#828: Trackbot

As we’ve seen recently in Australia, when a railway line gets really hot, the thermal distortion can be severe and result in permanent damage to the track. Similarly, in cold conditions, lengths of welded track can pull themselves apart, due to contraction. Such sections are commonly inspected on foot, when the weather is severe.

Today’s invention is a mechanism to limit the potential damage to railway track in extreme conditions.

A very small, light cart runs with its center of mass barely above the level of the track. This is semi-autonomous and travels at over 100mph. The cart contains:

  • temperature sensing equipment capable of detecting an unhealthy rail temperature
  • a set of pads which can be pressed to the track like brakes to generate frictional heating, if necessary
  • a pair of air scoops which can direct a high-speed airflow onto the tracks to help reduce their temperature.
  • The cart will oscillate over considerable distances, changing the temperature a little at each transit. When a train needs to get past, it will automatically rotate off the track and then replace itself again. Many of these cheap units might operate in concert, together maintaining a great length of track.

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