Inductive Interference and Rail Systems

Using Simulation to Ensure the Safety and Performance of Rail Systems

Railroad and power companies/distribution networks commonly share rights of way and corridors. This places railroads and rail systems in close vicinity to the electromagnetic fields produced by the currents being carried in the power and transmission lines.

In cases of new or rebuilt transmission lines, the inductive interference produced by overhead lines can especially pose safety risks for rail workers. The inductive interference can also degrade the operation and performance of the rail systems themselves. Solving these electromagnetic problems can be complex due to the physical layout of the overhead lines, current imbalances between phases, soil conductivities and a variety of other factors. Furthermore, surges of current during fault events or emergency loading situations can cause physical damage to signal huts and track circuits. Damaged signal huts located along the sides of railroads can easily result in touch voltages and rail to ground voltages that are physically dangerous. Transmission lines can carry thousands of amperes of current!

Rail systems typically present challenging simulation environments as track circuits are often many miles long. With these long track circuits, load limits are often placed on transmission/distribution lines to mitigate the effect of the rail length. The damage associated with surge events can take down miles of track circuitry and cause expensive repairs. Transmission lines typically radiate fields at a number of 60Hz harmonics, which can cause additional inductive interference problems as well.

EMA has decades of experience helping to mitigate inductive interference and other issues related to the safety and performance of rail systems. EMA has worked with rail companies across the United States throughout its history. Some of EMA’s clients include CSX, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Norfolk Southern, Canadian National Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway, Long Island Railroad, and Riverline. EMA frequently works with both railway and power companies to assess interference possibilities and problems and develop cost effective mitigation approaches where needed. Contact us today to learn how we can help you!