Rail Innovations: Thermal Radiometry RCM Demonstration Day

21 June 2021 |Rail Innovations

Rail Innovations has been leading a First-of-a-Kind (FOAK) project funded by the Department for Transport and facilitated by Innovate UK to utilise Thermal Radiometry cameras on 2 rail applications to provide Remote Condition Monitoring (RCM) data.  The project involved a consortium comprising Rail Innovations, SeSys Ltd, Angel Trains Ltd, ScotRail, DB ESG and the Great Central Railway.

On 10 June, Rail Innovations held what is perhaps the first in-person rail industry event since the start of the pandemic.  Delegates from Freight Operating Companies (FOCs), Train Operating Companies (TOCs), Rolling Stock Owning Companies, Network Rail and industry bodies witnessed live thermal video from the Lineside System installed at the Great Central Railway (GCR) and were shown recordings from both the Lineside System and the On-board System that has been installed on a ScotRail HST power car.

Delegates watching a presentation given by Greg Howell, Rail Innovations of thermal recordings made during the FOAK project.
[Photo courtesy of Angel Trains Ltd.]

Delegates inspect the Lineside System installed next to the GCR double-track mainline.
[Photo courtesy of Angel Trains Ltd.]



Two cameras, comprising an optical and a thermal sensor, are mounted on either side of the running lines.  The cameras are triggered by train movements and they record the thermal signatures of the passing vehicles - brakes, axleboxes, traction motors, radiators, etc.  The system can be powered by mains electricity or by batteries, recharged by solar panels.

The optical camera can read the “painted number” of a passenger vehicle or the wagon ID.

Trial installation monitoring the GCR’s double-track mainline with the lunchtime dining train on 2 June 2021 passing the thermal camera mounted on the grey post, plus the battery box powering the camera that is recharged by the solar panels

  At the trial installation, the nearest camera contains the “brains” of the system and is connected via an Ethernet cable through the plastic conduit in the ballast to the Slave camera beyond the far track.  A steam-hauled service train behind Standard Class 5 4-6-0 73156 passes the installation on 2 June 2021.  

The Lineside System was installed at the GCR at the beginning of December 2020 and has been monitoring passing trains since that date, including Santa Specials, Winter Wonderlight trains and the passenger services since their resumption in April following Lockdown.

In addition, a portable unit has been used to record mainline trains from public locations which successfully demonstrated that the cameras can identify multiple deficiencies and will be able to prove operators with RCM data to assist them improve safety and reliability, whilst enabling targeted Planned Preventative Maintenance.

The portable Lineside Unit recording trains on the mainline.  

The system has detected partially-braked and un-braked wheelsets on both passenger coaches and freight wagons.

A downhill loaded freight train with tread-braked wagons was recorded whilst braking heavily.  Most wagons within the rake were recorded with hot temperatures (red), as seen on the left-hand wagon; however, the right-hand wagon was displaying only warm wheelsets which indicated either an empty wagon or a partial-brake application.  

A passenger train was recorded whilst braking for a station stop.  The wheelsets on the left-hand bogie are at ambient temperature in, whilst the right-hand wheelsets were hot and consistent with the rest of the formation. 

After one occurrence, the TOC was provided with the coach’s “painted number” and their maintenance team inspected the vehicle during a routine overnight examination and found that the brakes were operating, but not in Initial step - the first brake position.  A distributor was replaced, the brakes re-tested and the vehicle re-entered service.


Cameras have been mounted on-board a ScotRail HST Power Car monitoring temperatures of the engine and the alternator.  The cameras can be remotely accessed by Rail Innovations using the system’s independent 4G Router in order to view the live video, to download thermal recordings or to change the camera settings.  The cameras can be configured with up to 20 zones per camera, each assigned with its own temperature threshold.

Camera (top left) mounted on the A-side of an HST Power Car monitoring the engine and its turbochargers.  Each camera comprises an optical and a thermal sensor and is mounted on an adjustable mount to enable to field of view to be altered.  

The camera mounted on the central equipment cubicle of the Power Car Clean Room, monitoring the alternators (traction & auxiliary) and some of the equipment cabinets.  

The trial cameras have zones set up to monitor the temperatures of the four turbochargers and cylinder head covers on the diesel engine, plus the alternator casing and exhaust system, plus electrical equipment cabinets - including the Rail Innovations equipment cabinet!

View of the Engine Room camera showing the zones set to monitor the 4 turbochargers, engine cylinder head covers and pipework.  An over-temperature alarm threshold has been set for each zone.  

Individual temperature limits have been assigned to each zone and the trial has proven that emails are automatically sent to Rail Innovations in the event that any one of these thresholds are exceeded.  Rail Innovations is then in a position to advise the TOC/FOC so that the operator can intervene with Planned Preventative Maintenance to prevent an in-service failure.

Notes to Editors

Story from: 
Greg Howell, Director, Rail Innovations

All photos taken by Rail Innovations, unless stated.


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