ALASKA Railroad is testing a method of detecting broken rails on routes that are not equipped with track circuiting, in a 14-month Federal Railroad Administration technology demonstration project.

The FRA is contributing 93% of the $409740 cost of the project, and selected Alaska Railroad for the tests because of the extreme climate and mixed passenger and freight operations. Around 85% of AR’s track is not signalled, and currently the only way to detect rail breaks is through frequent inspections.

The detection and monitoring equipment is being installed on three sections of track and one locomotive. Union Switch & Signal is providing MicroTrax Coded Track Circuits, adapted to function over 8route-km compared with the 3·2 km in signalled territory. To conserve energy the MicroLok II logic controller enters a sleep mode until it is activated by an approaching train.

Wayside radio devices provide confirmation of track integrity on a screen in the loco, using an interface from Quantum Electronics. The crew are warned of any disruption, and if the driver does not respond the train is brought to a halt before being permitted to proceed at restricted speed. Maintenance crews are automatically notified of the rail defect using a wireless network from Meteor Communications Corp.

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