Wireless telemetry specialist Radio-Tech has developed an innovative method of monitoring the temperature of motor coach suspension tube bearings for train operator Southern. The ground-breaking system is safeguarding Class 442 Electric Multiple Units on the new Gatwick Express extension service.
Southern became concerned about a suspension tube bearing issue in June 2008, six months before the units were due to enter service to provide the extended Gatwick Express service from Brighton. Delegates from the Southern Fleet Engineering team attended the Institution of Engineering & Technology’s International Conference on Railway Condition Monitoring, during which they heard Radio-Tech’s Brian Back speak on the use of wireless technology for reliable remote condition monitoring. Encouraged by what they heard, and the success of previous Southern remote condition monitoring projects, the Southern Mid-Life Fleet Engineering team, led by Gordon Innes, asked Brian to adapt the technology to solve their problem.
Major constraints on the project included shocks of up to 50 G; co-location adjacent to conductors carrying 2,000 A DC; grease nipples that challenged the mounting strapping; battery operation; the close proximity of the transmitting antenna at the pinion end to the massive gear assembly; a radio path through the train’s floor; and railway safety approvals.
Radio-Tech decided to use the same data logger as found in its award-winning rail temperature monitor, although in this case the logger was mounted in the guard’s room rather than trackside.
The whole project was completed to schedule in just four months – from the initial evaluation and concept in August to delivery in December – including Railway Group Safety approvals conducted by Interfleet.
The system deployment is near completion across the whole Class 442 Gatwick Express fleet. Temperature readings are recorded every 15 minutes, stored in the data logger and then uplifted every two hours to a data server in Selhurst. The data is exported to an external database and alarm signals automatically dispatched should an excessive temperature be detected.