Showing posts with label RailTrucking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RailTrucking. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Can RailTrucking alleviate Australia's trucking congestion?

Over the months since I started working on RailTrucking the idea has been growing from an interesting idea to be handed off to a captain of industry to something that is a real need and should be executed properly sooner rather than later.

The idea of taking over 5,000 trucks off the road between Brisbane and Sydney may sound audacious, but it is also critical in so many ways.

  1. Diesel conservation/ carbon conservation. Trucks on rail can safely travel at 135km/p hr instead of 100 on rail that has a co-efficient of friction that is a fraction of road tire friction. Plus rail has a maximum 4% grade compared to 8 or even 10 on some parts of the Pacific highway. Better yet the minimum radius of a turn on rail is 1km. Road turn radius's can be as short as 150 metres!
  2. Driver fatigue. While the drivers do have to hit a dead-mans brake button (a braking system that kicks in if the driver does not respond) the level of concentration compared to driving on the road is far less stressful and far healthier for the driver.
  3. ROI on the cost of rail infrastructure.... just think... 1000km of rail only services 15 trains a day on the busiest day... what a waste.
  4. And best of all... safety. Taking trucks and driver fatigue out of the travel equation just has to be safer...
What do you think?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Rail Trucking: Some maths for the Sydney to Brisbane Rail line

Ok… so how many trucks could the Sydney Brisbane rail line handle? How many trucks could we get off the Pacific Highway?
10… 100… 1000? Is this all worth it?
Here are some figures.
  • The station manager I interviewed at the Casino rail station said that up to 15 trains pass through per day with the maximum on the weekends.
  • This manes that 7-8 trains pass every day going opposite directions.
  • This means one train passing every spot on the line every 2 hours on average.
  • Each train is up to 1.5km in length and must go on the side rail at least twice in a 12hour Syd Bris trip to allow other trains to pass. During this time they are waiting for the other train to clear the main line since it is shared by trains going north and south.
  • The Sydney Brissy line is about 1000km long.
  • During a 12 hour trip there would be at least seven other trains on the line with you at the same time.
  • Given that the train is 1.5km in length and a 10 km buffer is needed in front of each train for safety reasons you need to take at least 7x 12km (or 90kms) of track just for trains and their safety zones.
  • This leaves 900k’s of track available for rail trucking activity.
  • Give each truck a 300meter buffer this means 3 trucks per k and this means…
  • A capacity of up to 2700 trucks 10 hr trip or (2700 x 2.4 ) 6,480 per day with each truck getting on and off the rail maybe three times per trip…
  • In reality a 2-3 hour drive spell means 4-5 stops in 10 hours which actually adds to the relieving of congestion further.
  • Better still what if the main line went bidirectional… ie one rail line in each direction… spacing could get down to 100 meters and the space needed for trains could be reduced due to never risking a head-on collision….
  • With this config the capacity more than doubles…
  • Only 50k’s are needed for all the trains on the line…
  • And 10 trucks can travel per km of rail which makes the equation 2 x 950 x 10 which is 19000 trucks in 10 hours which is over 32,000 trucks per day at full capacity.
And this is a line in high existing use!
Note: This is not a definitive research figure but more an initial assessment prior to full research and verification which would happen prior to publishing the post prototype business plan.

Rail Trucking Research with Engineer and trucker


Last Wednesday I was out on the road doing research with the fabrication engineer for Rail Trucking collecting information for the initial drawings of the Rail Trucking bogeys (see Rail Trucking article).

Along the way I flagged down a truckie going past and asked him if could measure his truck for Rail Trucking specifications. While the engineer measured wheelbases and tire widths etc, I interviewed the truck driver about what its like to be a truckie.

