By Rich Evans, Global Control & Automation Engineering Manager
It can be said that the safety and efficiency of any rail operation are in a constant state of evaluation, challenging industrial rail operators to do more with less, while not compromising the safety of their locomotive operators. This balancing act is one of the primary reasons that our clients invest in remote control systems for their locomotives. It is a proven technology that reduces accidents and improves operator safety. At the same time, remote control optimizes productivity by reducing the number of operators required to safely operate each locomotive. Those operators can be redeployed to other activities, improving the overall efficiency of the operation.
For our clients in industrial rail operations, many of whom only have a few locomotives, the use of remote control is ideal but not always practical. The application and frequency of use of the locomotives impacts their ability to achieve ROI as quickly as desired. This is why many industrial clients turn toward a portable remote control locomotive system. A portable system is designed for clients who have a few locomotives, and need a system that enables them to quickly convert a locomotive from manual control to radio remote control.
A portable system meets ROI expectations and improves operator safety, however, there are some specific solution design requirements that must be met in order to achieve these goals. This is where Transport QC distinguishes itself from other portable units on the market today. Here are some of the primary customer requirements that the Cattron engineering team built into the new system.
1 - The locomotive control unit must be lightweight enough so that it can be safely and comfortably lifted by 1-2 operators.
Transport QC is less than 75 pounds, making it lightweight enough for 1-2 people to lift and install the system. Additional engineering improvements are being considered to reduce the weight even further. It is currently lighter and smaller than nearly all portable systems on the market today.
2 - The system needs to be installed in approximately 10 minutes.
Based on recent field testing, Transport QC was installed in as little as 5 minutes, well below the initial projected requirements.
3 - The system must allow for an intuitive and simple installation process.
The design of Transport QC includes a patent-pending cradle that allows one person to quickly hang the cradle on any locomotive railing (front or rear), without needing any tools. The radio remote control enclosure installs quickly onto the cradle. Two securing points hold the enclosure firmly in the cradle. No tools are required to secure the enclosure into the cradle. This simplicity of design, coupled with the lightweight control unit, makes it easy for nearly any operator to install the system.
4 - The unit must be reliable enough to withstand the rail yard environment and movement associated with relocating the system from locomotive to locomotive.
The Transport QC system was subjected to series of AAR environmental testing. Testing was conducted by an independent accredited laboratory. The system successfully passed all tests.
Recently, Transport QC went through additional field testing to validate that these requirements are satisfied. We took the system to a client location where the installation was completed while being observed and timed by the client. The installation took less than 5 minutes. Even the unique handrail configuration on the front of their locomotive was no match for the patented Transport QC bracket mounting.
Our continuous efforts to provide the most reliable, remote control solutions are at the core of Cattron design principles. Transport QC was designed to offer the lowest cost of ownership for industrial rail operations and has the fastest installation time on the market giving industrial rail companies another reason to choose Cattron solutions as a key component of their critical safety systems.