Ditch Lights

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Ditch Lights

Unread postby Saturnalia » Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:18 pm

Why are they required? What's the point? Is it for Saftey? Why slow down if they aren't working?

This is my 400th Post BTW :D
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby sd70accsxt700 » Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:54 pm

Did you see the reply I typed in the shout box.
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby Mr. Tops » Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:58 pm

MQT3001 wrote:Why are they required? What's the point? Is it for Saftey? Why slow down if they aren't working?


Because the Code of Federal Regualtion says that every locomotive that will be doing more than 20mph over grade crossings must have them after December 31, 1997. So, breaking that down, we get two answers: grade crossing safety...so we can see them and they can see us, mostly the latter. CSX's and NS's flash as to get the attention of oblivious motorists. They also help us out at night. When you are driving in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, you turn your high-beams on. Well, the ditch lights are out "high-beams" so-to-speak; of course they are much brighter than anything on a car.

Second answer, to the question "why slow down if they aren't working", because if you are going faster than 20mph over a grade crossing, you are in viloation of federal code, not just a "rule", but a federal rule. Most rules have something to do with safety...someone did something unsafe, got injured/killed and then there was a rule implemented telling people not to do what he did. The federal rule says 20mph over grade crossings if your ditch lights fail, because that is what they deem "safe". Apparently, if a train doesn't have ditch lights, people can't see it or hear it?
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby Saturnalia » Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:28 am

Thanks Guys!
So can you do over 20 when you are not approaching a crossing??
Also, in my opinion, the rule shouldn't be nesessary because as a driver of a car, its your job to watch your surroundings. People should wake up and relize life isn't happy do-what-you-want land.
As for the idea of banning cell phones completely for dirvers in cars--dumb idea too because they try to hide it
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby bnsfben » Thu Dec 15, 2011 11:11 am

This topic has always interested me. I knew about the 20 MPH rule. I have noticed when two trains are meeting they kill their ditch lights and dim the headlight. I noticed, just before they get to a grade crossing they turn on their headlight and ditchlights for just a couple seconds, then once they cross the road they kill the lights again. I think they do that so they don't violate that federal law because they are almost always going over 20 mph. So if two trains are going under 20 mph they wouldn't technically have to turn on their ditch lights for a crossing?
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby midland sub » Thu Dec 15, 2011 11:31 am

Interesting you ask since it's been 20 years ago this month that the legislation was drawn up and signed by Pres George H Bush. Mother of a couple teens killed in a Texas grade crossing accident really pushed to get it to happen.
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby Mr. Tops » Thu Dec 15, 2011 12:23 pm

bnsfben wrote:This topic has always interested me. I knew about the 20 MPH rule. I have noticed when two trains are meeting they kill their ditch lights and dim the headlight. I noticed, just before they get to a grade crossing they turn on their headlight and ditchlights for just a couple seconds, then once they cross the road they kill the lights again. I think they do that so they don't violate that federal law because they are almost always going over 20 mph. So if two trains are going under 20 mph they wouldn't technically have to turn on their ditch lights for a crossing?

The 20mph rule is more for trains that don't have, or whose ditch lights have failed. The gospel says if the ditch lights/headlight work, they are required to be on bright at the crossing sign (whistle post). It also requires us to dim our headlights at night when meeting/passing trains. So, two trains meeting at night are required to dim their headlights like you see and when approaching a grade crossing are required to display the headlight on bright, and after crossing, dim the headlight again until after passing the head end of the train being passed. These rules are all as required by GCOR. Other railroads may be slightly different. But you'd be surprised how much you notice out there that is dictated by rules.
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby i995impalass » Thu Dec 15, 2011 3:52 pm

MQT3001 wrote:Thanks Guys!
So can you do over 20 when you are not approaching a crossing??
Also, in my opinion, the rule shouldn't be nesessary because as a driver of a car, its your job to watch your surroundings. People should wake up and relize life isn't happy do-what-you-want land.
As for the idea of banning cell phones completely for dirvers in cars--dumb idea too because they try to hide it


You need to be at 20MPH with no ditch lights or failure-in-route, but you are able to run track speed when you’re not approaching a crossing if track speed is over 20 and you’re in compliant with the rules of the railroad. Yes to answer your question. Like Tops said, ditch lights are like a hi-beam in the car. When your out in no-mans-land in the middle of the night and snows blowing- ditch lights come in handy for the train crews. Electronic devices are already banned on the railroads per the FRA, so why not in cars? People can then see the ditch lights from a train since their not texting.
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby SD80MAC » Thu Dec 15, 2011 4:49 pm

Good discussion, great posts from all. In addition to what's been said, the law also grandfathers in certain older locomotives, like steam locomotives and certain vintage diesels, that weren't built with ditch lights. I'm not sure what the requirements are for being included under that clause are though.

