BLUE POINT Automated Switch Point Heating Control

The BLUE POINT Switch Heating Control system is a completely autonomous system that utilizes weather sensors, rail sensors, and predictive services to control the rail heat autonomously.

This “man out of the loop” rail heating system is best utilized through a secure cloud service that ties in automated alarms via email, text, and on-call service personnel. Remote diagnostics are provided through the 24/7 Call Center, which utilizes robust real time data base at the Data Center.

The BLUE POINT Switch Heating system utilizes a pulse width modulated (PWM) heating scheme that allows dual-element heat. The PWM will nominally apply energy-efficient heat to the switch points, but if the weather detection and/or predictive services dictate extreme weather, then the BLUE POINT system will automatically apply extreme heat—as much as 600 watts/foot through dual elements.

The dual elements utilize the existing heater cabling that are currently feeding the switch heaters—a new intelligent junction box replaces the existing junction box, and the dual heat is broken out and isolated from the junction box. This allows for dual heat without trenching for new cabling.

In addition to dual heat, this also provides a level of redundancy such that each heater is electrically isolated from each other, so one heater failure will not propagate to the other.

The autonomous nature of the BLUE POINT control system provides worry-free operation, free from constant monitoring or supervised control. The BLUE POINT control system’s SCADA system can be accessed for viewing, control, and/or configuration directly at the enclosure or through a secure cloud. The Call Center provides 24/7 notifications of any faults or anomalies in the system.

NIBE Element has deployed over 600 BLUE POINT heating systems in Europe and is now exporting this technology to the NIBE Element Railway Solutions companies in North America by refitting the autonomous BLUE POINT systems for the North American market; this includes production and support of the BLUE POINT heating systems.

Switch point heating control can take the form of several applications.

Manual Control: This involves the use of a switch/breaker or set of switch/breakers to manually turn heaters on or off. This method of control requires that a human being perform the operation manually. This method is the least energy-efficient solution and is prone to human error.

Dispatch Control: This method of control is used to control a set of high-power electric contactors remotely. This remote control is typically done through a train dispatch center to turn the heaters on or off. Dispatch control requires a “man in the loop” to make the decision to turn the heaters on or off. This method is more energy efficient than the manual method, but is still prone to human error. We offer

Dispatch Controllers in both AC and DC Configurations in 2 and 4 channel designs:

Limited Automated Control: This method of control usually is defined as a single sensor to control the heaters in an automated fashion.
– Thermostat: This method is typically less energy efficient than a dispatch system.
– Snow Sensor: This method can become a maintenance problem if not effectively designed, and usually is augmented with additional sensors.

Fully Automated Control: This method of control is defined as an intelligent system that utilizes varied weather sensors, rail sensors, and weather prediction to autonomously make decisions to turn the heaters on or off. This method of control is the most energy-efficient method of heating control. NIBE Element Railway Solutions offers the BLUE POINT System as a fully automated solution.