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April 2013

Rail News: MOW

MOW Spending Report '13: Several short takes on railroads' infrastructure targets

By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor

Our maintenance-of-way (MOW) coverage in the April issue includes several snippets on key elements of freight and passenger railroads’ 2013 programs. Here are those short takes, as well as several more bits and pieces that aren’t included in the print version. (To access the MOW Spending Report that’s published in the April issue, follow this link.)


New windows to the trackwork world

Canadian Pacific’s engineering and transportation groups have extended work blocks this year so crews have more time to lay rail and install ties.

The new windows, which are eight instead of five hours, aren’t impacting service, said CP CEO E. Hunter Harrison during the Class I’s fourth-quarter earnings conference on Jan. 29.

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The blocks “allow us to do our capital work with, potentially, in the neighborhood of 400 less people and with the same dollars outlaid, [plus] put more ties in the ground,” he said.

CSX Transportation has a new approach to some work windows, too. On certain double-track sections, the Class I now closes one of the tracks for four straight days to perform trackwork and operates trains on the other to maintain traffic, says Chief Engineer-MOW Tod Echler, adding that such work previously was conducted during eight-hour curfews each day.

The Class I plans to use the work-window approach at three double-track locations this year.

“We have found we can cut work time by 50 percent from eight weeks to four weeks,” says Echler.

CSX: Eye on better equipment

CSX Transportation is using different MOW equipment to boost productivity. For one, the Class I is building its own fleet of Rhino Regulators to meet its need for high-quality, reliable and standardized ballast regulators.
The units are being built at CSX’s Bryan Park work equipment facility in Richmond, Va. The Class I built 12 units last year and plans to build another 28 this year.

The Rhinos incorporate features from regulators CSX has used over the years and accommodate best practices. The machine’s power plant was tailored to deliver optimum power while conserving fuel and meeting the most stringent federal emission standards.

CSX also uses 16 tie handler magnets from Rail Construction Equipment Co. that are mounted on a rail-bound deck. The magnets grab tie plates as ties are pulled out, eliminating the need to employ two or three workers to perform the task.

Perfecting the art of detection

Last year, Kansas City Southern de México S.A. de C.V. (KCSM) installed a broken rail detection (BRD) system on the Toluca District’s N line, which includes steep grades, tunnels and bridges.

The system, which became operational in December 2012, is designed to detect broken rail via electronic circuits to prevent derailments. If a break is detected, a red signal is displayed to notify a train crew to reduce train speed.

The first phase of the BRD system also is in place on KCSM’s line from Acámbaro to Los Lirios in Michoacán, Mexico. Later this year, the railroad plans to advance to a second implementation phase, which calls for installing the system on a line running from Los Lirios to Toluca.

NS: Facilities a focus

As part of its plan to spend $203 million this year on facility and terminal projects, Norfolk Southern Railway will continue a multi-year, $160 million undertaking to double the size of a major classification yard in Bellevue, Ohio.

The work calls for building 38 new tracks, increasing the yard's total number of classification tracks to 80. The total of 38.5 miles of new rail will enable NS to increase the number of cars classified at the yard each day from about 1,800 to as many as 3,600.

"This yard is located at the crossroads of our key east-west and north-south routes, and its expansion is critical to NS’ long-term plan to accommodate anticipated increases in carload freight," NS officials said in a maintenance-of-way survey submitted to Progressive Railroading.

The Class I also plans to spend $92 million to build the Charlotte Regional Intermodal Facility at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina.
Construction on the 200-acre terminal will be ongoing through 2013 and conclude sometime in mid-2014.

"This is a unique project in that the support yard and intermodal facility are being
constructed in a man-made valley between active airport runways at the airport, with taxiway bridges actually crossing over the yard tracks," NS officials said in the survey.

The new facility — which is designed to complete 200,000 lifts per year — will replace an existing intermodal terminal in downtown Charlotte.

This project calls for constructing about 92,000 feet of track divided between
runaround tracks, three 4,500-foot pad tracks, and seven 3,000-foot yard and additional support tracks, and upgrading a large interlocking. The expansion will provide 38 additional classification tracks, four additional forwarding tracks, two additional receiving tracks and one additional yard bypass, NS officials said.

NS received $15.7 million in federal funding and some financial support from the state of North Carolina to help fund the project.

A 2013 take on ties

This year, CSX Transportation plans to install 3.3 million wood ties and a few thousand concrete ties.

The wood ties will include about 2 million borate-treated ties, says Tod Echler, CSX’s Chief Engineer-MOW, adding that the Class I will install more of those types of ties this year than it has in the past. The borate helps extend the ties’ life, especially in high-decay areas, he says.

