All fields are required.
— by Walter Weart
In the past, some railroads were quick to replace large track crews with machinery as a way to minimize injuries, reduce costs and complete work more quickly. Because freight traffic volumes continue to make it difficult for maintenance of way managers to carve out time to install rail and ties, replace ballast or reinforce bridges — and as cost-containment pressures mounted — some roads want versatile railway equipment, machines that can perform more than one maintenance of way function. And the railway supply community continues to respond, developing an array of equipment that can perform an array of functions. Progressive Railroading contacted a cross-section of multi-purpose maintenance of way equipment suppliers to learn about their offerings. Responses from eight suppliers follow.
Since 2005, Brandt Road Rail Corp. has offered the Rail Tool, a John Deere Excavator that Brandt adapted for rail use. Brandt modified the Deere hydraulic system and mounted the machine on hi-rail equipment that Brandt manufactures, enabling the machine to move at track speeds up to 25 mph, said Sales and Marketing Manager Neil Marcotte. The hi-rail equipment can be lifted to provide ground clearance for off-rail use.
Both models, the Deere 120D and the 225D, feature an auxiliary engine that provides an additional 200 horsepower. When combined with the onboard hydraulic system, it provides power for auxiliary attachments. The attachments can be used to clear brush, undercut, mow, excavate or perform other tasks.
The Rail Tool features AAR couplers at both ends which, when combined with an onboard air brake system, enables up to two rail cars to be moved, Marcotte said.
As of mid-March, U.S. and Canadian Class Is were using 30 Rail Tools, he said. Brandt also offers a range of services through its Railway Maintenance Services unit.
Harsco Rail has developed the TRT-909 Track Renewal System, which incorporates a number of functions in one piece of equipment.
Introduced in June 2005, the TRT-909 is designed to remove and replace ties, pull and reclaim spikes, remove and collect rail anchors, remove and install rail, heat rail with induction rail heaters and automatically apply Pandrol rail fastenings.
The design concept is based on the company's 35-year experience of installing more than 20 million concrete ties with Harsco Rail's Model P811 track rehabilitation machines. The TRT-909 can be used with concrete, pre-plated wood or steel ties, said Harsco Rail Senior Director-Track Renewal Stephen Byers in an email. The system, which completes work on both rails simultaneously, has a production rate of about 0.25 mph, he said.
A crew of about 25 is typically supplied under a contract service agreement that includes supervision, operation and maintenance of the equipment.
"We have the only machine in the world with an induction rail heater," said Byers, adding that the heater is used to de-stress rail, preventing pull-apart or track-buckling problems.
The induction heating system is "accurate and efficient, but more importantly, it provides a safe means of heating rail without open flames," he said.
A rail heating system is mounted on the P811 and TRT to heat the rail immediately before aligning the rail into the rail seats of newly installed ties. Meanwhile, pyrometers monitor the rail temperature and record the readings for use in the daily production report.
Customers include Class I railroads, commuter railroads, transit agencies and contractors, Byers said.
Herzog Railroad Services Inc. (HRSI) offers the Multi-Purpose Machine (MPM), a six-car machine with remote control operation from either end of the equipment or from the trackhoe.
"We have been offering the MPM since 1999 and have several sets in service for various railroad customers," said HRSI's Vice President of Marketing Tim Francis. "The MPM is a one operator, self-propelled machine that offers the railroads the ability to accomplish many tasks with just one piece of equipment."
The 500-foot-long machine can carry up to 480 cubic yards of material. Each trackhoe is set up with a roto-tilt articulating head and has the capability of reaching up to 27 feet from the track center.
The machine's mobility, zero turn radius trackhoe and range of motion make it ideal for ditching, OTM distribution, OTM pick up, tie distribution, tie pick-up, rail pick up, grading, crossing work, brush cutting, tree thinning and snow removal — all with just one HRSI operator, Francis said.
"The trackhoe on the MPM has the ability to crawl over the top of these various materials so it has continuous access to all of them," he said. "It can travel down the right of way and distribute or pick up almost anything. This ability becomes especially valuable in areas [where] there is minimal road access."
