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Georgetown Rail Equipment Co. (GREX) offers ballast assessment and delivery technology to support system-wide ballast management. By inspecting mainline track with BallastSaver® — a light detection and ranging-based (LIDAR) track inspection system designed to calculate ballast deficiencies in the cribs, shoulders and side slopes of the ballast section — railroads can compute, prioritize and plan ballast requirements.
Implementing objective inspection techniques for ballast management syncs with strategies in place for other track component inspection, such as rail and ties. To examine the effects of ballast deficiencies in track, GREX, supported by Dr. Allan Zarembski at the University of Delaware, overlaid track geometry defect data with BallastSaver’s deficiency data. The preliminary results suggest strong relationships between missing ballast and the development of safety-related track geometry defects, GREX says.
To optimize track time needed for inspection, GREX integrated the BallastSaver technology on the same hi-rail platform with the Aurora automated tie inspection system to enable simultaneous tie and ballast condition assessments.
The combination of GREX inspection technologies with GREX ballast delivery services “results in a complete solution for defining the volume of ballast needed and the location where it should be placed, while generating an optimized unloading plan,” the company says.
Surface Fitting, a feature available for a number of Harsco Rail tampers, provides automatic control of the surface during tamping to “give the best possible result with the smallest possible lift,” the company says. Surface Fitting is designed to apply sufficient lift to correct “the largest errors” while not lifting the track any higher than necessary. The operator can give more attention to other aspects of machine operation because lift control is fully automatic, the company says.
If track surfacing requires more than one pass, Surface Fitting can reduce the number of passes needed. Less ballast is needed, particularly if one or more passes are eliminated. Moreover, smaller lifts disturb the track less, resulting in better, more durable track quality, Harsco Rail says.
A Rubber Banding feature enables operators to adjust the lift by clicking and dragging the Surface Fit graph into the desired location, which is helpful when operators are working around fixed structures, or as ballast conditions change, the company says.
Herzog Railroad Services Inc. (HRSI) recently received a notice of allowance from the U.S. Patent Office on claims related to detecting and accounting for anomalous track bed conditions identified during ballast profiling. HRSI’s patented system improves upon LIDAR-based track surveying and profiling processes by enabling an operator to compare anomalous track data with image data and adjust computer-generated ballast distribution information accordingly, the company says.
The system is designed to prevent dumping of excess ballast around box culverts or areas of excessive slope. It also may be used to identify and account for washout areas, cut shoulders, standing water and insufficient sub-ballast. Once these areas are identified, the company generates a detailed report for the customer.
“Our LIDAR scan will give the railroad information that would be virtually impossible to acquire through current manual surveys,” HRSI says. “Not only are the surveys more robust, they can be completed more quickly.”
When information is uploaded into the company’s GPS ballast train fleet, both the survey and the ballast dump “will be one,” HRSI says. Used in conjunction with HRSI ballast trains, the LIDAR enables the company to place the rock as close as 15 feet on the approach and five feet on the departure of fixed locations, HRSI says.
Knox Kershaw Inc. recently introduced the latest version of its compact, contractor-grade ballast regulator: the KBR 860 Ballast Regulator.
The track-dressing machine now features a larger, 14-foot wheelbase, which enables it to accommodate a more spacious cab with greater visibility. The sound-insulated cab features safety glass windows, electric wipers, an air horn, and rearview and West Coast mirrors. The cab has a “clean roof” design — there are no roof-mounted components, the company says.
The KBR 860 also features a side-mount air conditioner, optional joystick control and power transmission, while maintaining an optimum length to facilitate loading and hauling to the work site. And the broom has been updated: A new reel design improves sweeping around fasteners, according to the company, which provides ballast regulators, tie cranes, kribber adzers, snow fighters, yard cleaners, material handlers and other maintenance-of-way equipment in the United States and internationally.
Powered by a 240-horsepower, 24-volt Cummins QSB6.7 Tier 3 engine, the machine continues to come equipped with a one-pass type plow with bolt-on blades, reversible side wings and a broom attachment.
Loram HP Shoulder Ballast Cleaners are self-propelled and use digging buckets up to 30 inches wide to clean ballast from the tie ends outward to the edge of the ballast section, digging as deep as 35 inches from the top of the rail. Scarifier teeth undercut the tie ends to five inches, breaking up mud pockets and restoring drainage, the company says. A conveyor transfers the fouled ballast to a series of vibrating screens, where fines are separated and discharged up to 29 feet from the centerline of track.
The screen level is adjustable to compensate for super elevation and transfer ballast from side to side as required. The Loram HP Shoulder Ballast Cleaner then distributes the cleaned ballast along either or both shoulders and regulates to the shape the railroad specifies.
To minimize dust during shoulder ballast cleaning operations in dry conditions, shoulder ballast cleaners carry water to use as a suppressant. The Shoulder Ballast Cleaner includes an optional automation system designed to enhance operational efficiency.
