Since 1996, the bi-annual railroad technology convention and trade show known as InnoTrans has come to Berlin. Friday, September 26th, was the final day of the actual trade show, while Saturday and Sunday are open to the public to allow them to take a look at some of the remaining exhibits, particularly the rolling stock displays, that stay on hand over the weekend. [Note from 1 Oct 2014: Reports say as many as 15,000 members of the public came on the weekend to view some 145 pieces of rolling stock on display.]
I did not go to InnoTrans, but thanks to the Internet it is possible to take a look at some of what was on show this year without being there. Railway Gazette covered the show fairly well using both their own articles as well as accumulating Twitter posts from various attendees. Some items below only appeared as Twitter messages, while others had solid English language industry articles written about them by trade show magazines also attending. Here are a few things that caught my eye, some of which perhaps one day will be seen on railway equipment (or maybe other transportation equipment) operating here:
- Talgo was showing off a model of a proposed Talgo based suburban train. It’s another step at making trains lighter. Maybe one day the Cascades corridor will have Talgo longer distance as well as Talgo local trains that look like this.
- [Added to article 1 Oct. 2014] Railway Gazette continues to go through its notes from the show, and on 30 September noted in an article that a company promoting dimmable windows in light rail cars was on hand at the show. This concept has been around for a few years for buildings, with the basic concept being similar to the LCD welding helmets that have been around for many years now. The welding helmets are clear most of the time, but when the arc is struck by the welder the liquid crystal is immediately activated and protects the eyes of the welder from the blinding light of the welding arc. The concept for building windows is to put the liquid crystal display in the window glass, and make the window transparency adjustable for various lighting conditions. The transit window concept (at the show it was displayed in a Bombardier Flexity 2) is actually a film applied to the glazing. Heavily tinted windows in transit vehicles are OK in the daytime, but once it is dark this tinting makes it very difficult to see where you are. Being able to tune the window tinting to suit the interior and exterior lighting conditions would be wonderful in many situations. I’m not sure how easy it would be to get such a system approved for use on any rail equipment in the USA, as NFPA 130 has some fairly difficult smoke and fire resistance requirements for films placed over “fixed guideway transit systems” in the USA. However, it would probably be possible for such a system to get approved for use in buses in the USA as the material requirements aren’t as limiting.
- The new ThamesLink trains (three cars of which were on display at the Siemens booth) will be able to show riders what cars have space available in them.
- Back in 2010, Bombardier was awarded the contract for the Riyadh Monorail. This year, they had a short monorail train on display before it heads to Saudi Arabia.
- Plastic based foams are used to absorb collision energy, and composite materials have been used as light structural materials. However, they can not be recycled very easily, can be expensive to work with, and have other disadvantages when used on railroad cars. One solution presented at the show is to make railroad car structures out of aluminum based foam. It seems to me this could eventually lead to lighter passenger trains being accepted in the USA.
- Alstom is working on fuel cell trains for use in Germany.
- Seeing Machines and EMD (the locomotive builders now owned by Caterpillar) have partnered to develop an anti-driver fatigue system.
- It’s an international show, so some seat patterns used in equipment on display are perhaps a little too eccentric for North American consumption.
- One of seven derailment response vehicles ordered by the Iraqi Republic Railways was at the show. Talk about a difficult operating environment!
- Not too many convention centers welcome locomotives through their front doors.
With some 2,700 exhibitors from 55 countries represented this year, even wandering the InnoTrans web site virtual marketplace can take a lot of time. Certainly, there is far more to this show than what I have here.
Glenn Laubaugh (“Glenn in Portland”) is employed at a small manufacturer of electrical systems for railroad passenger cars.