Yellow's just the thing
The equivalent for the bullet train tracks in Japan is also painted yellow.
It has a nickname "Doctor Shinkansen", which or more explanatory than NMT... They run it over the entire bullet train network every day.
The men – and woman – in orange explained to me that the Network Rail “New Measurement Train” isn’t new. It’s a converted Intercity High Speed Train which has been in operation for more than ten years in this form, and it is used for running new tests for checking the condition of the track. Measurement train NETWORK RAIL …
" I'd rather find out what other county's rail networks do, especially the majority of ones where things are done better."
German public TV (specifically, SWR) has a marvellous TV series called Eisenbahn Romantik. It has a website, and episodes that aren't on the website are probably on Youtube. It's in German but pictures are universal. Occasionally they cover the gizmos that do automated maintenance in many parts of Europe. Have a look, see what you can find, don't be too surprised if it involves the names Plasser and Theurer (who are Austrian, not German, but their kit is in lots of places).
In fact Plasser and Theurer's website now seems to have some TV-type snippets and programmes too, in English.
If you're into mobile flash-butt welding, that's the place to be, missus.
and click on aktuellTV for the TV stuff, lots of other stuff too, some of which is (as always) available on Youtube in case anyone wants to be a commentard there too.
Those of you not aware of Hamburg's Miniatur Wunderland (and also those of you who are) need to check out AktuellTV episode 12 on that page.
How do we get this stuff on TV in the UK occasionally, instead of 57 channels almost all repeating exactly the same frequently-American (or American-inspired) dross as is on every other channel all the time?
Otherwise you have to run it at ungodly hours.
IIRC one of the big issues with the UK rail infrastructure is that when BR was chopped up the replacement infrastructure company lost the temperature records for large parts of the network.
The temperature exposure pattern to the steel in the rail (and making sure the steel is the right grade to begin with) have major effects on rail life and replacement frequency.
It's a pretty amazing train and I just hope the follow up remedial work is as effective.
Re timing. I've seen these trains running in early commuting hours on one of the busiest lines into London - 6.30am or so. Given that I don't believe there's much problem with getting them on the network.
That's probably the peak time for needing such trains - overnight maintenance needs to be checked, so they run the train over the bit that's been worked on overnight. In theory it's the last bit of the job, assuming no problems were detected.
A lot of what they are measuring can be picked up using a trivial black box style sensor package mandated to be attached to every train.
1. Missing clips - trivial image recognition.
2. Vibrations, etc - indicating the early stages of deformation in the rails - accelerometer and GPS.
In fact, you can probably do most measurements using 200£ worth of off the shelf phone hardware with a couple of extra cameras. It will not replace the "proper" measuring train, but it will vastly improve the track safety. It will also mean that track is inspected every 5-10 minutes, on every train not once in a few months when the budget has allowed one of the few precious yellow trains to run a particular track. Actually - I take my words back - this should be enough for a lot low speed sidings and local lines which never get a seeing using the precious "yellow train" anyway.
Yeah, I know - while the technology to fit such realtime ongoing inspection to all engines is there already, because of the way railways are deregulated, making their owners fit it is nearly impossible without legislation.
"you can probably do most measurements using 200£ worth of off the shelf phone hardware with a couple of extra cameras"
You're going to need a high frame rate camera for one so not really.
In a way you're right though - the major accident-related issues on the track in recent years are cracks that aren't obvious on visual inspection and in one incident I believe the problem was what we former engineers call a non-metallic inclusion, which is code for "oops we didn't make it right".
If they can fit the train with high speed x-ray cameras and get it doing it's thing it could be a whole different world of useful. Machine vision of cracks on x-rays should be reasonably simple compared to the other stuff the train is doing. The tracks on the high speed lines in this country are work hardening so they have to be replaced over time - if we can decide what to replace based on evidence (by being able to actually see inside that rails) as opposed to on a schedule we can save money *and* make the lines safer at the same time.
"You don't need X-rays for finding cracks in rails, eddy current detection is far easier."
At line speed?
I'm surprised they don't use TDR. That wouldn't even need the train...
 You'd need some cleverness to ignore all the points, and to make sure you run tests at appropriate times to ensure coverage of all the switched bits - but that's the sort of problem easily fixed with a moderate confuser and a big database.
