Stoneblower for Rail Industry


In the rail industry, maintaining track integrity is paramount for safety and efficiency.

One crucial aspect is the removal of debris from the tracks, this can include dirt, debris and leaf fall that can settle on tracks and potentially cause derailments.

To prevent these effects a sand/stone blower is used on most locomotives, which is dropped on the rail in front of the driving wheels in wet and slippery conditions and on steep gradiants to improve traction.

Traditional manually actuated and monitored methods of stone clearing are labor-intensive and prone to inefficiencies. They also give no user feedback or indication of levels, activity or system status.

To address this, our client sought an innovative solution—a stone blower system that could automate the process while adhering to stringent rail standards. The system would also provide feedback to the driver (and maintenance engineers) on key parameters like hopper level.

The client had a requirement for a company to work with them on the electronics control requirements for this project.

Jubilee Electronics were selected by the client to undertake full design and development of the Stone Blower control system, and to also manufacture the electronic control systems (for fitting onto the full stone blower assemblies).


We proposed a sophisticated electronic control system designed specifically for stone blowers. The ‘stone’ (fine balast) is delivered via compressed air (electronically actuated by air valves).

The system utilizes multiple sensors to accurately determine hopper levels and actuate the stone blowers via the compressed air system.

The system needed to meet EN rail standards, ensuring reliability, safety, and interoperability across rail fleet vehicles.

Additionally, we integrated comprehensive data logging with timestamps to monitor system performance and track maintenance schedules. To enhance usability, we incorporated a laptop utility that allowed engineers to access and adjust system parameters efficiently.


Our implementation began with careful initial research and development, considering the unique challenges of the rail environment.

A Technical Requirements Document (TRD) was then formed, providing a full technical specification (and framework of applicable standards and applicable tests for ensuring the design met all applicable Rail safety standards).

From this initial work, the full electronic design work then commenced, where we engineered a system utilising robust ultrasonic sensor arrays to precisely measure hopper levels, ensuring optimal stone distribution while minimizing waste.

Pneumatic actuators and solenoid valves were carefully selected and integrated for reliable and responsive stone blowing operations.

Rigorous testing followed, including simulated rail conditions and compliance checks against EN standards.

A laptop utility was developed to provide engineers with intuitive control over system settings, enhancing flexibility and ease of maintenance.

At the heart of the system lies an embedded design (using a PIC microcontroller), with circuit design undertaken at the component level , ensuring seamless integration and efficient operation in rail fleet vehicles. High power profets are used to directly drive the variable rate air valves.

The system also utilises a real time clock, to permit time stamping of all logged data.



The stone blower electronic control system passed all tests and FAT and was fitted to the rail stock fleet by our client. Jubilee Electronics also manufactured the electronic systems for this stage of the project.

By automating stone clearing operations, it significantly reduced manual labor requirements and improved track safety and reliability.

The system’s adherence to EN rail standards ensured seamless integration with existing rail fleet vehicles, enhancing interoperability and scalability.

Moreover, the inclusion of comprehensive data logging enabled proactive maintenance planning and performance optimization.

Engineers praised the laptop utility for its user-friendly interface and efficient parameter adjustment capabilities, streamlining maintenance tasks and minimizing downtime.

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