Zandeken shunting yard in Gent

‘Belgium takes a key role in upgrading yard operations’

Solution are in the making that enable yards to become fully wireless and automated. 2023, Infrabel

Innovative automation solutions are transforming yard operations across the rail industry. Belgian rail consultancy Caems recently spoke with to discuss some of the ways new solutions are driving efficiency.

Based in Zeist, the Netherlands, Caems has partnered with US-based technology developer Advanced Rail Systems (ARS) to bring novel solutions to the European market.

One such solution is the Self Energized Wireless Controlled ARS Yard Automation System, which aims to optimise shunting yards, flat classification yards, hump (marshalling) yards, and intermodal terminals. Featuring the first affordable solar-powered point machines in Europe, this solution enables yards to become fully wireless and automated.

“Yard operations are becoming much more important in today’s operations. In the future we want more and more freight through rail. And for that to be possible we need to upgrade our yards to be more efficient. Belgium takes a key role in this process because of its important harbour hubs. And because of this could be leading the European market to the future,” Jan Willem Lange of Caems comments.

Eliminating the need for cabling

By harnessing solar energy and wireless control, the ARS Yard Automation System eliminates the need for cabling, reducing project costs and time. Its unique modular design also means that it can be built in stages, whether a simple upgrade to push-button switch machine or development of a fully automated Yard, integrated with handover to a line safety system and yard train management system.

“We can make the yard fully wireless through data or VHF radio or Wi-Fi/5g and automate your whole operation for extra efficiency and safety,” Lange explains, “The solution is modular, and can be built in phases… so our solution is adaptable in size and to the customer needs and their budget.”

‘Game changer’

Other ARS innovations that Caems has introduced to the European market include the YM-16 and HSM-17 switch machines, both of which contribute to enhanced safety, durability and efficiency in yard operations.

Designed for exceptional performance, the YM-16 has the fastest throw time and highest efficiency among yard switch machines currently available and is already used in 5 of the 6 main rail lines in the USA. Moreover, the machine requires zero maintenance, making it a cost-effective choice for rail operators.

The HSM-17 is a second-generation switch machine developed by the ARS engineering team specifically for hump (marshalling) yards. Like the YM-16, the HSM-17 requires no maintenance, offering a hassle-free solution for yard operations. The machine can be powered by a 12-volt battery or 120-volt DC, providing flexibility for different power requirements.

“The YM-16 switch machine is becoming the new industry standard for yard switch machines,” Lange says, adding that the HSM-17 is “an industry game changer” thanks to its “throw time of less than half a second” and its ability to deliver “more throw force and durability than other units in this space”.

Interested in the work that Caems carries out? Come and meet them on the exhibition floor of RailTech Belgium 2023 on June 7 in Brussels. The exhibition if free of charge, but you do need to register. Want to learn more about the rail infrastructure sector in Belgium? Sign up for our in-depth conferences that day. 

Author: Nick Augusteijn

Former Chief Editor of

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