You're moving along at 125mph, and producing a phenomenal amount of wide-band noise. Plus with steel rails and pulsing through the air there'd be multipath errors galore- the steel can conduct sound faster and re-radiates it efficiently so you can get 'phantom' readings.
Sonar isnt practical on trains. Laser measurements maybe, but high frame rate optical measurement is probably easiest.
I'd be surprised if detecting missing clips visually at that kind of speed is that easy
It's not too tricky.
The very first linescan camera I found on Google gives a rate of up to 80k lines/second. At 125mph, that gives you a peak resolution of ~700um without magnification (how's that for mixed units?).
Given the fairly repeatable nature of clip positioning, and the fact that they are bounded by the sleeper image, it shouldn't be a big job to detect missing clips.
TRIME is an example of a project on in-service trains: it does requires cooperation between TOCs (southern in the case of TRIME) and Network Rail, but it can happen. TRIME is looking at the state of the third rail (which is used extensively in Southern's area). It uses laser displacement measures rather than highspeed cameras for that task, and much like the NMT is a "flag a fault and we send a man to look at it" type of system.
I used to frequently see this beast, and it's loco hauled sister every time they passed my old depot in Reading, and the one thing they do well is the job they've (funnily enough) been designed to do. While I'm sure there are some good suggestions here and well meaning thoughts on the subject, your £200 equipment idea and the like isn't going to improve this already amazing marvel. Given the job it does, it does extremely well, they've got all they need it to do already. And if not? Well, they'll put top grade gear on it to improve it, not some arduino-based bodge from the shelves at Maplins.
I feel good it's not you lot running it, is all ;O)
As for the sonar option, the loco version does indeed have a small platform under one of the coaches that has a couple of ultrasonic wheels on it (gell filled wheels and transducers that can detect internal cracking and defects while in motion, up to about 40mph) which will be used in areas with suspected rail issues. After that, they send out the manual teams to get an even better picture of what the issue is. It's all covered, so don't you go trying to make it 'better' unless you designed it, y'hear?
Bloody IT types, always trying to 'improve stuff, I dunno... XD
I read through the article thinking to myself, how much I would love to go to work like this. it's techy, it's fast, you get to travel (lol), you change locations each day but come back to base in the evening ( I presume).
Yes, definately looks interesting,a little bit unique and would certainely make a welcome change from my daily BAU office environment...
Well no, reading involves words, and those folk largely given up on words in favour of "design" (no table of contents, articles varying between landscape and portrait, and other such fashionista delights).
Anyway, maybe someone could suggest to the IET News folks that *this* is the kind of **engineering** and **technology** thing that might interest the readers of IET News, rather than the kind of second-rate T3 stuff that their rag has been publishing for the last few years.
Thank you Simon.
Surely to get a true sense of the commuter's journey, they need a few suitcases on the tables, next to the monitors and to be standing in the aisle the whole journey. Have the exorbitant fare deducted from their wages each time they travel, add in a bit of BO, smelly shoes, babies nappies and a general piss smell from the nearby toilet, plus a stale sandwich for lunch, along with a very weak cup of tea.
It's just a pity that the UK (and also Ireland although the population density there excuses it somewhat) didn't put more investment into electrification of railways.
Seems daft that the governments are pushing sustainable energy policies while railways are operating significant numbers of trains on diesel instead of electricity.
Rail is the ideal platform for electric transportation and realistically all but the most underused rural lines should be electric.
Diesel Intercity shouldn't really have ever been necessary in Britain on busy lines.
In France and elsewhere that's the case because they've access to abundant locally generated power and they use it for ensuring they've alternatives to petrol, diesel and aviation fuel where possible.
The GW Mainline
Manchester - Sheffield - Leeds
Edinburgh - Glasgow via Falkirk
I agree these are decades overdue but at least this Government (love or loathe them) has started a good number of projects off. The OHL Masts at Reading are evidence of this.
The special train that cost around a million squid that can put up a mile of masts a night without stopping existing services is evidence of the investment being put into Leccy Railways.
It is not all good though. The Dept of (no) Transport seem to have got it into their heads that it would be a good idea to replace all of the 3rd Rail with OHLE in Southern England & Merseyside.
you'll note SOD ALL FOR DEVON AND CORNWALL. We're soon going to be the only place left in the UK running 40yr old HST on Victorian track. HS2 and HS3 a fecking joke if you live in the SW. Plymouth to Penzance 80 miles takes 2h!
