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Rail News: Norfolk Southern Railway

Norfolk Southern, Heartwood 3D develop employee-training simulator

NS' first pilot using the technology involved a 3D simulator covering freight-car air-brake inspection.
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Norfolk Southern Corp. is deploying 3D simulation-based training apps built in partnership with application developer Heartwood 3D.

The apps are part of the Class I's efforts to "reimagine an even safer, more effective employee-training program," NS officials said in a press release.

In an effort to further advance the safety and effectiveness of workforce training throughout the rail industry, NS and Heartwood have partnered to make the technology available to other interested railroads.

NS' first pilot using the technology involved a 3D simulator covering freight-car air-brake inspection, a fundamental skill for new conductors and freight-car mechanics.

The inspection and testing typically requires NS to set up multiple freight cars onsite and allocate a significant amount of training time for demonstration, practice and evaluation. The new training simulator enables students to conduct virtual inspections of freight cars and interact with various brake components on a tablet or desktop computer at any time or location.

Using the simulator, students are able to virtually walk a line of freight cars, inspect various components determine the correct brake pressure, and ensure proper brake application and release. Upon completion, students receive a record of their performance and suggested areas of improvement.

"Confidence and mastery demonstrated has noticeably improved. Students loved it, particularly that they can do the task whenever they have time, rather than at a scheduled time," said Ryan Foster, manager technical training.

This year alone, Norfolk Southern will train 50-100 freight-car-repair personnel and 1800 conductors using the simulation.

NS is working with Heartwood 3D to identify other key training programs that could benefit using the technology. Together, they plan to develop and deploy a suite of 3D training simulators.

"We're honored to be selected by Norfolk Southern as their 3D simulation partner," said Raj Raheja, Heartwood 3D's chief executive officer. "This reflects our dedication to providing leading railroad companies with the most advanced visual, interactive, and portable technologies possible to help them achieve their training and evaluation goals."

NS made this video available to see the simulator in action.

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