How to Overcome Environmental Challenges for Rail Freight Applications

Hints and Tips Discharge Control System for Freight Wagons-Rail Wagon source Parker-Pneumatics Div Europe-Parker Hannifin CorporationWhen it comes to the global rail industry, there can be no doubt that rolling stock, such as engines, carriages and freight wagons, must operate in some very challenging environments while delivering safety, reliability and performance.

Extreme temperatures, aggressive contamination plus shock and vibration can all bring vehicle operation to a standstill. Reliable operation depends upon engineering technology that is robust, durable and long lasting.

Maximising wagon availability in even the most extreme environments is a top priority and any solution needs to cope with a variety of potential threats such as adverse weather and harsh working conditions. Often this can be the difference in maintaining profit or not.

Using the example of rail freight discharge systems, here are three ways to effectively overcome environmental challenges for rail freight applications.

1. Specify excellent sealing for extreme temperatures

A reliable and repeatable opening process on either side of the vehicle gives the operator flexibility to unload from the left or right depending on the destination’s configuration. This flexibility can require the wagons themselves to have two sets of controls to enable independent opening on either side, which is also a critical safety requirement. However, without the right pneumatic solutions in place, these control cabinets can be affected by extreme temperature variations.

Hints and Tips Discharge Control System for Freight Wagons-Modern Pneumatic Hardware source Parker-Pneumatics Div Europe-Parker Hannifin Corporation

As well as withstanding extreme temperatures of -40° to +60°C, these control cabinets need to be completely sealed against contamination by water and dust ingress that can lead to costly equipment damage. Water resistance is particularly important in extreme cold weather because the wagons may be defrosted with hot water spray.

Modern pneumatic components are designed to withstand extreme conditions and have proven essential in helping operators maintain the reliability of their fleet, whatever the climate. Ensuring your solution delivers excellent sealing characteristics across the wide temperature variants, such as Parker’s Viking Xtreme valves, is vital to safeguarding stable performance as the component will return to its original condition once the temperature normalizes.

Hints and Tips Discharge Control System for Freight Wagons-Viking Xtreme valve source Parker-Pneumatics Div Europe-Parker Hannifin Corporation


An ability to withstand extreme temperatures delivers maximum reliability and significantly reduces unwanted downtime. Viking Xtreme has been specially engineered using moulded spool technology for dependable service in the harshest of conditions.

2. For greater safety; 'design in' pneumatic interlocking 

You may have thought safety was only important on passenger rail. Whilst there is a trend towards fully automated, remotely operated freight wagon door systems that remove the operator from the immediate site of discharge, these solutions require big and expensive changes to the design of both infrastructure and wagons. As there is demand for increased speed, capacity and heightened performance, one area for consideration are to ensure greater safety provisions are in place on dual sided hopper wagons.

Here it’s critical that both sets of doors cannot be opened at the same time, which could be potentially hazardous to anyone close by. For example, if the vehicle is being unloaded from the right, then the operator must have a complete line of sight down the right-hand side of the vehicle. The operator also needs complete confidence that the left-hand side doors won’t inadvertently open, potentially endangering operatives or others nearby.

Fully interlocked pneumatic control systems significantly increase safety integrity. Interlocking makes it virtually impossible for doors on both sides of the wagon to be open at the same time, minimising potential safety risks.

3. Specify components approved for rail

One final hint is ensuring adequate shock or vibration resistance, which is not only important to the operator but can also prevent significant environmental damage and downtime for the business (if the dual-sided doors operate unexpectedly and a freight wagon loses its load).

Pneumatic products that protect against unexpected operation due to shock or vibration potentially avoid significant loss of cargo and infrastructure damage to the nearby environment. You should always specify fully validated components that meet exacting industry shock and vibration standards, plus have been validated to CEI/IEC 61373 1999-1 (BS EN61373: 1999).


Find out more

Download the High Performance Pneumatic Valves Viking Xtreme Series catalogue.


Headed to InnoTrans?

InnoTrans is the leading international trade fair for transport technology and takes places every two years in Berlin, Germany. Sub-divided into the five trade fair segments Railway Technology, Railway Infrastructure, Public Transport, Interiors and Tunnel Construction, InnoTrans occupies all 41 halls available at Berlin Exhibition Grounds. The InnoTrans Convention, the event’s top-level supporting programme, complements the trade fair.

A unique feature of InnoTrans is its outdoor and track display area, where everything from tank wagons to high-speed trains is displayed on 3,500 metres of track.
Visit Parker at Booth 206, Hall 10 to learn about our innovations to keep you on track. If you would like a free ticket to the exhibition hall, please signup on this page


This article contributed by Dave Walker, Market Development Manager for Rail, Automation Group, Parker Hannifin Corporation. He is based at Pneumatic Division Europe.





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