Juniata Falls Locomotive Werx (JFX) - FCCorp.US
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On April 12th, 2002, Freedom Central's first excursion off home rails occurred. Traveling to the ECLSTS in York, PA where FCRR NO. 3411, operating on trackage rights from Suleski Transportation, demonstrated with supreme fullness why a standard off-the shelf computer system; intended for diesel-electric locomotive operation; could NOT be expected to perform well (if at all) in day-to-day operations of steam locomotive technology. As the engine prepared to depart with the first intermodal train of the day, it stalled coming out of the yard, blocking the Branchline and fouling the mainline.

For some reason, the computer detected a ground-fault and attempted to trip the ground relay. With steam locomotion, this shouldn't have been an issue. However the GFR system, which had been subverted into a boiler-protection subsystem, detonated the micro-explosive bolts, severing the throttle lever. Intended as a safety feature, a spring then automatically closed the throttle. Additionally, electronically controlled steam vent valves were opened and the electric turbo-water pump was engaged to cool the boiler. System logs would show that sensors which monitored the boiler temperature and pressure, had been activated. Unlike their original intention of graduated activation (Notice, Alert, Warning, Penalty in...) the system had performed in an all or nothing application and at the first hint of an issue, the system activated. The GFR system had been used for this purpose because it was the closest system analog to what was desired by FCRR engineering officials. The engine was shoved back into the yard and repairs begun.

Hardly a premier opening to a weekend of showcasing steam's potential in the modern industry!

As if the previous attempt hadn't demonstrated the issue sufficiently enough, after repairing the throttle rod and performing a full systems diagnostics, FCRR engineers declared NO. 3411 ready for a second attempt. This time, NO. 3411 made it approximately 400 feet beyond the diamond when she went into emergency again. This time, smoke was discovered pouring from the electronics boxes under the tender.

In the end, a minor short in a seemingly unrelated system caused the computer to duplicate it's previous system scram. In addition, the short had caused a power feedback in a signalling system which placed the train into emergency and scrambled the electronic controls which were used to create the equivalent of "3-Step Protection". Worse, the short could not be cleared which resulted in the system continuing to detect an issue, making it impossible to clear the system fault. The engine was shoved back into the yard so technicians could try to recover the problems and save the next day's excursions.

Technicians and engineers worked all through the night and by morning had cleared the system faults. Unfortunately several electrical subsystems were reduced to electronic toast. Much of the electrical circuitry that had been carefully crafted to provide the same safety interlocks that are available in a diesel-electric locomotive had to be physically ripped from the engine's electronics boxes. The emergency repairs made it possible to operate the locomotive, but destroyed the headlight control system and the control relay which triggered the flashing ditchlights when the whistle was blown. As a result the ditchlights were hardwired to flash whenever they were turned on. On Sunday the engine was operated across Suleski Transportation trackage, ableit with only an Operation Lifesaver boxcar and a caboose... Suleski Trans officials no longer willing to trust the steamer to haul one of their hotshot intermodal trains. As soon as the engine was made operable, discussions between FCRR CEO J.D. Gallaway and mechanical engineers resulted in the decision to begin development of a custom, proprietary operating system for steam locomotive traction. It was soon decided to make the system compatible with all modes of traction, utilizing backend modules for control with a unified crew interface design.

Development was immediately begun on the theoretical aspects of what the technology was required to handle. While a set framework of needs was produced, Freedom Central began hunting down and hiring programmers to produce the underlaying code for the operating system. By this time, tough, durable touch screens had been developed for military touch-based applications. It was decided that touch-screen controls provided the most utility for the railroad's needs. Initial thoughts were given to utilizing Google's Android v.9.1.0, beter known as "Pistachio Pudding". While it was determined that the release was powerful enough to handle the needs of the Freedom Central, it was decided that a real-time, mission-critical O.S. was needed... besides, by going with a custom embedded solution, FCRR would be able to avoid any "kruft" that wasn't needed in the O.S. The die had been cast.

Many interface designs were tried, mainly clones of Apple's iOS and Android screens. None were considered to be workable for what the railroad needed. While coders continued work with FCRR train crews to develop an interface that would work, CEO Gallaway tried a different route. Contact was made with Paramount Studios, permission granted and airfare for one of their Special-FX editors was purchased. Within days, a new interface had been designed. Based on the "Library Computer Access & Retrieval System" the operating system which provided the interface between the main computer and the controls of the fictional Starship Enterprise, LCARS provided a natural flowing interface between the train crew and the control systems they needed to interact with. Utilizing the flowing auto-reconfiguration design as had been originally devloped for the show, the new "Locomotive Computer Control, Communications, Authorities & Restrictions System" provided both direct access to the operational controls of the engine as well as the ability to integrate railroad operating authorities directly into the system. This design element allowed FCRR to market the new system as a PTC-compliant system that could be licensed for use by the major locomotive builders and rebuilders. Though this only made sense if they could manage to sell licenses, it would pay exceptional dividends as the FCR/FCCorp.US expanded its territory over the next decade.

The new system was certified compatible with PTC's design specifications and was immediately licensed by Stephens Railcar out of Georgia. With their implimentation (ya, they changed the colors of the interface for each road) LCARS managed to develop quite the footprint into the rail industry, even before Freedom Central began looking at eliminating coal-fired steam from its general-duty roster. By the time the prototype XD-95-GTE was rolled out of the Imagineers! workshop in Freedom NY, it was obvious that LCARS had proven itself as just what the engineers ordered: a stable, configuarble system that could handle all sorts of duties from FirstGen coal-fired steam, diesel-electric, gas-turbine, Eco-Slug operations and even the latest in FCCorp.US's developments: the rebuild of a gas-tubine to burn liquid hydrogen. Once again, FCRR managed to score a home run in technology development.

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NOTICE: Freedom Central Corp is a ficticious creation made for my sole benefit and amusement. NO claims are made to provide benefits or services to others.
2002-2013 - All Rights Reserved - J.D. Gallaway                      WHOIS.US Information: Domain Registration Date:     Wed Apr 24 14:41:26 GMT 2002