The railway industry is one of the backbones of our modern economy, it is the safest – and greenest – way to move passengers and freight inland. In 2018, over 400 billion ton-kilometres (tkm) were transported on Europe’s railways in nearly 64,000 locomotives and railcars (EU Transport in figures, 2020). Cold weather, especially during the winter period, makes heating components for vehicles and rails critical to the safe and proper functioning of our railways.
Built up snow and ice on tracks, needle exchange mechanisms and trains themselves create a hazardous situation which must be dealt with swiftly. So when winter hits, how does the industry ensure people and freight keep moving?
Effect of cold weather on the railway network
Freezing conditions can create a variety of problems for the rail network, not least greater wear and tear, uncomfortable travelling conditions or decreased safety. Especially acute are the severe delays caused by faulty needle exchange or signalling mechanisms. Railroad switches (or track points) are vulnerable to build-ups and can be dangerous if not dealt with on time.
Other issues due to cold can happen in a number of ways; frozen pipes burst, repeated freeze-thaw cycles, freezing rain, and ice storms can cause ice to build up on any and all vertical or horizontal surfaces. Locomotive couplers, passenger access ramps, water tanks and other pieces of equipment need to remain unobstructed at all times. Wayside, defect, and drag detectors placed along the track can discover problems with the train as it passes overhead.
Ice build up prevents these detectors from functioning and compromises safety along the entire track. Ice build up can also cause malfunctions for crossing gates, safety signals, and other pieces of equipment up and down the track.
Wayside and vehicle lubrication systems are also vitally important in preventing unnecessary deterioration caused by friction. Liquids behave differently in cold temperatures as they become more viscous which makes pumping, spraying and spreading them more difficult. Not only are liquids affected by the cold, gas powered heating systems rely on storage tanks.
These cylinders which are filled with propane or natural gas can lose pressure as temperatures drop below freezing… This drop in temperature can cause restrictions in gas flow to the point where heaters no longer function.
Mobile components of the vehicle are also especially vulnerable to cold conditions. Couplers which inter-connect wagons and the locomotive both electrically and mechanically, iced-over doors with mobile steps and freezed water tanks can create uncomfortable conditions or even pose a threat to passengers and workers. Proper thermal management is vital yet especially critical in high-speed rail which requires prior heating to ensure that emergency traction battery system functions appropriately in cold conditions (Sun et al, 2021).
As we shall see, in many of these cases a system based on flexible heating which prevents the
worst damage made by cold weather is the best practice civil engineering has to offer to keep
our railways moving.
“A clever person solves a problem; a wise person avoids it.”
Application of flexible heating solutions
Waste and fresh water systems
Drum heating and tank heater are commonly needed in the industry. The extreme adaptability, flexibility and heat transmission of ohmvo thermal heaters make them the ideal tool to heat or maintain temperature in standard drums or big tanks. The easiness of installation, reasonable cost and its light weight make them particular adequate for tank heating on rolling stock.
Ohmvo’s flexible heaters are EN45545 certified and comply with Railways standard requirements.
Cockpit heating and pedals, cabin heating
We design full custom solutions to bring heat where needed. To keep warm dead-man’s vigilance devices, to guarantee thermal comfort in train cabins, demisting train mirrors Ohmvo will find the solution to your problem.
High power solutions
Ohmvo’s thermal management expertise allows to produce ultra heat with high power densities (4W/cm2). Our performances have allowed us to bring heater solutions for couplers, bogies and parts where high IP protection, low temperature resistances, and safe electrical protection is required.
We have been at the forefront of a new anti-icing technology for the railway industry, using our most flexible heating mats, which can be embedded between the layers of glass fiber to obtain a perfect heat transmission to keep moving parts of the train free of ice. The ohmmat NANO, our recently patented technology that offer the possibility to heat inside composite structures opens the doors to infinite possibilities.
Due to the LOW WEIGHT and EXTREME FLEXIBILITY of our mats, our silicone products are highly valued in the railway industry where these factors become key within their development process and supplier selection.