SPD Monitoring Provides Functionality to Rail Applications

Millions of people rely on railroads to efficiently travel from place to place, and businesses bank on railroads to deliver goods on time. It’s no secret the tracks these trains run on are located in harsh environments near high power lines and other man-made contributors to poor power quality. Since the tracks themselves act as conductors for lightning events, surge protection proves to be a vital contributor to the reliable operation of trains.

In the US rail industry, monitoring of the actual surge protection devices is a feature unavailable until recently, and still underutilized. As a result, in a typical surge event a railroad maintainer may receive notification that a site has a problem, but that problem cannot be diagnosed until the maintainer can physically be at the trouble location. This increases the time it takes for the railroad to apply a remedy, often contributing to delayed trains.

Transtector works with several Class 1 Railroads to address this problem with surge protection designed to not only improve the overall protection level of the electronic systems, but by also incorporating dry contacts to remotely monitor the status of the protection.

If a surge protector self-sacrifices while protecting the railroad’s equipment the dry contacts change status, indicating the protection needs to be replaced. The dry contacts are connected to an alarm point dedicated to “surge protection.” The railroad receives a message with the exact location of the surge protector requiring replacement.

The maintainer can head to the site already knowing what the problem is, bringing the proper tools and replacement parts to address the problem quickly and efficiently. 

Replacing the surge module with a new unit ready to protect also allows the railroad to get back to a full protection level before the next event can occur and damage an unprotected system. Furthermore, not all surge protectors requiring replacement lead to a trouble ticket. Without monitoring, a disabled surge protector could be in place for weeks before a maintainer visits the site to perform scheduled inspections or routine maintenance.

Notification can be specific to track circuit, signal line, AC and DC protection. Some examples of recent applications are hot box detectors, rail yard systems and RFID tag readers. The concept is relatively new and we expect the list of applications to grow as railroads learn of the cost and time savings this valuable Transtector feature provides.