Maintaining track geometry is key to the safe and efficient operations of a railroad. Failure to properly maintain geometry can lead to costly track structure failures or even more costly derailments. Currently, there exists a number of different methods for measuring track geometry and then if required, maintaining the track to return track geometry to specified levels of acceptance. Because of this need to have proper track geometry, tampers are one of the most common pieces of maintenance equipment in a railroad operation’s fleet. It is therefore paramount from both a cost and track time perspective to gain maximum efficiency from any one particular tamper.
Track geometry is typically measured through a variety of contact and non-contact measurement systems which can mount on a variety of different platforms. With respect to a tamper, a push buggy projector system is typically used to measure track geometry, utilizing the tamper body as the basis for the reference system, Track geometry can be measured utilizing this technology during a prerecording run. Then, the software onboard the tamper analyzes the recorded data to determine the best fit and calculate throws that achieve a better track alignment, particularly in curves. During the tamping operation, the tamper buggy system and frame adjust the track. Due to its design, track geometry measurements can only be made at low speed (roughly 4mph) which can severely affect the efficiency of the tamper. To help decrease pre maintenance inspection times, an inertial based track geometry measurement system has been developed and integrated into the tamper’s operating software. This system can mount directly to the frame of a tamper and operate at hy-rail to very low speeds. Measurements made can be fed directly into the tamper control system to guide where and how track geometry adjustments need to be made.
In addition, the capability to collect data during travel mode without the buggies extended allows for the collection of data at any time. Thus, data can be recorded when traveling back and forth to a stabling location, before and/or after grinding. This allows for synchronization of data at a later time to utilize for adjusting the track. Also, data can be collected post-work to allow for the comparison of pre and post geometry to allow for the determination of the effectiveness of a given tamping operation.
Tampers equipped with this track geometry system facilitate the foundation for an enterprise solution. Data that is measured and collected can be sent to a cloud service, in real time that will provide exception reports, health status, and rail health trend analyses. Utilizing the available technology further optimizes response time in track maintenance.
This paper will introduce this new method of mounting and completely integrating an inertial based track geometry system onto a tamper. In addition, studies will be presented which confirm the ability of this system to replicate the tamper’s projection based track geometry system. Finally, a comprehensive study on efficiency gains will be presented directly comparing a standard method of maintaining a segment via a tamper to this new method of using onboard inertial track geometry measurement.