Towards the end I eventually explained to him what we were doing and how Rail Trucking works. I fully expected to be palmed off since it very unconventional to think of trucks on the rails but I was truly surprised to find that his reaction was very positive… in fact his biggest problem was with the thought that truckies would find it so relaxing to drive by rail that they will be falling asleep…

--- thus to him the biggest problem would be the installation of what is called a deadmans’ brake… some kind of device that allows the truck to stop if the driver is incapacitated for any reason…

Wow. What a great reaction. This is going to have to be well thought out since the idea of a truck driver reading a news paper until the next rail turnout is what the invention is all about. The other thing the driver talked about was the though that much more traffic could travel in the day now that hundreds and even thousands of trucks could travel on one rail line.

What a great start.

I also asked him what he felt about being another 10 inches higher up if we had to put the rail wheels underneath the truck tires? He saw straight away that since rail has much milder sweeping curves and flatter climbs that going up in height didn’t impact operation or safety at all… so far every problem I thought would be an issue has turned out to be not a problem after all.

Other Rail Trucking articles

Friday, July 16, 2010

Rail Trucking and the local Fire Brigade

My wife and I were out for our morning walk locally which lately has been doubling up as an opportunity to inspect the state of the local unused rail lines to see if they could be used for Rail Trucking tests.

While on one of these walks just a few days ago we ran into members of the local Fire Brigade (we call them Firies in Australia) who were walking the rail lines using them to plan fire breaks for next summer.

When we exchanged pleasantries, the conversation of Rail Trucking came up and suddenly the Firies eye lit up as they said that accessing the rail to get to fires would be really important and a fantastic advantage since rail often goes in places where roads don’t… they also loved the idea that the rail bogeys are not permanently attached to the truck like the Hi-Rail gear does…

All this was very encouraging for me since there is a fallback plan emerging that allows the Rail Trucking tech to at least find a home at Australia’s regional fire brigades if the main thrust of the Rail Trucking project doesn’t take.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Update on Rail Trucking: Started virtual engineering

This article refers to the Rail Trucker project invented by Ric Richardson that allows trucks and other vehicles to drive the rails under their own steam using easy roll-on roll-off bogey wheels.

And we’re off!

Yesterday the Rail Trucker project broke virtual ground by starting the engineering drawing and planning phase. It’s really interesting doing a heavy industries project with steel fabricators.

Many of the visualizations you have seen on this blog were done in Google Sketchup, but now things are serious as we start you do the full design work in AutoCAD.

Our first session explored alternate rail wheel positions and trying to get the truck centre of gravity lower.

The fabricator is a local steelworker who is also a wonderful artist/ painter so the hand renderings of his ideas come quick and fast… and look great.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Alternatives to Rail Trucking and why they are not as good

Since I started talking about Rail Trucking, a number of helpful souls have suggested that the idea has been done before. These suggestions haver included hi-rail 4WDs and trucks and RoadRailers.


The Hi-Rail concept (see wikipedia) alternatively called the Road Rail Vehicle has been around for some time.


This example is from a Tasmanian scenic tour company that uses some rail line is the centrepiece of their tours.


Below are some example from the Wikipedia section on Road Rail Vehicles.


Why Railtrucking is better: Besides the fact that the design seems to be geared to short distance slow speed rail use, what kills this approach is the fact that the bogey wheels are permanently attached to the vehicle and a considerable amount of weight and inefficiency is wrapped up in the hydraulics that lift the vehicle up once it is over the rails. With Railtrucking the bogey is left trackside for others to use. The weight of the bogey does not effect the fuel efficiency of the vehicle when it is used on the road.

Additionally, while it seems at first blush to be a great idea to have the car tires drive the vehicle while on the rails, this would quickly make the tire unusable when used for any distance as a wear line would make tire wear uneven and dangerous. With RailTrucking the whole tread of the drive tire is used for driving and braking.


Roadrailers are semi truck trailers that are fitted with rail bogeys so that they can be drawn along in a normal engine driven train

Why Railtrucking is better: Roadrailers underscore one of the main reasons that the system has to avoid the traditional reliance on railway carriage coordination. With Roadrailers, you still need for the whole train to stop at its destination and then coordinate decoupling and disconnecting of the Roadrail enabled trailers before you can connect it to a semi and get on with the road based element of goods delivery. The benefit is mildly better than having a container shipped on a train flat car.

