Mar 25, 2021
… Which do you use?
I wonder if his name is Fred...
When I first heard about "FRED", I heard it described as "That F.....g Rear End Device". I assumed the onboard crews had no love for FREDs, because they loved their cabooses. Dunno how crews feel about FREDs now since every Class-1s and many Regionals use them.
My conductors are always in cabooses.
Although it looks like I might see a radio on him, I'm guessing he's just a foolish trespasser with no reflective vest and his foot resting on the drawbar?
You are probably right but is it possible this is a shot from pre safety vest days?
I may be mistaken, but I thought riding the drawbar was a huge safety violation.
That photo looks to be from the 'good old days' of pre-2005 at least: I don't see any FRA reflective stripes on the cars. The guy is probably an employee, there looks to be a radio handset hanging on his shirt.
I have always called them FREDs. EOT could be anything, even a flag, but FRED is specific to the electronic flashing device. I'm not sure how crews feel about them, but I did hear them having trouble with one on the scanner the last time I was railfanning. Not having a rear crew on the train means the conductor has to walk the entire way. I'm sure a caboose would have been handy there. In the days of PSR, I think conductors are doing a lot of walking.
He is an railroad employee and the time period sounds right. Didn't mean to "out" him, but photo is probably 10+ years old at least, maybe more.
Now, more FREDs...
ETD and FRED are used pretty much interchangeably where I work. I see EOTD in some company literature from time to time but I don't know anyone who uses that term.
What surprised me is that where my brother works up north they have a name for the head end device on the locomotive (Mary). Not sure how that came about but when you are connecting the FRED to the HED you'll first input the FRED ID number. As soon as you have communication with the FRED you can arm it. When we see there's a pressure reading on the rear we say, "Fred's talking" around here but my brother reports that "Fred is talking to Mary."
FRED had a big impact to the bottom line early on in terms of crew reduction, but it also helped usher in fuel savings. Engineers who have been around a lot longer than I have can feel free to add, subtract or correct anything I say here, but I'll break it down as I understand it.
When cabooses were used on every train the engineer had to consider the crew on board the caboose when it came to operating the train. Even on cabooses equipped with cushioned underframes or EOCC slack run-ins could be violent and could cause harm to the rear end crew. On grades and territory that permitted it, the easiest way to control the slack was to set a minimum reduction and simply drag the train with the brakes set. This is still the way we handle the train on certain areas where the terrain undulates and there's no other way to control the slack.
Around the same time cabooses were being replaced by FRED dynamic braking was becoming more effective. The dynamic brakes on a set of SD40-2s could help you slow the train down as long as you set air, but you'd have to be on a fairly light train to have the dynamics do most of the work. But once the SD60s and Dash 8s showed up the dynamics became much more effective. Without a crew on the rear of the train to consider, engineers only had to control the slack enough to keep the train intact, not keep the grumpy conductor's coffee from spilling. And since a negligible amount of fuel is consumed to operate the dynamic brakes compared to the fuel consumed by pulling a train around with 6-8 lbs of air set the operating department was quick to embrace a new set of train handling rules and guidelines. Dynamic brakes are so effective now there are limitations on the total number of effective dynamic brake axles we can have online for the train.
That's a great explanation, Ryan. I like hearing about the ins and outs of train operations. It's educational and entertaining.
I'm no conductor, but I do get grumpy if I spill my coffee. Especially the first one in the morning...
That would be ironic if it was running long hood forward and the FRED was the leading as the foremost safety device.
… this unit was running long hood forward. I think the move was between two local yards (maybe 4 miles apart).