Track geometry 2020. Information For Rail Career Professionals From Progressive Railroading Magazine

Noble Horvath

A truck-mounted, high-speed version of the Omnicon Balfour Beatty TrueTrak™ Geometry Autonomous Measurement System. Photo – Balfour Beatty Compiled by Pat Foran, Editor Table of Contents Balfour BeattyENSCO RailHolland LPLoram Maintenance of Way Inc.MERMEC Inc.RailWorks Inc. Balfour Beatty Omnicom Balfour Beatty (OBB) produces specialist systems for infrastructure measurement, automated inspection […]

A truck-mounted, high-speed version of the Omnicon Balfour Beatty TrueTrak™ Geometry Autonomous Measurement System.
Photo – Balfour Beatty

Compiled by Pat Foran, Editor

Balfour Beatty

Omnicom Balfour Beatty (OBB) produces specialist systems for infrastructure measurement, automated inspection and surveying. 

OBB supplies the systems used by Network Rail in the U.K. for track geometry measurement and automated visual inspection, and “there is an increasing move toward autonomous infrastructure measurement to free up train paths and allow more frequent measurement,” Balfour Beatty officials said in an email. Many new fleets have required autonomous measurement systems, which OBB has supplied through the vehicle OEMs. The company also supplies the systems to rail companies in other countries,  including a U.S. Class I and “several Japanese operators,” company officials said.

Meanwhile, Balfour Beatty’s new TrueTrak™ track geometry system is designed for “easy body or truck fitment, and includes a data processing system that provides measurement performance “significantly better than the international standard,” company officials said.


ENSCO Rail Autonomous Track Geometry Measurement Systems operate uninterrupted and without an operator onboard.


The ENSCO Rail Autonomous Track Geometry Measurement System is a fully autonomous track geometry measurement system installed on locomotives, passenger trains or freight cars. The systems operate uninterrupted, more frequently and without an operator onboard — a “key advantage over traditional manned systems,” ENSCO Rail officials said in an email.

For example, with increased inspection frequency, every train movement presents an opportunity to assess the track and detect defects sooner, company officials said. Given that crew and travel costs aren’t required, operational costs can be reduced. The systems also offer tighter inspection speeds than traditional inspection cars, and unimpacted rail traffic flow for data collection.

When combined with ENSCO data analytics, customers can detect defects sooner, identify high-risk areas, and optimize maintenance and renewal planning, officials said.

Holland LP

The Gauge Inspector is designed to provide, reliable, real-time gauge measurement in a hang-on hi-rail format.

Holland LP

The newest addition to the Argus® testing technology suite, Holland LP’s Gauge Inspector is designed to provide reliable, real-time gauge measurement in a hang-on hi-rail format. 

The Gauge Inspector’s lightweight and foldable mounting design can be deployed by one person and installed on any conventional hi-rail vehicle with a standard two-inch trailer hitch, company officials said in an email. Powered by a standard seven-pin plug-in adaptor common to most hi-rail work trucks, the Gauge Inspector mounts as a complete system configuration that takes about five taking minutes to set up and calibrate.

The Gauge Inspector is designed to be used with the operator’s existing laptop or tablet and connects the unit to an interface wirelessly. The easy-to-use interface features real-time visual and audible alerts, and the system enables configurable defect limits that can be customized. Holland’s Argus suite of products is designed to be installed on dedicated manned track measurement vehicles, as well as transitioned to autonomous applications.

Loram Maintenance of Way Inc.

“When we think of the geometry of the track, we think of the lines, curves and angles that  make-up the track’s position along the right-of-way, and we talk of such things as vertical profile, horizontal alignment, crosslevel and gage,” said Loram Maintenance of Way Inc. Chief Engineer/Civil Jim Hyslip in an email. “All of these geometry parameters are based on classic geometry where line and curves are one-dimensional, and planes are two-dimensional.”

But the “geometry roughness” that develops from traffic loading does not often adhere to classical geometry characterization, he added. 

To develop a deeper understanding of the track’s condition, Loram has been utilizing fractal analysis to better characterize track roughness signatures “and to determine things about the track that conventional methods of characterization cannot do,” Hyslip said.  

For example, fractal analysis applied to vertical profile data from the track geometry car has shown the ability to discern ballast-related problems from subgrade-related problems.

“With advanced analytical tools, such as fractal analysis, important information can be ascertained on the health of the track just by looking at the data in a new way,” Hyslip said.


MERMEC Inc.’s compact, lightweight track geometry system can measure all parameters (from 0 mph to 250 mph) and has been tested in real operating conditions at 225 mph, company officials said in an email. The system is compliant with national and international “reproducibility and accuracy performance” standards, officials said.

The system’s high-tech optical equipment allows for a small sampling step at high speeds, enabling the detection of localized anomalies, such as rail dip. The track geometry system also captures and evaluates rail profile parameters in half and full configurations, and is available in a switch (turnout) geometry configuration for automatic measurement of specific switch parameters at 100 mph.

It also can be designed for unattended use. Features include automatic cleaning, remote management, automatic start and stop, automatic vehicle localization, self-health diagnostics and faults recovery. The system also can be integrated with additional MERMEC measurement and automatic inspection systems, officials said.

RailWorks Inc.

RailWorks Inc. provides customized rail geometry and profiling services to Class I and transit customers in the United States and Canada. Demand for its geometry services has been strong this year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, company officials said in an email.

In 2019, RailWorks rolled out a rail profiling system that utilizes laser sensors and mechanical contact systems on a hi-rail truck to measure gauge, profile and cant overlaid with GPS and location data, and there’s been “a great deal of interest” in it, officials said. RailWorks used the system to inspect the rail of a non-operational Colorado short line to bring it back into service. The team identified major defects and helped the customer identify potential areas for concern in the future, officials said.

“This system has really been a game-changer for our portfolio, both in terms of inspection and maintenance,” said RT Swindall, vice president of RailWorks’ MOW business line. “Additionally, the system catalogues the rail it measures, providing a critical asset management component for customers.”

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