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Compiled by Michael Popke
Service design development requires freight railroad planners to consider a diverse set of resources moving through a network over time. These considerations can be further constrained by network limits, regulatory requirements and business rules. Among the core challenges are the lack of system interoperability and poor data integration, Biarri Rail officials said in an email.
Biarri Rail’s cloud-based Boss rail planning software system is equipped with a suite of optimization algorithms that can quickly generate feasible, safe and efficient plans, company officials said. Boss includes specialized algorithms for integrated planning for locomotive allocation, train conflict resolution, crew shifts and more. The holistic approach to service design ensures the safe and optimal use of resources throughout the organization, company officials added.
Focused Technology Solutions, a Marmon/Berkshire Hathaway company, specializes in transportation safety products, including SpikeEase. The battery-operated spike remover is designed to increase production by removing a single spike in three to seven seconds, and the tool can pull more than 400 spikes per charge, company officials said in an email.
Weighing less than 30 pounds, the SpikeEase solution enables crews to do more work while staying safer and without sacrificing speed or power, company officials said. The elimination of the claw bar and hydraulics make SpikeEase an environmentally friendly alternative; there are no gas-powered generators, long hydraulic hoses or hazardous fluids. Additionally, the product enables workers to operate smoothly in remote areas such as bridges and tunnels, company officials said.
The Leica Absolute Tracker ATS600, a portable measurement and inspection solution from Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, offers both non-contact direct scanning and traditional reflector measurements to facilitate a smooth rail-car build — beginning at the welding phase.
As a coach frame is joined, a laser tracker can be used to level the coach to avoid torsion. Due to the size of the welds involved, critical points can be missed during the inspection process, since such data typically is out of range for traditional 3D laser scanners, touch probes or reflectors, company officials said.
The Leica Absolute Tracker ATS600 meets that challenge, they said, with metrology-grade accuracy and without the need for a reflector at the point of measurement.
Users receive a continuous and reliable overview of construction and required adjustments, thus enhancing the precision alignment of large and difficult-to-maneuver parts in rail-car production; and making the process faster and easier than more traditional methods, company officials said.
A safety issue railroad operators confront is blocked rail lines from fallen rock, especially in places where track passes through mountainous regions with steep rock cuttings. Accurately diagnosing rockfall events can save railroads costly operational delays and reduce the amount of unnecessary inspections due to false positives.
L.B. Foster Co.’s rockfall monitoring system uses LIDAR (light detection and ranging) technology to detect a fallen rock and to determine its size — and whether it’s an obstacle on the track. Each LIDAR covers not only its own area of track but its neighboring LIDARs, creating redundancy in design to achieve a high level of safety integration, company officials said. With the LIDAR system, the precise position and width of the obstructing rock can be fed to a central control room via wireless or direct communication, which then sends an alarm signal to alert maintenance engineers.
An event-recording system can be deployed at the site to better prepare maintenance engineers, and LIDAR provides continuous scanning even after an obstacle has fallen onto the track, company officials said. An additional benefit: The rockfall monitoring system differentiates between animals or trespassers and a hazardous obstacle.
In 2017, following years of research and development, Metrom Rail launched the AURA Train Control System. Based on a U.S. military derivation of Ultrawide Band (UWB) RF technology, the AURA System offers a modern train control solution featuring down-to-the-millimeter time-of-flight range precision, company officials said. In many cases, the underlying UWB technology’s performance actually improves in traditionally difficult RF environments such as tunnels — ensuring more reliable performance, company officials said.
The system is modular, enabling railroads the freedom to select key functional capabilities that apply to their operations and the ability to expand functionality without additional hardware. The AURA Train Control System can be used for a range of applications, from full heavy-rail train control and signaling operations to basic collision avoidance and signal/speed compliance functions for light rail transit systems, company officials said.
Miller Ingenuity’s ZoneGuard™ electronic roadway worker protection system uses a patented combination of detection technologies to warn rail maintenance crews of incoming track vehicles within their work zones. The diverse and redundant sensors — which include LIDAR, radar, infrared camera and accelerometer — work together to ensure that a track vehicle will be detected consistently and accurately in all conditions, company officials said. Once detection is made, an audible and vibrating alert is sent to each roadway worker via a wearable device.
ZoneGuard is available in both fixed and portable versions. The portable kit is durable and lightweight enough to transport equipment from jobsite to jobsite, and can be set up in minutes. The fixed system is permanently installed and provides 24/7 train tracking capabilities while being online-ready for use by any number of roadway workers at any time, with no configuration or setup required, company officials said.
The detection system’s flexibility allows it to perform within high-noise urban environments, as well as under high power lines, on bridges, inside tunnels and across multiple tracks.
Nordco Inc.’s ultrasonic rail flaw detection (RFD) equipment is designed to find unseen defects, providing railroads an opportunity to correct them before disaster strikes.
