• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Tales of the Red Tape #13: An “F” for Train Regulation

    Most folks would reasonably think that a railroad engineer or conductor would be able to distinguish the front of a train from the back of it. Not so the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). To ensure against any possible confusion, the agency requires the letter F to be displayed on the sides of each locomotive to identify … the front!

    Most folks might reasonably think that such a rule would be ripe for elimination under the Obama Administration’s executive order to reduce unnecessary regulations. And in fact, the rule was nominated for rescission by Union Pacific Railroad under the regulatory review called for by the President. But although the Department of Transportation listed the rule under “actions being taken” in its recent progress report on the review, officials have only agreed to “consider” a change “to the extent practicable.” And only reluctantly at that.

    According to FRA officials, the regulation serves a purpose because it “identifies not only the front end of the locomotive, but also identifies all of the locomotive’s equipment (e.g., wheel R1 is the first wheel on the right side of the locomotive counting from the front end).”

    And by way of further explanation:

    The identification facilitates recordkeeping related to equipment history. For example, if an inspection finds that wheel R1 is slightly worn out, but not defective, the railroad can note the condition for the next inspection. At the next inspection wheel R1 may be defective.

    Most folks might wonder why eliminating the “F” rule would make “wheel R1” anything other than what it is—the first wheel on the right side of the locomotive counting from the front end. Unless, of course, one simply cannot trust railroad workers to know where the front of the train is without the intervention of the federal government.

    Want to read more Tales of the Red Tape? Check out these stories below:

    #1: We See Dead People

    #2: The EPA Is Fueling Nonsense

    #3: Don’t Touch That Dial!

    #4: The Unwitting Peddlers of Toxic Tomes

    #5: Calorie Counts Forced Down Our Throats

    #6: Equine Equality Under the ADA

    #7: Energy Department Plumbing for More Regulatory Powers

    #8: How Many Hazmat Suits Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?

    #9: Regulators Going Off on Microwave Ovens

    #10: The State Department’s Passport Inquisition

    #11: Circumcising Principle in San Francisco

    #12: Regulatory Grapes of Wrath

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    10 Responses to Tales of the Red Tape #13: An “F” for Train Regulation

    1. Tom Parker, Memphis says:

      Obviously you know nothing about railroading. Locomotives have many different configurations, some have "center cabs" and some are units that have no cab whatsoever and are used in conjunction with units that do have cabs.On some of these units one end is indistinguishable from the other. When reports are prepared on such units it is imperative that the front of the engine be properly identified. Fifty cents worth of paint to mark the front of the unit is a small price to pay when safety is involved.

    2. Tom, Ohio says:

      Most locomotives have a low short hood and a long high hood where the engine is located. So which end is the front? Don't answer too quickly. Two of this nation's largest railroads used to order their locomotives with the long hood as the "front". Some locomotives had two sets of controls to make running the locomotive in either direction easier. So which end was the "front"? Some locomotives have their cabs directly in the center. Which end is the "front"? Some locomotives, commony called switchers, don't have a short hood. So which end is the front? The cab end, or the hood end? As you noted, when reporting safety or maintenance issues, the official "front" of the locomotive becomes very important.

      All of the above locomotives can be found throughout the U.S., on multiple railroads, large and small, and many times "float" between railroads. So how is a crew to know which end is the "front" of that old high hood NS SD40-2? Can you tell without some marking? (BTW, sometimes the "front" of the locomotive can change if it is rebuilt, so not all high hood NS SD40-2's may have the same "front".)

      No offense, but if you are going to knock a regulation, and the common sense of the railroad crews, please do your homework ahead of time.

    3. Renny, Maryland says:

      This is what we are paying approximately $75-80,000, or more plus benefits for!!

      But that's not bad because he can get the money form the defense budget!!

    4. Perry OK says:

      Nothing can suprise me after all the CHANGE of past 3 years. All the red tape we run into ends at a desk of another over/under qualified goverment employee with an assistant.Just ask for directions!!!

    5. Bobbie says:

      Why spend any amount of any money in education when the federal government spells it out? Guess that means education under government is influence not intellect. How can railroad workers be trusted to do the job necessary if they don't know the front from the back without the hand of the federal government?

    6. Jim Lipper Monument, says:

      There is a very good reason for the "F" on a locomotive. The early diesel engines were set up to run long hood foward or short hood forward depending on the railroad. The controls were set up differently depending upon which way the engine was to run. As railroads merged is became possible for one railroad to have engines of the same model set up oppsite ways. To insure that the lead engine (railroads often use miltiple engines on a train) was set for the engineer to face foward it the "F" made it easy to tell from outside the engine as to how it was set up. I don't know how important you may think that the engineer facing foward and & being able to see ahead & see signals along the track is, but the rairroad thought that is was important. Just a history lesson. Not everything is a easy as you think. Next time do a little more research.

    7. Pingback: Red Tape and the Real Problems of Regulation « American Elephants

    8. Bobbie says:

      It's the principle of the matter, Jim. And the principle of the matter is conducting business with the LEAST government NECESSARY.

      Did it take government and it's costs for you to know what you do? Is there any reason of significance that merits government involvement beyond their oath of office? Think a little about employment and government overreach and their wasting costs, infringing on that employment.

    9. VC Geezer says:

      They should mandate that all locomotives have a smiley face on the front. Every 3-year-old knows that all trains have a smiley face on the front.
      Besides, having the "F" on the front will confuse all those millions of unwashed, ignorant citizens that the lawmakers insist on "protecting". And, while everyone (especially lawyers) are scratching their heads trying to figure out what the "F" is for or what it is supposed to mean, they will get run over…

    10. Rich says:

      Perfect example of a un-informed person that can get publicity, press which turns into hysteria, all based on false information

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×