In Baja California Railroad we are in charge of the operation of the short line Tijuana – Tecate, with a strong and consolidated team that allows us to provide quality services to our customers. A key roll in the operation process of the locomotive is the “train operator”.
We had the opportunity to interview Ramón Ramírez Vázquez, train operator of Baja California Railroad, who lends his services since 2008. He shared that being part of this industry is generally a family heritage, in his case, he followed the footsteps of two previous generations, specifically his father and grandfather. Both of them worked as brakemen at the beginning and, after receiving special training in machinery management and control, they acquired a certification as train operators by National Railways of Mexico Association (FNM, by its acronym in Spanish). Nowadays, Ramírez is member of the Mexican Republic Railroad Union, whom Baja California Railroad signed a contract with last year to improve work conditions for the operators.
Ramírez talked about the locomotive functionality, elements and operating form. He mentioned that the industry operates 2 types of engines: the GP-38 and GP-39. The difference between these two is the tons quantity and potency that drag on Horse Power (HP), 2,000 HP and more than 2,500 HP respectably.
Before starting a route, the locomotive is inspected externally to make sure that no windows are broken, that the hardware is working well, and making sure it’s filled with plenty of diesel. Afterwards, it’s important to check that the levers are in place and in proper position; if they are left in the wrong position, it could cause serious damage to the motors. Usually, it is the mechanic’s duty to perform this revision, but it is the train operator’s responsibility to check the conditions of the engine he is about to operate.
Regarding the tools that control the train, there are 6 levers that are used to move forward or backwards, blow the whistle, increase speed and potency that goes from 0 to 8 which, depending on the load, will be the force point needed to pull the train.
Among other elements, there is the bell, which notifies when the train is going to move: 2 short whistles to indicate it’s moving forward and 3 short whistles to indicate it’s moving backwards. On the other hand, at 100 meters before a designated cruise, 2 long whistles must be given followed by a short one and ending with another long one. This notifies pedestrians or nearby drivers that the train is passing through the crossing zone.
In the citizen safety topic, Mr. Ramirez mentioned having observed pedestrians or drivers who do not respect cruises, and even by having visible signs, they decide to cross the road. He expressed that it’s important to know that once the train hits the breaks, it doesn’t stop immediately. Citizens are not the only ones exposed to accidents, but also operation personnel (the train operator, brakeman and train dispatcher), in case of impacting an object or pedestrian who obstructs the way, which is why so important to take care of our railways.
Finally, the job of a train operator has been acknowledged through time, principally idealized by children. We had the opportunity to get to know about the activities and processes that involve driving a locomotive, the train operator’s Ramón Ramírez perspective about his work area and tools, as well as his opinion regarding the relationship between the citizens and the railroad.
It’s important to remember that the railway is beneficial to the region because it allows us to connect with the United States of America, transport merchandise that crosses the border and supply our state with various goods, therefore promoting our economic growth. Each element or participant in the operational process is worthy of recognition due to the significance of the industry.