How are trains washed?

By 9 February, 20174CARLOVERS

We all know there are different car wash machines: rollovers, tunnels, self-service wash bays… But how are trains washed? ISTOBAL, together with our French subsidiary FDI+, supply car wash installations for these vehicles. This is how we do it.

Train-wash installations are almost custom-made for each type of train. The power the vehicle operates with, its length, and the locomotive’s front are the three basic factors that define the wash area.

Step by step. Why is the power source important? The same power system will have to be installed for the train to move during the washing process. These vehicles are usually washed with a ‘drive-through’ system, that is, the vehicle moves over a track through a series of wash modules. It’s like a car wash tunnel but much longer.

Trains can be electric or diesel. Electric trains are powered via an overhead contact line (OCL), i.e. an electrical cable than runs parallel to the railway and supplies the vehicle with power by means of a pantograph, a kind of antenna. Altogether, this unit called catenary. A diesel train does not need a contact line, which means it is not needed on the wash station either.

Let’s talk about the length. A train is much longer than than a bus or a tram. The length of a normal train is about 250 meters, while a high-speed one, like the Spanish AVE, is 130-150 meters long. The number of wash modules to be installed on the bay depends on the length of the vehicle.

And the train front must be considered too. High-speed trains are characterized by the aerodynamic shape of the engine, which also conditions us when preparing the washing area. The location and design of brush modules to reach all areas on the front will be crucial to achieving a good result.

train-washHow does the wash-through system work for these vehicles? In phases, just like a car system in a carwash tunnel. Water is applied first, usually recycled water, to remove as many solid particles from the body as possible. In the second phase a detergent product is applied while a set of brushes start rubbing the surface. The product is let to work and then the train reaches the brush module. These brushes can be vertical or horizontal and split to wash the front. In this phase the vehicle stops, contrary to what happens in the first stages, to clean the front thoroughly. During the rest of the wash, the speed of the train on the bay is 3-5 km/h.

Another aspect you may not know is the fact that a long-distance train can go without a wash for two weeks.  And are they dried up? They are in cold countries, as water would freeze otherwise. More interesting things when it comes to designing wash areas for these vehicles: trains usually stand high from the tracks; that’s why there are platforms at the station. This also determines the design of the washing facility.

As you can see, there are many factors involved in the design of train-wash equipment. Big vehicles require big solutions that can really keep our public transport in perfect condition.

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