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Rail News Home MOW

August 2022

Rail News: MOW

Technology update: Track inspection and measurement

Holland’s Gauge Inspector is a portable inspection system.
Photo – Holland Co.


Compiled by Michael Popke 

Holland Co. 

Holland Co.’s proprietary Argus® track-measurement technology offers multiple inspection applications. And TrackSTAR® contract testing vehicles are designed to provide a range of track-measurement data in various dedicated and manned vehicles for freight, passenger or short-line railroads.  

Holland recently partnered with Cordel to provide railroads with LiDAR data while performing contract testing.  

Argus technology also offers other applications outside of contract testing programs. Portable inspection systems, such as Holland’s Gauge Inspector and Track Inspector, can be placed under any hi-rail vehicle “in a lightweight and foldable mounting design,” company officials said in an email. The Gauge Inspector provides real-time gauge measurement with on-board alerts, while the Track Inspector provides full track geometry.  

The company’s unattended geometry measurement system is designed to be mounted to the underside of a locomotive. It uses locomotive power to “reduce overall cost and [the] number of components to maintain,” company officials said. All track measurement applications, as well as third-party data, can be combined into the Rangecam™ track inspection and maintenance planning software so users can view such track condition data as geometry, rail wear, profile and rail flaws. 

Loram Technologies Inc.  

To facilitate GPR and LiDAR inspection services, Loram has developed a self-contained inspection box that can be set on the back of a small hi-rail pickup truck or a large hi-rail flatbed truck for data collection.
Loram Technologies Inc.

Loram Technologies Inc. provides Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), LiDAR measuring services and imagery along with data analysis for substructure condition evaluation.  

GPR offers continuous measurement of subsurface conditions such as layer configuration, moisture content and the fouling condition of the ballast, while LiDAR data and digital video images are collected to further evaluate right-of-way and track conditions. LiDAR also can be used for drainage design, accurate location of assets and detection of the root cause of such problems as shoulder heaves and insufficient internal/external track drainage.  

To facilitate GPR and LiDAR inspection services and better adapt the technology for different inspection conditions, Loram has developed a self-contained inspection box that can be set on the back of a small hi-rail pickup truck or a large hi-rail flatbed truck for data collection. The box weighs about 1,000 pounds and measures 40 inches wide, 72 inches deep and 72 inches tall.  

It features three-channel 400 MHz GPR antennas, dual LiDAR, a high-quality GPS with integrated inertial measurement units and rear-facing cameras. Everything is folded in the box and can be unfolded by pressing a button; the system requires only an encoder feed and power cable run to the truck’s 12-volt battery, company officials said. The operator can connect to the system wirelessly for data collection.  

Plasser American Corp. 

Plasser American Corp. offers a variety of track geometry products designed to address a range of rail industry needs.
Plasser American Corp. Image Copyright Craig Walker

Plasser American Corp. offers a variety of track geometry products designed to address a range of rail industry needs. The company’s “core server and software’s agile setup allow seamless integration of third-party systems,” Plasser American officials said.  

The Plasser track geometry measuring system is an inertial, non-contacting system based on a navigational solution. The system measures all track geometry parameters, including track gradient. For alignment and profile, the system measures both true chords with versine and true space curves.  

The non-contacting rail profile measuring system incorporates the latest laser and video camera technology to provide immediate feedback on the profile and wear condition of the rail while traveling at speeds up to 200 mph, company officials said. The non-contacting corrugation measuring system is designed to measure and analyze corrugated rails in different wavelength ranges.  

Meanwhile, the company’s clearance measuring system records and analyzes clearance crosscut data of the track and surrounding structures. The data the system records also can be used for ballast distribution analysis, adjacent track center distance measurement, platform position measurement, catenary wire position measurement and more.  

Plasser also offers various video systems designed to record images of a driver’s view, track components and catenary wire.  

RailPod Inc. 

RailPod Inc. offers a rail-bound track inspection system.
RailPod Inc.

RailPod Inc. provides a “comprehensive track geometry inspection solution” using a trailer-able, rail-bound system that can be operated in combination with a hi-rail vehicle or rail car on freight- and passenger-rail systems, company officials said. 

The system is compliant with national and international reproducibility and accuracy standards, achieving best-in-class data performance, they said. 

The company also offers a diverse suite of track inspection hardware and software tools. Track geometry measurements are the foundation to collecting more comprehensive data — including rail profiling, detailed track imaging, catenary and high/wide load clearances.  

RailPod combines the measurement systems into one vehicle and, with one pass, archives and processes data. Data is automatically integrated into the RailPod Data Portal, which allows users to access archived data, produce custom reports, generate predictive maintenance plans, conduct virtual track walks and more, company officials said. 

In addition, when the RailPod track geometry system is not on-property, customers can use the RailPod Mobile Inspection app to maintain inspection records.  

