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Supersonic Air Blasters Keep Train Tracks Trim

Supersonic Air Blasters Keep Train Tracks Trim

In the snow and rain-slicked forests of Belgium, locomotives struggle to wind through the hillside. The worse the weather gets, the fewer cars these trains can pull. When a train track is wet or dirty, the loss of friction means less grip for the wheels, which means either a smaller load or more fuel spent on hauling a larger one.

We’ve heard about lasers aboard the Netherlands’ trains trying to zap tracks clean, but the engineers at General Electric had another idea: what if simply blowing debris off the track is easier?

trainblowRight after the ARC system is turned on, the difference in track quality is obvious.

Now on-board over 300 trains, GE’s Advanced Rail Cleaner or ARC system is cleaning snow, ice, water, dust, rust, and oil off of tracks just inches ahead of the trains’ wheels. When the GE engineers took ARC to Belgium, it increased the traction on the slippery tracks by up to 30 percent and allowed the trains to haul the equivalent of four extra jumbo jets-worth of cargo, according to GE.

“ARC will be a game-changer in the rail industry,” says GE engineer Jennifer Coyne.

The ARC system works by using software to aim a jet of supersonic (over 700 mph or 1,225 kph) air at a precise spot where a train’s leading wheels meet the track. It’s robust enough to adjust to curving tracks and auto-detect when the train is losing friction, activating the system in response.

Of course, if you want to move a lot of snow out of the way, the solution is a bit more low-tech than ARC.

trainblow1

HT: GE Reports

IMAGES: GE Transportation

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