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Rail News Home MOW

April 2020

Rail News: MOW

The lowdown on today’s hi-rail technology

The LS-60 side shifts up to four inches to help align the vehicle with the track.
Photo – Continental Railworks


Compiled by Michael Popke

Continental Railworks

Continental Railworks designs, manufactures and assembles hi-rail units for all sizes of vehicles, from utility task vehicles to Class 8 trucks.

The company’s hi-rail gear offers touchless automatic mechanical locks (both front and rear) and eliminates the need for pins, hooks or levers to be actuated and often serviced or maintained, company officials said in an email. Universal mounting kits enable the hi-rail equipment to be installed on a variety of different chassis without needing to swap mounting kits.

Positive down pressure is created by using rubber springs to apply up to 8,000 pounds of pressure to the rail wheels when the vehicle goes over a high crossing, guarded frog or snow drifts that may build up along track. The hi-rail gear’s full unit adjustability — including alignment, toe-in/toe-out, wheel gauge and pressure adjustment — allows it to adapt to a variety of vehicle types, conditions and applications, company officials said. 

The LS-60 is among Continental Railworks’ latest offerings. It incorporates the company’s touchless automatic mechanical locks and positive down pressure into a compact design, and side shifts up to four inches to help align the vehicle with the track.

Diversified Metal Fabricators

Shown: The RW-1650GX installed on Gradall’s 4300 series excavator.
Diversified Metal Fabricators

The RW-1650GX is the newest design in the Diversified Metal Fabricators (DMF) excavator rail-gear line. The gear has gone through “a complete overhaul to support the more stressful work environments these excavators are facing,” company officials said in an email. 

The key upgrade is the relocated slot geometry, they said. Slotted links enable the rail wheels to remain in contact with the rails while going through crossings or on severe grade changes. The slotted links are available on many DMF rail gear sizes.

On the RW-1650GX, the slots have been moved over the top of the rail, which allows for “greatly improved stability while working over the side of the rail,” DMF officials said. Also, larger tools can be used so that more work to get done without having to reposition the machine, they added.

The RW-1650GX is available on Gradall’s “rail ready package for the XL3330-V & XL4330-V model series,” company officials said. DMF plans to expand the offering to other wheeled excavator manufacturers “in the near future,” officials said. 

Georgetown Rail Equipment Co. 

GREX offers a fleet of 16 Aurora® trucks, each of which is equipped for hi-rail and designed to provide "the same quality inspections a walking inspector performs," company officials said.
Georgetown Rail Equipment Co.

Georgetown Rail Equipment Co. (GREX) offers a fleet of 16 Aurora® trucks, each of which is equipped for hi-rail. The trucks provide “the same quality inspections a walking inspector performs” while also improving safety and work-window efficiency, company officials said in an email.

The fourth-generation Aurora Xiv truck platform combines the Aurora 3D machine vision technology with the Aurora Xi backscatter x-ray system and the BallastSaver LiDAR system for complete wood tie condition assessment, ballast profile assessment and rail seat deterioration measurement of concrete ties, they said. Additionally, the LiDAR system can measure clearance envelopes and assess grade crossing profiles. 

GREX also has deployed an automated tie marking system on an Aurora hi-rail truck platform that physically marks crossties designated for replacement ahead of tie gangs. The system paints at 5 mph while traveling on track, and uses real-time processing to identify and paint the correct ties.  

Aurora Xi’s data-driven approach is designed to provide railroads the ability to strategize tie replacement projects and monitor tie degradation rates of crossties, as well as perform remedial action on clusters of ineffective ties in between maintenance cycles. 

“The combined surface and internal assessment of wooden crossties ensures that the right ties are being identified for replacement,” company officials said. 

GREX also plans to explore artificial intelligence for tie assessment.

Harsco Rail

HD4141 HY-RAIL® guide wheel equipment is used to adapt heavy-duty chassis cab trucks.
Harsco Rail

Harsco Rail’s HD4141 HY-RAIL® guide wheel equipment is used to adapt heavy-duty chassis cab trucks, while meeting the company’s recommended vehicle specifications for highway and railway applications. 

It features front over-center rail deployment for safe operation, and conventional wheel bearing hub design with tapered roller bearings for reliable use, Harsco Rail officials said in an email. The front gear uses vehicle suspension for smooth on-rail travel. The front action pin locks, or optional air activated pin safety locks, to secure gear in both deployed and stowed position.

A rear hydraulic lock is built into the cylinder for secure locking in the deployed and stowed positions, and a mechanical bolt action pin locks for additional security. Air-activated pin locks are optional. 

Other features include a rear unit side shift for easy deployment on rail, and rear slotted links for improved safety over grade crossings. The HD4141 has a rugged, compact design and is “electrically insulated for track signaling,” company officials said. An emergency back-up hand pump is optional.


Series 7000 is the company’s next-generation of ultrasonic hardware and software.

With the industry push toward maximizing track time under precision scheduled railroading, Herzog “aims to reduce the footprint of rail flaw detection vehicles along the railroad and gather a larger data set within the same work window,” company officials said in an email.

