Remote Controls Eliminate Need For Engineers In Yards

CLEVELAND (AP) - These remote-control trains won't fit in theaverage basement.

CSX Corp. is using remote controls to move trains around itsrail yards, which the company said eliminates the need for yardengineers and improves safety.

But the engineers' union and a state legislator who is also alocomotive engineer say the practice is unsafe.

The company started using remote controls in July in its Ohioyards. A few dozen other yards across the country also use thissystem. CSX has no plans to use remotes to move trains between

Under the old system, two brakemen would give hand or radiosignals to the engineer on the train. Now, the brakemen -- one ateach end of the train -- each carry a control unit.

State Sen. Robert Hagan, a Democrat from Youngstown and alocomotive engineer for CSX in Lordstown, has proposed outlawingthe use of remote controls when trains cross public roads. Thereare road crossings at CSX yards in Parma and Lordstown.

"How safe is it at those crossings without someone on the trainto blow the whistle?" Hagan said.

The public also should be concerned about potential hazardsbecause "railroads handle all kinds of hazardous materials," saidDon Hahs, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.

The company said the system is safe because it eliminates possible miscommunication between the brakeman giving signals andthe engineer. Now, the brakemen control trains directly. If one ofthem falls, fails to respond or even bends down too far, the systemautomatically stops the train.

Don Glass, a brakeman with 26 years in the railroad industry,has been using the new system at the Parma yard.

"It has worked out pretty good so far," Glass said. "Butthere is a lot more to think about. You have to be on your toes."

A spokesman for the Association of American Railroads said theremotes can be good for the industry by reducing both accidents andcrew sizes.

"It's a very competitive world out there," Tom White said."Railroads move about 40 percent of the freight.

"It's keeping the goose that lays the golden egg healthy, andthe goose is the railroad industry."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)