On Board with TALOS® at TTCIWritten by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
In Greek mythology, Talos was a giant bronze man who guarded the island of Crete by hurling stones at the ships of pirates and invaders. He circled Crete’s shores three times daily. In the real world of North American railroading, TALOS® is Progress Rail’s energy management system “that leverages machine learning and computing power to analyze and optimize routes, resulting in significant improvements in fuel and time.”
TALOS®, says Progress Rail, “delivers better fuel efficiency (up to 15%), reduced emissions (also up to 15%), and improved train handling for safer operation and increased network capacity, all of which can improve a railroad’s bottom line.”
On Nov. 19, Railway Age Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono climbed on board a TALOS®-controlled heavy-haul freight train at the RTT (Railroad Test Track) at TTCI in Pueblo, Colo., for an exclusive demonstration. The train, as it had been doing throughout numerous tests, operated automatically in ATO mode, navigating the 13.5-mile loop at speeds up to 50 mph, climbing the RTT’s 1.5% ruling grade and negotiating its S-curve, among other right-of-way characteristics.
The 4,300-foot, 14,000-ton train—two head end locomotives, 80 loaded coal gondolas, and two trailing units—consisted of four EMD® locomotives—three SD70ACeT4s and one SD70ACeT3. The T4 locomotive is equipped with a 4,500-BHP, two-stage-turbocharged 1010T4 developed with the combined engineering expertise of Progress Rail and its parent company, Caterpillar.
TALOS® generates Big Data from several sources, and processes and integrates that data to provide what railroaders call a “golden run,” in which locomotive power and tractive effort, in-train forces and dynamic braking are expertly managed for optimum results.
TALOS® Train Automation technology leverages machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence) to encode locomotive engineer behavior, analyze train runs and optimize train operation. For the TTCI tests, it functions in asynchronous mode, in which the head end and trailing locomotives, in distributed power mode, are controlled independently, separated by a virtual “fence.” The system incorporates track topology, train consist information, route data and historical analysis to build a “personalized and optimized driving strategy, controlling throttle and dynamic brake settings.”
TALOS® Software is natively integrated into the locomotive desktop screen. The locomotive engineer monitors the system, acknowledging the alerter as required. TALOS® performs train operations, enabling the engineer to focus on safety and situational awareness. The engineer interface is an EMD® FIRE (Functionally Integrated Railway Electronics) touch screen display.
TALOS® Train Automation, Progress Rail notes, “also seamlessly creates customized strategies for each route and a train’s specific operational conditions. It scales and deploys operationally specific behaviors with ease, achieving performance efficiencies for fuel and time, while increasing network capacity. It is designed to accommodate all locomotive makes and models.”
A team of Progress Rail project and systems engineers collaborated to develop and fine-tune this steel-wheel-on-steel-rail rolling leviathan into a precision machine, “one that has established a benchmark in railroading technology and innovation, operating automatically for more than 200 miles.”
For “complete optimization,” Progress Rail offers a suite of technologies:
• AESS™ (Automatic Engine Start/Stop) monitors critical operating parameters during locomotive idling, “safely and effectively shutting down the prime-mover once all factors are satisfied.”
• PR Uptime® Suite, “leverages operational data to replace time-based maintenance with complete Condition-Based Maintenance, reducing costs, increasing productivity, and delivering the right insights and information to the right people, at the right time. This advanced asset monitoring combines with Progress Rail’s Locomotive Monitoring Center (LMC) expertise to offer customized reports and streamlined data delivery. Uptime Cloud offers secure data storage and distribution, easily integrating with railroad ERPs. Uptime Connect helps to bridge data collection and transmission safely, while providing an electronics platform to integrate on-board and off-board solutions. Uptime Analytics uses data to create troubleshooting recommendations before a potential problem occurs.”
“All this translates into measurable value in the shop, in the yard, and out on the main line,” the company notes. “Many innovations developed by Progress Rail and its predecessor companies since the early 20th century have led to TALOS®, a 21st century deployment of next-generation railroading.”