Arjan Rodenburg
Technical consultant – Ricardo
Speaking on 22 November during the Wayside Train Monitoring Systems sessions

Arjan Rodenburg

Arjan Rodenburg
Technical consultant

In Field Implementation of Contactless Wayside Pantograph Monitoring

  • Difficulties faced during in field implementation EG switching the optical systems from day to night mode without losing any data
  • Finding the balance between false positives and false negatives, especially for very rare defects, whilst preserving the trust of the customer
  • Can we successfully apply proven technology from road traffic in rail environment?


In the day to day train operations, checking the condition of the pantograph is challenging. The check is often performed by the maintenance crew from the ballast bed, at night with the pantograph seen from below. Imagine trying to decide whether a wear limit of 6 mm has been reached or not under these circumstances. An early replacement of the pantograph means scrapping a perfectly good item with life left in it, whilst not replacing it in time may lead to severe pantograph and overhead line damage.

In a worst case scenario this will lead to a dewirement, a stranded train, other trains being delayed and negative press. The costs involved and the damage to their reputation is something most infra managers and TOC’s can not afford.

This inspired Ricardo Rail, DMA s.r.l. and our technology partner Sensys Gatso Group AB to develop and implement the “PanMon” pantograph monitoring system It is designed to provide easy-to-maintain, contactless, real-time monitoring of both uplift forces and pan-head condition s at full speed (up to 250 km/h). The system consists of 2 innovative solutions using special cameras.

The first camera (Automatic Pantograph Monitoring System – APMS) takes head on photos of pantographs passing the site at full speed. The second camera captures the movement of the overhead contact wire as a train passes and from these images the pantograph uplift is caclulated. The APMS is based on the road traffic speed camera developed by the Sensys Gatso group AB and uses a combination of radar, laser and flash technology to secure a high definition image of the pantograph(s) on each passing train at the site The pan-head image is then analyzed on-site using the on-board computer, automatically reporting on a range of pan-head condition issues including;

  • Type of pantograph
  • Remaining thickness of the carbon strip
  • Large or in-line chips in or discontinuities of the carbon strip
  • Aerofoils defects
  • Endhorn defects

An RFID reader is utilized to recognize the trainset. Pantograph uplift movement has to be measured at line-speed, as aerodynamic forces play a significant role in the overall value, especially for pans with poorly-adjusted aerofoils. This has traditionally been undertaken using mechanical devices linked directly to a registration point in the catenary, but location within the structure gives significant problems with access for maintenance and calibration.

The PanMon uplift system therefore uses the images from a pole-mounted high-speed camera alongside the track. Captured video images are analyzed as the train passes to determine the maximum movement of the wire applied by each passing pantograph.

The site can be supplied with an RFID Tagreader, allowing the vehicle number and associated pan to be automatically recorded and associated with the data from the analysis software. Detected defects or high uplifts are sent to the control room. Pan-head condition data is also available to users online.. The presentation will present both system functionality as well a the challenges faced during in field implementation for the Network Rail pilot in the UK.

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