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Norfolk Southern partners with Heartwood 3D to develop and deploy simulation-based training, starting with Class I brake test inspection

Norfolk, Va. and San Mateo, Calif. - Jul 31, 2018

As part of its effort to reimagine an even safer, more effective employee-training program, Norfolk Southern Corporation is developing and deploying 3D simulation-based training apps built in partnership with application developer Heartwood 3D. These innovative programs are already helping Norfolk Southern realize significant training benefits by alleviating burdensome space and time constraints, allowing for unlimited repetitions and providing targeted feedback, all in an even safer training environment.

Norfolk Southern’s first pilot of this exciting technology was a 3D simulator training app covering freight-car air-brake inspection, a fundamental skill for new conductors and freight-car mechanics. This inspection and testing training typically requires Norfolk Southern to set up multiple freight cars on-site and to allocate a significant amount of training time for demonstration, practice, and evaluation. The new training simulator allows students to conduct virtual inspections of freight cars and interact with various brake components – all on a tablet or desktop computer, anytime, anywhere.

Using the simulator, students are able, among other things, to virtually walk a line of freight cars, inspect various components, determine the correct brake pressure, and ensure proper brake application and release. Upon completion, students receive a record of their performance and suggested areas of improvement. They are then able to repeat the test as many times as they need, allowing for unlimited practice, at own their pace, from any device.

“Confidence and mastery demonstrated has noticeably improved. Students loved it, particularly that they can do the task whenever they have time, rather than at a scheduled time,” said Ryan Foster, manager technical training.

This year alone, Norfolk Southern will train 50-100 freight-car-repair personnel and 1800 conductors using the simulation, with the possibility of even broader use in the future.

“We’re honored to be selected by Norfolk Southern as their 3D simulation partner,” said Raj Raheja, CEO of Heartwood 3D. “This reflects our dedication to providing leading railroad companies with the most advanced visual, interactive, and portable technologies possible to help them achieve their training and evaluation goals.”

Following the success of the air-brake-testing app, Norfolk Southern is working with Heartwood 3D to identify other key training programs that could benefit from this innovative approach, and to develop and deploy a suite of 3D training simulators. In an effort to further advance the safety and effectiveness of workforce training throughout the rail industry, Norfolk Southern and Heartwood also are partnering to make this technology available to other interested railroads.

To see the simulator in action, watch a video demonstration.

About Norfolk Southern
Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) is one of the nation’s premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway Company subsidiary operates approximately 19,500 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serves every major container port in the eastern United States, and provides efficient connections to other rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is a major transporter of coal, automotive, and industrial products.

About Heartwood 3D
Heartwood 3D helps operations, maintenance, and safety workforces learn complex procedures by allowing them to practice on equipment virtually. Our interactive 3D simulations enable “learning-by-doing” on web, PC, mobile, AR, or VR platforms, allowing employers to reduce workforce training time by up to 60%.

Leading brands in manufacturing, heavy equipment, aerospace, food packaging, automotive, defense, railroading, energy, and utilities deploy our virtual training simulations every day. Heartwood 3D is recognized as one of Inc. Magazine's 500|5000 Fastest Growing Companies, and a “Top Simulation and Training” company.

Learn more on our website:, contact us at, or give us a call at 888-781-0274, ext. 701.


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