In a first, the Western Railway (WR) recently managed to successfully operate a rail engine with the help of a remote control.
In the experiment carried out on the Ahmedabad-Gandhidham route, two freight trains with 60 wagons each and carrying a load of over 10,000 tonnes were joined. Consequently, the long train that was formed had two rail engines. The loco pilot of the first train —which now became the front engine — controlled the engine of the other train joined at the back, using a remote control.
Sharat Chandrayan, chief public relations officer of WR, said: “We require two engines to pull such a long train. Earlier, the two loco pilots would coordinate with each other to accelerate or apply brakes by blowing whistles. However, it has a risk of derailment or parting of bogeys if the coordination goes wrong.”
“So, we have developed a new technology called the distributed power control system, which allows the pilot in the first engine to control the other engine with a remote control,” he added.
Consequently, the other engine does not require human intervention. The pilot sitting in the first engine can start, control the speed and even shut down the second engine. The system is based on the technology used on local trains wherein 3-4 motor coaches pull the train.
The system allows two freight trains to ply together as one. “It will ensure that the time required to ply on the tracks is reduced by half. This will offer more space for long-distance passenger trains. The railways would benefit from the increase in the freight capacity which could be used for subsidisation of passenger services,” added Chandrayan.
The WR claims that the technology would save 4-6% of the fuel and increase the life of the trains by reducing the wear and tear. The system would also be useful for passenger trains plying in the ghat regions. “In the ghats, passenger trains require banking engine which pushes train from behind to climb. The system will assist banking procedure. Such trials are being carried out on southwestern railways,” added a railway official.
Though keen, the WR is still undecided on the timeframe by which it would put the technology to use.