Rail safety technologies 2021. Information For Rail Career Professionals From Progressive Railroading Magazine

Apex Rail Automation’s Modular Yard Automation suite of products offers improvements in both rail yard safety and efficiency.

Photo – Apex Rail Automation

Apex Rail Automation

Apex Rail Automation’s Modular Yard Automation (MYA) suite of products is designed to provide immediate improvements in both rail yard safety and efficiency, company officials said. Apex Rail was established in November 2020 after the divestiture of Vossloh Signaling USA Inc.

Safety improvements often require extra user steps, time and other tasks. In contrast, MYA is designed to decrease steps and optimize time through automation, Apex officials said.

For example, MYA can eliminate the need to manually operate yard switches, helping to prevent trips, falls and back injuries. And by automating specific switches at yard entrances, MYA allows the main track to be cleared quicker and reduces the amount of time that grade crossings are blocked.

MYA is the combination of Apex’s various yard modules, including yard switches, train detection circuits, radio frequency identification rail-car tracking, control kiosks, wireless remotes, system control software and power supplies. They all can be networked together in any configuration or number.

Each module provides specific functionality that, when networked together, provides more easily customizable yard solutions that can be expanded and changed over time based on a customer’s changing needs, company officials said.

Each MYA system is built around Apex’s core yard switch — the TS-4500 hydraulic spring switch — but can also be networked with other switches. Power modules include AC and solar, while train detection includes Softrail™ Automatic Equipment Identification and Apex’s Circuit Island Protections with audio frequency and wheel detector modules. 

System software includes the RailMaster™ yard control software; communication modules include fiber optics, and radio-based and hardwired protocols; and control modules include dual tone multi-frequency (DTMF) remote control and centralized computer control kiosks. DTMF can be applied on an individual switch or full NX systems.

Focused Technology Solutions Inc.

Earlier this year, Focused Technology Solutions released PowerForce, a battery-powered generator that uses standard batteries.

Focused Technology Solutions

Earlier this year, Focused Technology Solutions Inc. released PowerForce, a battery-powered generator.

Unlike gas generators, the PowerForce uses standard batteries instead of gas. Despite its small size, the PowerForce can provide 120 volts of battery power at any time.

“The PowerForce is not only a game-changer for many different industries including rail, but it’s also helping to make our environment clean,” said Focused Technology Solutions President Peter Bartek in a press release.

The PowerForce’s ergonomic design was created to increase energy efficiency. The power generator is designed to provide over 12 hours of battery life — depending on the output — and pairs with Focused Technology’s SpikeForce battery-operated spike driver, company officials said.

The PowerForce’s portable design allows railroaders to take it anywhere. It has proved useful in confined areas such as bridges and tunnels compared with bulky gas generators, Focused Technology officials said.


Shown: MaxAccel’s SafeTrack Analytics dashboard, which displays a customer’s efficiency testing data and state of regulatory compliance.


MaxAccel focuses on providing web-based software solutions to drive safety, risk management, training, regulatory compliance and operational efficiency. Over 200 Class II and III railroads, passenger-rail operations and railroad contractors rely on MaxAccel’s suite of AssetPro™ and SafeTrack™ applications every day, company officials said.

Through MaxAccel’s SafeTrack platform, customers are provided an easy-to-use and highly configurable set of safety and regulatory compliance focused solutions, they said. The solutions include employee efficiency testing, job safety briefings, on-the-job and classroom training and evaluations, locomotive check rides, certification/qualification management, hours of service, employee communications, electronic rule book and timetable management, and accident/incident reporting.

The new SafeTrack Mobile™ smartphone app is designed to provide a range of benefits to both management and employees while functioning in cellular/wireless connected and disconnected modes, MaxAccel officials said. SafeTrack Analytics™ offers management dynamic, interactive graphical representations of testing and compliance data to track positive and negative trends, and drill into details. 

The integrated SafeTrack LMS™ solution is a learning management system integrated with SafeTrack to manage training content, supporting in-person or remote delivery and facilitate the certification/qualification processes.

The SafeTrack platform is designed to meet the requirements of Class II and III railroads or similar environments. 

Miller Ingenuity

Miller Ingenuity’s ZoneGuard is an electronic roadway worker protection system that’s been used to protect railroad workers in active work zones, including rail yards.

Miller Ingenuity

Miller Ingenuity’s ZoneGuard is an electronic roadway worker protection system used to protect freight and transit workers in active work zones, including rail yards. 

The system works as a secondary warning device to help prevent common human errors that contribute to close calls and tragic accidents caused by fatigue, distractions, miscommunication and inexperience, Miller Ingenuity officials said. 

The system includes patented multiple and diverse sensor technologies that work together to ensure track vehicles are detected consistently and accurately every time and in all conditions. Its proven accuracy helps eliminate the chance of false alerts, which when occurring frequently can provide a false sense of security or wrongfully establish complacency among work crews, company officials said. 

