The Transportation Technology Center Inc. (TTCI) has conducted tests on a number of new rail components and structures. Now, one more structure can be added to the list.
The Pueblo, Colo., center's 2.7-mile Facility for Accelerated Service Testing, or FAST, track recently began testing a composite railroad bridge — the first of its kind in the world, according to bridge designer HC Bridge Co. L.L.C. A full-size locomotive pulling 26 heavy axle-load coal cars traversed the bridge, a 30-foot span structure comprising eight hybrid-composite beams.
HC Bridge plans to produce a prototype bridge that will undergo extended testing at TTCI. The company aims to develop a composite bridge that would become standard bridge technology for revenue service on Class Is.
A Class I consortium — including BNSF Railway Co., Canadian National Railway Co., Canadian Pacific Railway, Norfolk Southern Railway and Union Pacific Railroad — covered a substantial portion of the initial test's cost, HC Bridge said. The live train tests also are part of the Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis/High-Speed Rail program funded by the Federal Railroad Administration and managed by the Transportation Research Board.
"Fifty years ago, we started using pre-stressed concrete for railroad bridges and that was considered new technology at the time," said TTCI Principal Engineer Duane Otter in a prepared statement. "Since that time, they have become a mainstay for railroad bridge construction. Looking ahead, we see the [composite] technology as having the potential to become a new mainstay."