The Rail Stress Test and our contribution

Simple, precise and fast track testing
Brilliant measurement system saves millions on railway maintenance 

Much damage to the railways is caused by temperature fluctuations in which the rails shrink and/or expand. Excessive tension leads to bending (‘splashing’) or even the breaking of rails with all the dangers that this entails. That is why rail operators spend a great deal of money each year on preventive research to prevent this from happening. Until recently, this was only possible by using laborious and destructive methods, in which a rail was sawn through in some places in order to be able to make measurements. Since the development of the Rail Stress Test (RST), this can be done much faster, cheaper and extremely precisely. Willem Valk: “The RST can easily be placed on a rail and the system detects in no time whether there is a worrying voltage in the rail. If so, the manager can quickly and precisely set in motion the right action for maintenance or repair.”

Managing director Willem Valk likes to talk enthusiastically about the measurement system that he is marketing under a licence from Grontmij. He was involved at an early stage in the development of the system in which Stevens Idé Partners from Enschede played an important role, but certainly also Brunelco from Haaksbergen. “After the industrial designers at Stevens had done their work, we looked for a specialist in developing the right electronics. Soon Brunelco Electronic Innovators turned out to be a fantastic partner in this. They make high quality printed circuit boards for our system so that we can carry out the measurements with great precision. That this works has been demonstrated with the first test order. In October 2011, the prototype of the Rail Stress Test was delivered in South Africa. Less than half a year later a repeat order of no less than eight pieces followed! The necessary investment for this order did not stop them for a moment. In the meantime, the rail operator was convinced of how quickly this system leads to enormous savings in the implementation of prevention and maintenance. This is in addition to the other advantages. For example, a whole team of professionals is needed to carry out the traditional research. Together, they spend a few days working on a handful of measurements. Hours/days on which trains cannot run. The team must first disassemble and/or saw the track in order to be able to do the measurement. The measurement is followed by the repair and, if necessary, the maintenance of the section of track. In short, very laborious and cumbersome. The RST is placed on the rail by one ‘male’, within a few seconds it reads the very accurately measurable voltage and knows the condition of the rails.”

Cooperation with Brunelco

Willem Valk has been working with ‘the Brunelco family’ since August 2011, as he jokingly calls the electrotechnicians led by Han Brunnekreeft. “It’s a well-balanced team of specialists who love their profession, each and every one of them. This is evident from the high level of commitment and the fact that there was such a proactive approach to the entire development process,” says Valk. “I also find the self-evidence with which Han Brunnekreeft shows co-entrepreneurship very special. He took over part of the risk and that is hard to find with other electronics developers and innovators.”

Spindle in the process

After the success of the prototype, the complete assembly of the Rail Stress Test was moved to Haaksbergen. “Brunelco is now at the heart of the process. This is where everything comes together. A complete RST measurement system consists of a Calibrator, a Control Unit and a Tester. They fill the vacuum-formed plastic housing with the measuring coils, PCB, processor, cooling and other peripherals. One unit measures the horizontal voltage and the other measures the vertical voltage in the rail. With the Control Unit you can calculate the difference between the two magnetic fields. The difference is expressed in degrees Celsius.” Willem Valk takes his i-pad with him. “Look, and if I want, I receive this data on my phone or computer, anywhere in the world.”

System offers many advantages

The RST has been developed primarily for preventive purposes. To prevent unnecessarily large maintenance or repairs to railways. And to be able to carry out safety inspections on so-called problem areas in the railways and in situations where there is an increased risk. The system can also be used as a control tool on new rails. For example, to check whether the track has been laid under the right temperature conditions. “The buckling or breaking of rails is something that owners such as Pro Rail, Deutsche Bahn and other managers always want to prevent. Countries where the climate has large differences in temperature are absolutely more at risk of accidents and very dangerous situations. We therefore expect to deliver the RST a great deal, particularly in those countries. To owners but also to suppliers of railways and railways.

Brunelco Electronic Innovators

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