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Speed and accuracy drive rail inspection, and the need to provide customers with quality service and minimal disruption to traffic is "the driving force behind every technological improvement with Herzog Services Inc.'s rail-flaw detection equipment," company officials say.
At Herzog Services, a team of software and hardware engineers seek ways to improve the accuracy of acquisition hardware and software. All new digitizing circuits are designed to take advantage of new chipsets available for increased detection capabilities, versatility and durability; improvements to detection algorithms are ongoing and tested to increase accuracy, reduce false calls and alleviate time spent on irrelevant indications, the company says. These measures help increase the average test speed by reducing times the vehicle is stopped while providing accurate testing equipment. Test speeds also can be improved by employing post-verification in a chase consist.
Established in 1992, Herzog Services continues to explore new developments to improve wireless communications between the lead car and chase vehicle for robust two-car systems, as well as real-time data transmissions of test data to the home office for quality review and analysis.
dFuzion's rMetrix® is a ride performance assessment system that measures, stores, analyzes and displays ride quality, ride comfort and vehicle/track interaction data. Incorporating advanced Global Positioning System (GPS) and accelerometer sensors with an easy-to-use control software interface, rMetrix is "effective in assessing maintenance activities and safety in real-time, in accordance with worldwide track safety standards," the company says. Designed for the individual inspector as well as organizations, rMetrix runs on a standard laptop, meaning inspections can be performed at any time and on any vehicle — eliminating the logistics and costs associated with dedicated test vehicles or permanently affixed sensors, the company says.
rMetrix-A is an autonomous, compact and portable version of rMetrix, and is designed for organizations that need to continually monitor ride quality, and track and vehicle safety conditions with limited inspectors or resources. Using rMetrix-A for continuous track inspection activities affords "rapid identification and prioritization of locations for corrective and preventive maintenance, as well as the detection of vehicle and track abnormalities that may impact passenger comfort, cargo integrity, equipment reliability and operational safety," the company says.
Recent federal regulations require the inclusion of rail cant exceptions reporting as a means to identify rail seat abrasions on concrete ties. Rail cant exceptions indicate improprieties at the rail/tie interface on wood ties, too. The angular measurement from a reference plane required to evaluate rail cant is difficult to perform in the field, as Holland L.P. officials note. "Even verifying rail cant exceptions reported from automated track geometry measurement systems can be challenging," they say.
Enter the company's patent-pending Rail Cant Measurement Tool, which is designed to provide a convenient, highly simplified solution for field measurement and verification of rail cant.
Lightweight and compact, the portable, 15-pound tool positively clamps to the rail head for accurate measurement. An easy-to-interpret gauge provides instant measurement of the rail cant. It fits 115- to 141-pound standard rail; the measurements gauge can be ordered with either positive or negative standard orientation, the company says. The scale either can reference absolute or relative measurement standard (measured in degrees), and the standard tool is specified for measurement on 1:40 design cant. Customized solutions for non-standard design cant are available. The tool includes calibration verification block and an optional carrying case.
L.B. Foster Co.'s High Speed Rail Tribometer (HSRT) is used to collect field measured data about the Coefficient of Friction (COF) at both the top-of-rail surface and the gauge face surface. The data can be used to improve the efficiency of the operator's lubrication system based on specific track and traffic conditions. The HSRT is pushed by a hi-rail truck, housing some of the data collection equipment and equipped with a power generator and air compressor supporting the HSRT.
The HSRT generates COF measurements for the surfaces of both rails measured at two-second intervals and is collected while traveling at speeds of 15 mph to 25 mph. Data is then linked to the customer's displayed milepost system. "Accurate interpretation of this data can optimize rail and wheel flange lubrication programs, generating substantial savings through extended rail and/or wheel life, reduced fuel consumption and noise abatement," the company says.
L.B. Foster also can provide an analysis of the data, including recommendations on the appropriate type of lubrication method to use (hi-rail, on board or wayside), proper lubrication substances to use, correct use of existing equipment and installation of new equipment.
Railroads pass platforms and run through tunnels, under bridges or by other wayside facilities, which makes accurate clearance knowledge crucial. To determine a safe route, railroads must perform clearance measures. And there are several ways to measure clearance, including non-contacting laser measurement, Plasser American Corp. officials say.
"The latest developments in technology in regard to speed, accuracy and resolution now allow recording and analyzing cross-sectional clearance profiles at track speed in real-time by using a non-contacting laser scanner as offered as part of Plasser's product line," the company says.
Plasser's High Speed Clearance Measurement System records and analyzes the clearance in real time, factoring in an array of track geometry parameters simultaneously. System users can measure ballast formation and detection of areas with "ballast excess or deficit," left and right adjacent track center position, left and right adjacent platform position, platform roof edge position, select power rail components and catenary wire position, Plasser says.
Data is analyzed in real time, but also can be viewed and analyzed in an off-board environment. When recorded in combination with driver's view and track component video systems, video images and crosscuts can be viewed off-board side by side, enhancing the data evaluation and verification process without the need to walk the track, the company says.
Georgetown Rail Equipment Co.'s (GREX) Aurora® Automated Tie Inspection system is a tool that provides tie condition assessment and replacement planning. Featuring high-speed cameras and lasers, Aurora provides an accurate representation of tie condition while assigning each tie its own precise and unique GPS location information.
GREX also develops "exclusive wood tie grading models for each customer," allowing for automated Federal Railroad Administration 39-foot tie condition assessments, the identification of failed tie clusters and evaluations of tie support conditions at joint bars, the company says. Recently added functionality allows for rail end height mismatch measurement at rail joints.
Aurora technology also enables users to detect and provide location data for rail seat deterioration found in concrete ties on heavy-axle load corridors. "Today, concrete tie inspections incorporate fastener assessments, which include measurements to determine if a fastener is properly 'seated,'" GREX says.
Within the tie inspection data, Aurora also provides locations of switches, crossings and open deck bridges, while calculating track curvature. Rail anchor inventory and spiking pattern compliance also are reported. GREX recently delivered a new data viewer to customers, enabling on-screen two- and three-dimensional viewing of tie inspection data fully correlated to geographic location.
A broken rail can happen anywhere, at any time and for a variety of reasons, and is "considered to be a leading cause of all railroad accidents," say officials at Vossloh Signaling Inc., which offers the Broken Rail Detection (BRD) system.
A compact, low-powered solution, the BRD system provides indications to the train crew via wayside high-visibility light-emitting diode (LED) indicators, letting them know whether the block ahead is free of broken rails. Vossloh Signaling recently implemented a successful proof-of-concept project, testing BRD on 11 miles of track in Australia.
ENSCO Rail Inc. supplies automated track inspection equipment and services, and advanced track data management and maintenance planning tools. The offerings provide detection of safety-critical issues, as well as long-range maintenance planning and prediction capabilities.
The company's equipment product line features a range of measurement and vision technologies for track inspection cars, including track geometry, rail profile, third rail, gauge restraint, rail corrugation and ride quality measurement systems. ENSCO also offers video imaging and machine vision detection capabilities for ties, fasteners, joints and rail surface inspection. Recent product line updates include autonomous inspections of vehicle/track interaction (V/TI Monitors) and track geometry (ATGMS) whereby measurements are recorded from revenue-service vehicles and results are automatically processed and sent to track maintainers for repair.
Additionally, ENSCO has added a new lightweight track geometry system — RailScan Lite-TGMS — to its product portfolio for installation on standard hi-rail platforms for use by track inspectors. The product offers a "simple hardware package with single-screen laptop interface to provide high-quality track geometry measurements and evaluations," the company says.