Compact intelligence for locomotive modernization - Lütze Transportation GmbH

Compact intelligence for locomotive modernization

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  • Control Technology

Captrain is an important player in the rail freight sector in France.  To ensure that the fleet remains fit, the logistics specialists are continuously modernizing their locomotives. The very compact logic modules by LÜTZE Transportation play a huge role here.

Captrain, the rail logistics specialist, moves ten million tonnes of goods throughout France and across its borders every year. The fleet contains around 150 locomotives and approximately 25 factory and harbor tracks.

The rolling stock is serviced in seven specialist workshops. Daily tasks include general inspections, servicing and also repairs and the replacement or overhauling of components. Even older diesel and e-locomotives with 'add-ons' are modernized.

The course has been set for LÜTZE

And this is where LÜTZE Transportation comes in: The automation specialists from Weinstadt help with a component that is relatively tiny but enormously useful: the LION microPLC is a very compact logic module that is designed for easy decentralized automation jobs in the subsystems of rail vehicles. This Ethernet-capable module stands out thanks to 16 digital and two analog inputs, as well as eight digital and one analog output. Its I/O configuration can be customized and it is easy to program thanks to the free PLC project planning tool.

"The main reason that we opted for this PLC was the versatility of its connection options: it is compatible with old buses like RS or CAN and also allows data to be saved via the integrated SD card," explains Pascal Vanhauteghem,Technical Director and responsible for the electrical workshops. "It makes it much easier to connect additional pieces of equipment with different field buses via the gateway function of the controller."

He stated two cases which represent the main applications: "We can call up data from diesel motors that are equipped with field bus CAN-open bus, for example the speed of the vehicle, its direction of travel, the temperatures, the battery voltage and more.

Remote management of the engine and battery

Newer locomotives have start/stop systems. Captrain wants to implement this function with LION microPLC on older locomotives that make up a large part of the fleet. The PLC monitors the battery voltage level remotely and ensures that the engine starts punctually and that the battery is charged.

Otherwise, a separate team needs to be dispatched to charge the battery, which is expensive and involves operative stoppages. At the same time, the engine can warm up to its operating temperature, a factor that is very important, especially in winter. It even allows fuel and emissions to be saved: because some locomotive drivers solve the problem by simply leaving the engine running at night. This means that the relatively low cost of the microPLC pays off very quickly.

The very compact logic module LION microPLC by LÜTZE TRANSPORTATION

Virtually unlimited connection possibilities

The second application is the geo-localization of the vehicle via the RS232 interface. A connected GPS forwards the date, time and GPS speed of the locomotive to the server via Ethernet and the microPLC. The analysis shows precisely where a locomotive is currently located or traveling.

But what happens if the connection to the server is lost? For instance when the GMSR connection is lost when driving through a tunnel? In this case, the microPLC pulls a further ace from its sleeve - the SD card. As an event recorder, it saves the periodically sent data; Captrain currently selects a ten-minute cycle for the configurable time function. This means that no important information is lost. as the locomotive can be located again after the signal has been lost. This is due to the fact that the Ethernet connection creates a VPN connection to the server via a modem; this then reworks, transfers and analyses the 'lost' data.

Best train connections

"In addition to its very compact design and solution for the obsolescence problem, this multi-connection capability is the main reason that we opted for the Lütze LION microPLC," explains Pascal Vanhauteghem.

Other applications include recognition of incidents or errors in the diesel engine. If the VCU detects incidents of this kind, the data is sent for remote error analysis via the microPLC gateway. We also see the potential of being able to intercept the Ethernet frames sent by the server, and rewriting these commands to the CAN network of the motor, i.e. remote controlling of actions for functions.

Interesting for trainspotters: Captrain (formerly VFLI) is a subsidiary of the SNCF Logistics and operates locomotives of the families BB 61000, BB 27000, BB 37000, BB 75000, BB 400, Class 77, G1206, Y8000 and Vossloh Euro 4000. Also, it has operated the bi-modal Stadler Euro Dual since 2018 and also the brand new twelve E4001 locomotives.

Author: Franck Grünenwald, Key Account Manager Lütze Transportation GmbH