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When track inspection data needs to be collected during rail service, traditional manned track inspection systems can impact railway traffic and be costly to operate due to crew travel expenses, ENSCO Rail officials said in an email. Installed on passenger and freight rail cars and operate during revenue service, autonomous track measurement and inspection systems offer a solution to increase the frequency of track inspections with the same accuracy as a traditional track geometry measurement system, officials said. With ENSCO’s Autonomous Track Geometry Measurement System (ATGMS), every train movement presents an opportunity to assess a track’s geometry conditions, including those pertaining to gage, cross level, alignment, surface/profile and limiting speeds in curves. The ATGMS also can be configured to support any railroad’s inspection standards and exception reporting needs.
Geismar North America recently released the Emerald, a towed track recording unit. It’s designed to fill railroads’ need to “efficiently and economically monitor their geometry of track at a local level,” company officials said in an email. The single-operator recording unit can measure track gauge, cross level, twist, warp and track events by GPS location. Operators can preset different parameters per class of track. When exceedances of those parameters occur, the unit informs the operator through audible and visual alerts, officials said. The unit is equipped with a tablet connected to a trolley via Bluetooth to enable data to be processed and recorded in real time. The saved data can be easily downloaded for further analysis, and the system can overlay tests from the same track to monitor conditions or evaluate repairs once completed, officials said. The Emerald features an electric lift to raise and lower the unit from track to hi-rail vehicles, and can be towed through turnouts.
The newest addition to Holland LP’s Argus Track Geometry Measurement System suite is the Gage Inspector, which offers real-time gage measurements in a lightweight, foldable mounting design with a wireless connection to an operator’s laptop or tablet feed. Weighing about 50 pounds, the Gage Inspector was designed to be deployed by one person and mounted on any conventional hi-rail vehicle with any size trailer hitch, Holland officials said in a press release. The system enables configurable defect limits to be set and customized based on operator requirements. When a defect is found an audible alert goes off, indicating to the Gage Inspector to stop and verify the defect, officials said. Holland’s Argus suite of products is designed to be installed on dedicated manned track measurement vehicles, as well as transitioned to autonomous applications. The versatility of applications due to reduced size, weight and power requirements enables operators to deploy Argus equipment with more frequency, officials said. “More deployments allow for flexibility in scheduling and prioritization of territories, more track coverage, and more repeating track coverage to allow for not only instantaneous readings, but progressive analytics of rail degradation,” they added.
When track geometry data is integrated with traffic and maintenance history information, it “can help prioritize the section of track for maintenance or renewal,” Loram Maintenance of Way Inc. Chief Civil Engineer Jim Hyslip said in an email. Quantifying track geometry data and developing “the trends of values over time from survey to survey” can help predict the future condition of the track, he added. Maintenance and/or remedial measures, including the allocation of capital resources, then can be planned based on these predictions. Also, comparing quantified geometry data for different track sections can be used to rank the track sections for maintenance prioritization. “Loram has found that certain track geometry patterns — in particular, vertical profile patterns on the track surface — are influenced by the track’s substructure condition,” Hyslip said. “Loram has been working to meaningfully quantify those patterns to obtain useful information on the substructure condition of the track.”
MERMEC Inc. offers track geometry measurement services, equipment and advanced decision support software. For example, the company’s HRT500 standard gauge hi-rail truck provides automated measurements of track geometry and rail profile parameters using non-contact technology. “Using this measurement truck, our customers can quickly gather high-accuracy inspection data to determine if dangerous track conditions are present and track maintenance is needed,” company officials said, adding that customers can “satisfy federal regulations for annual track inspection by deploying this kind of automated inspection system.” Through advanced reports and data visualization software, MERMEC can provide cross level, superelevation, curvature, speed, gauge, warp, twist, surface measurements and more, officials said.
Protran Technology offers a suite of track geometry measurement solutions. The Callisto Hy-Rail system was developed to make gathering track geometry data less complicated by displaying all geometry channels required by Federal Railroad Administration in real time, company officials said in a press release. The system generates a report containing geometry strip charts, a defect list and curve tables, enabling operators to inspect track more frequently. And more frequent track inspection enables crews to better plan maintenance and allocate tampers more efficiently. Additionally, the collected data can be used by a Callisto-equipped tamper, enabling it to work immediately without pre-inspection, ultimately increasing productivity, officials said. The company also offers the Callisto ProTamp, which records track geometry and communicates directly to the machine’s control system, automatically suggesting corrective lifts and throws. Advantages include increased pre-inspection speeds from 4 mph to 30 mph; improved safety, productivity and quality; and reduced machine set-up time, officials said. Finally, the Callisto Absolute integrates trolley survey instrument data to a tamper, automating absolute geometry surfacing. The aim: higher accuracy, reduced human interface and increased productivity. Contractors using Callisto Absolute have reported 50 percent time savings “compared to traditional methods for surfacing to absolute geometry,” Protran Technology officials said.
Officials at RailWorks Corp. have seen “a steady uptick in the marketplace for track geometry services,” and the company plans to leverage technology to continue to grow in the business, officials said in an email. To that end, the company recently added rail profiling to its maintenance-of-way service portfolio. RailWorks uses a non-contact laser profile sensor system, mounted on a hi-rail vehicle, to measure gauge, rail profile and rail cant. Using this system, customers are able to see data almost immediately, officials said. “Combining our best-in-class track geometry and rail profiling services allows RailWorks the ability to collect high-resolution data at a much faster rate than visual inspections,” said RT Swindall, vice president of RailWorks Maintenance of Way Services. The company’s track geometry services are available for all types of track, including hard-to-reach sections, officials said.
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