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Compiled by Daniel Niepow, Associate Editor
Across North America, railroads are pouring money into grinding projects to help extend the life of their rails. For example, BNSF Railway Co.’s $2.4 billion maintenance-of-way program this year includes funds to grind or surface about 13,000 miles of rail, according to Progressive Railroading’s 2018 MOW Spending Report, which was released in April.
In addition, Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX aim to grind 18,000 miles each this year, while short lines and passenger railroads continue to push ahead with a slew of grinding projects of their own.
As railroads aim to get the most bang for their rail grinding buck, they’re seeking equipment and services to help cut costs and boost efficiencies. Last month, Progressive Railroading queried nearly a dozen suppliers about their latest offerings in the rail grinding realm. Emailed responses from five firms follow.
For the past three decades, Advanced Rail Management Corp. (ARM) has provided rail grinding services for both freight- and transit-rail systems. The company currently is focused on developing and managing grinding programs for transit systems.
Using equipment from various suppliers, ARM brings a combination of engineering expertise and practical know-how to rail grinding and overall management of the wheel/rail interface, company officials said.
At Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), for example, ARM is managing the systemwide implementation of new rail profiles to complement a new wheel profile as the agency transitions from a cylindrical to tapered wheel on its new and existing fleets.
“We worked closely with BART and the National Research Council of Canada to assess the overall needs of the system and to design rail profiles that could be economically implemented and maintained,” said ARM President Gordon Bachinsky.
ARM also manages BART’s grinding program, which entails overseeing the operation of BART’s two 12-stone grinders. The company aims to ensure that appropriate rail profile conditions are implemented and maintained over a three- to five-year time period as BART transitions from the old to new wheel profile.
“We are responsible for the planning and quality control on a daily basis to improve the efficiency and consistency of the BART grinding program,” Bachinsky said.
As part of this effort, ARM and BART are utilizing acoustic data that is collected and analyzed by ATS Consulting to identify areas in need of grinding based on noise associated with poor rail surface and profile conditions. Acoustic data collected before and after grinding also is being used to assess the effectiveness of the grinding program.
ARM also utilizes a Corrugation Analysis Trolley for quality assurance/quality control and a Draisine eddy current system to measure crack length associated with rolling contact fatigue (RFC). Fixing RFC is one of the primary reasons for maintenance grinding, ARM officials said.
“The data we’ve collected thus far is providing a wealth of knowledge about crack length, crack density, crack angle and crack growth rates that can greatly influence grinding programs in the future,” Bachinsky said.
Loram Maintenance of Way Inc. relies on its “considerable industry experience and expertise” to tackle a wide spectrum of issues railroads face, company officials said. Loram also has added depth and breadth to its fleet with the introduction of the RGT, a mobile truck grinder.
The RGT consists of a truck and trailer-mounted eight-stone grind buggy that complies with U.S. Department of Transportation standards. The RGT’s combination of productivity and robustness within a mobile platform makes it an “attractive option” throughout the industry, according to the company.
Since the RGT can travel over roads or on track, it can be quickly deployed to remove rail defects while retaining many of the same features of Loram’s specialty and production grinders.
“Loram has proven that by applying our ability and technology to the issue, we can help our customers realize a greater return on investment for their maintenance of way need,” company officials said. “Our rail grinders are designed for advanced performance and the most efficient metal removal. They require fewer passes and operate at higher speeds to produce the required profile thus minimizing overall cost.”
Loram remains committed to delivering value and ensuring continuous improvements in the design, operation and maintenance of its entire fleet. The company invests “heavily” in research and development of highly-productive equipment that can operate at the highest level of reliability, Loram officials said.
Loram’s rail grinding product offerings include a range of equipment and services that serve heavy haul, international, specialty and transit railroads.
RailWorks, via its Maintenance of Way organization, provides comprehensive rail grinding services for railroads and transit lines across the United States and Canada. RailWorks’ experienced crews provide high-performance, reliable services designed for busy railroad operating environments, company officials said.
The RailWorks’ leading edge, technology-driven system performs a range of services from affordable mill scale removal to precision grinding. These grinding services can meet railroads’ “exacting standards for safety, quality and on-time performance,” company officials aid.
Harsco Rail’s RGHC Transit Grinder series is designed to create the optimal wheel/rail contact while prolonging the lifespan of the track. The machine can grind switches, guarded curves and grade crossings and is available in various gauges, including an adjustable gauge version.
The Transit Grinder can help extend the track life with enhanced performance at a low overall cost, Harsco officials said. It can be built as a 10-, 20-, 30- or 40-stone machine.
Commonly referred to as a switch grinder, Harsco Rail’s Transit Rail Grinder can achieve “unparalleled switch capability,” company officials said. The grinding system is equipped with independent hydraulically powered grinding units fitted with abrasive wheels; the hydraulic motor powers the units at 6,000 RPM.
The inclination angle for each grinding unit is determined by the operator from a preset pattern control. A patented linkage arrangement rotates the grinding unit while it translates across the rail. The grinding unit operating range is independently variable from 75 degrees gauge to 45 degrees field.
Meanwhile, Jupiter II is a distributed input/output control system developed to simplify the electrical control system while improving data management of equipment performance. It combines the latest in asset maintenance with equipment performance optimization. Jupiter II also reduces the risk of electrical malfunction and operational downtime, according to the company.
In addition, the control system delivers accurate, repeatable results and effective operator interface for computer-controlled applications, Harsco officials said. Other features include systems for laser profile measurement, hydrostatic propulsion, dust collection and water spray fire control.
Orgo-Thermit Inc. is in its sixth year performing rail grinding with its VM8000 on- and off-track two-way rail grinding vehicle. This maintenance service can “considerably” increase the lifecycle of the rail and lower noise emissions from train operations, company officials said.
The unit is capable of entering and exiting track within a minute while traffic is inbound. Additionally, the four-wheel steering enables users to set on at any crossing in the vicinity of the work to be done. Plus, it’s not necessary to travel from the yard before starting work, which offers an increased amount of rail grinding time, company officials said.
In the third quarter, Orgo-Thermit expects to take delivery of a second VM8000 vehicle.
Meanwhile, the company has introduced its RailShape Eco for re-profiling and deburring rails in difficult areas, such as switches. Designed to be operated by a single user, the mobile grinding unit corrects the narrowing of gauge and removes defects on the running edge of the rail.
The VM8000 grinding vehicle and RailShape Eco are designed to provide more versatile grinding services in support of customer requirements, according to Orgo-Thermit.
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