Heavy-hail train runs 48 miles unmanned in Colorado

Knorr Bremse leader autopilot freight train test

An automatic test run has successfully been carried out with a heavy-haul cargo train in the US state of Colorado. Three locomotives and 30 loaded wagons carrying 4,725 trailing tonnes were moved without human intervention along a 48-mile test track. New York Air Brake LLC (NYAB), a US subsidiary of the Knorr-Bremse Group, deployed its on-board energy management system LEADER AutoPilotTM to automatically start, accelerate, brake, and stop the train.

Solely under the command of a computer, the system managed to start and stop on uphill, downhill and flat grades. The test took place in a Positive Train Control (PTC) environment, a North America-only specification for train testing. The demonstration was performed at the Transportation Technology Center, Inc., in Pueblo, Colorado end of August.

Precise control

“LEADER AutoPilot commands all four freight-train control systems – throttle, dynamic brake, independent brake and air brakes – providing precise control that conserves fuel and reduces in-train forces,” said Jason Connell, NYAB’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, Sales, and Service. The company uses track profiles, consisting of data on both the train’s cars and locomotives, as well as GPS information to calculate the ideal driving strategy in real time.

The next step is to increasingly integrate traffic management functions and establish a non-safety-relevant interface with the automatic train protection (ATP) system, strategically moving towards supporting automated train operation in the long run, the technology firm stated.

Pneumatically controlled

LEADER AutoPilot is an on-board digital platform designed for railroads to improve their operation and reduce their operating ratio, Deepak Kumar, Director of Marketing at NYAB explained. The test showed the system can also operate trains with pneumatically controlled air brakes, a technology that is predominantly used in North America.

The platform also produced LEADER DriverAssistTM and LEADER AutoControlTM. With the latest addition, the company hopes to employ the system to precisely execute the driving strategy of each railroad in the North American PTC environment.

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is the editor-in-chief of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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