USA: Researchers from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln are testing prototype wagon-mounted equipment designed to identify trackbed soft spots where there is risk of rail distortion leading to derailment. The project has received $150 000 from the FRA.
The prototype is mounted on a Union Pacific coal wagon which is fully loaded with sand for operation within trains on UP and BNSF tracks. A hanging crossbar is connected to sensors which determine how close the crossbar is to the ground as the train moves. Although the rig has found soft spots that regular testing failed to identify, BNSF engineers said not all of them proved to be dangerous and the equipment will have to be refined to a point where it can determine whether there is an underlying problem that needs immediate attention, or if the soft spot can wait for routine maintenance.