Maintaining the past, creating the future
Frauscher UK became part of a very special project at The Dean Forest Railway. There, historical meets state-of-the-art technology in the form of heritage stock and infrastructure, equipped with latest axle counting and wheel detection solutions.
Historical meets state-of-the-art technology
The Dean Forest Railway stands for more than seven kilometres of impressively maintained railway history. The operator’s closed environment meets Network Rail’s infrastructure soon after Lydney Junction, which is its most southern point. Although not part of the mainline, as a fully operational heritage railway, high standards in terms of signalling and safety must be met; which is where Frauscher came into play at this outstanding place.
Old meets new
Whilst maintaining a historical touch using traditional steam engines, rolling stock and lovingly restored stations, the “backstage area” of this unique railway line has undergone certain measures of modernisation. In order to meet the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) requirements, The Dean Forest Railway installed two new Schweizer Flex Level Crossing systems, complete with barriers, in September 2018. These incorporated the use of the Frauscher Wheel Sensor RSR123 and the Frauscher Axle Counting System ACS2000 to initiate the automatic barrier movements. Having been introduced to the impressive reliability and precise data that can be achieved using the RSR123, The Dean Forest Railway decided to use them together with the Frauscher Advanced Counter FAdC to extend their train detection in areas where track circuits would not be feasible.
Interfacing down through the ages
Oliver Marshall, Technical Sales Engineer at Frauscher UK states: “It’s our pleasure to have been part of this project. The experts working on this line are all volunteers, which means they love what they do – just as much as we do. The Schweizer Flex System uses our Wheel Sensor RSR123 to provide reliable train detection for the level crossing, and the Flex system integrated well into the existing signalling system. As The Dean Forest Railway was familiar with our equipment, it was the obvious choice for extending their train detection equipment at Parkend.
Whilst operating on a modern level the whole system can be integrated into the existing infrastructure via relay interfaces. The most impressive thing is that these relays are interfacing directly with the mechanical interlocking. In that way, the FAdC has revitalised this historical installation.”
A quick win based on high flexibility
Initial doubts concerning the ability of the RSR123 to detect the old train’s wheel flanges were soon dispersed, as the sensors proved their capability to detect wheels of various types. Ewan Burns, Technical Sales – Graduate Engineer at Frauscher UK was on-site and took care of configuring the system: “Working with people that are so enthusiastic about what they have there was really amazing. Together, we developed an optimum solution for their requirements, as they knew exactly what they needed. That’s the reason it didn’t take us any longer than six days to train the volunteers and install and commission nine wheel sensors including cabling and indoor equipment for a full train detection system.” This swift installation period was key to The Dean Forest Railway’s decision to opt for the Frauscher system. With a volunteer workforce, the same works with conventional track circuits could take up to four years; meaning a diversion from essential maintenance work and a disrupted train service.
”The investment made by the Dean Forest Railway will allow an earlier delivery of the signalling project at Parkend. It will also allow us to improve the signalling at Middle Forge, which is currently controlled by a mechanical ground frame, and is going to be controlled electronically from Norchard Signal Box in the future. Equipment supplied by Frauscher has been operational since November 2019 when it was installed. This has allowed the volunteer staff to familiarise themselves with the equipment; especially working trackside being aware of the sensors and what can happen if tools and boots get too close to them - so far we have not experienced any problems! As it stands, all of the wheel detection sections are now working so the commissioning of the new signalling at Parkend will be easy to complete. It will also aid in the training of signalmen in the new box. Connections to the outside infrastructure will be left to the last moment allowing the trainees to familiarise themselves with the operation prior to going live. Currently the box is being wired internally and our aim is to have the illuminated track diagram operational for the IRSE Minor Railways Section visit on the 28th March 2020”, says Roger Phelps, Operational Manager at The Dean Forest Railway.
Pulling the lever via Smartphone
As historic as the line of the Dean Forest Railway may seem, the approaches used in the background are modern. With the innovative FAdC axle counter, the operator also harnesses its intelligent functions to increase availability. The very first application in the whole UK of Counting Head Control CHC and Supervisor Track Sections STS are used here, as well as the Frauscher Diagnostic System FDS. The latter is to be available in the future via remote access as information from the diagnostic system can then be called up via smartphone. This is also true for the Schweizer level crossing, providing full remote monitoring for the new equipment. "All in all, this project represents a perfect harmony of historical and state-of-the-art technology," summarises Mr Marshall, "Of course, we are still in contact with The Dean Forest Railway following the installation to provide services and support to their volunteer workforce. It has been a great experience all round!”