As much as it pains me to defend the DfT I don't think what you're saying is accurate. A trial conversion of third rail to overhead from Southampton to Basingstoke has been discussed. If it goes ahead the costs of it will be used to estimate how much it would be to convert the rest of the network. I wouldn't get too concerned because it probably won't happen very soon, if at all.
However, it is not daft at all. 25 kV AC overhead is a superior and more modern system that allows more power to be delivered and speeds above 100 mph with less energy wasted as heat. It could be cheaper in the long run because it doesn't require massive rectifiers to convert AC to DC like a 750 V DC third rail system does. The route selected would provide a 25 kV electrified route all the way from Southampton to Sheffield, possibly further.
"A trial conversion of third rail to overhead from Southampton to Basingstoke has been discussed"
Thats totally daft. You'd either need new dual-voltage rolling stock, or have to reengineer the current trains, or else end up spliitting the London-Weymouth route into three broken sections with no through trains to London from west of Basingstoke.
Anyway the trial is pointless - the costs are known from the work done converting the North London line to allow 25KV AC freights
"Seems daft that the governments are pushing sustainable energy policies while railways are operating significant numbers of trains on diesel instead of electricity."
If you're playing the "sutainability" card, what's sustainable about electricity from coal or gas? And where will renewables be when you need to run trains in winter, or even to a timetable? You also need to factor in the circa 11% system losses in electricity, compared to around 0.5% in transport fuels. I might also remind you that we're facing a "capacity gap" where forced retirement of existing fossil fuelled electricity plant is dramatically reducing the reserve margin.
The last thing government should be doing is pushing for rail electrification because this encourages the use of more electricity biased towards existing demand peaks.
"In France and elsewhere..."
...across Europe, most of the rail networks were destroyed during WWII so there was huge incentive to rebuild more or less from scratch with the newest and bestest while here in the UK with the economy in tatters and huge war debt it was simpler to continue with the existing steam trains using the huge resources of local, cheap coal. After that, there was no incentive to invest the vast sums to electrify when they could do a cheap and gradual evolutionary step to diesel electric on the existing infrastructure. Governments rarely look further into the future than 4 or 5 years.
" Governments rarely look further into the future than 4 or 5 years."
Most don't. When it came to the French government, the original decision to go nuclear for everything was a long game, and originally came from the issue that they had few domestic fuel sources, and unreliable relationships with former colonies that did have energy reserves. With no worthwhile gas, and very limited coal, the opted to electrify France, railways, heating and all. That's why French railways are electrified, not because the railways had been given a modest pounding during the war.
This nuclear bet placed them superbly for the post fossil fuel world, but in a remarkably short-sighted move they signed up for EU policies demanding uneconomic levels of "renewable" power, and Hollande is currently letting the French power industry atrophy. The French nuclear programme is bogged down by the far-too-expensive Areva EPR, where they foolishly tried to be technologically too ambitious, and by the lack of a rolling programme to new build reactors, and rather than simplify the design and look to replace the existing nuclear fleet as it comes to the end of its service life, they have idiot politicians telling them that wind and solar will keep them warm and their trains running through the winter.
in best "4 Yorkshire men voice" But back in 1935 the Great Western works in Swindon had tools capable of operating to thousandths of an inch. subnote - And yes I know not whilst moving at these speeds for the pedants :-)
Paris - well that's measured in inches too.
I thought much the same - I recall reading decades ago that in the height of the rails differed by half an inch that was regarded as a serious misalignment. Precision measurement has always been easy in controlled contexts (vernier micrometers reading to one ten thousandth were around 100 years ago) but to be fair we are talking about high speed measurement in a relatively uncontrolled environment here.
The train has been around a while now, and in most countries this kind of rolling stock is yellow. In the bad old days, on train staff would report track and infrastructure problems, but there's no requirement for TOCs to do that in our fragmented privatised railway, all the requirement is on Network Rail to provide perfect track.
A few technical marvels are no substitute for thousands of pairs of eyes chipping in as well.
Oh, and the Vellenta wasn't that reliable in the beginning, and wouldn't meet today's emission standards, although grandfather rights do apply. I seem to remember that these days rail locomotive diesels have to meet road transport emission standards, even though they are less that 1% of that diesels in use, this is causing problems for the UK, in that the latest standards actually don't fit that well into UK locomotives.
"Now Deltics, they sounded cool at full throttle."
