The Office of Research and Development of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is sponsoring a revenue service demonstration of Advanced Train Systems to demonstrate new technologies for improving safety and efficiency in freight train operations. The project, which commenced in 1999, is part of the Rolling Stock Program Element in FRA’s Five-Year Strategic Plan for Railroad Research, Development and Demonstrations. The demonstration system, referred to as the On-Board Monitoring and Control System (OBMCS), features an integrated package of sensors and actuators for monitoring and controlling mechanical components on freight trains. The OBMCS includes sensors to monitor bearings, wheels, brakes and trucks and actuators (referred to as advanced components) for remotely controlling hand brakes, angle cocks, cut levers and a cushion unit lockout system to eliminate slack. The demonstration, scheduled to commence in 2005, will feature a locomotive equipped with an EMD FIRE computer system and five freight cars equipped with the OBMCS and a New York Air Brake ECP brake system. The cars will also be equipped with Sharma & Associates tri-couplers, which automatically couple the cars, the pneumatic line and the ECP brake power cable. An open system architecture based on Controller Area Network (CAN) technology provides the framework for integration and control of the advanced components. The CAN bus network is also employed to monitor bearing temperatures and the status of brake piston travel sensors. A communication protocol based on a subset of CANopen Draft Standard DS401 V2.1 [CiADS401] has been developed to facilitate integration of sensors and actuators into the OBMCS. Science Applications International Corporation and Wilcoxon Research developed the sensor and supervision platform to integrate the advanced components. The OBMCS is powered by a battery, which is recharged by a generator bearing developed by the Timken Company. Intra-train communication and control from the locomotive is over an 802.11b wireless LAN. The FIRE computer in the locomotive receives status information from the systems on each car and transmits commands to the cars to operate the advanced components. Hot bearing, derailed wheel and truck hunting events are immediately relayed to the locomotive engineer. The OBMCS is also equipped with a IXRTT cellular radio to transmit results to a central database and website. A GPS receiver provides time and location information necessary to track a car. On board sensing of mechanical defects enables car owners to track defects and pro actively schedule maintenance at an economical time and location.

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