The Railway History
The West Coast Wilderness Railway began operations back in 1897 as the only link between Queenstown and the port of Strahan. The railway was the only way to get copper from the mine at Queenstown to markets. Until 1932, when a Hobart road link was completed, it was the only access through to Queenstown.
The railway ceased operation on 10 August 1963 due to increasing maintenance costs and the improvement of road access to the West Coast from the north with the opening of the Murchison Highway. In the early 1990’s the railway was reconstructed and in 2003 was reopened as a tourist experience with a focus on sharing the history of Tasmania’s West Coast
JMG were requested by the West Coast Wilderness Railway to assist in risk mitigation with two bridges. With a Geotechnical Engineering report highlighting Bridges 16 and 19 on the 35km long track that were placed in landslip zones.
Any movement of these bridges would need to provide the train driver with visual indication of an issue with the bridges while providing sufficient time for the train to stop before reaching the bridge. It was clear some form of monitoring needed to be installed on these bridges, exactly how and what that monitoring device and its means of operation was the next challenge.
A remote site with zero mobile phone coverage and access to power highlighted its challenges. The engineering team needed to design a monitoring system for the bridges that was self sufficient in terms of power and of course reliable under all conditions. The team selected a MEMS uniaxial tilt meter sourced directly from the UK. This device being powered by 12V DC meant solar power could provide the necessary power.
The next challenge was the alarming devices. How do we visually notify the driver, and how do we transfer this alarm some 100m away from the bridge itself, hard wiring this was not an option.
We selected a series of Wireless IO devices to communicate via RF between strategically placed enclosures. Each enclosure contains a 12V battery, Wireless IO Devices and is charged via a 12V Solar Panel. The visual alarm was provided by a Red Flashing LED lamp placed to gain the maximum amount of visual for the train driver.
Failure of wireless devices is also managed through failsafe relays, thus reducing the risk of a communication failure causing an alarm not being relayed.
The entire system was designed, installed and commissioned by our team. With initial site visits to investigate bridge/enclosure locations and understand the environment. The bridge monitoring systems were installed in early October with installation and commissioning completed in 3 days.