Member Discussion

Best Method To Detect A Rail Car Being Delivered?

I have a client that would like to be notified by email when rail cars (pulled by a train) are dropped off at their plant (grain elevator).

The railcars are delivered at random and the Plant Manager would like to be notified so he can call his staff into work.

What do you recommend? Camera setup with Motion detection or video analytic? Motion sensor? Other?

They currently have an Avigilon NVR and two Avigilon 3MP IR bullet cameras mounted on the exterior of the elevator. My thought was to add another camera directly facing the railcars.

The goal is to have the fewest number of false alarms.


Are the cars filled by weight or volume?

Is there a loadcell (scale) that detects the presence of railcars in the area?


I think the good news is that rail cars are big and should 'look' different even to the 'mind' of video analytics.

I've never tried alerting on rail cars but I would suggest setting a custom object size on video analytics for the rail cars.

Avigilon has the Rialto now but I am not sure how it would work for this application.

Virgil -

We could probably do this with a basic vehicle loitering rule. Your Avigilon sales person should be able to show you the (VideoIQ) Rialto, which will work with the Avigilon cameras (h.264 variants).

Basic concept would be to have a camera with a clear FOV where the rail car is dropped off. You'd want the FOV geometry such that the car itself was no more than ~1/2 of the overall width (bigger isn't always better...). The Rialto can send emails directly, plus there are alert options via ACC as well.

Let me know if you have more questions.

Sorry for the blatant product pitch, but this one is a pretty direct application of our technology, IMO.



What if a car (or truck) drives by that area? What can you to set it so that it does not trigger on these vehicles?

John -

Good question, there are a few options. You'd set an ROI (region of interest) on the train tracks, along with using a loitering rule with a trigger time of maybe 3-4 minutes. That way if the cars move slowly through the area you wouldn't get an alarm just from the presence of a car, and with the ROI on the tracks, it would/should limit it to only cars stopped on the tracks. I suppose if a passenger truck stopped on the tracks for that long, you'd probably want to know about that too ;)

If the size-based alarm was *really* what you wanted, there is a hacky way to do that as well, but I wouldn't recommend that as the primary approach.

Are they delivered at random throughout the day and night, or are deliveries clustered during certain hours? Or even just day or just night deliveries?

The rail cars are delivered at random but usually not after midnight. Could be delivered any day or time including weekends.

Virgil, assuming standard siding exists where cars are shunted, why not use the tried and true method of connecting two track leads to the NO I/O contacts of one of the cameras? If this can't be done (electrified rails), then there are a myriad of Track Circuit Sensors (CSEE) designed for this purpose, like this one:

If they are not feasible or too expensive consider a garage door sensor or even possibly re-purposing one of these sensors.

But if a camera it must be, these speed bump cams, installed between the rails on the siding, should be considered. If aimed at a multi-lamp fixture above, it could provide a more reliable method for video detection than a longer shot, that might be confused by fog/weather or passing trains, or traffic.

In all cases, the false alarm problem is easily solved by having a frame of the supposed train included in the e-mail...

Search |rail car number scanning| Might be an option there.

Might be an option?

Options aplenty Cal, how did you know that search was gonna work, huh?

Rfid based. Looks to be about $3,000, wikipedia says 95% of american cars are tagged. But I'm kinda getting this Canadian feeling in my gut, mainly brought on by those hoppers with that non-american looking word across them... But, if so, they gotta have the same thing, right?

Work? I didn't and don't know.

Just remembered seeing, some time back, a blurb on managing rail cars by reading a string of painted numbers on the side of cars as the rolled by pretty fast. So did a search. And offered it for anyone interested to review and see if any links might lead to exploring other possibilities.

Sometimes a stated purpose and preceived solution (not always fully explained on the first blush) seeds the minds listening with a narrow focus looking past other possible solutions. And way to many "That'll never work" comments water those seeds. :-(

Thanks for asking, ...Cal

Am I missing something? This would seem to be using a sledgehammer to solve what sounds like it could be an electric eye across the tracks, or even an IR ranging detector looking down a the tracks? Are you trying to reuse an existing camera? What is the "response time" required for the arrival of a new car? Do you care when any present car is taken away? Camera analytics seems somewhat overkill for the problem as described.

What about installing Container Recognition works just as well with Rail cars.

We installed it in SA and it not only alerts you but also keeps a record, ISS and Axxon does it.