The operator can change the various "quick-connect" attachments in less than five minutes, Francis added. Another benefit of the MPM: It can be used to drill helical foundations or distribute materials for projects involving the implementation of positive train control. Meanwhile, the MPM can travel to the next job site under its own power at up to 50 mph or be placed on the rear end of a train for longer moves.
HRSI MPM operators receive several months' worth of training at "either our facility or in the field but generally some combination of both," Francis noted.
"HRSI provides job-specific safety training and on-the-job machine operation training with veteran operators when a new operator is hired," he added. "We also have field supervisors that do periodic safety and operating inspections during their training period and after they begin working on their own."
Originally a provider of field power supplies to the military, HIPPO Multipower began serving the railroad market seven years ago, said Chief Operating Officer Chris Klope.
At first, the company serviced railroad trucks. Along the way, company officials noticed the trucks were experiencing hydraulic problems resulting from a lack of cooling or poor hydraulic circuits. The same problem was occurring with hydraulic power units (HPU).
"With the input of Union Pacific Railroad, we developed the HIPPO PowerTrack, which solved the cooling and hydraulic circuit issues while also enhancing safety and performance," said HIPPO Multipower Sales Manager Wally Fordyce in an email.
Meanwhile, many of the company's Power Takeoff Units are in rail service; customers include UP and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Other Class Is, transit agencies and construction firms are on the company's radar, Fordyce said.
The company's HIPPO PowerTrack is a mobile power source with twin 10-gpm hydraulic circuits, mounted on crawler tracks. It is a self-propelled and self-contained source for continuous-duty hydraulic power for a mobile worksite. The CAT® diesel powered unit features twin 50-foot hose reels that provide power to heavy-duty hydraulic tools. Electricity and welding power are optional.
"HIPPO is actually a take off on 'HEPPOE,' which is our United States Military program of record," Fordyce said. "In the military, HEPPOE stands for 'Hydraulic Electric Pneumatic Petroleum Operated Equipment.' The civilian users began to refer to the unit as the 'HIPPO.'"
The company is now producing a HIPPO unit that will feature retractable hi-rail wheels and a tow bar so it can be towed behind a hi-rail truck, said Klope, adding that the HIPPO still will have crawler tracks for jobsite movement.
"With a customer requesting a significant number of units and with this Class I client's input, we were able to develop a hi-rail for the PowerTrack that will enable them to access work sites at greater speed and with greater power than ever before," added Fordyce.
In September, HIPPO Multipower plans to introduce an all-wheel-drive Polaris Ranger with the HIPPO power supply (Ranger HIPPO MPS), bringing power to remote worksites at 35 mph. The company also plans to unveil the HIPPO PowerTrack with an all-wheel, non-pneumatic tire drive system. The
PowerTrack is designed for use in remote areas by new track construction workers or bridge work crews; given its ability to cross multiple tracks, it should work well in rail yards, Fordyce said.
Knox Kershaw Inc.'s KSF 940 is a ballast regulator that has been adapted for snow-fighting and brush-cutting applications.
"The KSF 940 is a custom-built snow fighter based on the KBR 925 frame and has a 50,000-pound working weight, a slightly larger cab for a second operator's seat, special cold weather heaters, and specially designed wings, plows and brooms built specifically for snow fighting in the most difficult circumstances," said George Pugh, Knox Kershaw's vice president of operations. The wings push snow 16 feet from the track center and the snow switch cleaner can blow snow more than 30 feet, he added.
To convert the KSF 940 for brush cutting, the machine's wings are removed and an arm is attached on each side, with the mounts serving as "the wings," Pugh said. Each arm can move independently, reaching out 25 to 28 feet from the centerline to control brush and grass. The hydraulic controls work the wings and also control the brush cutter.
The conversion takes about a day to complete, Pugh added.
As of mid-March, Knox Kershaw had delivered a unit to an undisclosed entity in the Northeast. Three more will be delivered in the near future — one to a transit company, another to a railroad in Canada and the third to a leasing company, Pugh said.
Using a Caterpillar excavator, NMC Railway Systems has developed two pieces of equipment, the 312E L HRE and the 324E HRE. Used with hi-rail gear, the machines can be operated on and off track with a variety of attachments.
