Scenario #1 - Train
When a train wishes to call the RTC, they
must key the tower - send three steady tones on the appropriate
frequency to a lineside base station (or tower). Portable radios,
such as the ones carried by work crews, have a keypad on them that produce
codes similar to touch-tones on a telephone. To call RTC using a portable
radio, the operator transmits a code, such as *5480# on the calling
frequency (This particular code is used to call RTC on CN's Halton
subdivision - I'm not too sure about other areas) . Keying the tower
activates the radio in the RTC's office (response to the hail consists of
three 'ringing' tones on the channel).
After receiving the call, the dispatcher comes onto the frequency and
identifies themselves ("CN YA Toronto, Over" or "CP Galt
Sub RTC, over").
Scenario #2 - RTC calling Train
All trains monitor a specific
road frequency. CN trains, travelling anywhere on the network, monitor
160.415 MHz. CP trains monitor different frequencies depending on what
subdivision they're on. The frequencies are listed in the Frequencies
section of this site.
The dispatcher's radio can select specific
towers along the subdivision, normally selecting whichever tower is
closest to the train they are calling.
Sometimes you can hear the trains ask the dispatcher to switch to a
different tower if the original one isn't coming in clear.
If RTC wants to talk to a train, the dispatcher comes onto the road
frequency and asks for the train by number. "633, this is YA."
or something similar. If it is a long conversation, the dispatcher might
ask the train to switch over to another frequency to free up the main
channel. "Switch over to eight" or something similar.
Scenario #3 - Train calling Train
There is no special protocol here - passing train crews often just jump
onto the radio to wish each other good day, to let them know that the
visual inspection is okay "633 west okay on the north side", or
just to confirm the tee-time for the foursome this weekend.
Scenario #4 - Conductor calling locomotive
Again, no special protocol here. The conductor often has to leave
the train to perform switching operations, lift/set cars or carry out
lineside repairs. He/she is in contact with the engineer via two-way radio
- usually transmitting on the main calling frequency. All transmissions
are usually preceded with the train number, to avoid confusion and
disaster if another crew is switching nearby (in case the engineer hears
an 'all clear to reverse' from a nearby crew, and thinks its from his
conductor who is underneath the train repairing a faulty trainline).
Usually you will hear the conductor informing the engineer that its safe
to back up, move forward, and how far away the rear of the train is to the
cars they are picking up (usually expressed in car lengths, and then feet
as the train moves closer).
Scenario #5 - Train calling foreman
When track repairs must be made, the crew's foreman sets flags
outside of the work limits. Red flags are put lineside no less than 200
yards from the work area, and yellow/over/red flags no less than 3000
yards from the work area.
Construction foremen radios are usually always on channel one. Trains, on approach to
a construction zone (indicated by red flags), communicate with the foreman
via radio. The name of the foreman and nature of work are designated in the DOB (Daily Operating Bulletin - a printed
list of all of the unusual conditions happening on the particular
subdivision, such as slow orders, construction (with mileage and foreman's
name), unusual track conditions, etc.).
633: "633 west calling foreman George Cameron, over"
Foreman: "Foreman George Cameron go ahead 633, over"
633: "633 west approaching red flag mile 14.2 Halton
subdivision on the north N-O-R-T-H track, leading with engine #5601. what
are your instructions, over"
Foreman: "633 west approach north track no restrictions, with
bell and whistle around men and machinery, over"
The train then repeats and confirms the information before passing through
the construction zone.
These types of communications are VERY handy to the railfan, as it not
only tells you that a train is on its way, it also gives you the train
number and the type of power leading the train (using the engine number).
Scenario #6 - TOPs (Track Occupancy Permits)
In order to travel to and from worksite, or to perform certain kinds
of maintenance on the line, it is necessary for work crews to travel on
the rails. In order to protect the crew's puny hi-railer from a chance
head-on encounter with a hurting freight, the RTC issues Track Occupancy
Permits to the work crews. This allows the crew to travel between two
designated points (usually signal numbers or station names), and be
protected from surprise visits.
RTC: "TOP number 653 six-five-three foreman George Cameron
permission to occupy the south S-O-U-T-H track between signal number
142 one-four two and signal number 185 one-eight-five of the Halton sub. Please
call RTC before 1400 hours".
This is handy for the railfan - it allows one to get a feel for the
day's traffic patterns and know of any construction on the line (red flags
are a bonanza for the railfan who likes a little notice before a train
As well, "Call RTC before xx hours" is handy in determining when
the next train is due. If the time posted is two hours from now, you can
expect a train in two hours.