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Compiled by Grace Renderman, Associate Editor
Kawasaki Track Technologies is developing an autonomous fastener monitoring system designed to capture high-resolution images and provide the necessary data for the company to identify potential components that need to be inspected and repaired. Currently installed on a locomotive, the system uses machine-learning technology, company officials said.
Testing on the locomotive started in Japan earlier this year. Kawasaki plans to roll out similar testing in the North American freight-rail industry later in 2023.
The product expands Kawasaki’s autonomous track inspection technology offerings, which are designed to improve railroad safety and operating efficiencies. Kawasaki currently offers a locomotive-mounted autonomous track geometry monitoring system that has been in production since 2021. The system tests track any time a locomotive is moving, whether it’s pulling people or freight.
The monitoring system is a key part of Kawasaki’s goal to create a complete suite of autonomous track inspection and maintenance support products to pair with predictive data modeling, company officials said.
New insulated rail joint products used in special trackwork and other areas recently joined L.B. Foster Co.’s portfolio of offerings.
Bonded insulated rail joints are used for signaling and broken rail detection. However, special trackwork areas in curved track can be problematic due to insulated rail joints typically being designed for tangent track installations, L.B. Foster officials said. The company recently developed a process to produce curved and bonded insulated joint kits that can be used on curved rails in special trackwork.
L.B. Foster also offers an insulated joint field repair kit designed to fix bonded insulated rail joints. Plastic deformation of the rail head in a bonded insulated rail joint poses problems with electrical insulation, leading railroads to grind away the material to eliminate the risk of electrical contact between the two rails, company officials said.
The repair kit is a field-tested solution designed to help extend the life of a bonded insulated rail joint that shows signs of endpost head damage without the need for full joint replacement, they said.
McDonald Steel Corp.’s CNC-milled microalloyed steel standard joint bars are now being used by short lines across the United States. They also recently were approved for use in MTA New York City Transit’s subway system.
McDonald Steel offers four-hole/24-inch and six-hole/36-inch bars with customized lengths, hole shapes and patterns.
The company’s standard joint bars comply with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s Buy America requirements and meet the quality standards set by the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association, McDonald Steel officials said.
Bars that are milled rather than hole-punched are significantly less susceptible to residual stress, nicks, holes, cracking and other defects that can cause rails to separate.
voestalpine Railway Systems Nortrak’s UNISTAR HR switch machine is designed to provide complete control of switch points at a turnout while monitoring energy use during each throw and alerting operators if maintenance might be required soon to prevent a failure.
The machine can also control the movement and locking of Nortrak’s thick web moveable point frog on turnouts as large as No. 24, company officials said.
Nortrak produces Buy America-compliant manganese steel and ductile-iron castings, and manufactures them into a complete range of turnouts, diamond crossings, frogs and special trackwork components.
The company treats different track infrastructure components as a singular system, integrating the performance of special trackwork, fastening systems, concrete ties and switch drives into a complete system solution, Nortrak officials said. That approach helps reduce wheel impact loads and noise while increasing service life and reliability, they added.
Koppers Inc.’s patented Short Angled Projection (SAP) insulated bonded joints can help significantly lift performance above traditional rail standards, company officials said. SAP is designed to outperform conventional bar designs and be fitted to virtually any rail size, they added.
The product’s features include a stronger, stiffer joint; an overlapping bent rail design that results in a thicker overall web section and better strength; cross sections that include both joint bars and rail web strength; and an overlapping and angled design to make wheel passage smoother, reducing impact loads.
SAP also reduces typical mud-induced joint holes, which prevents order delays, resurfacing and other maintenance needs. A rail car’s wheels no longer traverse perpendicular rail ends, eliminating rail-end battering, Koppers officials said.
Koppers’ full line of rail joint products also includes Kevlar- and fiberglass-bonded insulated joints, polyurethane-encapsulated insulated joints, polyurethane insulated tie plates, and ComPly™ gauge plate and switch rod insulators.
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