Hampshire-based CoCatalyst Limited has developed a new train braking technology to enhance the safety of rail lines during the autumn and rainy season.
Calling it a solution to the perennial rail problem of ‘leaves on the line’, CoCatalyst’s ‘Water-Trak’ braking system was trialed on a specially prepared slippery rail. These trials – supported by leasing company Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham – were made using HydroFLEX, UK’s first mainline hydrogen powered train.
Leaves on the line causes a serious dip in performance and reliability across the railway. The annual autumn layer of leaf matter which forms on the rails creates the equivalent of black ice for trains.
What the CoCatalyst team discovered is that leaf coated rails become slippery only if damp; trains can still stop safely in heavy rain.
This came in handy while designing the Water-Trak system: It simply creates rainy-day conditions on the rail surface by spraying a small amount of water from the train onto the track when a slippery rail is detected.
During testing, Water-Trak was deployed in a train equipped with modern braking systems and led to a significant improvement in braking on slippery rails.
In comparison with normal braking, the technology reduced stopping distance by more than 20% and significantly cut the risk of wheel damage.
In fact – notes CoCatalyst owner and co-founder John Cooke – several braking runs without Water-Trak had to be interrupted to protect the train wheels, whereas all tests with Water-Trak resulted in safe and controlled braking.
“Adding water made the braking far less damaging and much safer. Without Water-Trak it was hard to stop the train,” says Cooke.
This was validated by Train driver, Robin Hicks of Rail Operations Group: “It has definitely proved to me that water does slow trains down and stops them in good distance.”
Image and content: Pinterest/CoCatalyst Limited