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Not a trace of snow

Assembly of 400 panels for Infrabel

Like field heating but for train rail tracks. The first saves the soccer calendar in winter, the switch heating warrants smooth railroad traffic in that same season. We are the ones who build the electrical panels that cast out frost and snow.

A wet winter morning combined with nippy temperatures. At moments like those, opening your car door looks a lot like a one-on-one fight. That same combination causes issues for the rain tracks as well; more precisely for the switches, because they too can freeze. 

To exclude that risk, the Belgian railway infrastructure manager Infrabel started to employ points heating that keeps the tracks clear of snow and ice. Our panels control those resistance heating elements, monitor them and supply them with power.


“Connectivity is the biggest new asset. We make sure that Infrabel can supervise all the data remotely.”
Patrick Schurmans, Senior project manager

400 electrical panels

“In total, we are talking about 400 panels, the first 25 have only just been delivered,” says Senior Project Manager Patrick Schurmans. “They will replace the obsolete electrical installations. However, it’s more than just a one-on-one replacement: these new panels can do a lot more.”

“Connectivity is the biggest new asset. We make sure that Infrabel can supervise all the data remotely. Up to start circuit level. That way, their team will always have a clear overview: on the panels as well as on the heating itself. Every team member with the proper rights will be able to monitor the entire installation from his or her laptop. This makes it easier to prioritise with regard to maintenance; to shift from reactive to proactive maintenance.”

“Furthermore, we are integrating smart sensors combined with a THIMM module. Right now, we are monitoring the temperature in the cabinet as well as on the tracks. We also measure the air humidity. Everything that’s needed to supervise the status of the panel box and the heating, and to automatically control that heating.”

Plastic trumps metal

“The cabinets and the panels are built rather robustly because they get to endure quite a lot: snow and rain, frost and temperatures over 30°C, vandalism, vibrations caused by passing trains. It’s up to us as electrical panel builders to devise solutions to those issues.”

“For the switchgear, this means that we need to discuss these issues with suppliers and request proper certification. Vibration may lead to bad contact. We exclude that risk by choosing the right components.”

“For the cabinets, this translates to an anti-graffiti coating. We tested the temperature challenge ourselves. We had the choice between two materials: metal and plastic. Which would prove to be better to withstand large temperature fluctuations? We put it to the test: two cabinets outside, each with a temperature sensor inside and compare the data after a couple of months. Plastic won. Proper air circulation for the summertime and cabinet heating in winter takes care of the rest.”

Printed wire numbering

“We manufactured the wiring of the panels with our Komax. That machine cuts, strips and labels the electrical wires. Infrabel wanted printed wire numbering: this is legible and looks cleaner than the classic numbering with sleeves”, concludes Patrick. “It’s also a more price-conscious choice.”

Assembly of 400 panels

400 electrical panels that control, monitor and supply power to the points heating. This way, heating is done in a controlled and efficient manner.

  • 6 to 12 circuits
  • EATON switchgear and PLC
  • Sensors: temperature, humidity …
  • Schramm cabinets: plastic casing met anti-graffiti coating

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