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June 2015

Rail News: MOW

Product roundup: Ballast management


Eleven suppliers share information on ballast-related products and services.

Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc.

Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc. provides a wide range of trackbed condition assessment services through the deployment of its fleet of multi-sensored hi-rail inspection vehicles. The Railroad Asset Scanning Car (RASC®) is equipped with the latest in high-accuracy dual frequency differential GPS systems, stereoscopic video cameras, GPR systems and high-resolution line scan cameras used in trackbed imaging — plus the latest in LIDAR scanning technology, including the ZRL200, the company says.

"These integrated systems provide greater value for the money in a time where track access is premium," says Director of Track Solutions Steve Atherton. "The information generated supports a more holistic approach to measurement and analysis. As a result, our industry has never been better positioned to ascertain the overall condition of the trackbed through the combining of visual surface information and condition data with subsurface information."

Combining ballast profile and thickness metrics, and surface and subsurface fouling levels, with ballast particle size assessment provides customers with a picture and scientific assessment of the trackbed. The information can be used to "support and improve" a range of activities, including ballast procurement, ballast maintenance planning and undertaking activities such as undercutting, shoulder cleaning and drainage works, Atherton says.

"Through these technological enhancements and our fleet of RASC inspection vehicles, we are able to offer maintenance engineers and managers a cost-effective and optimized solution for trackbed and asset condition assessment," he adds.

Ballast Tools Equipment

Ballast Tools Equipment (BTE) offers spot ballast maintenance systems with on- and off-track work capability. Systems range from rail-ready large excavators to small backhoes, including the BTE 312 Hi-Rail Excavator.

"One of the main features of our BTE 312 series Hi-Rail Excavators is the ability to travel and undercut at the same time," says BTE Engineer Matt Weyand. "A spot problem can be cleaned up and rebuilt by a single machine, including undercutting, refilling, grading and tamping, all while working on or off rail."

The 312 has "ample power to effectively undercut a spot problem in the ballast, and rebuild the site fast, allowing more repairs and resulting in better overall track condition," Weyand adds.

BTE also offers an array of machines designed around the company’s attachments, including undercutters, tampers, cribbing buckets, tie heads and tie handlers.

Brandt Road Rail Corp.

Brandt Road Rail Corp. manufactures a number of products to help customers complete large and small ballast maintenance projects. For larger scale projects, the Brandt Rail Tool can handle large undercutter bars to cut mud spots through turnouts or complete single pass cuts on straight track. The Rail Tool’s "powerful hydraulics" can power other attachments, such as tamping heads, pile drivers and a wide array of buckets, the company says.

For smaller, more routine projects, the company offers the RTB-130, a hi-rail backhoe designed to handle small-scale ballast maintenance projects by utilizing a large front bucket to move material, and hi-flow hydraulics to power numerous attachments on the rear boom and arm.

For large production projects that require motive power, the company offers the Brandt Power Unit. It is "strong enough to move multiple rail cars to the job site and unload ballast precisely in the location required" and costs "significantly less than a locomotive and crew" to operate, the company says.

Georgetown Rail Equipment Co.

Ballast programs have always been an inexact science, as Georgetown Rail Equipment Co. (GREX) officials note. With BallastSaver® and GateSync® from GREX, customers can take the guesswork out of determining ballast needs and streamline ballast placement, the company says.

The ballast assessment and delivery solution starts with scanning the ballast profile using LIDAR technology. It precisely measures existing roadbed ballast profile and compares it to a standardized profile to determine "any and all deficiencies," the company says.

Data from BallastSaver scans feed directly into the GateSync software to target those deficiencies for precision ballast delivery. It can determine the number of ballast cars customers need over a given area or prioritize the unloading of cars already onsite to target the most critical areas.

While traveling up to 10 mph, GateSync then completes the offload by opening and closing automated gates on the existing ballast cars.

"It accurately drops only the ballast needed, right where it’s needed," the company says. "The system is even smart enough to take into account crossings, switches and other ‘no dump’ zones to avoid and protect them from coverage."

