It’s a task that once would have required a veritable army of surveyors armed with an array of measuring instruments.
But these days a comprehensive survey of Victoria’s country railway assets needs no more than a train engine armed with two high-speed digital cameras.
Part of a sophisticated mapping system, the cameras are able to record an image every two metres as VicTrack’s EM100 train zips along the railway lines at speeds of up to 100 kph to create a comprehensive visual database of the state’s railway assets.
The Rural Rail Asset Survey – conducted by Geomatic Technologies Pty Ltd, of Melbourne – is part of a broader initiative aimed at creating a complete database of the state’s rail infrastructure. It kicked off in late 2002 with a 10-month project mapping train and tram infrastructure assets within the region.
Paul O’Halloran, manager of standards for the public transport division of the Victorian Government’s infrastructure department, says the asset survey – the rural leg of which began in September last year and is expected to be completed later this year – aimed to build a web-accessible register of rail assets to replace the mountains of documentation that lie in an archive in inner-western Spotswood. About 5000 kilometres of track and more than 400 stations are expected to be surveyed as part of the project.
As well as recording images from a train driver’s perspective, the rural mapping project involves sending Geomatic staff to record level crossings from a motorist’s perspective and using aircraft to take aerial photographs (of five-centimetre resolution) of stations and other infrastructure that cannot be seen from the track.
Geomatic’s business manager, Dave Presley, says that the company’s Asset Management Mapping System (AIMS) images are “geo-referenced” as they are collected on the train, with a GPS sensor recording the train’s exact location as the image is taken.