Electrotechnology Apprentice and Aurizon’s 2014 Apprentice of the Year Robert McKenzie has enhanced an innovative approach to minimising the risk of derailments through an improved rail stress monitoring process.
Pictured: Robert McKenzie tests the current loop output
of the on track strain gauge and rail temperature sensor to ensure that readings are accurate, recorded correctly and updated on time at the 72km mark on the Bauhinia Line near the Comet River rail bridge.
As part of his apprenticeship project, Robert has designed and installed a rail
stress monitor and rail temperature sensor onto the rail. This closely analyses realtime
rail strain and rail temperature. This allows for proactive measures to be taken in an aim to prevent track misalignment and buckles.
Robert was prompted to think about what extra controls Aurizon can use to prevent rail-related incidents and how he could contribute to improving them.
After brainstorming with key employees, Robert came up with a new
and improved approach to monitoring rail temperature and rail stress to assist with
proactively mitigating potential risks on the network.
“We discussed whether there was a way that we could integrate what we currently
do in other areas of the business and offer a new approach to more accurately
understand and monitor the condition of the rail,” Robert said.
“As Telecommunication Technicians, we do a lot of work on weighbridges –
measuring the vertical movement and force rollingstock place upon our rail
infrastructure. This helped provide the idea behind the rail stress project.
“We came up with the idea to put a strain gauge, similar to the theory used on
weighbridges, on the webbing of the rail to measure real-time contraction and
expansion of the rail as it is exposed to different temperatures.”
The rail monitors provide a tool which enables Aurizon engineers to further
understand the state of the rail as well as gain a more accurate guide to buckle
and fracture points.
The data is uploaded to a secure web page which is accessible 24 hours a day for Aurizon internal employees.
Combining current practices of monitoring air temperature with the more accurate,
real-time data from the new rail monitors can help to proactively identify and
address potential rail faults and mitigate network risks.
Current methods of measuring rail stress involve labour intensive, intrusive and
destructive procedures placing restrictions on the rail network.
“By using the rail stress and temperature monitors we can potentially have a safer
non-intrusive process that minimises track occupancy while increasing the reliability
and safety of our network,” Robert said.
“Having real-time accurate rail temperature data available will also assist in placing
speed restrictions on the network and tailoring them more effectively to specific
“The quicker we can identify the need for a speed restriction and get the restriction
in place, the greater the safety of the network. The more safety controls in place
the lower the likelihood of a track fault related derailment occurring, ultimately
improving the efficiency of our railings.”
Robert is continuing to analyse the data obtained through the monitors
and is hoping to integrate the project throughout various places in the Aurizon