Borates diffuse throughout the hard-to-treat heartwood of many species of wood used to produce ties and provide additional protection against decay.

In addition to adopting more borate-treated ties in 2013, CSX will be installing them on lines farther north, into the Ohio Valley, says Echler.


In tune with track needs

By year’s end, the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City Railway Co. (CRANDIC) hopes to complete a track reconfiguration project in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Estimated to cost about $650,000, the work will be performed on older Milwaukee Road tracks and original CRANDIC trackage, says Chad Lambi, manager of track and structures for the short line, which purchased most of the Milwaukee Road through Cedar Rapids and Amana, Iowa, around 1980.

The project calls for reconfiguring and rebuilding track, and installing seven turnouts.

“There is a diamond and several turnouts in the area in need of replacement, and rather than replace them in-kind, we are reconfiguring the layout to improve operations and reduce future maintenance costs,” says Lambi.

In addition, CRANDIC customer Cargill West plans to reconfigure tracks at its Cedar Rapids facility to accommodate plant improvements.

“We are trying to time trackwork within similar windows to minimize service disruptions,” says Lambi, adding that work might trickle into 2014.

Building a stronger mainline in Minnesota

On April 2, Progressive Rail Inc.’s Minnesota Division and RailWorks Track Systems Inc. began renewing the short line’s mainline between Northfield and Randolph, Minn.

To be completed in fall, the project calls for installing 9.5 miles of 115-pound rail, 14,250 wood ties and 8,000 to 12,000 tons of ballast.

The upgraded grain line will accommodate rail cars carrying 110 net tons of product and traveling in 100-plus-car unit trains pulled by six-axle locomotives, said Progressive Rail President Dave Fellon in an email to customers.

“When completed, the line will be a stronger, faster and better link to markets around the world,” he said.

New terminal on tap in New York

The New York Susquehanna & Western Railroad Corp. (NYSW) in January obtained approval to receive more than $900,000 in state funding to help pay for the design and construction of a multi-modal rail terminal in Cortland, N.Y. A state grant will cover 90 percent of the project’s $1 million cost.

Short-haul trucks will use the terminal to load and unload freight directly onto rail cars, enabling NYSW to move cargo in and out of the Cortland area. The project also involves the construction of three sidings south of the short line’s Cortland spur.

Grant funds will come from a state funding program authorized by the Rebuild and Renew New York Transportation Bond Act of 2005, which provides monies for freight-rail improvements, such as intermodal facilities and yards.

"The goal of the facility is to help local business save money, increase flexibility and improve reliability. Consequently, the more freight that moves by rail, the less we move by long-haul trucks,” said NSYW President Nathan Fenno when the grant was announced by the New York State Department of Transportation on Jan. 7.

For RBMN, a tough act to follow

The Reading, Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad Co. (RBMN) registered its most productive year in terms of completed trackwork in 2012.

"An accomplishment of this magnitude requires a little bit of luck. For us, the stars aligned when we entered into 2012 with a very mild winter," wrote Vice President of Maintenance of Way Wesley Westenhoefer in the regional's winter 2013 newsletter. "Instead of cleaning ice and snow from our switches and battling winter weather during the first three months of the year, we were hard at work on two customer-related projects."

For existing sand business customer D&I Silica, RBMN crews rebuilt six switches and more than 7,000 feet of track at Riverside Yard in Pittston, Pa., to store carloads of sand. For new customer Premium Fine Coal, workers installed a new switch off a mainline and built an 800-foot-long siding for outbound coal loading.

As Assistant VP of Track Duane Engle and MOW Administrator Erik Yoder explained in another newsletter article, "MOW" at RBMN often means "COW," or construction of way. In 2012, much of crews' time was spent building more track.

COW will apply in 2013, as well. RBMN plans to build new sidings in its Port Clinton, North Reading and Tamaqua yards, and construct a number of new switches in yards.


From unwanted relic to desired prototype

The last remaining “minimalist” station built by the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) more than 20 years ago when Tri-Rail launched service soon will be replaced. Later this year, SFRTA plans to demolish the Pompano Beach Station and begin building the authority’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified station.

Originally built as a temporary facility, the Pompano Beach Station has narrow platforms, short canopies and limited seating.

Now, the reconstructed facility will serve as a station-of-the-future prototype, says SFRTA Public Information Officer Bonnie Arnold.

The Silver LEED-certified station will feature solar panels to provide the power needed to operate the facility; native vegetation that requires less frequent watering; energy-efficient elevators to access a pedestrian bridge; and light-emitting diode fixtures.

