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Rail News Home C&S

February 2016

Rail News: C&S

Product focus: Rail yard technology


Argenia Railway Technologies

Argenia Railway Technologies provides axle counters for classification and marshaling yard management.

Freight cars can spend up to two-thirds of their transit time sitting idle in yards. Systems that optimize yard management can significantly increase throughput, which increases the profitability of a route, say Argenia Railway officials. Wheel sensors are ideal for tracking the movement of rolling stock in yards. The sensors are fastened to the rail at the entry points of each track segment where they detect cars as they come in. Data from the sensors is sent to yard automation systems that assist with the sorting of stock.

GE Transportation

Classification yard optimization is central to every railroad operation. Even more than capacity, yard functionality determines departure performance, car dwell time and everyday operational efficiencies, according to officials at GE Transportation. Manual planning can lead to inefficiencies in yard operations. On average, rail cars spend 40 percent to 60 percent of their time sitting idle. 

GE Transportation has created Yard Planner System, an advanced software solution designed to provide real-time planning and optimization of a rail classification yard. Yard Planner is part of GE's RailConnect 360 suite of software.

Currently under joint development with a Class I, Yard Planner allows trainmasters and yardmasters to monitor the state of a yard, and plan yard activities more efficiently so that trains are connected and out of the yard faster, GE officials say.

Yard Planner also is designed to help maximize car connection performance (right car on right train) and reduce car dwell by planning and optimizing terminal operation activities, while helping railroads to improve outbound on-time departure performance.


Lat-Lon's Connected Rail Yard enables rail-yard managers to monitor their facilities via computer with icons that represent everything from crew location to switch position.

The Connected Rail Yard is displayed on two large high-definition monitors. One monitor shows a satellite image (in real time) with all moving assets as icons. The second monitor displays a custom schematic rail yard control screen with all stationary sensor icons. Each icon is a relay from MeshRF sensors deployed within the yard to an access point unit back to secure servers.

Mesh technology makes it possible to have hundreds of reporting points throughout a yard at a lower operating expense, according to Lat-Lon officials. Sensors installed on fixed objects within the yard pass data along like a bucket brigade creating a network with multiple paths to an access point. The solar-powered access point unit contains a modem that uploads the data to secure servers and train dispatcher screens.

The solar-powered and battery-backed MeshRF sensors transmit with high frequency and reliability based on changes in conditions or programmable over-the-air configurations.

Progress Rail Services

Progress Rail Services and its subsidiary, Electro-Motive Diesel, are working with Uptake to develop an Advanced Rail Technology Platform that can analyze, integrate and visualize data from a variety of railroad equipment and business systems. The platform will enable users to access, monitor and take action on a railroad’s operations to improve asset utilization, and optimize efficiency and performance, according to Progress Rail.

The platform will use data intelligence that will help railroads minimize or eliminate unplanned downtime. EMD also uses the data to continually improve its locomotives and services.

As applied to rail yards, the platform will provide a comprehensive locomotive health score, which helps yardmasters manage risk by showcasing which locomotives are the "healthiest." Yardmasters can then place those units with the most critical trains and, in turn, keep "unhealthy" locomotives, or those needing service, near their maintenance yards, Progress Rail officials say.

The Advanced Rail Technology Platform's features include real-time monitoring and analytics of locomotive fault and operating parameters; cloud-based portal providing scalable user access and performance; mobility applications, including metrics, key performance indicators and dashboards; automatically generated locomotive troubleshooting guides and repair recommendations; and advanced algorithms for failure prediction.


A new capability of RailComm's yard automation portfolio, Car Tracking is a fully automated inventory management system that allows yard personnel to identify and follow the location of every car and locomotive entering the facility. As rail cars move through a yard, the system knows their exact location, which can be searched at any time via a graphical Web-based interface.

The system replaces yard workers having to walk the length of a yard to find a "lost car," RailComm officials say.

RailComm’s solution is designed to provide managers and supervisors with the yard-status information they need to make decisions, such as the ordered list of cars on a track, car dwell times, track length availability, and car arrival and departure times. RailComm’s Car Tracking system also keeps track of missing AEI tags, or tags with incorrect car information, and allows the user to make corrections as needed.

Additionally, Car Tracking helps empower dispatchers to improve yard planning, and offers time savings that can translate to better throughput rates, say RailComm officials. With analytics and reporting capabilities, the system helps support management with decision-making.


TrainMaster software is RailTerm's state-of-the-art rail traffic control solution. The TrainMaster system allows for the seamless control of yards, CTC and dark territory, according to the company. The software can integrate with numerous railway technologies.