My Dad worked on the Deltic design at Napier in Liverpool. By the time I understood the significance, he wasn't around any more. Sorry Dad. RIP.
Meanwhile there is of course a Deltic Preservation Society, and a selection of Deltics still in operation on preserved and mainline services.
In fact in recent months the new emissions regulations combined with increased demand for rail freight and a shortage of new locomotives that meet them have resulted in diesel locos being brought out of preservation and back into mainline use (their age means they don't have to meet the emissions regulations?!).
Plenty of Deltics on Youtube. And Class 37. And and and.
The emmisions regulations are hurting in the whole of Europe now with Diesel locomotives as decent high efficiency engines do not leave much room for exhaust cleaning kit.
Anyway what is wrong with a bit of clag?
Seen a 37 (Bony-Y-Bermo ? ) kick out a huge smoke cloud on the SVR many years ago.
I also like both of English Electrics big express designs.
Well, such things really do matter. Some researcher somewhere, probably in the field of sociology, needs to know whether consumers of Smiths, Walkers, Golden Wonder or Tudor crisps are more predisposed to dropping them on the railway, no doubt as a result of some socio-economic factors in their environment, which make them prefer one brand of crisp, or dump rubbish on the railway. So, the crisp packets have to be read, and entered into a database....
Sadly, I am not joking, people do really research daft subjects like that, at our expense! :-(
Fortunately, the orange army, who do their very best to keep the trains running, often in horrendously bad weather when the rest of us stay at home, have much more sensible things to do with the data, which will not involve the brand of crisps. However, they may well be interested in the brand and manufacturing date of concrete sleeper, invariably visible as text on the upper surface, because some may have a shorter lifespan than others, so the ability to read text on the move may be important.
Not as stated. I know, because I designed one generation of the equipment used. It kept me busy for a couple of months. I suspect that it may have been replaced by now, as I did it around 1988, which would make it very old in terms of electronics. The previous generation was much bigger and heavier.
Anyway, it works, or worked in those days, by having an electronics box and a battery pack mounted to the pantograph base frame, which is carrying 25kV ac, plus huge spikes and transients. This energised and processed a number of strain gauge and LVDT sensors on the pantograph, such as left and right vertical load (the head being sprung lightly at both sides), and arm height. These were turned into FM signals in the audio band and propagated down what we jokinlgy called the worlds longest optocoupler, basically a 1 metre insulating tube, oil-filled, containing 2 fibre optics (the second one sent commands upwards to switch the unit on and off, or select calibration signals).
Inside the MENTOR coach a fairly ancient rack of Schlumberger equipment demodulated the 6 channels of FM telemetry, and some simple analogue computation derived wire lateral position from the ratio of left and right vertical loads, as well as any bumps and other irregularities, and the data ended up in a multichannel UV chart recorder.
Now I suspect it will all be done digitally. I wanted to at the time, but was only redesigning the upper set of equipment, that runs at 25kV, as they were, at that time, keeping the Schlumberger equipment, no doubt due to budgetary constraints. Now, of course, I would use at least 16 bit ADCs, and have a very much higher data rate, with a simple DSP processor at the live end just to multiplex the data, and soem kind of digital system in the operational area of the coach to do the main processing and recording.
MENTOR can be added into any loco-hauled train, subject to its speed restriction (from memory, 100mph), and there is no need to be powering down the system to use it. It does however have to go into a place where there is no overhead wiring, pantograph lowered first of course, to have the battery charged. If I was doing one now, I could make an isolated power supply that would withstand the upwards of 50kV spikes that are present, to eliminate the battery. Such is progress...
Oh, and by the way, the method of extracting lateral wire position (it is staggered within certain limits to spread pantograph wear) was developed by the British Rail Research Labs at Derby, a very innovative bunch of people, who used to look after MENTOR. British Rail were actually getting rather good at running trains before they were unnecessarily privatised, and some of their better assets, including the reasearchers, dispersed.
"British Rail were actually getting rather good at running trains before they were unnecessarily privatised"
Good at running trains? So what was that outfit with a similar sounding name, similar sort of business, but that was famous for its surly staff, slow, dirty, uncomfortable, unreliable trains, and an inability to run trains at the slightest hint of hot weather, cold weather, snowfall, leaf fall, and the like?
The same people that couldn't even do basic maintenance on WCML so that every hundred yards there was a gaping crater pumping out a clay geyser whenever a train passed.
