Trouble behind?

By Ralph Goldney

New advances in wagon monitoring will improve safety and operational efficiency.

Recently, a series of derailments have been attributed to wagon faults occurring while in transit. In response to this, a new innovative range of ‘intelligent wagons’ have been developed that enable wagons to self-monitor and report in real time, enabling the driver to make an intervention to prevent serious damage.

The wagons need two things: a power supply and a data connection, and two solutions have emerged to provide this connectivity. The VTG ‘iwagon’ uses axle end generators and a battery to provide the power connection and Wi-Fi to provide the data connectivity. Once this power and data backbone has been established the iwagon uses it to provide a variety of other sophisticated uses such as brake condition monitoring, wheelset monitoring and the collection of data to improve the efficiency of maintenance. More details can be found here.

Railfreight Consulting, through a research grant from Network Rail, have developed a ‘powerline’ solution for providing the connectivity where the wagons are connected together with a jumper cable. This is a simplification of the European Digital Auto-Coupler idea and provides a 48-volt DC feed down the consist which is converted to a secure 24-volt supply on each wagon. The cable also provides the data connection back to the locomotive through superimposing the data feeds from the wagon over the power supply, as you may do in your house when boosting your domestic Wi-FI signal. Through your power sockets. More details of this can be found here. Similar to the VTG solution the powerline solution can provide a scalable range of monitoring on the wagons, including notification of handbrake status, load information and bogie monitoring.

These solutions will significantly improve rail freight safety and efficiency and provide a response to The Rail Accident Investigation Branch’s (RAIB) recommendation after the Llangennach derailment that the industry should investigate on wagon monitoring.



Ralph Goldney
Managing Director
Railfreight Consulting