This project investigated the use of systems to monitor the adhesion between wheel and rail on railways. Detection of low adhesion might allow braking and acceleration limits to be better predicted prior to any critical effect on train performance, which would benefit service reliability and safety. Occasional severe reduction of adhesion in localised areas is a significant operational and safety issue.. Following a literature review of rail/wheel adhesion research and low adhesion mitigation methods, the focus of the project shifted to an experimental investigation of a method of measurement of films of rail contaminants, which had been advised as a prime area for research.
The method, which utilised high-resolution digital photography of a visible laser-line projected on a steel specimen, has shown some promise. Various thicknesses of contaminant films including oils and water were imaged and a number of analysis methods were trialled in analysing the digital images. This project demonstrated that contaminant measurement using image analysis of reflected visible laser light might be viable although, it has not demonstrated a reliable method of separating different contaminants and film thicknesses.

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