Keeping the Railroads Running

Upon hearing that this is National Transportation Month, we thought we should praise our friends in the railroad industry, the men and women that keep people and product moving. After all, we’ve been working with them for more than 20 years.

One of our specialties is providing power supplies for railroad signaling applications. This is a mission-critical area in which absolute reliability is the standard. There is no room for error when it comes to railroad safety. And our clients have come to trust in our equipment so much that we have become the brand name in this specialty. Before going any further, though, let’s take a moment to discuss the basics of railway signaling for our friends in other fields.

Railway signaling goes back to the mid-nineteenth century when signalmen used flags and a variety of semaphore signs. By the latter part of the century, the myriad railroad operations began to unify around a set of guidelines called the Standard Code of Operating Rules (SCOR), produced by the Association of American Railroads. To this day, the SCOR guidelines are the grand-daddy of all North American railroad signaling rulebooks. Now, most Class I railroads in the U.S. use one of two sets of rules: the Northeast Operating Rules Advisory Committee (NORAC) rulebook and the General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR).

Amtrak, Conrail and several commuter and short-line railroads in the northeastern U.S. use the NORAC rulebook. The GCOR is used by every Class I railroad west of the Mississippi River, most of the Class II railroads and numerous short-line tracks. A few operators, including CSX, Norfolk Southern (NS), Illinois Central, Metro North and Florida East Coast, have adopted their own rulebooks. In the case of NS and CSX, the NORAC rulebook was integrated into their existing rules structure with the Conrail merger. Metro-North uses a rulebook based on NORAC. The Long Island Rail Road still uses a rulebook that is based on SCOR. So railway signals can vary somewhat from one system to another. Here’s a page displaying the various NORAC signals as an example.

OK, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s take a moment to thank our customers in the U.S. transportation sector for their hard work in keeping the railways safe for passengers and efficiently moving the goods we need across the country. Their efforts are truly vital to us all.

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