March 5, 2020: Norfolk Southern Debuts Autonomous Track Inspection Technology Mounted on Locomotive

Norfolk Southern has become the first North American freight railroad to develop and use an autonomous track geometry measurement system mounted on a locomotive. Prior to their deployment of this system the only autonomous track-inspection systems commercially available were installed on converted freight or passenger rail cars, which require an external power source to operate and occupy space on a train that could be used to move revenue-producing freight.
This inspection system will supplement testing that gets completed using the company’s existing fleet of manned track geometry cars and hi-rail trucks. Norfolk Southern’s plan is to eventually equip additional locomotives with the system and potentially upgrade its capabilities, including adding an optical system to evaluate track components such as fasteners, rail welds, and switch points.
Ed Boyle, Vice President of Engineering for Norfolk Southern, stated “With our locomotive-based system, we use an existing asset to increase the frequency of our track inspections, without adding another piece of equipment that has to be run across the railroad. This innovative approach enhances our safety practices by permitting us to have precise and quality track inspections done under load at track speed. With this system, Norfolk Southern will provide service safely, efficiently, and cost-effectively.”
Mike Allran, manager of track and development for Norfolk Southern, said “With this innovative system, any time this locomotive is moving and pulling freight, it is testing track at the same time. This gives us more robust data for use in predictive-modeling to determine track maintenance intervals, which enables us to maximize efficiencies that will generate significant cost savings.”

Norfolk Southern debuts autonomous track inspection technology mounted on locomotive