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Rail News Home MOW

August 2009

Rail News: MOW

R&D is Job No. 1 for Track Fastener Suppliers


— Compiled by Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor

Railroads are upgrading thousands of miles of track this year as they take advantage of extended work windows.

To support busy maintenance-of-way departments, they’re purchasing millions of fasteners and fastening systems, including captive fastening systems, direct-fixation fasteners, rail clips and spikes.

Railroads continue to seek fasteners that are durable enough to tightly hold rail and ties in place against heavy axle loads. They also want products that are affordable and easy to install.

Developing fasteners and fastening systems that meet railroads’ stringent demands remains a never-ending challenge for suppliers, who’ve made strides this year by introducing several products. They’ve also improved a number of existing fasteners.

“We are now offering redesigned insulators for SAFELOK I fastenings that will work with the SAFELOK Long Reach clip designed for use on high-degree curves where shoulder wear and insulator wear are most prevalent,” said Pandrol USA Manager of Sales John Hunsberger in an email.

Last month, Progressive Railroading sent an email to seven suppliers seeking an update on their fastener lines and fastening systems, including recent product introductions and enhancements. Their responses follow.

Advanced Track Products Inc.

Advanced Track Products Inc. (ATP) continues to employ a different direct-fixation (DF) fastener design philosophy, according to the company, which provides DF fasteners for commuter, light-rail and heavy axle-load applications.

“While other DF suppliers rely on a ‘sandwich’ design, which only contains the top plate on which the rail sits in a lateral direction, leaving the elastomer to secure it in a longitudinal direction, ATP uses a containment design philosophy,” the company said. “This design technique results in a top plate secured laterally and longitudinally by mechanically restricting the top plate in the unlikely event of damage that may lead to an elastomer failure.”

ATP is working on its largest DF project to date in southeast Asia — the result of pursuing some international markets, the company said. In North America, ATP completed delivery this year of more than 30,000 DF units to MTA Long Island Rail Road for their ACL Replacement project.

“This is of particular interest because ATP now has a direct replacement for Landis DF, which was installed over 35 years ago,” the company said.

The DF fastener features the same anchor bolt position, a similar footprint and rail seat elevation, combined with more vertical resilience to reduce impacts and vibrations in surrounding areas.

Meanwhile, after five years of testing and logging more than 300 million gross tons at the Transportation Technology Center Inc. (TTCI) in Pueblo, Colo., ATP’s Loadmaster DF has “demonstrated a very high performance and ruggedness,” the company said.

“We know the railroads don’t need DF on a system-wide basis, but this test has proven the Loadmaster can provide high cost-effective benefits in special areas,” ATP said. “It is our hope the test results from TTCI over the past five years will spark an interest from the railroads.”

L.B. Foster Co.

Several recent developments have helped L.B. Foster Co. enhance its line of Direct Fixation Fasteners (DFFs). The most significant: the execution of a license agreement with Australia’s Delkor Rail, which provides L.B. Foster access to additional products to augment its existing array of fastening systems, according to the company.

Now, L.B. Foster can offer a more complete line of fasteners to customers ranging from transit agencies to heavy-haul railroads. The company also supplies special trackwork DFFs, contact rail systems, rail boot systems, two-block concrete-tie systems, ballast mats and other ancillary products. L.B. Foster has continued to grow its traditional product offerings in North America, including projects in Seattle, Los Angeles, Miami and Washington, D.C., by relying on its direct sales team, the company said.

L.B. Foster recently obtained a contract from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) for the Dearborn Subway Project, including the supply of about 31,000 Model F20R4 e-clip DFFs. The company also secured an order from Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) for 20,000 Model F43R4 fast clip DFFs for the Irving Extension. The CTA and DART contracts require two different types of clip mechanisms, demonstrating L.B. Foster’s flexibility to adapt to customers’ specific needs, the company said.

