BNSF Railway Gets Patent for Capacity-Boosting Virtual Track Block System

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BNSF Railway Company may soon be carry as much as 25% more freight over parts of its existing rail system, all without building additional track.

BNSF successfully received a patent for a virtual track block system that it says can greatly boost mainline capacity and average track speeds. It can also aid in the detection of broken rails.

The patent issued on January 19, 2021, is described as “A method of railroad track control includes partitioning a physical track block into a plurality of virtual track blocks.”

Using conventional block signaling, track capacity cannot be increased without additional track infrastructure, such as additional signals and associated control equipment. And, conventional block signaling systems cannot identify broken rail within an unoccupied block.

By using “virtual track blocks”, train block spacing is reduced to accurately reflect train braking capabilities. In particular, train spacing is maintained within a physical track block by identifying train position with respect to virtual track blocks within that physical track block. This alleviates the need for wayside signals, since train braking distance is maintained onboard the locomotives instead of through wayside signal aspects. In addition, by partitioning the physical track blocks into multiple virtual track blocks, broken rail can be detected within an occupied physical track block.

© 2021 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

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