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Railroad Car Wheel Measurement System

Regular inspections of car wheels and journal boxes are among the most important derailment prevention procedures the railway industry has developed over its long history. On the Russian railway network, the second largest in the world, such inspections have to be carried over around the clock, often in the open air and under extreme weather conditions. The automatic systems available on the market could only be installed in depots, required substantial track modification, and worked at very low train speeds. Combined with the high costs that prevented wide adoption of such systems in Russia.

JSC Russian Railways has engaged our client TDI SIE to create a competitive freight car wheel measurement system that would:

  • Reliably detect wheel wear-out and defects such as flat spots;
  • Reliably detect journal box displacements;
  • Install on regular tracks without causing train delays;
  • Operate 24x7 throughout the year across all Russia's climatic zones and under extreme weather conditions;
  • Work at normal train movement speeds;
  • Cost a fraction of the imported systems prices.

TDI SIE had previously created a technology of precise measurement of moving 3D objects based on noncontact laser scanning using triangulation position sensors. That technology was already employed in a few quality control systems used in manufacturing, so it was field proven. However, TDI SIE only had solid expertise in electronics and computational math, whereas the fulfillment of the Russian Railways contract also required industrial software design and development skills. This is when Excelsior engineers have come to the rescue.

What We Did

In short, we did all software development work except for the core computational algorithms. This has allowed our client to concentrate on what they can do best: optical sensors and algorithms that convert raw data coming from those sensors to the geometrical description of a wheel. Essentially, we have provided our professional software development services to a non-software company.

More specifically, we have developed:

  • hard real time embedded software that acquires data from sensors at high speed during train passage and then transmits the collected data to the computational server via TCP/IP
  • event-driven architecture of the computational server software
  • specialized database software optimized for rapid storage of vast amounts of raw data
  • storage of combined data from multiples sensors, mapping of data blocks to wheels and cars
  • depot operator report generation
  • depot operator control center providing access to measurement results
  • communication protocols for integration with various information systems used at Russian Railways
  • self-diagnostics subsystem with automatic notification of field personnel via GSM network
  • automatic software update subsystem
  • and many other features


YES The developed system performs fully automatic inspection of freight car wheels when train is passing the sensors at up to 60 kph (over 35 mph.)
YES The system operates under unfavorable extreme climate conditions: temperature -50..+50°C (-55..+120°F) , rain, fog, snow, and dense veil of dust produced by the running train.
YES As of September 2006, the system has been installed at over twenty locations across the Russian railway system. The use of the system has reduced the amount of manual inspection dramatically and increased the safety of train movement. It is projected that the installation of all planned systems will decrease the time in transit from Far East to Europe for ground-shipping goods by up to one day.
YES The system has inspected about 50 million of freight cars since the first installation. Several thousand cars running on defective or worn-out wheels were uncoupled for wheel pair replacement.
YES As a side effect, Russian Railways has received comprehensive statistics of wheel pairs wear-out dynamics on major routes.

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If you have any questions on the above solution or interest in utilizing our consulting services, please feel free to contact us or request a call.

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