L.B. Foster’s long-term goal remains finding ways to provide customized and next-generation solutions to the rail

industry. The company has dedicated resources, including an R&D group and a state-of-the-art development and testing lab in Suwanee, Ga., to assist in those efforts, L.B. Foster said.

“We are also excited about the growing acceptance by the American public in passenger rail, and the support that the Obama Administration and Congress have given to expanding passenger-rail systems,” the company said.

Lewis Bolt & Nut Co.

Lewis Bolt & Nut Co. continues to improve its Evergrip™ and Permagrip™ spikes. The company currently is working on a number of enhancements to further increase the strength of the Evergrip spike’s head.

Because of the Evergrip’s high resistance to pull out, the improvements will aid extraction when using a Nordco spike puller, Lewis Bolt & Nut said.

The double-headed Evergrips can be driven into place with either a Nordco CX, CGS or SS spiker, eliminating the need for high-maintenance lagging machines, according to the company.

When using a conventional lagger that’s based on torque, screw spikes can be over- or under-driven. But an Evergrip offers precise installation and can’t be over-driven, Lewis Bolt & Nut said.

The company also is adding an Evergrip model designed to incorporate a rectangular head in addition to its standard square-head design. Both head designs still will employ a domed top to absorb the anvil blow from converted Nordco Model CX or SS spikers, Lewis Bolt & Nut said.

The company recently received Evergrip orders from railroad contractors working on two large stimulus-funded projects for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

Fastener quotes and orders have increased of late for transit-related projects because stimulus funds are working their way into transit systems, Lewis Bolt & Nut said.

In addition, the company has received numerous Evergrip orders from CSX Transportation, Canadian Pacific and other freight railroads.

For the Permagrip spike, Lewis Bolt & Nut has added a new double-head design to provide options for both installation and removal. A single-head design still will be available, as well.

Pandrol USA

This year, Pandrol USA has introduced the Pandrol FASTCLIP FE, a new captive fastening system. Based on the original FASTCLIP system, the Pandrol FASTCLIP FE offers a high-strength, lower-cost assembly. The system can reduce de-stressing and cut installation and maintenance costs for transit- and commuter-rail systems and contractors, Pandrol USA said.

The company optimized the clip shape to generate cost savings, and redesigned and strengthened the shoulder to reduce weight and provide a lower profile. A redesigned collar combines the side-post insulator and heel seat for the clip.

All components for the Pandrol FASTCLIP FE — as well as the company’s Pandrol FASTCLIP and Pandrol SAFELOK III captive systems — are installed at a tie plant to reduce manpower and distribution/handling costs during track laying, de-stressing and rail change outs, Pandrol USA said.

This year, the company also has introduced the VORTOK De-Stressing Roller system, which is designed to make de-stressing rail easier, safer and more efficient. The system, which already is used in Europe and other parts of the world, can reduce the time and number of people needed to complete the

de-stressing operation, Pandol USA said. An under-roller, side roller and lifting device all in one, the VORTOK De-Stressing Roller system replaces old techniques that required three different pieces of equipment, according to the company.

Pandrol USA also is ramping up production of the PANDROL VICTOR system, which is designed for use on wood ties. The system offers an increased bearing area, less plate cutting and reduced gauge widening under load, according to the company.

Following extensive in-service testing on a number of heavy haul railroads, the PANDROL VICTOR system is ready for production orders, Pandrol USA said. The company is supplying the system to the Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway, and expects ongoing sales to CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway and New Jersey Transit.


In December, 2008, Unit Rail Anchor Co. acquired AirBoss Railway Products, shifting its focus from a wood-tie-only product line to a broader portfolio of fastening products, including AirBoss’ steel- and concrete-tie resilient fasteners. In addition, Unit Rail Anchor changed its more than 80-year-old name to UNIT RAIL, completing a change in company identity and market strategy.

