The Saint-Louis-Arzviller inclined plane is a unique structure in France.

In operation since 1969, this boat lift avoids the need to pass through seventeen locks on the Marne-Rhine Canal. This unusual structure comprises a tank that carries the boats and counterweights, mounted on bogies, axles and railway tracks.

It was therefore down by the water’s edge where the Railway Test Agency (AEF) carried out ultrasonic inspections on the 32 axles of the inclined plane. The Non-Destructive Testing team (NDT) put its expertise to work for Voies Navigables de France (VNF), France’s inland waterway navigation authority that owns and manages the structure.

Non-Destructive Inspection Work on 32 axles

Voies Navigables de France called on Eurailtest and its partner, the AEF, for their expertise in axles and proficiency in non-destructive inspections to assess the condition of all the axles in operation on the structure.

Starting in 2015, AEF ultrasound experts carried out an initial diagnosis of the axles, identifying the components that presented defects. A more thorough failure analysis, also conducted by the AEF, highlighted the type of defects and cracking. It should be noted that while the consequences of these degradations are purely material, they do entail significant constraints in terms of maintenance and renewal.

AEF experts gave recommendations on suitable preventive maintenance for the structure, taking account of the condition of the axles. The frequency of inspections on all axles was also redefined.

At the end of 2020, early 2021, the AEF’s NDT inspectors returned to the Saint-Louis-Arzviller inclined plane to perform another expert analysis of the axles. The purpose of this inspection was to assess changes in existing cracks and to detect the emergence of any new cracking.

The equipment used is an ultrasonic inspection device with a straight longitudinal wave probe. This portable equipment is handy for conducting inspections directly beneath vehicles, at the end of the axle shaft once the axle covers have been removed, saving a considerable amount of time for our customer.

The AEF will continue to work with VNF, performing regular inspections on the components until all 32 axles have been completely renewed.

The Railway Test Agency has extensive expertise in non-destructive testing and inspections in the railway sector and is COFREND-accredited according to standard ISO 9712.