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Compressed air contamination is a real problem for rail operators

Author : Richard Moore Parker Hannifin

26 October 2012

Reliability and punctuality of operation are key demands with passenger and freight rolling stock today, in an industry where safety and performance are paramount.

Compressed air provides power to some of the most sophisticated applications that keep the rolling stock operational but is generally contaminated with some of the most natural contaminants known – dirt, water and oil. Further contamination in the form of compressor oil and wear particles then mix with the atmospheric dirt and water to produce an abrasive paste, which has no lubricating properties at all. If this contamination is not removed from the compressed air system, it will result in:
• Detrimental effect on performance
• System breakdown
• Unscheduled maintenance
• Set out for service costs
• Costly repairs
• Dissatisfied customers

As the majority of applications are external, they are therefore susceptible to climatic conditions. Any moisture remaining in the compressed air system has a major effect on performance, and is a contributing factor to fracturing air lines and damaged pneumatic cylinders caused by freezing and blocked pipes. Unplanned and unbudgeted maintenance will be required, affecting the single most important value each operator is striving to attain – a reliable service!

Awareness of the value of compressed air used in railway applications is growing, and so is the need for better quality in terms of the elimination of contamination and the improved lifetime of all applications, which depend upon it.

The introduction of new and sensitive pneumatic control systems, linked with economic and environmental considerations makes the effective treatment of compressed air necessary.

Different applications place varying demands on the compressed air system. Not only is reliability a major concern but the entire safety of the train and therefore the entire rail transport network is heavily dependent on a reliable compressed air supply. Whether new build or refurbishment of locomotives and rolling stock, total compressed air protection can be provided by the installation of a dedicated Parker domnick hunter railway dryer package complete with pre - and after filtration.

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