Published 19th March 2012
DERBY - Safety is a primary concern for Network Rail, Britain’s track operator and they have a unique train based at Derby which only ever operates under cover of darkness.
It is always powered by two locomotives and has special operating instructions because of the intense light which is emitted in a thin strip in a 360 degree arc around the train.
Part of what Network Rail does is to ensure that the bridges, tunnels and other bits of rail infrastructure provide a safe clearance for passing trains. If, for example, something were to extrude into such a clearing area, the Structure Gauging Train would alert the local Network Rail area office, and they would rectify the issue.
The high tech laser and light technology provide a superb picture of such infrastructure. The laser beams reflect back to the train, and should the distance that the laser travels be too small, an alert is made.
The train also measures the distance between pairs of tracks ensuring that passing trains will not, in rail jargon, be affected by sub-optimal clearances. In plain English, this means collisions will be avoided!
A team of technicians man the train and sleep on it in a specially adapted coach. They monitor banks of computers and make sure recordings are safely made for scrutinising in offices.
The specially constructed light emitting coach is black on the outside and has a strip of lights inside which sends a continuous beam around the train. When this runs, it is often the only locomotive hauled train to visit the line so is of interest to those interested in railways.
For example, in October, the Structure Gauging Train covered lines in the vicinity of London’s Blackfriars and Cannon Street stations, where work on the Thameslink Programme, and redevelopment in the areas, means that the track and infrastructure will need to be re-examined. It was based at Grove Park, in South East London, for a fortnight – a rare visitor to the depot!