"We have been a 'Cat' dealer from the mid-1980s and starting in the mid-2000s, we worked with the BNSF to provide equipment that could clear brush from the right of way as a fire guard," said Railroad Sales Manager Chuck Haskell in an email.
In 2005, NMC developed the 312E, which utilizes a Caterpillar excavator mounted on a hi-rail chassis, permitting the machine to be used on and off rail.
"The 312E can use a number of attachments, including tampers, tie inserters, brush and undercutter bars, as well as a clam bucket — all of which can be easily and quickly changed in the field," he said.
NMC unveiled the 324E HRE in 2012. Larger than the 312E, the machine offers additional applications. The 324E uses the same type of attachments the 312E does, and also has a backup power supply. The first unit was delivered to BNSF.
"The 324E not only has the hi-rail capabilities of the 312E, it is equipped with AAR pivoting couplers, which permits it to pull up to three rail cars and is equipped with train air brakes," Haskell said. "We have supplied equipment to both the CN and Union Pacific, and continue to work with the BNSF."
An auxiliary power unit (APU) is only utilized in emergency scenarios. The back-up power helps the machine remove an undercutter bar or place any other attachment in a safe position so the operator can move the equipment off the track or to a different location for servicing. Operators also can use the APU on smaller work tools as needed on a jobsite.
Nordco Inc. offers its M-7 Ballast Regulator, which also can serve as a snow fighter, as well as two other dual-purpose machines.
"With its fully enclosed cab, joystick controls and excellent visibility, the M-7 is designed for mainline and yard snow removal applications, and is equipped with heavy-duty snow wings with 16.5-foot reach; a three-stage snow screw and blower; and an assortment of front snow plows and flanging attachments," said Marketing Manager Dana Michaels.
The multi-position snow plow allows for snow placement to the right or left of the track, or in a "V" configuration using a variety of high-speed plows. Snow removal can be completed at speeds of more than 30 mph.
The M-7 has a "rail-to-rail" turntable: While most turntables sit on the tie and then lift the machine so it can rotate, the M-7's turntable actually rests on the rail so the machine can be turned directly, Michaels said.
Meanwhile, the M-7's "Snow Screw" is like a snow blower, but with additional auger capabilities, she said, adding that it also can auger into deep piles or through ice to break it up. The M-7 can be used on regular track as well as in hump yards.
Nordco also offers the AA2R Anchor Adjuster Two-Rail that, by changing heads, either can spread or squeeze rail anchors. The AA2R also loosens and pushes the tie plates for easier removal from badly degraded ties.
The company also offers the SPDC - Spike Puller De-Clipper, which can quickly move between spike pulling and clip removal modes. The claw fingers grasp spikes under the head while pulling straight up, permitting spikes to be removed and reused.
Originally part of the Pettibone Corp., Swingmaster Corp. designs and produces equipment that can handle a variety of tasks, both on and off rail. Customers include all the Class Is, as well as regionals, transit companies and contractors.
"Our product line includes four Swingloaders of varying sizes with lifting capacities ranging from 10,000 pounds to 20,000 pounds," said Vice President of Sales Gilberto Contreras.
The Swingmaster uses rubber tires on the road; for rail movement, the operator can engage drive hubs, which press against the tires. The Swingmaster can reach speeds up to 25 mph.
As with a hi-rail, the Swingmaster can climb on and off the rails. And both front and back axles are steerable.
"With our quick change option, one man can easily switch between most optional attachments," said Contreras.
Attachments range from a magnet to buckets to brush cutters to backhoes to a snow plow. Meanwhile, an adjustable AAR rear coupler may be attached to the rear and a fixed coupler to the front. A train air brake system is included, which enables the Swingmaster to tow rail cars.
"In 2008, we released the Model SL 180-13 Swingloader with a 13,000-pound capacity and two- or four-man cab. In 2013, all 180-13 [models] will come standard with the two- to four-man cab," said Contreras. "In 2014, we will release the 25,000-pound capacity unit, capable of lifting equipment off the track to clear it for passing trains."
Walter Weart is a Denver-based freelance writer. Contact us at email@example.com with comments or questions.