The ZoneGuard fixed system provides 24/7 train tracking capabilities while being online ready for use by any number of roadway workers with no required configuration or setup. 

The patent-pending ZoneGuard yard protection system uses Miller Ingenuity’s train detection technology and the setup from the fixed system to warn workers within a rail yard of any incoming track vehicles or cars being shoved into the facility. Train detectors determine if track vehicles are entering or exiting the facility, and workers will receive alerts from wearable devices and train alert modules mounted throughout a yard. 

The ZoneGuard portable kit is durable and lightweight (weighing less than five pounds) to more easily transport to each job site, and can be set up in minutes, Miller Ingenuity officials said. The portable kit’s detection and alerting system can be tailored to each customer’s unique operating environment, they added.

Piper Networks

Piper Networks’ SecureTrack is a limits compliance and collision avoidance system that enables equipment to be detected and tracked on a railroad.

Piper Networks

Piper Networks has developed a new solution called SecureTrack, a limits compliance and collision avoidance system. It’s designed to enable fleets of rail-bound and hi-rail equipment to be detected and tracked on a railroad.

SecureTrack also reduces the potential for employee and customer injuries, equipment damage and operational disruptions resulting from accidents or major rule violations, Piper officials said.

SecureTrack addresses several challenges that face Class Is and transit agencies today, including:

• Limits compliance. GPS RTK technology communicates the details of a MOW location and vehicle work limits with submeter accuracy;

• Collision avoidance. Ultra wideband sensors deliver continuous positioning data relative to nearby MOW vehicles and personnel and in-cab alerts are sent to operators;

• Collision detection. Onboard inertial measurement unit devices provide valuable operational telemetry data and alert operators instantly to any collisions; and

• Object and worker detection. Operators are alerted to the presence of objects and workers in the path of vehicles using Piper’s TrackSight™, a solid state LiDAR technology that builds a comprehensive territory database for standalone precise vehicle positioning; and Live video streams. High-definition cameras capture video from each vehicle.

Since reliable communication is important, Piper’s advanced infrastructure management (AIM), is integrated into third-party dispatch systems to enable remote monitoring and managing of SecureTrack-equipped vehicles using long-term evolution modems, company officials said. Employees in charge are also issued tablets with interfaces to monitor vehicles and limits in real time.

PS Technology

PS Technology created its Precision Train Builder to address a number of potential safety concerns that stem from operating longer trains

PS Technology

PS Technology (PST) created Precision Train Builder™ (PTB) to address a number of potential safety concerns that stem from operating longer trains.

For example, in-train forces exerted on cars and couplers dramatically change as a long train travels across rolling terrain. The longer a train becomes, the more complex the in-train forces become, especially when cushioned couplers are involved. The PTB software tool is designed to examine these forces before a train ever leaves the yard, PST officials said.

PTB employs detailed physical modeling of actual rail assets using universal machine language equipment register freight-car information. This allows yardmasters or operations to quickly create hypothetical trains and then run them with the PTB Physics Engine, using actual GIS data for true terrain accuracy, PST officials said.

Following the PTB automated analysis, the information becomes available as interactive visual components. This enables users to create customized reports for comparing a wide range of parameters, including power placement, buff/draft, tractive power, wind and brake pipe pressure, PST officials said. The simplified visual output is designed for technical and nontechnical users in various railroad departments.

The current release of PTB is predictive and highlights issues that cause break-in-twos, stalls (locomotives unable to crest a grade because of train weight) or excessive in-train force derailments for manually built, theoretical trains, PST officials said. 

However, the next release will be prescriptive, recommending how to place cars and power during an automated train building process, they added.

Strato Inc.

Both the Trolley Pipe Stabilizer and Run-A-Round Hose can safely be used by one person and save hours of costly delays, according to Strato Inc.

Strato Inc.

Strato Inc.’s SR1000 Run-A-Round Hose is designed as a safe and efficient response to a main brake line failure that can be installed by one person to get a train moving.

Undesired emergencies (UDEs) caused by air failures are a persistent challenge to railroads, Strato officials said. In today’s longer train operating environment, a UDE related to a burst in an old air hose or a breakage in the main brake line consumes time as the conductor walks the train to determine the cause of the UDE, they said.

Packaged together and carried on locomotives, the SR1000 Run-A-Round Hose and TPS100 Trolley Pipe Stabilizer can increase the level of safety and reduce time spent repairing air-related issues. 

The Trolley Pipe Stabilizer is designed to make changing out failed end hoses connected to an end of a car trolley safer and easier by holding the trolley pipe in a locked position.

For all other air failures that cannot safely be fixed on a railroad, the Run-A-Round Hose allows the disabled car to remain in the consist of the train and get the train moving, Strato officials said. The Run-A-Round Hose can be installed within 15 minutes of identifying a damaged car.

Email comments or questions to julie.sneider@tradepress.com.

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