Warning System for Safety and Maintenance of Freight Railways

One of the main concerns facing the freight rail industry in the US is the increasing maintenance costs and inspection efforts due to the surface deformation of railway tracks. Surface track settlement and misalignment is mainly caused by progressive generation of fine particles and moisture in ballast in a process known as 'fouling.' During the fouling process, the structural integrity of fouled ballast can be compromised leading to track deformation and ultimately train derailments. Because of the serious consequences of fouling in railway operations, costly ballast maintenance (i.e., undercutting, tamping, and shoulder cleaning), are routinely performed. The cost and effectiveness of track maintenance operations are related to the frequency and effectiveness of track inspections. The risk involved with the functional or mechanical failure of a rail track between two inspection events is solely based on judgment and experience of rail professionals. The mismatch between maintenance need and the lack of a measurement-driven and systematic inspection methodology also explains the current imbalance between corrective and preventive maintenance activities in railways. In fact, a reliable, systematic, continuous, and sustainable inspection methodology has yet to be developed, and demand for new technologies is increasing among the rail society. Electromagnetic (EM) surveying coupled with fiber optic sensors (FOS) is proposed to deal with the ballast fouling problem. FOS arrays create a continuous and remote sensing technology to provide a warning system for inspection and maintenance activities during the track service life. The EM technology is aimed to create the image of track cross-sections in critical spots identified by FOS. Coupling of these technologies provides information for strategic and sustainable maintenance activities and increases the safety of our national freight rail transportation network.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Contract Numbers:

    CFIRE 05-11

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education (CFIRE)

    University of Wisconsin, Madison
    1415 Engineering Drive, 2205 Engineering Hall
    Madison, WI  United States  53706
  • Performing Organizations:

    University of Wisconsin-Madison

    1415 Engineering Drive
    2205 EH Madison
    Madison, WI  United States  53706
  • Principal Investigators:

    Fratta, Dante

  • Start Date: 20110901
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 20130831
  • Source Data: RiP Project 33106

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01466485
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: National Center for Freight and Infrastructure Research and Education (CFIRE)
  • Contract Numbers: CFIRE 05-11
  • Files: UTC, RiP
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 3:18PM