Traditionally, the sounding of a loud train horn has been an important part of moving trains safely around railway stabling yards and hubs. These sounds have played a crucial role in alerting workers and others of the impending danger that may be headed towards them in the form of a large train.

The noise of the horn, combined with the movement of all of those tonnes of metal and machinery, have relied on the fact that in the past these rail hubs have been placed in areas where there was little environmental impact.

With urban sprawl and people choosing to live in more rural and semi-rural areas, concerns have gradually arisen with the noise pollution that occurs when sounding train horns. As people have come to live and work closer to industry, it would stand to reason that they have also come to live closer to Rail Hubs and Train Stabling Yards. Where in the past a Rail Hub and  Maintenance Facility could be built on a large area of land without any residential area nearby, the likelihood of this occurring today, especially in a state with a population like that of NSW, becomes more and more unlikely.

The opportunity to design and implement a solution to this environmental issue was presented to two Australian companies. tm stagetec systems (TMS), a Sydney-based developer and manufacturer of digital audio and visual hardware and software solutions, and iTech Corporation, who specialises in electrical engineering incorporating electrical design, automation systems design, SCADA systems engineering and process control, worked together to produce a GBWS –  Ground Based Warning System.

This system has been implemented in a Rail Maintenance Hub in NSW, Australia. Their digital solution has improved safety practices and allayed concerns from nearby residents regarding the environmental impacts of the Rail Maintenance Hub, where the system has been installed.

The GBWS uses warning lights and directionally steered sound to alert all workers that a train is being moved. General Manager for TMS, Mark Lownds, said, “There have been significant environmental concerns with the noise associated with safely moving trains around train yards and hubs. Clearly something had to be done.

“The team from TMS undertook environmental studies in order to determine the appropriate audio levels as a starting point. From there the aim was to create a system with greater flexibility and more control.”

As well as environmental factors, this GBWS looked at safe work practices and has taken the opportunity to move from a system that was a noisy and manual process and make it into a streamlined, environmentally aware and digitalised process. This GBWS allows trains to be safely moved using a system installed at track level. ITech Corporation Engineering Director, Joe Dwyer, said they had worked on similar projects over the years, notably in south-west Sydney. 

“In recent years we’ve engineered control systems for rail applications and that is how we came to work with TMS,” Mr Dwyer said.

GBWS facts:

  • This system is a digital Ground Based Warning System (GBWS)
  • GBWS are installed to safely and efficiently warn workers that trains are being moved
  • Used primarily in large rail hubs and maintenance yards
  • Designed to take into consideration environmental factors such as noise
  • It is a network TCP/IP based solution, using Dante IP protocol
  • GBWS uses distributed Network Amplifier Modules (NAM)
  • Fully monitored and controlled via a centralised system
  • The GBWS shares infrastructure with Public Address/Announcement System and is able to prioritise the GBWS
  • Campus wide using only network and fibre infrastructure
  • Australian designed digital technology

NAM (Network Amplifier Modules) from TMS were used in the system to control noise levels. Each NAM has four x 12W RMS class D amplifier channels, an Ethernet switch and built in DSP (EQ, FIR, delay and gain). Each amplifier has an individual Dante input allowing for simple zoning and future changes. Dante IP protocol is used in this system. This is an Australian developed audio standard from a company called Audinate. This GBWS has significantly used Australian developed and manufactured technologies.

Audio has also been added to surrounding buildings in the Rail Maintenance Hub to form a PA system using the same infrastructure installed as part of the GBWS, resulting in efficiency and cost savings. Fibre is used for all interconnections so only power and fibre connections are required.

“Work on this project allowed the GBWS to fulfil the need for a warning system and also addressed the need for a PA system in the yard,” Mr Dwyer said. 

“We would effectively double up PA announcements by also being used as a warning system.”

Mr Lownds said TMS had worked with Mr Dwyer and his team on the NAMs to ensure they efficiently and effectively worked as part of the GBWS.

“We also built some additional monitoring of the NAM unit itself and then gave physical status back to the IPEX ground-based warning system,” Mr Lownds said.

“It was not just telling the NAMs what to do, but giving the NAMs feedback.

“It was also giving the NAMs feedback into the system and confirming there were no faults and providing a really robust system that was capable of being part of this GBWS.”

Mr Lownds said that in the past, if one required two independent systems then it would involve separate amplifiers and speakers, and would incur costs for hardware and the extra labour.

“With this solution, we were able to share the system and still have all the priorities go to the GBWS, over and above the paging and announcement system.

“Fibre is used for all interconnections so only power and fibre connections are required.”

The TMS business has been in operation for a decade and Mr Lownds said they were looking forward to an exciting next decade ahead. 

“This GBWS is just one example of the type of project we can take on.

“Some of our recent projects in rail show how much we can achieve, and the level of technical skill involved.

“As an audio and visual technology specialist, we believe we have a tremendous amount to contribute in the world of rail.”

This partner content was brought to you by tm stagetec systems. For more information, visit 

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