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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

KCS to start using soybean-based friction modifier by year end

Later this year, Kansas City Southern plans to begin lubricating switches and curves with SoyTrak™, a soybean-based friction modifier developed in the late 1990s by the University of Northern Iowa's Agriculture-Based Industrial Lubricants Research program.

The Class I now applies a petroleum-based lubricant to switches and curves using hi-rail vehicles. When the railroad's petroleum-based grease supply is depleted, KCS will switch to SoyTrak, which is distributed by Portec Rail Products Inc., according to a prepared statement.

The railroad also plans to purchase 20 wayside lubricators to pump SoyTrak from trackside tanks to wiper blades on rail gauge face when a train
passes a lubricator.

SoyTrak is designed as a biodegradable grease formed from vegetable oils and a lithium-based thickener.

"While more expensive per pound, the soy-based product was found to provide better lubrication than petroleum-based products, has excellent carry and is more resistant to rain," KCS officials said. "Since the product is environmentally safe, the additional cost of track mats at wayside locations and special handling of the petroleum-based grease is eliminated, bringing the final cost of the grease to almost equal."

In June, Norfolk Southern Railway began using SoyTrak as its sole friction modifier on curves. NS is using wayside lubricators to apply SoyTrak at more than 3,000 locations.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/20/2003