Railroads and track crews want a safe, durable, maintenance-free way to ballast that can be applied to new or existing cars, and that’s what the Miner Enterprises Inc. AggreGate® provides, the company says. The AggreGate is “the only gate that can effectively ballast inside, outside or both sides of the rail simultaneously,” Miner says. Features include large guillotine door openings designed to stop ballast flow with minimum effort, easy-to-operate toggle-type linkage systems, and tapered doors for easy ballast shutoff at switches, crossovers and bridges. In addition, the remote control AggreGate enables users to deposit ballast while remaining a safe distance from the activity.
Miner can supply four- to six-foot-long AggreGates in a variety of models ranging from manual to powered actuation, and from local to remote control. The company also can supply a gate that can be integrated with the automated power, actuator and control systems, which “will allow the possibility of operating these cars in fully automated trains,” Miner says.
The AggreGate is in operation in North America as well as in international markets, including South America. In recent years, hundreds of air-powered AggreGates have been in operation on railroads in Brazil and Colombia, the company says.
Track formation consists of the rail, ties, ballast, sub-ballast and subgrade, and the conditions of all five components are critical to the safe operation of trains. Of those five components, the two most difficult to condition monitor are ballast and subgrade, says MRail Inc. Chief Executive Officer Billy Spazante.
Despite the advancement of ultrasonic rail-flaw detection, rail profile measurement and track geometry recording, there has not been a way to measure at high speed and quantify the overall condition of the track formation — which is mostly ballast and subgrade — until the development of the MRail Vertical Track Deflection Measurement System, Spazante says.
The patented system helps railroads determine the safety of the track formation and plan maintenance, including ballast management, he says. The MRail Vertical Track Deflection Measurement System can be installed on a standard loaded hopper car, and can operate unattended in a regularly scheduled train. It also can work on a manned track geometry car or in a track geometry measurement train.
“MRail is not intended to replace the existing track geometry- and accelerometer-based systems,” Spazante says. “MRail is complementary to these existing systems [because it provides] vertical track deflection data.”
Nordco Inc. offers the XL-5, a road-ready mobile tamper and regulator set, which the company characterizes as a “new reactive tamping solution that marries high production with unprecedented mobility.”
The set’s length, width, height and weight are all within legal road limits, meaning that no special U.S. Department of Transportation permits are needed, the company says. The XL-5 can be attached directly to any over-the-road tractor truck without using a drive-on trailer, and moved to the work area at any time. The machine can get on and off the rail at any standard crossing without the need to use cranes, saving track travel time, the company says. The integrated turntable enables the XL-5 to change direction in minutes; the system’s mobility enables “better utilization of assets by railroads and contractors,” the company says.
Nordco’s tamper-related products also include the HST – Hydraulic Switch Tamper, rebuilds of Jackson 6700 or Mark series tampers, and an inventory of tamper parts, including complete workhead, jackbeam and vibrator assemblies.
Plasser American Corp. offers the Unimat 09-475/4S N-Dynamic, which is currently operating on the Austrian Federal Railways. The machine’s new design includes integrated ballast handling, which enables “well-proven work units to interact in new ways,” the company says. In addition to tamping, the machine performs ballast profiling, ballast sweeping, stabilizing and measuring.
Surplus ballast is collected by the sweeper unit, stored temporarily and unloaded in the tamping zones while the machine is working. It’s possible, then, for the machine to “lift the track enough” in order to correct the geometry errors, since the exact amount of ballast needed is already deposited at the tie, Plasser says.
The Unimat N-Dynamic also can be combined with the BLS 2000 Ballast Loading Station and the MFS 60 Conveyor and Hopper Car. One hopper of an MFS 60 can store about 95 tons of ballast (the actual capacity depends on the permissible axle loads.) The ballast is used in the turnout as required. Immediately before the work is performed, ballast is unloaded “exactly where it is needed for the lifting values to be achieved by the tamping machine,” the company says. The ballast is distributed in the turnout using the machine’s slewing conveyor belts.
The Kershaw Division of Progress Rail Services Corp. recently launched its new Model 4600 Ballast Regulator, a machine that “addresses many issues that have been discussed with customers during product meetings,” the company says. The machine features a cab forward design, and offers enhanced visibility and improved operator ergonomics. It also addresses issues regarding component location and accessibility, making all components easily accessible for maintenance purposes, Progress Rail Services says.
Progress Rail Services also offers new designs of ballast regulators for the international market, including high-powered machines with hoppers for transferring ballast, sand- fighting machines and single-pass ballast regulating machines.
And Kershaw is active in the ballast cleaning and ballast reclamation area; the company recently delivered a new KSC2000 High Speed Shoulder Cleaner that is capable of cleaning the shoulder ballast, screening and spoiling the waste, and returning the cleaned ballast back onto the shoulder, the company says.
Meanwhile, Progress Rail Services’ equipment leasing subsidiary — Progress Rail Equipment Leasing — offers a “full fleet of ballast maintenance equipment available for short-term rental or long-term leases,” says Randy Chubaty, national sales manager. Progress Rail Equipment Leasing offers customized leases “to satisfy any requirement,” he adds.
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