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June 2023

Rail News: MOW

Just a stone's throw away: Ballast management equipment/service update

Arva Industries’ new diesel-powered, bi-directional vehicle is equipped with a vacuum system and hydraulically actuated boom.
Photo – Arva Industries Inc.


Compiled by Grace Renderman, Associate Editor 

Arva Industries Inc. 

Arva Industries Inc. has introduced a new diesel-powered, bi-directional vehicle designed to collect track ballast during maintenance and repair operations. The vehicle features a hydrostatic drivetrain and has two primary functions: collecting ballast from around rail ties and storm drain cleaning, Arva officials said in an email. 

Equipped with a vacuum system and hydraulically actuated boom, the vehicle’s 8-inch suction hose can extend up to 48 inches. The boom and vacuum functions are remotely controlled via radio to provide safer and more efficient operations. The vehicle’s storage capacity is 20 cubic yards for wet or dry products, making it suitable for a wide range of maintenance and repair projects. 

A high-pressure water system provides 2,500 pounds per square inch at 10 gallons per minute with a clean water-tank capacity of 1,325 gallons. The vehicle also has provisions for winter freeze prevention to ensure reliable operation in harsh weather conditions. With a maximum travel speed of 32 mph and a 450-horsepower diesel engine, the vehicle can efficiently and effectively collect ballast while minimizing the time required for maintenance and repair projects, company officials said. 

Presto Geosystems 

Presto Geosystems’ Geoweb® Soil Stabilization System features a 3D honeycomb structure designed to confine and stabilize cohesionless soils.
Presto Geosystems

Presto Geosystems’ Geoweb® Soil Stabilization System is a powerful tool for reinforcing ballast and sub-ballast layers, company officials said. When trains encounter soft soil, railroads institute speed reductions or halt operations altogether, which can lead to costly downtime. The Geoweb system’s 3D honeycomb structure is designed to confine and stabilize cohesionless soils, delivering strength and higher performance. 

Presto Geosystems is researching and developing cellular confinement technology for soil stabilization challenges. The Geoweb system has been tested by the Association of American Railroads at the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colorado. It also has been tested using SmartRock concrete sensor technology at the University of Kansas. Testing found minimal ballast movement and rotation, Presto officials said. 

The Geoweb system’s ability to stabilize and control ballast results in considerable cost savings by requiring less cross-section and virtually eliminating maintenance, they added. The system is designed to perform well on mainline track and in heavy stress areas, such as grade crossings, bridge approaches and diamonds. 

Presto Geosystems offers free project evaluations, accredited research and testing and project recommendations. 

Miner Enterprises Inc. 

The AggreGate® MOW ballast outlet from Miner Enterprises features large guillotine door openings designed to stop ballast flow with minimal effort.
Miner Enterprises Inc.

Miner Enterprises Inc.’s AggreGate® maintenance-of-way ballast outlet gates make MOW operations more reliable and flexible. The stand-alone’s solar-powered AggreGate® with car-mounted work lights for nighttime ballasting enables independent operation of individual cars anywhere within the ballast train, boosting MOW agility and efficiency by eliminating the need for grouping manual and automatic cars, Miner officials said. Optional remote wireless control systems enable specific car and gate selections for up to 1,000 cars. 

AggreGate outlet gates feature large guillotine door openings designed to stop ballast flow with minimal effort; ballast shutoff capabilities at switches, crossovers and bridges; and single- or double-door control options. The AggreGate can dump ballast inside, outside or on both sides of a rail simultaneously. Standard electric, air-powered and manual gate models also are available and suitable for retrofit and new rail-car systems, company officials said. 

Additionally, the new solar-powered Miner Lighting System features four energy-efficient LED lights mounted on the rail car’s undercarriage. Each system supports low-visibility and nighttime ballast operations. The photovoltaic system includes a solar array, batteries, two switches and a lighting controller with a temperature compensation feature designed to ensure the system is properly charged in hot and cold environments. The Miner Lighting System is available as a stand-alone system and as an option with all Miner ballast/MOW outlet gates and rapid discharge systems. 

Plasser American Corp. 

Plasser American’s shoulder-cleaning machines keep ballast shoulder free from breakdown.
Plasser American Corp.

Plasser American Corp.’s ballast machines are designed to meet individual demands. Smaller machines, such as the RM80, are designed for plain track and turnouts with one excavating chain and one screening unit. The RM80’s 50-mph travel speed and short setup and knock-down times make the most out of available track time, company officials said. 

The RM80-800 is a high-performance ballast cleaning machine with a powerful cutting chain and a high-capacity screening system; together, these components enable high-working speeds, even on fouled or encrusted ballast, Plasser officials said. The RM80-800 is equipped with a device that lifts track and shifts it laterally as required to clear trackside obstacles. 

Plasser’s RM802 — a high-production ballast undercutting and cleaning machine — is designed to work on track with pre-dumped ballast. Crews can achieve production rates of up to 2,000 feet per hour using the RM802. Additionally, shoulder-cleaning machines like the FRM85 and FRM802 keep the ballast-shoulder free from ballast breakdown, ensure working drainage and create longer maintenance cycles. Those units are designed with single- or double-screening units. 

Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group 

Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group’s new material-handling train delivers and distributes ballast in an environmentally friendly manner.
Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group

Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group (RSRG) operates RM80 and RM76 production undercutters in North America. The company also provides switch undercutting and yard cleaner machines to support a growing maintenance services portfolio. RSRG offers trackbed inspection solutions with long-term technology partner Zetica Ltd., company officials said. 

The company’s inspection solution combines ground-penetrating radar, mobile terrestrial laser scanning, 2D/3D vision and track geometry, which addresses the requirement for condition-based and predictive maintenance planning. The solution also enables quality control of maintenance and new builds. Additionally, the RM80 and RM76 provide asset condition data, which helps mark asset maintenance progress and better track maintenance activities. 

RSRG’s new material-handling train offers an environmentally friendly method for the delivery and distribution of ballast and the handling of track spill material. The system allows maintenance to be performed on challenging but highly critical infrastructure, such as in highly populated areas, environmentally sensitive locations and tunnels. 

RHT RailHaul Technologies Inc. 

RHT RailHaul Technologies Inc. has collaborated with RailcarCo. (RCC) to bring to market a new slide dump rail car designed with an optional self-propulsion system, RailHaul President Mike Price said in an email. 

The RCC slide dump car can be operated as part of a traditional train for bulk material movement or MOW activities. It can be ordered as a fully self-propelled, battery-powered, remote-controlled rail car for non-interchange haulage or MOW. The cars can be connected in any combination of powered and unpowered cars to meet various duty cycles. As a single self-propelled car, it can provide movement of other MOW cars at the work site, Price said. 

The car offers high capacity for ballast and bulk material movement and is an alternative to rotary dump gondola cars. The adjustable-in-motion large slide gates offer variable dump rates, including ballast dump rates and fast, maximum dump for bulk material movement operations with the flexibility to dump outside or inside the rails, or both simultaneously. 

Additionally, the RCC slide dump has an option for powered gates and can be remotely operated. Its multiple power and energy source capability means it can handle pneumatic, hydraulic, electric and battery, solar and inverter energy, Price said. 

Products handled by the car include rip rap, ore, sand, coal, forestry products and agricultural products. The RCC will be available in fall. 


Vancer’s hi-rail excavators can be coupled with attachments, such as the company’s ballast cribber.

Vancer equipment offers a comprehensive approach to ballast maintenance, including ballast and roadbed drainage; ballast strengthening and stabilizing; track support; and extension of ballast lifecycle. 

With high horsepower, the company’s hi-rail excavators can be coupled with attachments, such as the Vancer ballast cribber and undercutters and tampers featuring 360-degree rotation. Excavators include hydraulically powered hi-rail gear undercarriage with train air brakes, multiple tool carrier functionality and dual pivoting rail-car couplers. 


Herzog’s ballast management equipment offerings include the Automated Conveyor Train, Multi-Purpose Machine and CarTopper.

Herzog offers a suite of specialized equipment dedicated to ballast distribution, company officials said. Only one experienced ballast management equipment operator is needed to safely and efficiently operate these machines from a climate-controlled cab, they added. 

The company’s state-of-the-art hi-rail truck uses high-speed lidar scans of the railroad right of way to conduct comprehensive ballast surveys. Leveraging Herzog’s proprietary ballast application, the collected data enables precise cut-and-fill calculations for targeted ballast spreading. And using Herzog’s lidar survey data and GPS technology, the company’s automated ballast trains navigate long stretches of ROW using programmed coordinates to precisely unload material at track centers and shoulders. 

The Automated Conveyor TrainSM (ACT) is designed for a range of applications, including stockpiling, new construction and trackbed washouts. The ACT uses an automated plow to level accumulated ballast in the track’s center. Herzog’s automated unloading program ensures efficient distribution of ballast in curves of up to 13 degrees. Additionally, the company’s Multi-Purpose Machine® (MPM) features an excavator cab and excels at handling and transporting rail, ties and various aggregates, including ballast and rip rap. The MPM offers the flexibility to perform multiple services within the same deployment, facilitated by a quick switch-out of a Rototilt attachment. 

Herzog’s CarTopper® quickly self-mounts and dismounts from the ground level to the top of rail cars and performs its work moving from car to car. It can unload ballast, ties, aggregates and other track material along the ROW. 

Knox Kershaw Inc. 

In early 2024, Knox Kershaw Inc. plans to roll out a hybrid version of its KBR 925 Ballast Regulator, company officials said. Knox Kershaw recently converted straddle-lift cranes to hybrid versions, emphasizing the advantages of hybrid technology in MOW equipment. 

The hybrid KBR 925 will offer a smaller engine package for quieter operation, greater visibility, battery-powered motors, longer engine life and less wear-and-tear on pumps. 

The KBR 925 is designed for ballast work on all track types. Its plow and wing work together to transfer ballast from shoulder to shoulder in one pass while leaving one shoulder profiled. The standard reversing valve allows ballast to be swept away from switches and grade crossings, Knox Kershaw officials said. 

The upgraded KBR 925’s hydraulic tank has been moved to the front for better weight distribution. It also will feature a 130-gallon tank capacity; sloped fuel tanks with integral steps to improve cab entry and exit; and a ballast wing that uses the same grader blade throughout. 

The KBR 925 includes the Plus+1® System Op/on that automates key functions for smoother operations, company officials said. It features a touch screen for monitoring system functions. The Plus+1 system is available as an option for the KSF 940 machine and is standard on the KKA 1050, KTC 1250 and KPB 200 models.

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