Monday, 12.54 p.m.: a freight train tears through the small station of Las Matas, bound for Madrid.

This train could become a danger to Madrid. One of its wagons is overloaded and the load unevenly distributed. In the worst case, this could derail the entire train. At any rate, the highly frequented track to Madrid will be subject to extreme loads. Even a horror scenario like the one after the ICE accident of Eschede cannot be ruled out.

That’s where the thriller ends. A novel measuring system ensures a safe trip into the future. The train is overtaken by its data transferred to Madrid via glass fibres at the speed of light. From the checkpoint of RENFE, the Spanish Railways, the engine is alert to the required slow-down, so that he can take timely action and travel safely through Madrid.

Thanks to MULTIRAIL®, the unrivalled state-of-the-art measuring technology from Schenck Process, Darmstadt, entire trains can be weighed in dynamical mode while in motion. Defective wheels, weak points and inadmissible loads are detected on time – before injuries to persons and costly accidents can happen.

Why hasn’t this technology been used before? As a matter of fact, the interrelation between overloaded axles and track damage has been known for a long time, as well as the hazardous potential and the noise impact of untrue wagon wheels. However, a measuring system of that kind has to meet exacting demands. Reliable data must be made available at any time, day and night, at -30 or +50°C, 40 or 240 km/hr. Highest industrial quality is a must.

With MULTIRAIL®, SCHENCK offers a future-oriented measuring system designed to acquire the wheel forces continuously and completely over measuring range of 7 sleepers, thus providing data with the highest accuracy possible.

The heart of the MULTIRAIL® system is a specially developed weighbeam designed to acquire the vertical forces with utmost precision. Unlike commercial load cells, the weighbeam is permanently bolted to the rail and sleeper. Forces and moments are transferred consistently and accurately, without affecting the vertical force measurement. The stainless steel force-transducer is laser-welded so as to protect the internal sensors from external influences, such as moisture and grime. A force machine calibrates the force-transducer with a high degree of precision, obviating the need for costly calibration and alignment of the track.

In collaboration with Pfleiderer AG, manufacturers of railway ties, a concrete weighing sleeper, was developed, which is bolted to the rails on site. The result: an extremely rugged measuring system, free from play without any significant changes to the track. A MULTIRAIL® WheelScan system can be installed in 2 to 4 hours. At RENFE, the system was installed between 2 and 5 o’clock in the morning.

Yet the most decisive point: MULTIRAIL® is a diagnostic system offering unequalled safety. A system that pays off twice: in addition to safety-relevant information, data on track load are provided and can be used to schedule the maintenance and shutdown intervals in accordance with requirements.