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June 2021

Rail News: MOW

Product roundup: Ballast management 2021

Brandt’s ballast management offerings include the Brandt Power Unit, a truck-based heavy-hauler.
Photo – Brandt


By Julie Sneider, Senior Associate Editor

Ballast is a critical component in maintaining track structure since it supports drainage and holds rails and ties in place. Railroads try to manage or replace ballast that’s been fouled due to a build up of mud and debris, which can impact drainage. 

The following seven suppliers emailed information about their latest products and services, which are designed to meet railroads’ ballast needs.

Brandt Road Rail

Brandt Road Rail’s ballast management offerings include the Brandt Power Unit, a truck-based heavy-hauler. The unit is designed to deliver the power needed to safely and efficiently move up to 16 fully loaded ballast cars on a mainline at speeds up to 25 mph (forward/reverse), helping to optimize ballast transportation and placement operations, Brandt officials said.

Utilizing both rail and road infrastructure, the R4 can get to a jobsite quickly and convert from road to rail in less than three minutes with a hi-rail system to help minimize track time and overall cost. The unit delivers up to 600 horsepower with 50,000 pounds of tractive effort — without additional weight added to the deck — and can pull heavier loads up steeper grades at higher speeds without losing traction.

The R4 is designed to achieve maximum stopping power with a 26C brake system ensuring positive control of the trailing rail cars in addition to its own independent brake that controls the rubber drive tires and steel rail wheels. Also, Brandt has designed the R4 to meet all Federal Railroad Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation regulations.


The survey data captured from Herzog’s newest survey platform is suitable for ballast profiling, PTC asset identification and clearance analysis.

Herzog continues to optimize its services for ballast placement planning and delivery. The company’s newest generation hi-rail survey platform features precision LiDAR scanning at faster collection speeds. The enhanced laser technology provides accurate and reliable right-of-way data for ballast and track profiling, as well as positive train control asset identification and clearance analysis, Herzog officials said.

While most ballast surveys are performed by a railroad inspector’s visual assessment, Herzog’s LiDAR platform strives to make the process safer and removes human subjectivity from the process. With automated scanning, Herzog can capture data for long stretches of ROW, identify overages or deficiencies in ballast, and mark no-dump zones such as crossings or switches.

Once data is collected, Herzog technicians review the LiDAR program’s calculations and prepare a final ballast profile report. Priority areas are identified, and adjustments are made to the desired lift in response to each railroad’s specific criteria. 

The LiDAR survey data is then uploaded to Herzog’s patented unloading program available on its high-speed ballast trains. The program controls the automated opening and closing of its ballast doors, distributing specific tonnages at exact GPS coordinates.

“The bottom line is that our customers seek out [our] services to support their precision scheduled railroading initiatives,” said Ryan Crawford, Herzog’s vice president of ballast operations and rail-car leasing. “When you use our LiDAR scanning platform in conjunction with our specialized ballast trains, we can get the job done quickly, and give track and time back to the railroad for revenue operations.”

Knox Kershaw Inc.

Among Knox Kershaw’s latest ballast regulator models is the KBR 925, which is designed for ballast work on all types of track.
Knox Kershaw Inc.

With four models and a variety of customizable options, Knox Kershaw Inc. offers a ballast regulator to suit every job, according to information provided by the company. Among the latest models is the KBR 925, which is designed for ballast work on all types of track.

“Superb visibility in every direction, especially the wing areas, makes it the ideal machine for final profiling,” Knox Kershaw officials say in a KBR 925 description on the company’s website. “The one pass transfer plow used in conjunction with the wing makes transferring from shoulder to shoulder a one pass operation, while leaving one shoulder profiled.”

The regulator’s reversible wings allow work in either direction so no movement is lost, and its standard reversing valve enables ballast to be swept away from switches and crossings.

Meanwhile, Knox Kershaw’s Plus+1® is a new control system — an option for the KBR 925 and the company’s other ballast regulators — that displays machine functions and diagnostics to help operators optimize productivity, according to the company. The Plus+1’s automated features include wing auto-store, transmission down-shifting protection and automatic brooming speed.

Loram Maintenance of Way Inc.
Loram Technologies

Loram’s High Performance Shoulder Ballast Cleaner and SBC2400 are used to remove ballast at the end of ties.