In addition to advanced testing methods such as phased array ultrasonics and acoustic vibration-based detection techniques, Herzog now offers bundled services “in one pass down the rail,” including geometry testing and joint bar inspection, company officials said.

Herzog’s continued investment and refinement in hi-rail ultrasonic testing (UT) technology also has produced its next generation of UT hardware and software, the Series 7000.

High-definition cameras placed on Herzog’s UT trucks capture photos of the rail to identify surface defects, rolling contact fatigue, branding marks and joint bar defects.

Series 7000 also includes a range of new tools designed to help the testing vehicle operator identify and locate suspect indications by “significantly increasing the signal to noise ratio, which is crucial to developing accurate and repeatable algorithms for artificial intelligence engines,” Herzog officials said.

The company also offers streamlined processes such as continuous testing, which reduces track occupancy with a post-verification process. The inspection method enables Herzog to continuously collect test data and transmit the data to operation headquarters for review by an NDT Level II chief operator who can flag benign indications so they are not included in the “check list” on subsequent inspections and improving the efficiency of the program, company officials said. 

Mitchell Rail Gear

The company’s hi-rail gear systems feature forged steel rail wheels for durability and longevity.
Mitchell Rail Gear

Mitchell Rail Gear’s hi-rail products are designed to “bridge the gap” 

between road and rail with systems designed for work trucks and construction equipment, company officials said in an email. To that end, the firm offers hi-rail gear kits for all-class trucks and construction equipment. 

Mitchell’s light-duty hi-rail gear systems incorporate four-wheel independent suspension for traveling on uneven track. For some large trucks and construction equipment, Mitchell offers hydraulic suspension. The hi-rail gear systems feature forged steel rail wheels for durability and longevity. The hi-rail gear for light-duty truck tires self-propel on the rail head with wide tires mounted on high-strength aluminum truck wheels. 

The company’s friction drive hi-rail gear for wheeled excavators, wheel loaders and RT cranes transfer the high mechanical torque directly to hi-rail wheels for pulling rail cars. Mitchell’s hydraulic drive system for hydraulic excavators is available in kit form to fit all brands of mini and medium-size hydraulic excavators, company officials said.

Omaha Track Equipment

The company’s grapple trucks are equipped with 22-foot beds and cranes with an extended boom, A-frame outriggers and operator seat controls.
Omaha Track Equipment

Omaha Track Equipment (OTE) offers a full line of hi-rail equipment for short- or long-term lease, or purchase. The fleet includes grapple trucks, medium-duty section trucks, rotary dump trucks, pickups, and rail and tie carts. 

The grapple trucks are equipped with 22-foot beds and cranes with an extended boom (for a total reach of 26 feet), A-frame outriggers and operator seat controls. 

Optional equipment includes remote creep drive systems and magnets. 

The medium-duty section trucks are equipped with a heavy-duty platform body with rail racks for 39-foot rails, gas bottle compartments and walk-up bed access. They also include an articulating crane with more than 2,000 pounds of lift capacity, nearly a 32-foot reach with radio remote control, a separate tool circuit and a 500-foot hose reel, company officials said in an email. 

OTE’s rotary dump trucks are equipped with a 14-foot dump body (with a capacity of 12 cubic yards), roll-up tarps, and manual or hydraulic rail dogs, while the hi-rail pickups are offered in a variety of configurations. Meanwhile, the company’s lightweight rail and tie carts are designed for maximum capacity, but remain lightweight for ease of use during on-track service work, OTE officials said. 

RCE Equipment Solutions

The Railavator is a hi-rail excavator that pulls rail, cuts brush, enables crane access, undercuts, tamps ties, and digs and trenches.
RCE Equipment Solutions

With more than 20 years of equipment development experience in hi-rail applications, RCE Equipment Solutions (formerly Rail Construction Equipment Co.) has designed and put into production more than 30 highly specialized machines for rail maintenance tasks, company officials said in an email.

The RCE product portfolio includes the Railavator, a hi-rail excavator that pulls rail, cuts brush, allows crane access, undercuts, tamps ties, and digs and trenches. With its patented hydraulic-powered retractable hi rail, operators can take the Railavator anywhere they need to go, RCE officials add. 

RCE has seven models available — 50G, 85G, 135G, 210G, 245G, 250G and 350G — and offers 16 attachments, including undercutter bars, brush cutters, grapples, buckets, magnets and several cart designs. 

The Series 5 Swing Loader uses a Deere 544 wheel loader rear section and a custom front chassis modified to work on rail. The standard loader boom and housing has been replaced with a 200-degree turntable that enables operators to accomplish swing crane functions. The main boom assembly enables the unit to accomplish wheel loader functions with 14,500 pounds of lift capacity, RCE officials said. 

Equipped with high-traction axles, the Series 5 Swing Loader has enough drawbar pull to handle the positioning of continuous rail, according to RCE, which also offers a Series 5 Swing Loader unit modified for third-rail applications.

Michael Popke is a Madison, Wisconsin-based freelance writer. Email comments or questions to

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