Big Eye: the New Inspection Train by Kyushu Railway

Big Eye Train: the New Inspection Train by Kyushu Railway

Japan is debuting a brand new inspection train — Big Eye! 👀

Tests will be run from now till March 2024 before Big Eye is fully operational. Developed by Kyushu Railway (JR Kyushu), Big Eye is a colorful character and a testament to Japan’s continued innovation in rail transport.

👀🚆Introducing Japan’s Big Eye Train

The Big Eye train’s unique appearance certainly grabs your attention. Its striking red color and pair of headlights in the form of large, attentive eyes are hard to miss.

But Big Eye is about more than its distinctive design. The train represents an advancement in digitalized railway maintenance. The train’s “eyes” are part of a system designed to enhance track inspection and maintenance efficiency​​​​.

A New Era of Railway Maintenance

Traditionally, railway maintenance has relied heavily on visual inspections. While effective, these conventional methods have limitations in terms of scope and accuracy.

The Big Eye train improves the inspection process by incorporating laser sensors and cameras capable of detecting track distortions. It also uses device-collected data.

This high-tech approach allows for greater precision when analyzing railway infrastructure, for safer and more reliable train operations​​.

Big Eye is more efficient than the current inspection train that has been in use since before the state-owned Japanese National Railways was privatized in 1987. The new, self-driving train does not need a locomotive to pull it.

Why Is Big Eye Red?

Big Eye was modeled on a red train damaged by flooding during torrential rains in July 2020 in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto Prefecture.

The red color makes Big Eye stand out and also commemorates the disaster-affected vehicle that has inspired this state-of-the-art inspection tool​​.

Another notable feature of Big Eye’s design is the cow illustration on its rear end, representative of Kumamoto’s famous beef. A wave pattern on the side symbolizes the trajectory of the track.

This fun design was chosen by JR Kyushu in the hope that Big Eye will become recognized by everyone, including children. Doctor Yellow is another Shinkansen track tester train that has enjoyed great wide popularity.

How Big Eye Inspections Work

Big Eye is at the forefront of track inspection technology. Using its sensors it can:

  • Collect data on the trajectory of railway tracks
  • Measure distances between the tracks and infrastructure such as utility poles, tunnels, traffic lights, and station platforms
  • Check the status of metal fittings holding the track together using the cameras

Data analysis is carried out remotely. According to JR Kyushu, Artificial Intelligence tools are used to review the camera images and detect areas requiring maintenance automatically, further increasing efficiency.

The Future of Railway Maintenance

Big Eye represents great progress in the area of railway maintenance. Its striking red color, eye-like headlights, and advanced digital capabilities make it a noteworthy addition to Japan’s railway system. It should be rolled out fully when tests are completed next spring.

This new inspection train is leading the way with its watchful “eyes” and cutting-edge technology. If you’re visiting Kyushu, look out for Big Eye when you’re traveling by train. Let’s face it, it’s hard to miss!

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