UNIT RAIL recently completed a $2.5 million upgrade to anchor lines at its Atchison, Kan., plant. New continuous heat-treat lines were installed to produce products more quickly and safely, and reduce variations in product hardness, the company said. The upgrade also provides UNIT RAIL the option of loading rail anchors in a continuous stream from the forging press directly into gondola cars.

“With the increasing emphasis by Class I customers on bulk delivery of anchors to rail production gangs, this is an important improvement in productivity,” UNIT RAIL said.

To handle an increasing number of material cars, the company added storage track and installed rail-car scales to ensure customers’ equipment is used efficiently.

UNIT RAIL also offers an Isolator/Anchor that addresses railroads’ demand for a track fastener that can reduce rail seat abrasion and concrete-tie degradation. The Isolator/Anchor is designed to eliminate longitudinal rail movement and prevent rail seat abrasion when installed on concrete ties, the company said.

In addition, UNIT RAIL is developing improved rail seat pads and insulators for various types of clips.

United Steel & Fasteners Inc.

United Steel & Fasteners Inc. (US&F) has obtained ISO 9001-2000 renewal for 2009-2010. Along with its National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program- approved on-site laboratory and Association of American Railroads M1003 certification, the company is “well positioned for assured quality control” of all products, US&F said.

The company provides a range of fasteners to Class Is, regionals, short lines, industrial railroads and transit agencies. US&F now is supplying the new 3/4 common standard self-tapping timber screw to complement the Beaver 5/8 & 3/4 screws in its bridge and crossing fastener line. The screws feature a washer head with torx drive and twin lead threads that don’t require pre-boring, and can tap their own hole, saving installation time and cost, US&F said.

In addition, the company provides a line of bridge and drift bolts; one-piece washer nuts; forged and square-body hook bolts; malleable and ogee washers; cut and boat spikes; and dome and washer-head drive spikes.

In terms of track and trackwork fasteners, US&F offers a full range of screw spikes, AREMA split washers, “G” clip elastic rail fasteners, all-metal locknuts, grade 8 frog bolts, switchbolts and shoulder bolts that can be manufactured to standards or customer specifications, the company said. US&F also supplies C10 knuckle pins, Y47 coupler pins, and center and brake pins for rail cars and locomotives.

The company offers different packaging types, weights and sizes based on a customer’s request so products are easier to ship, handle, store, inventory and install, US&F said.

Vossloh Fastening Systems America Corp.

During the past two years, Vossloh Fastening Systems America Corp. had searched for solutions for worn shoulders on concrete ties to provide railroads a cost-effective repair system and upgraded tie/fastener system. In early 2009, the company completed general designs. Vossloh also developed other special retrofit systems for other railroads in the United States.

“This will give an advantage to the railroads not to change the ties, but to extend the life of the ties and fastener system,” the company said.

The ongoing product enhancements led to a new clip for heavy haul system W14HH. The new Skl 30 clip will provide an even higher fatigue limit and reduce the loss of toe load, Vossloh said.

The company had won a large order from China’s Ministry of Railways to supply slab track fasteners for the Beijing-to-Tianjing line the past two years for the summer Olympic games. Now, Vossloh has been contracted to equip most of the Beijing-to-Shanghai rail link.

The company also obtained a contract to provide 258.000 concrete-tie fasteners for the Kazakh Railways with System W14, which was individually adapted to the Kazakh tie design, Vossloh said.

The company continues working on additional fastener improvements to extend component life. Vossloh is placing a special emphasis on improving the resistance against rail seat abrasion by designing a concrete-tie fastener and using different materials.

For transit agencies — especially those with limited track maintenance windows — it is important to have fastening systems that can be installed quickly and provide low maintenance, the company said. In the transit and high-speed area, Vossloh is working on systems that will reduce vibrations and extend fastener and tie life, and reduce life-cycle costs, the company said.


Browse articles on track fasteners Advanced Track Products L.B. Foster Lewis Bolt Pandrol UNIT RAIL United Steel & Fasteners Vossloh

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