Loram focuses on using the latest technology available to plan for efficient ballast maintenance. The formation of Loram Technologies has created a company that is focused on developing new ways to monitor, measure and understand the current health of ballast layers and surrounding areas that support track superstructure.

Loram Technologies pairs GPR, LiDAR, high resolution video, GIS, track geometry and other forms of data with advanced analytics to create a multifaceted track health report. With a complete picture of the ballast section and drainage characteristics, the root causes of poor track performance can be understood and appropriate maintenance solutions can be identified, Loram officials said.

Loram’s ballast analysis is based on LiDAR technology. BallastSaver® measures the ballast profile and compares it to the desired profile that the railroad chooses. The data is then used in planning for ballast delivery and shoulder ballast cleaning programs. LiDAR is also used to map the profile of the area surrounding a track.

Loram utilizes GPR technology to determine where shoulder ballast cleaning is needed by understanding the fouling level of the crib and both shoulders.

Loram’s Badger Ditcher and Slot Machines are used to excavate ditches to the correct profile and location. Loram’s High Performance Shoulder Ballast Cleaner and SBC2400 are used to remove ballast at the end of the ties, separating and discarding fines and fouled ballast from reusable ballast and restoring the reusable ballast to the shoulder.

Plasser American Corp.

The long reach of the BDS-100 and BDS-200 ballast distribution systems’ shoulder plows are capable of retrieving ballast that is out of reach of conventional ballast regulators.
Plasser American Corp.

Plasser American Corp. has developed the BDS-100 and BDS-200 Ballast Distribution System to restore the proper ballast profile. The long reach of the shoulder plows are capable of retrieving ballast that is out of reach of conventional ballast regulators, company officials said. This supports cost-saving initiatives by reducing new ballast expenditures through utilizing existing ballast, they added.

The system features 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, which loads the ballast into the BDS-100 or into a Plasser MFS-type conveyor and hopper car. The finishing broom provides the final track dressing. 

The ballast-handling capacity of the Plasser Ballast Distribution System can be increased by coupling Plasser MFS conveyor and hopper cars between the two units, which makes it possible to distribute ballast through the network. All work is performed in a one-pass operation, which helps reduce the necessary track time and increases system efficiency.

The BDS-100 and BDS-200 can be used in combination with a consist of other machines — in particular high-speed surfacing — to perform work on various aspects of the track. Alternatively, it can be used on its own to distribute ballast and re-profile ballast profiles as needed.

Progress Rail

Progress Rail offers two upgraded Kershaw® ballast regulator models: the Model 4600 and the Model 60.
Progress Rail

As railroads push for higher productivity while streamlining costs, railways need MOW equipment that improves fleet performance. To that end, Progress Rail provides Kershaw® ballast maintenance equipment offering options for field service support year-round, company officials said.

Progress Rail markets two upgraded Kershaw ballast regulator models: the Model 4600 and the Model 60. Kershaw ballast regulators have updated technology to address two critical areas: ensuring machines respond more intuitively, alerting operators and service technicians to potential issues before they occur; and allowing an enhanced operator experience.

The Kershaw Model 60 ballast regulator comes equipped with a 335 HP Cat® C9.3B diesel engine, a four-season plow, variable width ballast wings and a fully reversible broom. Extended reach wings are now available, along with a full line of carbide wear components.

For adaptability beyond routine ballast maintenance, Progress Rail offers a selection of brush cutter attachments for the Kershaw Model 60 ballast regulator. During the winter months, railroads can convert the Kershaw ballast regulator into a snow fighter for increased versatility.


Vancer’s hi-rail excavators can be coupled with attachments such as the Vancer ballast cribber or undercutter featuring 360-degree rotation.

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

The Vancer team is focused on developing equipment for comprehensive MOW needs, Vancer officials said. With the highest horsepower available on the market, Vancer’s hi-rail excavators can be coupled with attachments such as the Vancer ballast cribber or undercutter 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.

In addition, Vancer offers a 35-yard ballast cart designed for distributing and spreading ballast. The cart can be towed at speeds up to 25 mph, and includes brakes on all wheels, life points and chains.

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