Locomotives of the Union Pacific are running without engineers, but nobody’s putting out the alarm. There will be no trains heading off cross-country without a human on board, but U-P spokesman John Bromley says remote-controlled trains are already being shuttled in train yards to add and unhitch cars at the push of a switcher’s button. They started using them last spring in Des Moines, remote-controlled switching engines used in the “yards” so a switchman can run a locomotive without having to talk, or mis-communicate, with an engineer – something they think will improve switching operations. Bromley explains that though the switchman is not on board the locomotive, it will not go off cross-country without a human at the controls. He keeps his train in visual sight at all times so he knows the track where it’s heading is clear, and does his work from the side of the train. The process is used only in switching yards and Bromley says there are no plans to use remote-controlled trains in any long-distance operations. Railroad unions have strongly resisted the new remote-controlled switching operations but Bromley says technology has been making some jobs obsolete for a long time now. Years ago five-man crews included an engineer, fireman, head brakeman, rear brakeman in the caboose, conductor, and sometimes a flagman in the last car — whereas today the crew typically is only an engineer and conductor in the locomotive. The railroad’s website is http://www.up.com/