Also, I believe that according to GCOR, a Gyra light , MARS light or any kind of a signal light can be an acceptable substitute for ditchlights. Don't quote me on that one though.

On the subject of no electronics in locomotives while under way; what's the rule for passenger conductors? I've seen it written in a few different places that any crew member in the cab of a moving locomotive or protecting that movement isn't aloud to use an electronic device, so would a passenger conductor fall under that? Technically they're the boss who told the engineer to move, even though once the throttle is pulled it's out of the conductor's immediate control. The reason I ask is because I've often seen Amtrak conductors on their cell phones calling the dispatcher, and I've never heard anything one way or the other as to whether it's legal or not.
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby sd70accsxt700 » Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:09 pm

You prety much answered your own question. As long as they are NOT in the controling locomotive. Also can not use them if they are preforming a brake test or any kind of movement, that effects, direct control of the movement (ie. riding a side of the car, or end, to protect the shove). Also not with in 50 feet of live tracks.
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby SD80MAC » Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:12 pm

sd70accsxt700 wrote:You prety much answered your own question. As long as they are NOT in the controling locomotive. Also can not use them if they are preforming a brake test or any kind of movement, that effects, direct control of the movement (ie. riding a side of the car, or end, to protect the shove). Also not with in 50 feet of live tracks.

Thanks Matt. So as long as you're NOT in the controlling or lead unit and you're NOT on the ground/outside the cab as a part of a move, it's legall everywhere else?
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby sd70accsxt700 » Thu Dec 15, 2011 8:48 pm

As far as I know everything else is leagll, just try to find some where else is the problem. :-)
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby i995impalass » Thu Dec 15, 2011 9:22 pm

Conrail Jon wrote:
sd70accsxt700 wrote:You prety much answered your own question. As long as they are NOT in the controling locomotive. Also can not use them if they are preforming a brake test or any kind of movement, that effects, direct control of the movement (ie. riding a side of the car, or end, to protect the shove). Also not with in 50 feet of live tracks.

Thanks Matt. So as long as you're NOT in the controlling or lead unit and you're NOT on the ground/outside the cab as a part of a move, it's legall everywhere else?


It has to be a company issued cell phone and for company use (calling RN) and a job breifing is suppose to take place before hand so all members of a crew know.
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby hoborich » Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:39 pm

Why are they required? What's the point? Is it for Saftey? Why slow down if they aren't working?

This is my 400th Post BTW

You already knew why ditch lights are required! :P
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby hoborich » Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:49 pm

Here is the reason for ditch lights. A bright locomotive headlight can be seen for miles. But you cannot judge the distance or speed of a bright light coming straight at you. It could be coming 100 miles an hour, or stopped a half mile away. Three lights on the front of a locomotive will definately get your attention more than one, and also allow your eyes and brain to calculate the speed and distance of the oncoming loco.
Historically, engineers have always dimmed their headlights for oncoming trains, to avoid blinding each other. This is more important for older engineers, whose eyes take longer to recover from a headlight in the eyes. Hard to do a roll by inspection of a passing train, when you are blinded for two or three minutes.
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby GP9R » Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:39 pm

Also there is a difference between "Crossing lights" and "Ditch Lights". Amtrak uses "Crossing Lights" and pretty much everyone else uses "Ditch lights". Crossing lights are aimed straight down the rail but they don't have to flash. Ditch lights are aimed to cross each other, without looking at the CFR, I think 250 feet in front of the locomotive. The Canadians are the ones that started using ditch lights after a CP Crew was killed after striking a rock slide they couldn't see. The original intent for ditch lights was not for crossing protection, but for the crew to be able to see what is on either side of the track better. Extra outside visibility was an added bonus.
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby sd70accsxt700 » Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:21 am

If that is true, then CSX has Crossing lights and not Ditch lights. Ours do not cross and are pointed down the rails.
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby GP9R » Thu Dec 22, 2011 11:11 am

Matt, I wouldn't know that for sure, I've only been in 1 CSX engine and I was stuck in the middle seat
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby AmtrakCSXRailfan » Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:47 pm

I was talking with my school bus driver and.she said that when stopped at a crossing to open the doors if a train is coming, and. The gates aren't down she can go unless she can make out three lights once she can it is against her own judgement wether or not to go.
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Re: Ditch Lights

Unread postby AmtrakCSXRailfan » Mon Jan 09, 2012 4:52 pm

But I do know for a fact that ditchlights are added for better crew visibility. The whole crossing safety thing may be true, but also could have just been An added bonus. BNs strobe ditchlights however were meant for crossing safety as well were marslights and the such
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