With RailTrucking the whole truck travels the rail and the truck driver can determine when they leave the rail. The drive-on, drive-off design of the rail bogeys mean that the truck spends almost no time transitioning from road-based to rail-enabled and back.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rail Trucking in your own car


The ultimate vision for Rail Trucker is personal rail trucking. You pack to go on your annual holiday and drive a little north of your city to a rail on ramp. You drive across a pit that allows mini rail bogeys to roll up and under your car in one smooth action. The drive wheels of your car are now driving rail wheels.

You wait for a little green light to tell you to join the main line north. You gently accelerate to 110kph/ 60mph, set the cruise control and get comfy. Your own engine and brakes control the car.

A rail-side wifi system tells your iPhone when there are delays and upcoming level crossings or off-ramps. If you want to watch a DVD just use a mini radar and laser warning system to tell you when animals/ vehicles or any other moving thing is on or near the track.

Feel like a break? Book the next off ramp on your iPhone. The tracks are switched to send you off to the side rail. As the rail wheels follow a piece of track that goes down into a little pit, your car tyres again take the weight of the car and you head off for a bite to eat and a little quiet time before hitting the road… er rails again.

No traffic jams, no trucks, no headaches.

Want a really easy ride? Catch up to a convoy heading north and using an automated coupling connect to the back of the convoy of cars and trucks and let the lead vehicle dictate the speed and braking… a special rail control device automates driving for you.

This and more is Rail Trucker.

Also coming… what about emergencies, want to get off the track fast?… what about safety… how to get multi car efficiencies… cant we join a meal cabin and just tow the car? What about the level crossing nightmare?

The only thing wrong with the photo? With real rail trucking the driver would not need to have hands on the steering wheel, the rails do it for him!

Other articles on Rail Trucking:
RailTrucker overview
Turning trucks into mini rail cars

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rail Trucker – converting trucks into light rail vehicles


This project is really starting to get some legs. I’m still in the process of exploring what to patent but its getting real exciting that something like this could really eventuate. The basic idea is to put light weight rail bogeys under a truck in such a way as to allow the trucks own drive train and brakes to move and stop the truck.

The next phase which I’m nearly through is getting the truck on and off the rails without using jacks or lifting systems… I came up with something pretty snazzy and will show you once its locked down and patented.

Next after this I have been looking at electronic support systems for such a setup. Things like radar and laser devices for rail level crossings and animals on the track, rubber bogey wheels for quietening down traffic on railway tracks… and traffic management for all the trucks, commercial vehicles and cars that may want to be travelling the rails once this thing gets going… can you imagine it…

…get on the rails in Sydney, get off at Port Macquarie for a bit of a look around, back on until Coffs Harbour… the whole time on cruise control watching a DVD and looking up now and again to check a warning from the radar or laser box that tells you an animal is near the tracks or that a level crossing is coming up. Sign me up…

Saturday, May 1, 2010 – turning trucks into mini rail-cars

“Back in Dec of 2006 I was intrigued by a story about a bus that could run on rail way tracks. Ever since that day I've been chewing over how to make something that could retrofit existing trucks and vehicles… maybe there is a way?”

The other night I was driving back from a meeting past truck after truck on the Pacific Highway heading south on their night run. Many of them driving within a few dozen feet of each other to benefit from the slip stream of the truck in front… efficient but deadly.

I started toying with chaining trucks together which in turn led to a revisit of the idea I say the Japanese did 4 years ago.

It’s been pretty busy around here but despite this and a couple of 3am nights there is a strong foundation of an idea for a system of rail cradles that attach to trucks just for the trip.

There is definitely one or two patents here so please be patient with me to get them filed so I can give you more detail but maybe, just maybe this idea is goer.

Pic from original article

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