IME the rail travel experience is faster, more reliable, more courteous, cleaner and more customer focused than at any time in my life. I know commuters still travel in cattle trucks, but that's what commuting is about, so I've little sympathy.
Ledswinger, I guess that you never used the ECML between Kings Cross and Edinburgh post electrification. OK, the electrification was done on the cheap, and they are still fixing it, but the same trains, albeit refurbished a couple of times, and many of the same staff are still working the line, just with different bosses for the third time. I always found them to be polite and efficient. Likewise for some parts of what is now Scotrail. A large amount of new rolling stock was introduced by BR, and apart from the Pacers is still doing well. It was not their fault that for three years or more Mrs Milk Snatcher prevented them from buying any new trains, which really damaged our manufacturing industry too. The only real problem with BR is that they were controlled too tightly by the government and unable to borrow money.
Remember that every train with MK3 or MK4 bodyshells was designed by BR and their subcontractors, and that includes a lot, not just the HST coaching stock. There are EMUs of all 3 types, AC, DC and AC/DC, and plain non-HST coaches, and NOTHING is loved more by the passengers than an HST coach. They built the HST on a shoestring budget, and got it very nearly right at the first attempt. A world-beater for many years, no-one thought that they could do diesel at 125mph.
Remember also some of the leading managers like Chris Green, of Scotrail, and then NSE.
I remain convinced that BR really were getting very good at running trains, when they were allowed to.
"Government-owned Network Rail runs the British railway system. It owns the track, stations and all the other bits except the trains. Those belong to the TOCs..."
No. The TOCs have to lease the trains from the ROSCOs (Rolling Stock Companies); the latter having a licence to print outrageously large sums of money at the TOCs', and ultimately the passengers', expense.
"The TOCs have to lease the trains from the ROSCOs (Rolling Stock Companies); the latter having a licence to print outrageously large sums of money at the TOCs', and ultimately the passengers', expense."
That is certainly the main problem with rail privatisation. And of course in most cases the ROSCOs are simply divisions of big banks, intent on scr*wing the end user (the usual financial services basis of "because we can").
This was an intended outcome by the Tories under that berk Major, but the vermin of the Labour party had thirteen years or so to fix this, and decided not to, as has the coalition.
The railway system does (or did) use Sharks though...
Shark was the British Railways designation for a ballast plough brake van.
Here's an example of one that the Bluebell Railway has:
This 125mph train is fitted with LASERS.
Oh.. silly me. That's Zuck standing on the platform pointing to the 125mph train fitted with lasers, to his right. Not Zuck being a 125mph train or fitted with lasers...
Either that or he is not very good at Charades.
El Reg bookmark is broken. It linked me to "Bufferkissers Weekly".
Sincerly, standing in the ICE - Restaurant holding on to nothing else than a nice,cool draught beer while that beast flies along at 265km/h always fills me with great admiration for railway engineering. And beer of course.
"The condition of the rail surface is crucial in preventing cyclic top. This is where a dip in the rail causes a wheel to bounce. The bounce can damage a subsequent part of the track which then causes another bouncing point to form. Ultimately this can lead to a sequence of dips forming in a positive feedback loop – which, at its worst, could lead to a derailment."
The analogous thing on cars is washboard. You have an initial bump, or possibly pothole, and whether the wheels actually hop or not, you have a point where the suspension rebounds; over time this forms dips and bumps further down the road from the initial dip, usually regularly spaced. Lighter cars can end up catching air from this relatively easy, if you're on a curve that's definitely a problem. Heavier cars?
I had a 1972 Cadillac, which has about a foot of suspension travel, and a soft ride. It would corner better than I expected a land yacht to, and soak up bumps and washboard quite well. But, some of that (further spaced apart than usual, maybe from dump trucks or semis?) washboard would drive it crazy, one stretch of road I had the fins start bottoming out and throwing sparks at only 9mph.
It's not flash, it's not posh, but by eck it's impressive. Thank you. More please.
British engineering can still do it when it's allowed to.
A finer advert for the miracle of engineering technology which a few people know as non destructive testing would be hard to imagine.
Did I say thank you?
As an ex-Network Rail employee I feel I should mention the amazing OmniSurveyor system.
There are 7 cameras on the front of the NMT, One looks straight ahead, the rest look to the sides and on the rails.
All the footage is then made available to any staff member with the OnmiSurveyor software. It's a very clever and useful piece of technology.
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