The station at Michaelstein in Blankenburg, about 70 km to the south-east of Braunschweig, Germany, is on the Ruebeland railway line, in the middle of the Harz mountains. The only means of access to the station is by an extremely steep country lane, the local power supply is poor, and the weather places a strain on both humans and equipment. To reduce the enormous cost of maintaining and powering the station’s facilities, the operating company recently decided to change its points heating system and adopt a modern version – a system that will operate efficiently even under these extreme conditions.
For quite some time now all that has been keeping the old gas-fired points heating facilities at Michaelstein station working relatively reliably has been almost daily maintenance. In addition, the gas needed could only be supplied by lorry, which had to be hauled up the steep access road to the station for the purpose twice or three times each winter. All in all, the operating company had to cope with unreasonably high costs, which could have been minimized by acquiring an electric points heating system. This nevertheless raised a problem, as there was a shortage of installed power available locally. Even a technical upgrade to increase power would have been extremely demanding technically, and very expensive. These variables made it impossible to consider installing conventional flat heating elements.
As a result, the operating company therefore turned to the heating specialists at eltherm, who were able to come up with the perfect solution, using the El-Point points heating system. The high level of efficiency of this extremely modern, flexible system ensures optimum heating performance, making it extremely suitable for installation in remote locations where very little installed power is available.
The El-Point heating cables used at four trailing points are operated by a smart control system, also supplied by eltherm, which automatically adapts performance to previously set parameters. The first of these is the temperature of the rails: precipitation is monitored, using a number of sensors, and at the same time snow drifting is also calculated. This means that the points are always heated extremely efficiently and, unlike the previous gas-powered points heating, the system is totally maintenance-free. The immediate effect of this is slashed operating costs.
Depending on how the eltherm system is parametered, it can reduce not only peak loads by also the actual energy supply, while maintaining operational security for the network operator.
Another energy-efficient development was also used in the solution: interlocking space heating.
The smart control module is designed to achieve the highest possible level of energy efficiency, but at the same time it is also extremely user-friendly. The system is in fact controlled by intuitive user operation, with a permanent display of all the vital values in plain text form. Furthermore, the entire system can be interrogated, addressed and if necessary remote-controlled by a higher level control system via an interface.
The installation of this up-to-date El-Point heating cable system means that in future the security of rail traffic at the Michaelstein station can be assured, even in winter. At a minimal cost in terms of energy and maintenance costs.