High altitude railway will run on Echelon’s LonWorks

By Control Engineering Staff August 7, 2006

Sifang Rolling Stock Research Institute chose Echelon Corp. ’s LonWorks platform for use in China’s new high altitude railway to Lhasa, Tibet, which is the longest of its kind in the world. The high-tech train system uses Echelon technology to monitor and control passenger safety systems, including an oxygen supply system for the high altitude. It made its inaugural voyage in July.

Many passenger and transport rail systems use the network platform, including New York City subway cars, Helsinki Light Rail, Paris Metro, and San Francisco BART. Known as IEEE 1473L, the network also is the required communications platform for the Chicago Transit Authority’s new subway cars. The networking platform is used extensively in train stations and way stations and for remote monitoring and control of track switching mechanisms in harsh environments.

The $3.2 billion railway system requires special technology to prevent passengers from feeling altitude sickness since it reaches 16,640 feet above sea level at its highest point. The train features pressurized cars, engines able to operate with little oxygen, and the Echelon control network to monitor the oxygen supply system, which provides individual oxygen supply for passengers at high altitudes. The supply system is integrated with the traditional heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system. LonWorks is also used to monitor braking, door, lighting, and power supply systems for safety and environmental monitoring reasons.

Sifang and the China Academy of Rail Sciences have standardized the LonWorks networking platform for safety monitoring on next generation passenger trains in China, which is the world’s largest passenger rail transport market.

—Edited by Lisa Sutor , Control Engineering contributing editor