Development of a coal wagon monitoring and control system

Roberts-Apps, Adam (2013) Development of a coal wagon monitoring and control system. [USQ Project]


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The project analyses and tests the potential use of low cost hobbyist electronics to monitor and control mechanical faults in Coal Wagons. An Arduino Due micro- controller board and sensors similar to those found in smart devices have been integrated into the initial concept. Low level hardware will make it financially viable to instrument wagons on a mass scale.

Instrumentation to permanently monitor and control the mechanical condition of Coal Wagons is not commercially available; while the value of fixed track side systems is debatable. The idea behind this project was to use proven fixed plant condition monitoring techniques, low cost consumer level electronics and 'the internet of things' to create a synergized solution to overcome the shortfalls of other systems.

The objective of this project was to build and program a controller unit to process and record data, while keeping the design open for later integration of an ABS system. A Failure Modes, Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) was conducted on Coal Wagons to identify the mechanical componentry in need of monitoring. Research was conducted on low weight algorithms for processing data, sensor types, communication protocols and C/C++ programming.

Currently the unit can process and log vibration, temperature, acceleration, tilt, displacement, axle speed and strain data from sensors to an SD card, while averages are sent via a wireless 3G router to an internet cloud service called Xively. GPS stamps are assigned to each data set which allows for tracking and mapping of faults on the rail corridor, either in real time as a Xively meta-data feed, or by downloading the data from the SD card and displaying it in 2D or 3D using Google Maps or Google Earth Pro respectively.

More code debugging is required to improve program runtime and to add a greater degree of error checking capability. To take the design from the bread board/-concept phase and house the controller and sensors in weather proof enclosures for fitting to Coal Wagon, with future plans to integrate ABS control to limit the frequency of wheel flat.

The proposed micro-controller based platform holds promise for further development to meet the requirements of those responsible for maintaining rolling stock assets.

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Item Type: USQ Project
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering (1 Jul 2013 - 31 Dec 2021)
Supervisors: Billingsley, John
Date Deposited: 11 Apr 2014 06:59
Last Modified: 13 Apr 2014 23:36
Uncontrolled Keywords: development; coal wagon; monitoring and control system; ABS
Fields of Research (2008): 09 Engineering > 0913 Mechanical Engineering > 091302 Automation and Control Engineering
Fields of Research (2020): 40 ENGINEERING > 4007 Control engineering, mechatronics and robotics > 400799 Control engineering, mechatronics and robotics not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): B Economic Development > 88 Transport > 8801 Ground Transport > 880102 Rail Infrastructure and Networks

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