Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation
Research in relation to Heavy Haul Rail Operations is being conducted by the Centre for Railway Engineering at CQUniversity.
Central Queensland University has had a strategic relationship with the Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation or ACRI, since its inception in 2014. This has led to excellent opportunities to work with ACRI industry participants in applied research and engineering solutions to advance Australia’s heavy haul rail operations. ACRI links private and government sectors through collaborative research to improve the efficiency, safety, sustainability and connectivity of the Australasian rail industry. To remain relevant into the future, rail operators are looking for new products and innovations to keep their competitive edge. The adoption of electronically controlled pneumatic brakes throughout the Australian heavy haul rail networks continues to gather pace. The ACRI heavy haul participants have pre-empted the need for an innovative and cost-effective ECP end of train device. Research and development on the new end of train device was conducted by the Centre for Railway Engineering at Central Queensland University. The end of train device is mounted at the rear of the train and monitors train line continuity, termination and brake system pressures and continually transmits these values to the lead locomotive. Only one manufacturer currently produces and markets electronically controlled pneumatic end of train devices and for this, amongst other reasons, ACRI commissioned the development of a new device. The prototype development was a combination of traditional and modern design processes. Commencing with the traditional system requirements process, it progressed to a prototype unit constructed from off-the-shelf components. The new device has been successfully tested, demonstrating interoperability with a heavy haul train in the Pilbara. With the successful completion of field testing, a rapid prototype of the perceived chassis was designed and constructed using 3D printing technology, giving participants a look at the final product design. The final operational prototype device met all ACRI participant requirements and also those of the Association of American Railroads.
Flaws in the rail foot are incredibly difficult to detect and no reliable detection technique is currently available on the market. Fishplates, welds, rail clips and other rail to sleeper fasteners interfere with existing detection techniques, allowing foot flaws to grow undetected in the rail. Small cracks in the rail foot can be hidden under rail fasteners and these can develop into a broken rail over a very short period of time. Cracks in the rail foot can lead to a potential train derailment. With the aim of improving rail safety across the industry, ACRI commissioned research into new and innovative techniques to detect rail foot flaws. The exciting research being conducted at the Centre for Railway Engineering at Central Queensland University combines experiments using infrared thermography and air-coupled ultrasonic transducers, with the aim of developing a reliable approach to rail foot flaw detection. The results from thermographic imaging of rails indicate that rails increase in temperature during the passage of heavy haul trains. The Centre for Railway Engineering team has installed sensors on heavy haul railway tracks to measure the temperature and bending effects of heavy trains on rails. In the lab, laser-induced ultrasonic waves are being used to identify flaws in the rail foot. Ultrasonic signals are detected using air-coupled transducers and the results are identified graphically on the computer screen. This research, due for completion in 2019, will inform improvements to rail infrastructure, maintenance and operational safety. ACRI continues to create value for Australasian railways from the identification, informed investigation and implementation of ideas and technologies, new to the rail industry.