BLUE RAIL Third and Running Rail Automated Heating Control

An automated third rail heating system is essential to keep a third rail free of ice and snow for optimized uninterrupted service of a third rail traction-power rail vehicle.

The electric rail car typically connects to the third rail via a shoe on the rail car that touches and rides on top of the third rail. There are typically at least two shoes per car, per side of the car.

The wattage of this type of heater does not need to be as large as a switch point heater because the shoes will brush off loose ice/snow. The ice/snow is loosened by a lower wattage, thus allowing the shoe to brush off the ice/snow by forming a thin film of water just above the rail (deicing). Typically, the entire third rail needs to be heated to keep the rail clear.

Third and running rail heating control can be provided by various means from manual operation to autonomous operation.

Manual Control: This is when a switch/breaker or set of switch/breakers is used 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.

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 RAIL System for Third Rail Heating and the BLUE RAIL System for Running Rail as a fully automated solution. Click on the link below for detailed descriptions of both systems.

NIBE Element Railway Solutions utilizes the same autonomous system it uses for the switch heating control BLUE POINT controller. This controller will fully automate heat according to weather conditions, and also supports predictive services.

The SCADA system can be viewed and controlled on the NIBE Element Railway Solutions secure cloud web site or manually controlled locally at the controller.