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From rail and switch heaters to snow-removal equipment and anti-ice systems, railroads have an array of options to help keep trains moving, whatever winter whips up. Ten suppliers offer information on current product and equipment offerings.
Phoenix Contact USA and Kapsch TrafficCom USA Inc. have developed an automated rail heating system designed to help transit-rail agencies reduce energy costs. A wireless supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) network powered by Kapsch's DYNAC software, the system employs a variety of Phoenix Contact control components.
Heaters located along the electrified third rail and on wayside equipment are designed to prevent buildup of ice and snow during inclement weather. Traditionally, transit-rail agency employees manually turn the rail heaters on during the fall and turn them off again in spring. "This manual process had high labor costs and was also a major safety issue," according to Phoenix Contact.
The automated system can be installed without disrupting service; operators monitor and control the individual heat traces from a central location.
"They can turn the heaters on or off depending on weather conditions just by touching a screen," the company says.
Kapsch's DYNAC SCADA, along with Phoenix Contact's control software, allows operators to remotely perform routine system diagnostics collection to ensure the heaters can be controlled at any time from a single HMI interface at each server. The interface panels along the rail serve as the primary link between the DYNAC SCADA master and a network of control point nodes throughout the network of Phoenix Contact 900 MHz radios. Each node controls, collects and holds data for SCADA commands.
Railway Equipment Co.'s track switch heater product line includes gas hot air blowers, electric hot air blowers, electric rail heaters, fiberglass switch covers and snow detection systems. Recent advancements include the utilization of an AC drive to reduce power demand during startup, as well as wireless connectivity that allows the user to access switch heater controls via web browser while in close proximity to the switch heaters.
Incorporating the remote monitoring system Sno-NET® with switch heater purchases, as well as retrofitting existing units, provides railroads the opportunity to further enhance track switch reliability during winter events. The Sno-NET system communicates via cellular modem to a railroad-specific server that is accessible by railroad personnel. Notifications can be customized via web portal to ensure the appropriate personnel are notified when intervention is needed to ensure switch reliability. For example, the Sno-Net WeatherWatcher™ function compares local weather station data with the operating status of the switch heater, and then notifies railroad personnel when the switch heater is out of compliance — that is, when it is not running during a snow event. As North American railroads seek ways to increase switch reliability, and reduce maintenance and fuel expenses, "adoption of Sno-Net continues to increase," the company says.
Knox Kershaw Inc. offers two machine models for snow removal: the KBR 860 Ballast Regulator and the KSF 940 Snow Fighter.
The KBR 860 Ballast Regulator now is offered with the option to accommodate a pair of snow wings with a reach of 13 feet from the track center, a four-season plow that features bolt on curls, and a broom with an auger and blower attachment. The machine weighs 49,000 pounds and can be fitted with a manual or power shift transmission, manual or joystick controls, cold weather options and a jump seat.
The KSF 940 weighs 50,000 pounds and features 36-inch-tall wings with a 16-foot reach. Plow options include a high-speed V plow or a four-season plow with bolt-on curls. The broom features an auger and blower assembly to clear snow from switches. The snow switch cleaner can blow snow over 20 feet. The cab can accommodate a second operator's seat and two additional passengers.
All KSF 940s come standard with auxiliary CAB engines and hydraulic tank heaters for work in extreme cold. In warm-weather conditions, the snow fighter can be converted to a ballast regulator and equipped with brushcutter attachments for vegetation control.
In recent winters, railroads have been combating significantly heavy snow and thick ice that cover their tracks, reduce train speeds and interfere with overall track maintenance. Harsco Rail's Spreader Ditcher is "the iconic machine" to target these winter maintenance-of-way challenges, the company says. Since its redesign two years ago, the Spreader Ditcher has been available for snow removal as well as springtime spreading, ditching and plowing. Harsco Rail customers also face other winter challenges; for example, railroads in colder climates must contend with basic operation of their MOW equipment in sub-zero temperatures because machine components and fluid freeze up. In such climates, it is common practice for railroads to keep emergency surfacing teams ready for deployment in the event of a derailment or avalanche, the company says.
"We have worked diligently in partnering with those railroads to create unique solutions to keep their tampers and stabilizers from freezing up when they need them the most," says Eric Carter, Harsco Rail's associate product manager.
Solutions range from special fluids that are less susceptible to freezing, auxiliary heaters to keep machine components running and cold-weather hydraulic seals.
Given the safety concerns around the haulage of freight, most recently of oil by rail — specifically derailments — the railroad industry has "an increasing requirement" for hot bearing detectors and hot wheel detectors, say officials at Hovey Industries Inc. It has "become evident that this technology is negatively impacted by falling and drifting snow and freezing rain," they add.
In order for the units to operate properly and to accurately measure temperatures, the lenses must be kept clear and a clear line of sight maintained between the scanner and the wheel, the company says.
To that end, Hovey has designed a system that includes its Horizontal Air Curtain, a duct system and specially designed nozzles that can be used on either single- or double-track systems. The system also can be adapted to cover two or four scanners on each track. It also allows for a direct connection into the scanner head to ensure positive air pressure in the scanner itself, the company says.
