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Welding is a skill that’s vital to the successful operation of a railroad. It’s so important that Norfolk Southern operates a state-of-the-art welding center at the company’s operations training facility in McDonough, Georgia.

At this center, aspiring welders learn the science – and art – of welding metal. It’s not an easy talent to master, and training can be costly. That’s why NS partnered with Lincoln Electric, a world leader in advanced welding technologies, to explore innovative tools and techniques for teaching this important skill.

Now, before trainees burn rods in the shop, they step inside a virtual welding lab. This immersive virtual reality experience gives students a chance to learn in a safe and controlled environment and develop proper welding techniques before handling a real torch.

The training is hyperrealistic down to the different sounds a burning rod makes – a key indicator of whether a welder has the proper arc length. The VR machines also provide targeted real-time feedback, scoring each virtual weld on several metrics such as travel speed and work angle. 

By integrating these high-tech tools into its welding center, NS has been able to provide more effective training in a shorter period of time while also dramatically reducing its use of consumables, such as metal plates and welding rods. Leveraging virtual reality to train welders – that’s just one way NS is using technology to reimagine possible.