Monitor locomotive location, health status and manage fleet diagnostics in real-time.

As an industry leader in the design, manufacture and re-manufacture of diesel-electric locomotives, MotivePower approached Creative Soapbox to develop a prototype to display real-time locomotive status and health in a web interface. It was the beginning of an 8-year relationship that would go from proof of concept to a scalable enterprise Ruby on Rails Application.

In the beginning ExpressionEngine, CodeIgniter and Ngnix brought life to a feature rich, functioning prototype. After early customer adoption the app blossomed into a robust Ruby on Rails Application. Today, CDS is meeting the needs for fleets of all sizes, helping reduce operating cost and increasing revenue through improved productivity, enhanced security, proactive service management and comprehensive preventative maintenance information.


Build a functioning prototype and refactor to scale as an enterprise SaaS solution that accommodates thousands of locomotive connections.


A scalable enterprise Ruby on Rails application deployed across a cluster of AWS servers. Successfully onboard an internal team to take over the maintenance and development.



Date Completed

September 2019

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Product Branding

MotivePower wanted to establish an identity to represent the new product offering. The product mark had to fit within the Wabtec brand while uniquely representing the service. We pulled inspiration from railroad roundhouses and then using the existing Wabtec brand architecture established an identity that fit nicely within the Wabtec brand family. The mark is a combination of a target and roundhouse coming together to form a cog-like structure that represents the Central Diagnostic System. The roundhouse has staggered “cogs” reflecting the Wabtec mark.

Architecture for Real-time Data

Information architecture and design played an important role in the success of the project. After the launch and rapid adoption of the prototype, in collaboration with our development partner, Customated, the team began the planning and architecture for the next generation CDS system. It had to scale to accommodate thousands of connection per second while enabling the rapid design and development of customer features.

The end result is a sophisticated architecture that is scalable on-demand and deployed across multiple AWS clusters all managed by docker. The Ruby on Rails app can easily accommodate customer specific features while delivering a rich user interface to users. Maintenance of the app was a large concern, so we worked with MotivePower to onboard an internal team to take over the maintenance and management of the system.

Antenna Noise

We have a large team working on testing and diagnosing a specific exhaust after-treatment problem. In the meeting there were multiple laptops with CDS Fault Summary page open. It has become a necessary tool and has high visibility with our customer as well. Thanks for all the hard work!

Tom Renfrow

Electrical and Software Engineering Manager

Antenna Noise

Final Thoughts

We were delighted to be involved in this project for over 8 years. It was a wonderful journey full of learning, growth and success. We pushed the boundaries of real-time communication between locomotives and a web service while growing the product features 10-fold. What started with 10 locomotives is now managing 3 different company fleets on two continents, helping engineers world-wide monitor, diagnose and perform preventative maintenance on critical cargo and commuter locomotives.

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