fabricating Jugnu, the country's tiniest satellite launched last
month, Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur graduates have now
come up with a matchbox-sized device to monitor wear and tear of
railway tracks and prevent derailment.
The new device is aimed at replacing a bulky, box-like contraption
that is currently used by Indian Railways.
"Our device is a supplementary system for monitoring track health,
making it simpler to integrate with the existing railway
infrastructure," said Kshitij Deo, M.Tech in mechanical
engineering, who developed the device with three others from the
vibration and dynamics lab of the IIT.
For Railways, safety is important as thousands of trains use
around 114,500 km tracks of its network - the world's fourth
largest. With regular use, the tracks develop cracks and fissures,
including problems linked to loose nuts and bolts at the joints.
If the tracks are less firmly anchored on the soil, it could lead
All these faults can now be detected in real time and recorded
automatically to prevent derailment thanks to the oscillation
monitoring system, a cutting-edge device weighing just 100 grams.
The device has been designed and developed by a team of
IIT-Kanpur's mechanical engineering graduates, under the guidance
of N.S. Vyas, professor and head, mechanical engineering, and the
Railways' Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO),
The device, based on micro-electro mechanical system, can monitor
track health more comprehensively and enable efficient track
"The extremely handy package locates and logs track faults
accurately with the help of the GPS (global positioning system),
eliminating human errors and making train journeys safer. It has a
battery life of 10 hours and can be recharged by USB port on
computers," said Deo who developed the device with three others
from the vibration and dynamics lab under Vyas.
On the other hand, the existing railway monitoring equipment is
bulky and operated manually, with two people being required to
feed the location into the bulky device.
It is mounted on a special coach, the oscillation monitoring unit.
Since it forms part of a small train, the exercise cannot be
undertaken frequently. Track clearances have to be sought and the
routes planned and finalised in advance, said Deo.
"The biggest challenge lay in engineering a device that could
pinpoint faults with a high degree of precision while simplifying
use with a drastically reduced size. We did manage to reduce the
number of buttons to one as against 50 required on the keypad of
the railway equipment," said Deo.
The device once placed on the floor of a running train's coach
measures and records vibrations. Any fault or irregularity on the
tracks changes the pattern of vibrations. The device feeds all
such data and locational faults into a fingernail-sized data
storage card with the help of a GPS receiver.
If the vibrations cross a certain threshold, especially in case of
a critical fault, the device alerts engineers with audio-visual
signals (beeps and flashing LEDs). Post- journey, the storage card
is retrieved from the device and plugged into the computer for
reading the track's actual condition and analysis by the railways.
The plan is to install at least three-four such devices on trains
running on each route to monitor each track on a regular basis.
The project grew out of a visit by the director of the RDSO to
IIT-Kanpur. "We were demonstrating a similar vibration measurement
instrument developed by us. In subsequent meetings, the project
was finalised and we designed the device in close coordination
with RDSO officials," said Deo.
"The project took a year to fructify, involving some 25 field
trials on trains, including Shatabdi and Rajdhani Expresses. The
RDSO has been optimistic about the project. Many times we actually
walked on the track to verify faults as predicted by the device,"
After the successful completion of the first phase, the RDSO is
keen on going ahead with the second phase and testing the device
on trains in all the railway zones. If its performance is found
satisfactory, it would be approved by the Railways.
(Shudip Talukdar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)