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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

BNSF begins to use wide-span cranes, in-train wheel changing equipment to speed operations


BNSF Railway Co. is tapping technology to improve intermodal and coal operations, according to recent news items posted on the ”BNSF Today” Web site.

The railroad is installing four wide-span cranes manufactured by Finnish firm Konecranes at its Seattle intermodal facility. The 152-foot-wide, electrically operated cranes feature 26-foot cantilevers, cable-suspended lift spreaders with overhead cabs and anti-sway systems.

Each crane can access four rows of containers stacked four-high, three truck lanes and three ramp tracks compared with current cranes that can only access one track or lane and don’t feature stacking capabilities.

“The additional ramp track capacity should decrease switching, reduce off-spot cars and increase productivity time for lift operations,” said Tom Kelly, director of system intermodal hub operations and technology.

BNSF will begin testing, certifying and operating the cranes by year’s end. The railroad then will start employing the equipment at terminals in Los Angeles, Memphis, Tenn., and Kansas City, Kan. In addition, the Class I plans to test larger cranes — designed to access four rows of containers, eight track lanes and three truck lanes — in Memphis.

Meanwhile, BNSF is employing a new in-train wheel-change process for coal trains at its Alliance, Neb., terminal.

Workers previously changed defective wheels on a repair track, causing train delays associated with switching bad-order cars out of train and replacing the cars from a fill-train pool. Now, crews use a 5,300-pound hydraulic scissor jack and heavy-duty forklift to replace wheel sets in the train yard in about 30 minutes compared with the old process’s average cycle time of 4.5 days.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/5/2007