Ferronor operate rail freight services in Northern Chile over 1800 km of private one track railway.Heaviest traffic movements are between an Iron ore mine across the Atacama Desert to a port on the Pacific coast. With increased production, the manual management of the remotely controlled freight trains on this track became unsuitable for the increased number of freight movements. An automated system was needed that could provide high levels of reliability in the severe climatic conditions experienced in this remote wilderness.
A thorough examination of available products on the market revealed the best solution would be achieved using MR160 radio modems integrated with GPS in order to allow centralized coordination for desolate crossing zones on the one-track railway, in a non-fixed itinerary scheme for mining convoys. Support for locomotive conductors informing distances to the nearest trains ahead and behind, the next singularities in the route, text messages to and from the control centre, etc. are all combined within this application.
A unique RACOM mobile protocol with automatic roaming among bases stations (repeaters) is used. Only three repeaters are needed, strategically placed at dominant points in the hilly terrain, in order to minimize their numbers while having good coverage footprint in 160 MHz band over the entire length of the 180 km long railway. One frequency channel is used for communication among locomotives and repeaters and also between repeaters and the main base station. The second frequency is used for communication between the main base station and the centre.
Key features proved to be:
- Transparent route change for messages to/from mobiles transmitted through repeater stations
- A multiple communications path environment through Ethernet and serial ports
- Versatility to perform as a mobile end communications device, repeater, base and main centre communications server
- Multiple communication protocols allowing system integration of specific proprietary applications
After the network had been completed, Ferronor representatives openly stated that RACOM support was a fundamental part of the project’s success, from the initial selection of the optimal modem model, to selecting the best locations to install repeaters, configuration recommendations of MR160 parameters and remote testing of operations and performance.
Since commissioning, the network has allowed seamless, centralized coordination of desolate crossing zones in the one-track railway in the non-fixed itinerary scheme for mining convoys and support for locomotive conductors. Additionally it informs distances to other freight movements and passing places and direct communications with the control centre.
Such has been the success of this project, another was commissioned in the North of Chile. Both networks have helped the customer increase safety for personnel, the rolling stock and provide efficient management of freight movements.