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In 1872, the first message was transmitted over the 2700-kilometre Overland Telegraph Line between Darwin and Adelaide.
This pioneering engineering achievement, using Siemens technology, connected Australia to the rest of the world, and marked the entry point of the company’s work in this country.
As Siemens commemorates its 150th year in Australia, it is fitting that its engineering capability is being used to assist trains to run smoothly along the Tarcoola to Darwin rail corridor: a 2250-kilometre section of south–north railway line between the two locations.
The corridor is used by a third-party passenger service and freight trains operated by One Rail Australia.
With such long distances of track section to be maintained, monitoring critical wayside infrastructure for condition and required repairs is a massive task, particularly if manual inspection and reporting is relied upon, as it could take days for any issues to be investigated.
The rail line also traverses some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world, enduring summer temperatures that can reach greater than 50ºC, and an annual monsoon season which can lead to flooding and washouts.
And that’s where Siemens Mobility comes in. The company has introduced its well-received, innovative RailFusion software into Australia to help enable the rail wayside infrastructure to be monitored and assessed in real time.
RailFusion monitors and analyses data points across an entire railroad’s infrastructure, including wayside assets such as active road crossings, remote crossing loops and stream flow detection on six major rivers between Katherine and Darwin.
It is designed to turn the information into intelligence by intuitively monitoring and analysing railroad wayside infrastructure to improve system operations and safety.
Every location has an IP address. This provides the rail maintenance teams with insights into activity across the entire railway as the system remotely monitors and captures data from both Siemens Mobility and third-party devices located along the rail corridor.
RailFusion allows wayside devices to communicate with the RailFusion data centre to remotely determine the status and condition of the wayside equipment.
It helps in accessing live crossing occupation information, identifies incorrect device behaviour, and can also analyse patterns along the railroad based on historical data, and offers maintainers an easy-to-use platform to manage complex rail infrastructure.
As Siemens Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) signals specialist Glenn McCoubrie explains, on any given railroad, there are millions of data points being created by train movements and devices along a line.
“RailFusion brings all of these disparate data points together in one system and puts intelligence behind them, allowing railroad operators to make more informed, efficient decisions about how to operate and maintain their systems specific to their needs,” he said.
“Data secured by the new system is transmitted in real-time and stored in a Siemens data centre in the USA for analytics and reporting.”
One Rail Australia Signals Manager Mick McCarl said a majority of sites on the corridor relied on battery and solar power due to their remoteness, so hence a form of smart monitoring was always needed.
“We have batteries installed in the remote equipment locations and no information on their health apart from the scheduled site visits by our maintainers and track inspectors to do their scheduled maintenance, so we were operating in dark territory,” he said.
“One Rail Australia looked at systems that could bring us up to speed and work a little bit smarter and quicker than what we had and RailFusion, being customisable, was the perfect solution.
“RailFusion was operating in a few railroads in Northern America with great success, so we investigated, developed and introduced it to adapt to our system and the remoteness of our network.
“Now we are in a position to monitor everything from our solar to our batteries to a light out at a level crossing to knowing what the current flow is on a switch machine.”
McCarl said there were 48 sites currently using the RailFusion platform along the One Rail Australia line.
“We haven’t covered the whole corridor yet. At the moment we have adopted it from Alice Springs to Darwin, with future plans to extend it all the way south to the commencement of the corridor,” he said.
McCoubrie said RailFusion “communicates with each installation” along the corridor either by 4G or Satellite communications.
“It checks hundreds of times a day and looks for any change, event or any condition of concern from the site,” he said.
“The site information is processed locally and then relayed to the data centre.
“If there is any issue where thresholds with batteries and other device parameters are not met, RailFusion will initiate an e-mail alarm to the appropriate maintainer for action.
“As we have the system split into divisions, the dedicated signal maintainer for his or her respective area will receive an e-mail alarm to advise if there is any issue that needs attention.
“There is also the ability to view event logs from history. For example, if we do have an incident or a train driver or operation staff report, we can go through via RailFusion to retrieve an event log to ascertain if there was in fact a problem and what actually occurred in the field.”
The immediacy of the RailFusion solution is a big advantage for One Rail Australia. The maintainer has the ability to look at real time data and has greater transparency on the condition of the wayside equipment prior to mobilising to site.
The RailFusion solution also provides stream flow detection alerts, so One Rail Australia can manage rail traffic over the major rivers.
This project was achieved through the collaboration of both One Rail Australia and Siemens Mobility. Siemens Mobility provided the design input and One Rail’s Signals staff were key players in the installation of the equipment and the setting to work of the field sites.
This article first appeared on www.railexpress.com.au
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