Winter preparations – keeping things on track
6 December 2016 • Author: A. Proctor Group Ltd.
During winter the effects of weather extremes and harsh conditions can prove a real challenge for rail infrastructure managers and engineers in keeping the network running. In Britain and Denmark winter preparations are being improved and delays minimised using Tracktherm® Point Heating Insulating Strips from the A. Proctor Group; keeping things on track, and rail moving.
Sudden cold spells and frozen tracks result in speed restrictions and potential termination of service. Modern points heaters use electric heating elements rated at 200-400W/m, clipped to the rails to heat a set of points, to prevent ice forming and keep the switch blades moving. However, traditional heating elements are inefficient, not insulated and a lot of the heat is lost to the atmosphere, taking up to two hours to reach operating temperature.
Developed in conjunction with Network Rail, Tracktherm insulating strips offer improved performance by directing the heat specifically towards and into the rail, reducing the energy consumed in heating the points system, and improving response times. The insulating strips are simply clipped into place over the rail and heating electrode, eliminating heat loss and energy from the electrode is dissipated quickly and effectively into the rail.
Independent tests show that without Tracktherm fitted, localised heating of the rail occurs in close proximity to the heating element, resulting in significant energy loss through convection. With Tracktherm, the rail is homogenously heated to a temperature equivalent to 300C (when tested at 50C).
More efficient heating of the rail improves the response time to heat a standard set of points from around two hours to approximately 50 minutes, and reduces energy use by 25-30%.
The true benefits of incorporating Tracktherm into the rail network is not limited to new points heating system installations and upgrades, but can be quickly and easily applied during planned maintenance programmes, enabling networks to run more efficiently and effectively all year round.