RailWorks Corp.  

RailWorks Insight’s web-based suite is designed to streamline how track managers and maintenance crew operate.
RailWorks Corp.

RailWorks Corp.’s Insight is a digital inspection and reporting tool that provides a full view of track inspection reports. Insight offers a single, web-based suite to streamline how track managers and maintenance crews operate.  

From a single site to hundreds of properties, RailWorks Insight allows transportation managers to log in and see all their maintenance and inspection information in one place, resulting in informed decision-making for all phases of track maintenance, company officials said. It then provides instant repair budget estimates with dates, GPS-mapped locations, Federal Railroad Administration and Transport Canada defect codes with conditions and recommendations, asset inventory and customizable reports.  

Developed in-house by a RailWorks team, Insight is “the only product of its kind built specifically to meet the needs of the track, rail and transit industry,” company officials said.


ENSCO’s Ultrasonic Rail Flaw System is available on both rail-bound and hi-rail vehicles.

ENSCO Rail offers the Ultrasonic Rail Flaw System (URFS) for use with hi-rails or rail-bound vehicles. URFS can help prevent broken rails and welds by “using complementary technologies and skill sets,” company officials said in an email.

The system is integrated with ENSCO’s other measurement technologies, including machine vision, rail profile measurement and zero-speed track geometry measurement. The integrated technologies provide a range of benefits, such as enabling customers to ensure highly accurate defect location, data cross correlation and analysis, and standardization of operator controls to minimize training requirements, company officials said.

In addition, combining URFS with machine vision inspection technologies — including ENSCO Rail’s patented Rail Surface Imaging System and Joint Bar Imaging System — helps users improve the assessment of overall rail integrity.

URFS is designed to reduce false-stops, boost productivity through automation, increase accuracy of true-positive detections and measure “corresponding conditions to aid in the prediction and prevention of rail flaws,” company officials said.

Geismar North America

Shown: Geismar’s towable EMERALD deployed on track.
Geismar North America

Geismar North America provides several automated track measuring tools. The GARNET electronic track gauge helps ensure measurements “are no longer subjective to interpretation,” company officials said. The GARNET-DL performs the same functions but also can record and store data to be downloaded for analysis.

Geismar also offers the AMBER, an electronic walk-behind instrument that can record gauge, super elevation and distance, as well as calculate twist. Equipped with GPS, AMBER also offers a software analysis program designed to save and compare runs.

The recently introduced EMERALD is a towed trolley that can be used with a hi-rail vehicle to provide the same measurements as AMBER, but can be towed at 10 mph, company officials said. Bluetooth technology communicates with a tablet located in the cab for data-logging and post-run or spot-check analysis. The software enables users to download data and monitor areas of concern or confirm conditions after a repair.

NLP Logix

Shown: the NLP Logix track maintenance data user interface. Image on screen is intentionally blurred.
NLP Logix

Combining image data generated by forward-facing cameras and the latest in artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision technology, NLP Logix provides automation for many track maintenance issues.

Every mile of track can now be inspected through AI-assisted means, company officials said. Insufficient ballast, missing signage and overhanging branches can be identified with minimal need for human review of the footage.

NLP Logix also provides a “confidence score” to all AI predictions: Its models can predict the likelihood of a track maintenance issue and provide the level of confidence in that prediction, company officials said. For example, the model might detect an overhanging branch with only a 60% level of confidence and route the image for a human to review. Predictions with a high confidence level can be automatically dismissed or routed for repair as necessary.

The AI model leverages technology as a force multiplier to increase safety and improve the operational performance of railroads, company officials said.

Senceive Ltd.

The Triaxial Tilt Sensor Node is designed to provide extremely precise and stable measurement of track and ground movement.
Senceive Ltd.

Senceive Ltd. wireless remote monitoring sensor technology can be installed on track, structures and earthworks to monitor long-term movement such as track geometry changes, as well as sudden events like landslides and embankment failures. Low-maintenance, long-life sensing technology provides automated and near real-time alerts of movement, while integrated cameras show the cause of movement without visiting the site, company officials said.

A range of precise triaxial tilt sensors provide data on track geometry parameters, including cross-level, twist, lateral shift and settlement. Complementary sensors provide data on track temperature, strain, displacement, and geotechnical parameters such as soil moisture and ground pore water pressure.

Instruments are rugged, easy to install and designed specifically to withstand harsh railroad conditions — lasting for up to 15 years with minimal maintenance, company officials said. Gateway base stations with a variety of remote data transmission methods (including solar power) send data to a cell phone or computer.

Remote users benefit from online datasets, which typically are updated within minutes, along with automated alerts if pre-set thresholds are breached, company officials said. More than 10,000 Senceive track level sensors currently are in use.

Michael Popke is a Madison, Wisconsin-based freelance writer. Email comments or questions to

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