advanced TrainLab: the fastest lab on the rails

Article: advanced TrainLab: the fastest lab on the rails

Testing new technology directly on the train

The "fastest lab on the rails" can be identified by its silver stripe.
The "fastest lab on the rails" can be identified by its grey stripe.

You can identify DB's new test train, the advanced TrainLab, by the grey stripe that has replaced the standard red one. In every other way, the train appears just like any other ICE from the outside. But once the doors open, that all changes. The train is used exclusively as a traveling lab. DB's advanced TrainLab is the first of its kind and gives the entire industry the opportunity to test future technology outside of normal rail operations.

The test train is a class 605 ICE-TD. The diesel-electric drive system means the train can be used anywhere in DB's railway network without needing to rely on power from overhead lines. The train's top speed of 200 km/h enables a wide range of tests to be conducted while the train is in motion. The 107 meter long train has an axle load of 15 metric tons. It consists of two intermediate cars and two end cars, for a large interior with plenty of room for instruments and test setups (see also the following video about the advanced TrainLab).

2020, the advanced TrainLab will test sensor technology for detecting objects and obstacles and for detecting signals and the surrounding environment. Tests on real-time geolocation of trains are also planned. The advanced TrainLab could also be used to test data exchange between trains, cars and infrastructure, for example at railroad crossings, and to test environment-neutral fuel for diesel-powered rail vehicles.

Detecting obstacles on tracks reliably and in time

In March 2019, the advanced TrainLab generated quite a buzz when it made its way along the track between Berlin-Wannsee and Berlin-Lichterfelde – a section that is normally no longer in service.

Together with Siemens Mobility, the "Advanced Driver Assistance System" (ADAS) has been tested since early 2019 as part of the Siemens program "Driverless and unattended driving for mainline". For example, they are investigating how the sensors can be optimally integrated into the vehicle and how they function under different weather conditions.

The system consists of a camera for light in the visible wavelength spectrum, a radar sensor and a lidar system. ADAS can prevent collisions with buffers or obstacles in the track and, in the long term, should enable semi-automated driving for the stabling and preparation of trains. The video shows the approach of the laboratory train to various obstacles during tests in the digital test field in the Erzgebirge region of Germany:

5G test field: high-speed line between Nuremberg and Ingolstadt

Tests on the stability of the 5G network were already carried out with the test train at the beginning of 2018 on the 5G test field of the Nuremberg-Ingolstadt high-speed route. Three mobile phone antennas are installed in the train, which can receive the new 5G network and are being tested as part of the "5G-Connected Mobility" initiative. The 5G network will allow data speeds 100 times faster than the current standard. Passengers will benefit directly from interruption-free mobile internet access and indirectly from improvements to services as a result of digitalized rail operations and the associated increase in capacity.

The 5G test field along the Nuremberg–Ingolstadt high-speed line.
The 5G test field along the Nuremberg–Ingolstadt high-speed line (Christian Dronia)
New splendor: tests with six paint systems
Das advanced TrainLab wurde im Zuge einer Erprobung für Oberflächenbeschichtungen rund um neu lackiert.

The advanced TrainLab has been given a totally new paint job as part of the testing of surface coatings. The special thing is that each car was coated with different paint systems. The companies taking part were wefa, FreiLacke, Mankiewicz, Akzo Nobel and KABE. The painting was carried out at MSG Ammendorf. For the first time on a rail vehicle, powder coatings were used on the side flaps of the train. While being highly resistant to impacts and scratches, powder coatings are especially eco-friendly in use as they do not require harmful solvents. What all the paints and coatings have in common is their promised resistance to cleaning agents and, in particular to aggressive graffiti solvents. In addition, some paints and coatings allow a reduced production time. The long-term trial is being overseen by a specialist department from DB Systemtechnik until 2023. During this time, the gloss level and color change at defined measuring points on the vehicle will be measured, documented and made available to all those taking part.

Sensors monitor the condition of vehicle and rails
Sensors detect wear and damage on wheels and rails.
Sensors detect wear and damage on wheels and rails.

Tests are being conducted with ZF Friedrichshafen with sensors that monitor the rails and vehicle components to enable predictive maintenance. For this purpose, the "Condition Monitoring System" employed in the advanced TrainLab combines triaxial acceleration sensors with temperature and inclination sensors. The wireless sensors detect vibration and temperature. This makes it possible for wear and damage on vehicle or infrastructure to be identified at an early stage. The system is capable, for example, of detecting flat spots on wheels and monitoring axle bearings, axles, gearboxes and engines as well as the condition of the rails. The aim is to introduce condition-based maintenance while improving the availability and reliability of the vehicle fleet.

Braking tests for optimal grip on the rails

The tests with Knorr-Bremse and DB Systemtechnik as part of the EU-funded "Shift2Rail" program are intended to optimize braking and starting acceleration under various ambient conditions. The test runs simulate different adhesion coefficients between wheel and rail. The goal is strict compliance with stopping distances through a combination of braking system and sanding equipment, for optimized interaction with customer information systems on platforms along with improved operational stability.

Alternative fuels for greater sustainability

The advanced TrainLab currently runs on regenerative test fuel without the need for modifications to the vehicle or tank equipment. The test fuel, the so-called R33-Blue HVO (HVO= hydrogenated vegetable oil), consists of 100 percent converted biological residual and waste materials, such as used cooking oil. Modern chemical processes bring the waste products into the tank: these are filtered, cleaned and processed into a high-quality synthetic fuel. During the test phase, a detailed environmental balance sheet was drawn up, taking into account the entire energy requirement from the time of production.

Eco-diesel can improve the carbon footprint by up to 90%. During the test runs, engine characteristics are recorded in order to detect possible effects on the performance of the engines at an early stage. In an initial test phase, a mixture of conventional diesel and HVO was tested in the advanced TrainLab. The results were evaluated very positively. A pilot test of this mixture is already being planned for vehicles with passenger service.

HVO = hydrogenated vegetable oil) , FAME = fatty acid methyl ester
HVO = hydrogenated vegetable oil) , FAME = fatty acid methyl ester