The end result is a system that keeps positive pressure in the scanner head and blows a constant stream of high-velocity air across the scanner lenses and the line of sight between it and the wheel. This prevents falling snow, rain and ice from entering the scanner or fouling the line of sight, the company says.
Fastrax® manufactures engineered electric rail heating packages for freight and passenger railroads; the company provides heat transfer products for rail track and switch equipment. The products, the company says, are designed for "low maintenance and long life for rugged use even in the harshest conditions." The company also custom designs and manufactures automated control packages to provide "complete heating solutions" for rail industry applications.
The patented Fastrax SwitchBlade® heater is a high-efficiency, direct contact conduction rail heater that resides within the recess web area of a rail to keep switch components, including throw rods and train trip stops, free of ice and snow. Its stainless steel, heavy-duty construction is designed to ensure trouble-free operation and long service life, resisting corrosion, heavy shock and vibration cause by trains, and withstanding harsh environments, the company says.
The SwitchBlade heaters' flat profile is designed to provide maximum heat transfer — it supplies direct heating of switch components including running rail, moving rail, throw rods and train trip stops to guard against buildup of ice or snow. It also utilizes the Fastrax patented spring clamp technology, which allows for expansion and contraction of the heater without binding or losing contact with the rail.
"Points especially pose a great challenge to operators during winter time because movable parts are critical and vulnerable to freezing," as Eltherm GmbH officials note. To keep movable parts clear from snow and ice, electrical heating systems are becoming more popular, they say.
As an alternative to flat heating elements, Eltherm GmbH developed El-Point, a point heating system that mainly consists of a flexible heating cable, supplied coiled on a reel, designed to enable quick and easy installation on site — which means "it is not necessary to hold large stocks of material," the company says.
EL-Point also performs with "higher reliability, longer service life and a significantly lower energy consumption due to the flexibility and the soft surface of the heating cable," the company says, adding that tests have demonstrated potential energy savings of up to 30 percent compared with the use of conventional flat heating elements. And environmental pollution would be reduced by 17.3 tons of carbon dioxide per point and year, the company says.
EL-Point is currently used in Canada, Germany, Denmark and Russia.
The Flink Co. has been making salt spreaders since 1941 and snowplows since 1955. The company's line of snow and ice control equipment is "geared toward the municipal, state and private markets," with trucks starting at 1 ton and up, and all types of heavier, wheeled equipment, the company says. A family-owned business, Flink offers a line of products engineered for large trucks and off-road equipment — a line that is well-suited for the railroad industry, the company says. With sister company Teleweld Inc., which manufactures continuous-welded rail heating equipment, Flink can support customers' on- and off-track needs. Flink provides plows, mini-hoppers, full-size hoppers (drag chain or auger feeds), under tail gate spreaders, a pre-wet system and anti-ice systems, all designed to keep roads and parking lots clear to minimize impact on a railroad's business.
Used for many years in the public-works sector, R.P.M. Tech Inc.'s Cameleon® hi-rail unit offers versatility, performance and efficiency. The operator's platform was designed to enhance comfort and productivity; it also allows full visibility on both sides and the air ride seat provides full operator comfort.
A few years ago, R.P.M. Tech introduced the Cameleon hi-rail unit to the North American rail market. The unit's basic purpose is to clean up ice and snow from rail flanges on crossings. The Cameleon also can carry a variety of attachments such as snow blowers with optional telescopic truck loading chute, V-plows, angle plows, de-icing systems, sand/salt spreaders, sweepers and boom flails. In addition, the multipurpose vehicle can be used in parking areas and yards, roads, loading docks and other locations.
In spring, the Cameleon can be converted to a four-wheel drive articulated tractor to provide spring and summer applications such as lawn mowing, sweeping and ditch mowing. It also can adapt skid steer attachments. With a 130 horsepower engine and traction "second to none," the vehicle may be applied for shunting purposes, as well, the company says.
ThermOmegaTech® offers GURU® DL2.1 and GURU® Magnum valves, which are designed for use in diesel locomotives and to eliminate freeze damage in extremely cold temperatures.
When a locomotive is shut down and cooling water reaches a set temperature, the GURU valve snaps open to drain the locomotive cooling system before any freeze damage occurs — with no outside power required. Easy to install and maintain, the GURU Magnum valve offers the same freeze protection in a larger valve size, for double the flow in drain time, the company says. The higher discharge capacity version of the standard valve provides almost a full 1.2-inch bore to rapidly drain a locomotive before freeze damage can occur.
Designed for passenger-rail cars, the GURU® PC valve is a dual-voltage ambient sensing valve with CE mark certified heater, which provides freeze protection for passenger-car toilets, sinks and cafés, draining systems automatically by monitoring ambient temperatures. The valve is completely mechanical and requires no power connection of any kind, the company says. With the GURU PC lead-free valve and self-regulating heater, refilling water tanks can be done quickly after a purge to get the car back into service.
ThermOmegaTech also offers a return and repair program.
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