SFRTA received a $5.7 million Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction III program grant from the Federal Transit Administration to help fund the project.

Working to handle a pesky curve in Cleveland

On April 21, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) plans to begin restoring and improving a “S-curve” on the Red Line. The nearly $7 million project is slated for completion in early June.

The track curves in one direction and then another as it ascends from the West 98th Street Station to West 117th Street Station. The existing track drainage system in the S-curve is not working properly and portions of the track are constantly wet as water flows from one section of track to another, GCRTA officials said in a project notice.

The project calls for cleaning the entire drainage system and replacing portions of it; replacing a slab that supports track at the west end of the curve; installing new rails, ties and ballast; and adjusting the overhead power system.

TranSystems Corp. is the project’s designer and Delta Railroad Construction Inc. is the contractor.

Lots of work ahead for All Aboard Florida

When Florida East Coast Industries Inc. begins to upgrade track for the new All Aboard Florida passenger-rail service — perhaps later this year — there will be quite a bit of MOW work involved.

The $1 billion effort to develop a privately owned, operated and maintained passenger-rail service running 240 miles between Miami and Orlando will involve more than 450 miles of new rail; 616,000 new concrete ties; more than 100 No. 24 turnouts; signal upgrades at more than 340 grade crossings and surface improvements at more than 280 crossings; 28 new bridges, and rehabilitation work at 28 fixed and three movable bridges; and the installation of positive train control.

The next steps for the project are to finalize route engineering and construction costs, and station locations, select a rolling stock provider, engage an operating partner, and start station and rail infrastructure construction, said All Aboard Florida Executive Vice President Michael Reininger Jan. 12 during his presentation at the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association Inc.’s annual conference in Miami.

North Carolina rail corridor program remains in play

Work will continue this year on the North Carolina Department of Transportation's (NCDOT) Piedmont Improvement Program, which involves a freight- and passenger-rail corridor.

In January 2010, NCDOT received $545 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to complete about 30 rail projects between Charlotte and Raleigh by September 2017. Program partners include CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway, North Carolina Railroad Co. (NCRR) and the Federal Railroad Administration.

The program's track and structures work includes the construction of two new passing sidings on NCRR's corridor between Greensboro and Raleigh; completion of double tracking on the corridor between Charlotte and Greensboro; track crossover improvements; and 13 new overpasses or underpasses to grade separate lines and replace up to 28 crossings.

In summer, NS plans to begin track construction for the Klumac Road project near Sallisbury; the Nelson and Clegg/Hopson passing siding between Durham and Cary; Graham-to-Haw River passing siding between Burlington and Mebane; and Haydock-to-Junker double track between Kannapolis and Charlotte. On Feb. 14, work began on a $27 million project in Durham that includes a new two-track rail bridge and the upcoming Clegg/Hopson passing siding.

In addition, NS in summer expects to begin bridge and track construction for an NS/CSX mainline grade separation project in Charlotte. The $88.8 million project calls for grade separating tracks and replacing multiple crossings with bridges to reduce conflicts between freight and passenger trains at the state's busiest rail intersection.

CSX also plans to begin trackwork in summer for projects associated with a congestion mitigation program. The Class I soon will start crossover projects on its A Line in Armstrong, Enfield and South Weldon, and in fall, begin to improve track on its S Line to Raleigh Union Station.

Canada: Heavy on light-rail projects

In December, the Edmonton Transit System marked a milestone for the north segment of its ongoing light-rail transit (LRT) project when a 2,300-foot tunnel was connected with the Churchill LRT Station.

Scheduled to open in April 2014, the two-mile LRT extension is expected to add 13,200 weekday riders to the agency's rail network. The extension also includes new LRT stations at Grant MacEwan University, Royal Alexandra Hospital and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

Also in December, Calgary Transit opened the west leg of its new $1.4 billion LRT system, the largest infrastructure project even undertaken by the city of Calgary. The 5.1-mile system is projected to accommodate 25,000 passengers daily.

This year, Calgary Transit plans to reconstruct one station and extend about 10 station platforms to accommodate four-car instead of three-car trains. The station work is estimated to cost $50 million.


Browse articles on Canadian Pacific CSX Kansas City Southern Norfolk Southern Cedar Rapids & Iowa City Railway Progressive Rail New York Susquehanna & Western Railroad Reading Blue Mountain and Northern railroad Tri-Rail Greater Cleveland RTA All Aboard Florida North Carolina Railroad Edmonton Transit System Calgary Transit

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