Together, BallastSaver and GateSync minimize the material and manpower required to get the job done, the company says. BallastSaver also can be integrated onto the same hi-rail vehicle as the GREX Aurora® track inspection system for a comprehensive view of track condition.

Harsco Rail

Harsco Rail is the worldwide exclusive distributor of MRail, an autonomous vertical track deflection measurement system that can be used in developing ballast maintenance programs.

When ballast begins to lose its integrity, accelerated degradations of the track and surrounding region can occur, leading to maintenance issues. The MRail Vertical Track Deflection Measurement system can evaluate the degradation of the support structure over time; it can measure exactly how much the rail deflects from its non-loaded position, the company says. With a sufficient measurement history, degradation models can be applied to the data to predict when the support system of a segment of rail will require maintenance due to reaching a pre-defined threshold.

MRail outputs can help customers manage maintenance scheduling, and the results of analyses can be used to prioritize maintenance locations and guide the types of maintenance required. For example, gradual, consistent degradation over time may require tamping at a known interval, but a sudden spike in deflection may indicate the need for urgent maintenance due to failure of some part of the support structure, the company says.

"In addition, MRail has been used to evaluate the quality of maintenance activities immediately after completion in a quality control context," the company says.

MRail data can help determine if completed maintenance was the appropriate maintenance action for a location. See the chart on page 38: When tamping was done, vertical rail deflection (YRel) decreased; however, that was only a temporary solution as YRel quickly increased. This may be an indication that undercutting or some other remediation is needed at the location, the company says.

Herzog Railroad Services Inc.

The Herzog SMART Train can help customers address a variety of ballast needs, whether they’re working on the center of the track, the shoulder or through tunnels during new construction or maintenance projects. The SMART Train can dump up to 30 cars per mile on new construction skeletonized concrete-tie projects and the dump can be completed traveling in either direction, regardless of the survey route. Set-up time is minimal and can be accomplished in the siding or a yard track to minimize service disruptions, the company says.

The SMART Train is equipped with flow sensors, which allows Herzog to monitor if material is flowing from the car in order to reduce the potential for skips. The SMART Train also dumps from the head end to the rear end, further reducing the opportunity for skips. If a door faults, the next door will open. "Track and time is at such a premium, backing up to try again is simply not an option," as Herzog officials note.

The dump zones on the SMART Train can be set to as little as 15 feet on the approach and five feet on the departure of fixed assets to reduce the time needed for surfacing.

"Advances in our inspection system have allowed us to remove human subjectivity from determining the amount of ballast required," Herzog officials say. "The ProScan LIDAR Truck scans the track surface and then determines the amount of ballast needed based on the railroad provided template. Herzog’s ProScan LIDAR can also account for ballast overages and deficiencies to ensure ballast is distributed specifically where it is required."

Loram Maintenance of Way Inc.

The track structure’s purpose is to transmit the load applied to the rail down to the natural sub-soil layer. Optimal support requires equal distribution of pressure from the ties to the subgrade and subsoil. Inadequate ballast depths result in unequal load distribution that lead to rapid degradation of the track.

Additionally, surrounding topography is often flat, resulting in ineffective drainage. The objective of track drainage is to keep the lower ballast and subgrade from being saturated. Providing good drainage will result in a stronger track foundation with increased bearing capabilities, which directly relates to the stability of the track.

Common ballast remediation methods utilize tampers to increase the depth of ballast, which "can create more problems than solutions," Loram Maintenance of Way Inc. officials say. The Loram Track Lifter (TL) raises and re-ballasts track to improve load-bearing support and enhance drainage. A self-propelled machine that can lift track up to 12 inches in one pass, the TL is equipped with a crib-leveling bar that helps break up muddy cribs and provides a smooth, level surface after the lift. "Productivity of the TL can vary from 1 mph to 4 mph, depending on track conditions," the company says. "Studies indicate that lifting track vs. undercutting results in a 25 percent cost reduction, up to 400 percent improvement in productivity, 30 percent increase in track quality and a projected five-year payback."

