PTC Virtual Lab at Norfolk Southern

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
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Courtesy of Norfolk Southern

Norfolk Southern has created a virtual positive train control (PTC) lab that offers a sophisticated way to test the latest PTC technology without having to do it with live trains on the railroad. The virtual lab will help NS achieve interoperability with other roads.

Warren Stubbs, the railroad’s director information system development said that “PTC is a complex system. Ensuring that all components are working as expected is daunting. The challenge is magnified by a steady stream of upgrades and fixes – it’s impossible to upgrade every component of every locomotive across our system simultaneously.”

The PTC virtual lab is located at the NS operations center in Atlanta. The lab enables NS engineers to test the complicated hardware and software that forms a PTC system. Currently, there are over 700 different “flavors” of PTC due to software fixes and changes, and more are on the way. The software portion of PTC is presented on a screen that is just like the ones installed in real engines. The software can be adjusted as needed to facilitate testing.

“In the lab, automated testing plays a huge role in preparing systems for the field,” Stubbs said. “Of course, we continue to perform additional tests on real locomotives once lab testing is complete, but virtual test locomotives have been a very important part of NS’ success in achieving the goals of our PTC implementation plan.”

Stubbs added that “We needed hundreds of locomotive configurations to properly test our PTC systems, so we bought the hardware and software we needed and built them ourselves – and spent less than we would to buy a 30-year-old diesel locomotive,” Stubbs said. “Managing assets and controlling costs are key components of NS’ strategic plan, and we think this is a good example of how we’re helping to achieve those goals.”

Source: Norfolk Southern –

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Categories: Class 1, Freight, Railroad News, Safety/Training
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