We built, tested and commissioned a high-speed camera system for analysing high-speed train dynamics.

Network Rail has embarked on a major electrification programme to modernise Great Britain’s railways. A major challenge facing the modernisation programme is the number of Victorian bridges built to accept trains, but not both trains and modern overhead electric cables.

High-speed train dynamics

Network Rail has identified a substantial number of structures on the Midland Mainline alone which potentially need to be modified to accept the required overhead equipment. However, with the costs for modifying a single bridge running into millions, the midlands company DGauge believes that its new probabilistic gauging techniques could save Network Rail space, time and cost by providing engineers with a more accurate means of assessing bridges.

The current approach for assessing whether a bridge has enough clearance to install the overhead electrical equipment safely involves the stacking of multiple worst-case tolerances – which leads to many bridges being assessed as requiring modification when it is very unlikely that all of the worst-case situations will arise at the same time.

By considering the dynamic forces acting on a train and its pantograph, DGauge’s Panspace™ software combines dynamic pantograph gauges with dynamic OLE models to accurately calculate or simulate the clearance to a structure. This enables PanSpace™ to predict not only minimum electrical clearances but also understand the frequency of when such clearances will occur.

To validate this game-changing software, 42 Technology worked with DGauge to validate simulated pantograph clearance with recording of actual pantograph clearance. This was done using high-speed camera rig capable of capturing detailed images as the pantograph passes the bridge.

The ability to quickly develop a test system to validate our software has been hugely valuable to the project.

Colin Johnson, Project Director, DGauge

Safety considerations were paramount at all times, with the 42 Technology team working closely with the Controller of on-Site Safety to assess and mitigate the various project risks which included high-powered lasers, high-speed trains, work on uneven ground, heavy lifting, 25kV AC overhead lines, 750V DC third rails, working at heights, and the risk of badger attacks.

42 Technology built, commissioned and tested the advanced high-speed camera system which has allowed DGauge to validate their software’s predictions. Working within the highly regulated rail industry, the 42 Technology team quickly identified off-the-shelf products that would meet the client’s requirements. Building, testing and commissioning the system was carried out in 42 Technology’s laboratories, before measurements of real trains were carried out on a live Network Rail test track.