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Norfolk Southern’s history spans nearly two centuries to the earliest days of American railroading. The goal of OAR is to strengthen relationships with the first responders across the NS network.
Cherise Caldwell, a dispatcher on the Georgia Division in Atlanta, monitors train traffic at a UTCS dispatching console. For years, NS has described the Unified Train Control System as the “next generation” dispatching system. All 11 of NS’ operating divisions now are using UTCS, a sophisticated train dispatching system that enhances safety, operating efficiencies, and customer service – all benefits that will help the company reduce costs and grow business.
UTCS replaces a hodgepodge of legacy dispatch systems across the railroad that functioned differently and did not communicate with each other. Talley has a special distinction – he was division superintendent for three UTCS deployments, including the first and last NS divisions to begin using the system. UTCS still was a work in progress when it was introduced nine years ago on the Georgia Division, Talley recalls.
Fast-forward to the Pocahontas, where the implementation was as “painless as the first one was painful,” Talley said.
For example, Engineering Department track maintenance crews can use UTCS’ track view to identify windows of work time where train traffic will be light.

In addition to providing an integrated dispatch system, the four primary benefits of UTCS for Norfolk Southern employees and customers are enhanced safety, improved customer service, smoother disaster response, and access to Movement Planner, another NS operating system. Enhanced safety: The system provides “pop-up” boxes to alert dispatchers to issues that need attention, such as information on authorizing track use, clearing train movements, and position of track switches. Improved customer service: Ultimately, customers will benefit as train traffic moves more efficiently and train delays are avoided. Teams of employees in information technology, transportation planning and operations systems, and other departments are analyzing data UTCS is making available for new insights into ways to improve NS’ business. Disaster recoverability: Because UTCS is shared across the railroad, NS has the capability to dispatch trains anywhere on the system from any division office or from the company’s Atlanta command center. Currently, Movement Planner has been implemented on the Georgia, Central, and Alabama divisions and on parts of the Dearborn and Illinois divisions.
Slideshare uses cookies to improve functionality and performance, and to provide you with relevant advertising. Now, all across Norfolk Southern’s 22-state operating territory, dispatchers and other railroad employees are tied into a single, integrated system. The rollout began in 2004 when he was superintendent of the Georgia Division and was completed in October during his current watch on the Pocahontas Division. NS has worked hand-in-hand with industry partner GE Transportation, the system’s manufacturer, to develop and refine UTCS.

Talley can access a “track line” view of the system from his desktop computer, his laptop, and his iPad. As a result, maintenance crews are becoming more efficient and productive, while dispatchers are spending less time trying to coordinate track work with train traffic.
Weather reports are continuously updated and advisories of high winds, flooding, and other inclement conditions appear automatically on dispatchers’ screens.
For example, UTCS automatically helps dispatchers manage slow orders – bulletins issued whenever trains must travel slower than the posted speed limit – and provides prompts to dispatchers while they remain in effect.
However, an increase in network velocity is not the only way UTCS will contribute to better service, said Rick Linebaugh, system manager transportation, Atlanta.
For example, UTCS gives NS detailed information about train movements, including how long it took a train to move over specific sections of track, the signals used, and where delays occurred. This arms NS with a huge advantage if a division office loses its ability to dispatch trains during a natural disaster or other emergency situation. Relevant UTCS data is fed into NS’ Thoroughbred Yard Enterprise System, which customers can access.

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