda to Yeerongpilly (Suburban)
C Cairns
C Yongala (Gladstone Coal System)
D Darra via Toowong (Suburban)
D Proserpine
D Callemondah (Gladstone Coal System)
D Dalby
E Ferny Grove line (Suburban)
E East End (Gladstone Limestone traffic)
E Cloncurry
E Emerald
E Warwick
E Ensham (Gladstone Coal System)
E Ebenezer (Brisbane Coal System)
F Golding (Gladstone Coal System)
F Various destinations as determined by Control
– 0-79 Brisbane District
– 80-89 Rockhampton District
– 90-99 Townsville District
G Beyond Beenleigh to Robina (Suburban)
G Gladstone
G Hay Point (Mackay Coal System)
G From Maryborough to Monto
G Glenmorgan
H Boorgoon (Gladstone Coal System)
H Dirranbandi
H Hughenden
I Boonal (Gladstone Coal System – see note 4)
J Bundaberg
J Jilalan (Mackay Coal System)
J Jandowae
K Kingaroy
K Kinrola (Gladstone Coal System)
K Kuranda
K Springfield
L Cobarra
L Fishermans Landing (Gladstone Limestone traffic)
L Wandoan
L Yandina (Suburban)
L Laleham (Gladstone Coal System)
L Lake Vermont (Goonyella)
M From Cleveland to Bowen Hills (Suburban)
M Gregory (Gladstone Coal System)
M Mount Isa
M Mareeba
M Maryborough
M From Gladstone to Monto
N Exhibition via Brisbane Central (Suburban)
N Newlands (Bowen Coal System)
N Koorilgah (Gladstone Coal System)
P Barney Point (Gladstone Coal System)
P Pring (Bowen Coal System)
P Saint Lawrence
P Milmerran
P Springsure
P Airport Spur (Suburban)
Q Moura Mine (Gladstone Coal System)
Q Mary Valley Branch (Tourist Railway only)
Q Bowen
Q Quilpie
Q South Walker (Mackay Coal System)
R From Shorncliffe to Roma Street (Suburban)
R Roma
R Gracemere
R Callide Coalfields (Gladstone Coal System)
R Collinsville (Bowen Coal System)
R Burton (Mackay Coal System)
S From Shorncliffe to South Bank/Yeerongpilly (Suburban)
S McNaughton (Bowen Coal System)
S Boundary Hill/Callide to QAL Gladstone (Gladstone Coal System)
S Boorgoon to Stanwell Powerhouse (Gladstone Coal System)
S Sarina
S Charleville
T Theodore
T Phosphate Hill
T Stuart – Calcium (Limestone traffic only)
T Moranbah North (Mackay Coal System)
U Mackay
U Rolleston
U Beaudesert (Tourist Railway)
V Cunnamulla
V Biloela
V Dalrymple Bay (Mackay Coal System)
W Boundary Hill (Gladstone Coal System)
W Coppabella (Mackay Coal System)
W Beyond Emerald to Winton
W From Hughenden to Winton
W Wallangarra
W MacArthur (Mackay Coal System)
W Zillmere Area
X Exhibition Direct (Suburban)
Y Gordonstone (Gladstone Coal System)
Y Yaraka
Y Chinchilla
Y Yeppoon
Y Kippa Ring / Petrie
Z Exhibition (Suburban)
Z Gladstone Powerhouse (Gladstone Coal System)
Z Mackay Harbour

3rd Character – Part of the train ID or additional information

Mainly part of the trains actual number but in many cases, the 3rd character is used to supply additional information on the train. If the 3rd character is numeric, there is no additional information. 3rd character alpha codes are not found in any manual or text book. They are usually locally agreed characters and can vary in different parts of the state. Here are some of the codes I do know.

Pacific National Queensland:-

Pacific National Queensland freights use ‘P’ as the third character in the train ID to signify which trains they are operating (eg. 8CP1)

Brisbane district:-

NOTE – ‘a’ = Alpha, ‘n’ = numeric, ‘x’ = alpha/numeric. All descriptions have examples, except “work trains”.

Work trains:
0FBn – Ballast
0FCn – Concrete sleepers
0FPn – Pantograph test train
0FRn – Railset
0FSn – Spoil/sleepers
0FTn – Test engine/train
0FWn – Wiring

xDYn – Via South Brisbane to Darra (1DY2)
x5Yn – Via South Brisbane to Ipswich (15Y2)
xxPn – School train (18P4) (may be cancelled during school holidays)
xxTn – Extra service for special events etc. (1GT4)
xFXn – Exhibition Circular Services (1FX5)

With the new timetable, third character alpha’s are just a continuation of the numerals (IE: 0,1, 2 -> 8, 9, A, B etc. EG: 4 successive Airport trains might be TP97, 1P99, TPA1, 1PA3 etc).

Gladstone coal system:-

Boonal Loop:
EInn – Jellinbah coal (EI21)
EIYn – Yarrabee coal (EIY5)

Rockhampton district:-

63Rn: Livestock trains from Gracemere to Rockhampton (63R1)

There are many more around the state that I am not aware of. Someone else might be able to add to this?

Livestock trains:-

Livestock trains are represented by either a C, N or S as the the third digit.
eg. C0N0, CEC7, etc.

These represent the sector of the state the livestock originated from:-

N – Northern Division
C – Central Division
S – Southern Division

4th character – part of the train ID and direction

The 4th character is ALWAYS numeric and forms part of the train ID. In most cases, an odd 4th character is a Down Train, even for Up trains. The following exceptions apply:-


1. Where the 2nd character is ‘F’ (Various destinations), the 4th character can be odd or even, irrespective of direction. This is usually for “trip shunts” (7F30) and work trains (0FB9).

2. In the BSA, if a freight train changes direction to complete its journey, the Train Number assigned when the train entered the BSA is retained. (e.g. 6749 Toowoomba – Acacia Ridge freight travels in the Down direction from Toowoomba to Yeerongpilly thence in the Up direction to Acacia Ridge. The odd number is retained).

3. 2800 class loco’s are “Out of Dimension of Standard Transit (ODST – outside the rollingstock gauge) which is why they have a separate train ID. Oddly enough, if a train is NOT hauled by a 2800 class, but has one as a vehicle in tow, then the applicable train number is used (6, 7, 8, C, D, F) and an OOG Authority is generated for that train.

4. Boonal loadout serves two mines. See “3rd Character” for train number differentiation.

5. With coal and BSA suburban traffic, trains are usually numbered progressively starting from either xxx1 (Down) or xxx2 (Up) at midnight each day. For all other traffic, there is no real pattern to numbering.

That’s about it. Like I said, it is a very complex system but, once you’re used to it, it works fine! – Matthew Smith