Dynamic characteristics of a switch and crossing on the West Coast Main Line in the UK

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Railway switches and crossings constitute a small fraction of linear track length but consume a large proportion of the railway track system maintenance budget. While switch and crossing (S&C) faults rarely prevent trains from running, switches and crossings are the source of many faults and need continual attention. On the rare occasions when trains are prevented from running the cost of the disruption is very high. Condition monitoring of the point operating equipment that moves the switchblades has been in use for many years but condition monitoring of the state of the switch in terms of the support and mechanical damage as trains pass over has only recently started to become possible. To this end, it is important to understand the correlation between S&C faults and sensor data that can detect those faults. This paper assesses some of the data collected from multiple sensors variously positioned on and around a switch and crossing on the UK mainline for a few days of normal train operation. Accelerometers, geophones, and strain gauges were installed at the locations where they were anticipated to be most useful. Forces at the load transfer point on the crossing nose were estimated from two separate strain gauge bridges and possible use of acceleration on the crossing is discussed. Correlations between different data are analysed and assessed and correlation between peak estimated load transfer forces and accelerations is presented. Based on the analysis, conclusions are drawn about the different types of dynamic information around S&Cs that can be obtained from a variety of sensor types.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-203
JournalRailway Engineering Science
Issue number2
Early online date29 Jan 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support has come from the Smart S&C project, Innovate UK Grant Agreement 104427 AIR5, and the Track2Future project, EPRSC Grant Agreement No. EP/M025276/1. The authors also acknowledge the help provided by project partners Network Rail and Smart Component Technologies Ltd. In addition, Progress Rail provided the crossing geometry. Mr Louis Saadé helped with the data collection and Mr Adnan Zentani helped with the laboratory testing and equipment preparation. Finally, invaluable discussions about rail fatigue damage were had with Dr Matin Sh. Sichani.


  • Accelerometer
  • Condition monitoring
  • Impact force
  • Railway
  • Strain gauge
  • Switch and crossing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Transportation
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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