NMC Railway Systems

NMC Railway Systems’ newest product-line additions are the Cat® hi-rail 420 and 430 backhoe loaders, which can help railroads complete ballast maintenance projects. Equipped to handle the demands of fast-moving spot work, the hi-rail backhoes allow for added flexibility when coupled with a variety of attachments, including a six-foot undercutter bar with bi-directional chain, a two-motor ballast tamper and a tie inserter with dual wood/concrete pads.

"This specialized hi-rail system delivers reduced downtime associated with equipment relocation to job sites, increases speed and agility in getting on and off track," says NMC Sales Manager Mark Anderson. "Add in the ability to legally haul this machine on a lowboy, and this dedicated system is the ideal solution for demanding ballast management projects."

The demand for hi-rail equipment is "ever growing" as track maintenance times become more limited, Anderson says. Narrower track windows increase the need for equipment that can access remote track areas via hi-rail and get off track if necessary. NMC’s focus is "to provide equipment that increases MOW productivity for increased utilization of track-line to ensure track traffic continues," Anderson says.

Plasser American Corp.

Plasser American Corp. offers a ballast profile measuring system and a ballast distribution system.

The Ballast Measuring System was developed based on data recorded by a high-speed, 360-degree clearance scanner. Installed on one end of a measuring vehicle, the clearance scanner records crosscuts of the track and its surroundings up to 200 times per second with up to 10,000 measurements per crosscut. The data recorded is primarily used for clearance evaluation, but also is suited for obtaining information about the state of the ballast and its distribution, the company says. The system records crosscuts and analyzes the recorded data against three user definable ballast profiles simultaneously; the data recorded is used to guide ballast dump trains.

Meanwhile, the company’s Ballast Distribution System consists of two independent units that can work together as one machine or as two separate machines.

The BDS-100 is equipped with a hopper for ballast storage; four conveyors for ballast distribution; and Plasser’s shoulder and X-type plows for ballast profiling. The BDS-200 is equipped with two ballast brooms: the "pick-up" broom sweeps the excess ballast from the track onto a conveyor that loads the ballast into the BDS-100 or into a Plasser MFS-type Conveyor and Hopper Car; and the "finishing" broom provides the final track dressing. The system’s ballast handling capacity can be increased by coupling Plasser MFS-type Conveyor and Hopper Cars between the two units. All work is performed in a "one pass" operation.

Progress Rail Services Corp.

The Kershaw Division of Progress Rail Services Corp. continues to address the needs of its customers through "continuous product enhancement to all of its products," the company says. The recently introduced Kershaw Model 4600 Ballast Regulator utilizes a cab forward design, offering enhanced visibility and improved operator ergonomics. Strategic component location makes all components easily accessible for maintenance purposes, the company says.

The newest ballast regulator in the Kershaw line is the Model 66 One Pass Ballast Regulator, which was designed as a high-speed, high-power ballast regulator to provide One Pass ballast regulating behind today’s high-speed production tampers. One of its key features is "its ability operate as a conventional ballast regulator when required," the company says. The machine also can be equipped with a ballast hopper feature that allows the operator to transfer ballast to areas that require additional ballast.

The Kershaw Division also has been active in the ballast cleaning and ballast reclamation realm. 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.

Also: Progress Rail Equipment Leasing offers customized leases for all types of equipment based on need, and "each lease can be structured to satisfy any requirement," the company says.

Rail Construction Equipment Co.

Rail Construction Equipment Co. (RCE) offers several undercutting options to provide customers with the ability to clean the mud from within the track — "without long set-up times," the company says.

Recently, RCE increased the number of undercutter bar sizes available; the 135G, 245G, 250G and 350G Railavators now can be outfitted with undercutter capabilities. By providing more size options, RCE customers can perform undercutting with "all the larger size hi-rail or standard excavators offered," the company says.

RCE’s largest Railavator — the 350G — features increased hydraulic power to perform more efficiently in difficult conditions and is equipped with a longer undercutting bar that offers greater versatility for switch undercutting. RCE’s hydraulic-powered undercutter heads feature tilt, pitch and rotation for clean-out, and can cut rates up to seven feet per minute, depending on track conditions, the company says.

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