Now that we have your attention we want you to know how critical PTC is to the future operations of the 261. Without it operating a steam powered passenger excursion train on any mainline will not happen.
Positive Train Control, PTC, federal mandate becomes effective December 31, 2018.
For a technology that matures daily and while the FRA has not made the final ruling regarding steam locomotive operations relying on waivers is not a long term solution.
PTC is designed to monitor speed and location of a train and can override the controls, reduce the throttle and apply the brakes in an emergency situation such as an immanent collision, incapacitated crew, missed signal or misaligned switch. The adaptation for steam is challenging with the requirement of a programmable on board computer, server for information access, dedicated power source with redundant backup power, monitors,and wayside monitoring system all being installed in the dirty unclimate controlled environment of the steam locomotive cab. Additionally being capable of interoperability between the different host railroads PTC technology and software systems. Then adding an element of electronic mechanical throttle and braking control over a manually operated system of a steam locomotive.
The cost of implementing PTC nationwide is in the billions.
The Friends of the 261 assessment of the scope and cost to retrofit the locomotive with PTC means we are tasked with approximately $150,000 for the parts, equipment and technical know-how to install and operate the associated components.
With this in mind the Friends have been working with the FRA, other mainline steam operators, potential host railroads, and suppliers on how to adapt PTC to steam operations.
The Friends have identified and applied for several grants to help with this new cost burden but now our fund raising must start in earnest as it is our responsibility to raise and allocate this major sum for the implementation of PTC in addition to our existing operational and ongoing mechanical, maintenance costs associated with operating the 261 annually.
Sales of Steam passenger excursions, Windy City trips, private car rentals, North Pole Express events and donations are essential to help with this funding effort.
The Friends of the 261 will absolutely need the support of every member if the Milwaukee Road 261 steam locomotive is to continue to operate mainline excursions beyond 2018.