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Compiled by Angela Cotey, Associate Editor
Safety, dependability, productivity — the characteristics that railroads have built their business models around are the same attributes they specify when purchasing equipment. Rail-car movers are no exception, suppliers say.
“The three characteristics that our customers insist upon are: ergonomics, a safe and comfortable operator environment to enhance productivity; reliability, to maximize availability by minimizing service time and providing onboard diagnostics for rapid trouble-shooting; and productivity, to furnish the crew with systems to ease the workload and keep them safe,” said Trackmobile Inc. Executive Vice President James Codlin in an email.
Added Railquip Inc.’s Director of Sales Paul Wojcik: “Our customers… want equipment that is not only safe to operate, but that provides a long use life and dependability. These operators do not have time to lose with unreliable equipment because theirs is the business of volume.”
In an email sent to officials at five suppliers, Progressive Railroading sought information on the types of rail-car movers they offer, including information on recent product enhancements. Their responses follow.
For the past 20 years, Brandt Road Rail Corp. has offered the Brandt Power Unit, which is built on a Class 8 highway tractor and can travel on the highway at speeds up to 75 mph and up to 50 mph on rail.
Over the years, the company has made a host of improvements to the vehicle. Earlier this year, Brandt released the 6000 Brandt Power Unit, which features 600 horsepower and 60,000 pounds of starting tractive effort — the highest horsepower and tractive effort in the industry, according to the company. The unit features two axles and a shelf coupler on the back that transfers weight from the trailing rail car.
Railquip Inc. offers a range of rail-car movers to the rail and transit markets that are designed to fill a niche market between hand-operated movers such as capstans or winches, and the larger movers in the switch engine category.
The Mini Rail Car Mover is Railquip’s smallest unit, powered by either propane or gasoline and a 20-horsepower Honda engine. The unit can operate on embedded track and will move vehicles weighing up to 165 tons in forward or reverse. The compact unit is ideal for use in shops and other areas where larger equipment cannot be used, according to Railquip.
Railquip’s Maxi Rail Car Mover has a capacity of 220 tons, rides on the rails, and is propelled by propane, diesel or gasoline. Designed to move heavier loads, the Maxi Rail Car Mover is ideal for short-distance switching and spotting requirements in industrial or transit applications. The unit can easily move on or off track under its own power and performs ideally under conditions of straight track with minimum gradient change, according to Railquip. The rail-car mover is available in a hand-operated or remote-control version. Railquip also offers a battery-powered Maxi Rail Car Mover that can move up to 500 tons.
One of Railquip’s larger units, the Forklift Propelled Rail Car Mover is designed to use a customer’s forklift to provide propulsion power in forward or reverse by transferring the front wheel rotation of the forklift through a series of gears to the hard rubber running wheels on the top of the rail. The mover comes in three sizes based on the customer’s application and forklift size, and can move up to 600 tons.
Now owned by Nordco Inc., Shuttlewagon Inc. began manufacturing rail-car movers in 1972 and currently offers five models under the Commander Series, providing customers a range of pulling capacity from 27,000 to 50,000 pounds.
All models feature impact cushioned sliding AAR-style couplers; a 90-gallon, high-density cross linked polyethylene fuel tank; slide-out and removable sander boxes with bi-
directional air-activated sanders; full-width, 72-inch-high cab with dual operator seats that are adjustable and rotate 180 degrees; center-mounted rotating control console with digital display and Can Buss electrical system; low-profile central engine compartment with either side access; and three-in-one cooling system.
The Shuttlewagon® does not require “weight transfer,” or the borrowing of weight from an attached rail car to achieve pulling capacity; the units generate the same maximum pulling power regardless of the attached rail car’s weight, the company said. So, customers do not have to purchase vehicles with larger capacity than needed when having to pull light or empty rail cars, or make multiple moves. In addition, Shuttlewagon offers the SWX630 and SWX735 models that can generate greater pulling capacities from a single coupler than other rail-car movers, according to the company.
Shuttlewagon also offers the “Unity” remote-control option, which includes a fully licensed FCC remote control that features greater range with fewer dropped signals due to its 250mW RF output, and enables two-way communication with the receiving unit.
In the rail-car mover business since 1990, Stewart & Stevenson L.L.C. now offers six models of rail-car movers under the Rail King brand. In recent years, the company has made several design improvements, including cab layout and controls, a new platform design, simplified hydraulic system, and patented cushion coupler system and full-floating frame that help provide a smoother ride. Units can be customized with a remote-control option.
Since most of Stewart & Stevenson’s customers seek simplicity and low maintenance in their rail-car movers, the company offers an easy-to-operate unit that’s manufactured at its 253,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Houston.
Rail King customers include Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway Co., Exxon Mobile, Chevron Oil, Amtrak, CEMEX Mexico, The Metro of Santiago Chile, Rio Tinto/Australia, PEMEX Mexico and CN Worldwide. Stewart & Stevenson has established a nationwide dealer network to help the company sell and support the Rail King products.
Since entering the market in 1948, Trackmobile Inc. has built more than 10,000 rail-car movers. The latest introduction to the company’s product line is the Viking model, which features a Cummins Tier III diesel engine, Command Post operator environment, Command Master glass panel control system and programmed-response power management.
Trackmobile is constantly improving the systems on its three rail-car mover models to meet customers’ demand for characteristics, such as ergonomics, reliability and productivity, according to the company. For example, Trackmobile has implemented Max-Tran automatic weight transfer management and Max-Trac wheelslip control/ABS to its rail-car movers to help ease the workload. In addition, the Trackmobile Ground Control System is designed to enhance crew operational safety and productivity by putting positive control of the prime mover and rail-car movement into the hands of the groundperson, Trackmobile said.
Customers include “Fortune 500 companies that have a need to move raw materials and/or finished product by rail,” according to the company. The firm also has some specialty customers, such as mass transit systems — which use an adapted version of Trackmobile’s standard models to fit the confines of subway tunnels — and metals processing firms that use rail-car movers featuring armored cabs with thermal protective windows.