Nordco utilizes advanced digital signal processing and proprietary algorithms to analyze data generated from a number of transducers in the company’s XL9-11, Sweeper and Tracer roller search units, which are integrated into a range of hi-rail vehicles, rail-bound measurement cars and portable devices. By using either stop-test or continuous testing methods on a regular schedule, railroads can ensure that the rail remains in top condition to prevent derailments, company officials said.
Railroads can choose between owning and operating their own equipment, contracting services to Nordco, or owning the equipment and utilizing the company’s technicians to manage testing operations.
Pintsch Tiefenbach US Inc.’s axle counting technology enhances safety in dark territory, company officials said. When a Class I developed a system to monitor and ensure the safe operation of mainline switches on dark territory, it selected the Pintsch Tiefenbach system. In addition to providing a vital “OS” circuit protecting the switch, the company’s axle counting system also provides critical data indicating the direction of movement through the circuit. This data, combined with other inputs, ensures the safe operation of switches in locations where vital communications and signaling infrastructure is either insufficient or nonexistent, company officials said.
The axle counting systems offer a high level of safety and reliability by applying the same methodology and operational architecture widely used for the company’s grade crossing, interlocking, trap circuit and similar life-critical applications, company officials added.
By using embedded intelligence within its CrewPro Short Line scheduling software, crew management scheduling provider PS Technology protects short line train and engine (T&E) employees, railroads and holding companies from enforcement actions caused by simple procedural oversights, company officials said.
Developed while engaging short lines via an advisory board, CrewPro Short Line provides a layer of efficient protection for short lines and their personnel, they said. Compliance with regulations designed to reduce T&E fatigue safety issues is a core built-in feature, company officials added. The scheduling software is designed to call only qualified and rested crews while honoring extra-board employees. Automatic warning flags are presented when a dispatcher manually selects crew members without adequate rest or qualifications. If these warnings are overridden manually, all processes are automatically recorded and available for review or FRA inspection, company officials said.
Working in conjunction with existing cab signaling systems, Trainguard ACSES — which stands for Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System — acts as an overlay, enforcing predefined speed limits and ensuring that a train stops when a signal indicates a restricted aspect, Siemens Mobility Inc. officials said.
A key Trainguard ACSES feature is its ability to provide Positive Train Stop (PTS), they said. Current cab signal technology only enforces a 20 mph speed restriction when approaching a red home signal indicating a “Stop and Proceed” or “Absolute Stop” aspect. Trainguard ACSES enforces train speed by evaluating braking curves according to civil speed limits, and also enforces PTS by targeting a stopping point just before a home signal displaying a Stop and Proceed or an Absolute Stop aspect. Violation of the braking curve results in the application of brakes. Once stopped under a PTS, the operator must wait for the signal to clear. In the case of an emergency, the operator can push a “Stop Bypass” button after receiving permission from central control to release the train.
In revenue service in the Northeast Corridor, Trainguard ACSES enables railroads to upgrade their existing cab signaling system to PTC capability without investing in a complete system upgrade or replacement, company officials said.
Vision Research Inc., which manufactures digital high-speed Phantom® imaging systems, offers the Phantom S210, a 2Gpx/sec machine vision camera. The S210 reaches 1,730 frames per second at full 1280 x 1024 1.3 Mpx resolution — providing the speed and throughput needed for high-speed rail inspection, company officials said in an email.
The S210 utilizes up to four CoaXPress (CXP6) channels streaming directly into PCI Express frame grabbers in order to reach its 2Gpx/sec throughput. The camera also features a general-purpose input/output for fast and flexible signaling and synchronization. These include signals beneficial in standard high-speed applications, along with several other signals commonly found in streaming applications such as Trigger, strobe and event marking.
Additionally, the S210’s compact and durable aluminum housing tolerates challenging environments, and the camera can be easily mounted on a variety of tripods or plates for internal and external recording, company officials said.
Wi-Tronix LLC offers the Violet Edge, a connected event recorder and digital video recorder remote-monitoring system with a suite of visual analytics tools designed to enhance rail safety, company officials said.
The Violet Edge IoT platform processes locomotive and video data along with GPS, integrates inputs from different sources and devices, and provides that data immediately to a secure, cloud-based customer portal. The platform is a comprehensive, single-source solution for monitoring assets and protecting rail operators and the public, company officials said. Additionally, Wi-Tronix’s visual intelligence (VI) capabilities leverage forward-facing and in-cab cameras to provide visibility into operating conditions. Advanced VI is used for an increasing number of safety enhancements, including signal detection, camera-obstruction detection and milepost detection. Safety can be further enhanced by using the company’s mobile device detection to cut down on distracted operators.
Michael Popke is a Madison, Wisconsin-based freelance writer. Email comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.