LEETONIA, Ohio (WKBN) – Norfolk Southern is unveiling its latest efforts to make railroads safer.
Norfolk Southern is working on installing new technology that will enhance rail safety across its 22-state network. They are known as Digital Train Inspection Portals.
The first portal was deployed Wednesday between Lettonia and Columbiana. It’s the first of its kind in the country, with 42 stadium-style lights that illuminate the train while 38 high-definition cameras capture images.
“We take about 1,000 pictures over every railcar as they pass by, on average, giving us a full 360-view of these railcars,” said Mabby Amouie, with Norfolk Southern Railroad.
Work on the portals started in 2020 as researchers with Norfolk and Georgia Tech University worked to combine the hardware with software and artificial intelligence.
As the images of each car are taken, computers analyze each shot, looking for potential defects that could lead to derailments.
“We make that information available within a matter of minutes to our railroaders who then go proactively fix those defects,” Amouie said.
Surveillance cameras caught video of a wheel bearing overheating on the train that derailed in East Palestine on February 3.
“These cameras can see something that could be generating heat as well, and this will be just another layer of safety,” said John Fleps, with Norfolk Southern Railroad.
Executives admit February’s train wreck convinced them to build the first portal here, but eventually, there will be 17 of them placed around the eastern United States, part of a $50 million safety upgrade program.
“We’re committed to not having something like that happen again. We’re investing in technology. We’re investing in people. We’re investing in infrastructure,” Fleps said.