AEI Readers, GPS and remote monitoring systems are now critical factors when managing efficient rail yard operations, RailTerm officials say. TrainMaster software can integrate all of those technologies to provide a detailed view of a yard territory so that critical decisions can be made with "full operational awareness."

Today, it isn't enough to gather data from equipment; a yard operator also must be able to present the data in a meaningful way, RailTerm officials say. That said, performance can be improved only when it's monitored. Detailed custom reports provide analysis of current and historic performance metrics to allow monitoring and improvement of yard operations over time.


In hump yards, retarders are important elements for controlling the speed of operations. They enable spacing between the differently running cars, which increases a yard’s efficiency.

Siemens developed Trackguard Retarders as a variable clasp retarder system for speed control in rail yards. The retarders can be fitted on one or two rails, and vary in their mounting length. The numerous possibilities combine to provide a broad range of performance, which simplifies planning and enables the construction of optimally dimensioned yards.

The modular system, which comprises identical parts, cuts down on costs in terms of spare parts stockage and corrective maintenance, according to Siemens. The retarders are equipped with patented noise-reduced retarder segments.

Trainyard Tech LLC

The next hump yard to install Trainyard Tech LLC's ClassMaster™ Hump Yard Process Control System will include a new feature for detecting occupancy at switching areas and track zones. Dubbed OSX™, the new feature uses directional wheel sensors positioned around the switch points and at intermediate points to determine the exact position and movement of rolling stock through a yard.

OSX also provides speed, distance and acceleration information, which is vital for maintaining a safe separation between rail cars. A major benefit of the enhanced information is quicker detection of anomalies associated with rolling cars, such as brakes left on or other problems that affect the rolling car, according to Trainyard Tech.

OSX is fully integrated into the ClassMaster system, which allows for easier modification and configuration. Coupled with the greater use of other commercial off-the-shelf products, the system is flexible and easily maintainable, they say. The OSX is designed to be included with any new ClassMaster system, retrofitted into any existing ClassMaster system or provided as a standalone sub system.

Vossloh Signaling Inc.

North American railroads, especially Class Is, are constantly seeking ways to improve their efficiency and operating ratios. One area of growing interest for railroads is flat yards, which represent savings and efficiency opportunities, especially in yard automation, according to Vossloh Signaling Inc., which is part of Vossloh North America.

Many railroads gradually automate their flat yards over time as opposed to replacing entire yard systems all at once, Vossloh officials say.

“For this reason Vossloh Signaling Inc. offers a solution called Modular Yard Automation, which allows our customers the option of selecting from groups of Vossloh Signaling Inc. yard control products to suit their individual yard improvement plans, and scalable to allow for future expansion,” according to company officials.

Modular Yard Automation consists of Vossloh Signaling’s patented direct-drive hydraulic switch machine, the TS-4500, as well as switch occupancy and control systems, communication systems (DTMF), charging system (optional solar power) and yard management software. In combination, these products form a turnkey automation solution, Vossloh officials say.

ZTR Control Systems

ZTR is a global provider of control and monitoring solutions for the railway market. The company offers a number of products designed for efficient operating performance of locomotives in yard applications. Those products include:

• KickStart™, which uses super capacitor technology to supplement locomotive batteries during engine start to reduce battery strain. The result is longer battery life, faster cranking speed, reliable cold weather performance and increased locomotive availability.

• ROVER™, a portable locomotive remote control system that provides accurate slow speed control, real-time information feedback.

• Locomotive Axle Generator, which is designed for the rigors of the railroad. Maintenance free and with a low-profile design, it allows up to eight output options to reduce costs and allow for future expansion.

• BOA™ Solutions. The BOA-WS replaces the WS10 module on Dash-2 locomotives and is designed to improve excitation control and adhesion. BOA-II uses advanced technology to improve locomotive tractive effort, equipment protection and reliability for better train handling, adhesion and performance on many types of locomotives.

• NEXSYS™ III-i Control System, which improves locomotive performance, adhesion, and control. These benefits can be applied to “mother-daughter” (MD) applications by adding the MD module to the daughter unit of a NEXSYS III-i equipped locomotive, which extends the life of the locomotive pair. n

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Browse articles on Argenia Railway Technologies GE Transportation RailConnect 360 Lat-Lon Connected Rail Yard MeshRF Electro-Motive Diesel Progress Rail Services TrainMaster Uptake RailComm RailTerm Siemens Car Tracking Hump Yard Process Control System ZTR Control Systems rail yard technology rail suppliers

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