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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

KCSM turns to machine of yesteryear to remove fouled ballast

For the past three years, Kansas City Southern de México S.A. de C.V. (KCSM) has used an undercutter to remove fouled ballast under concrete ties. However, the machine could only travel about 1,600 feet in an eight-hour work window to remove the concrete-hard fouled material.

So, the railroad recently began employing an autoplow — a machine that hasn’t been used in the western United States since the 1980s because wood ties often would fall off rail during operations. KCSM officials believe concrete ties won’t fall off because they feature a more secure fastener than a cut spike on a wood tie.

Earlier this year, Loram Maintenance of Way Inc. — which hadn’t manufactured an autoplow since 1980 and hadn’t operated one since 1986 — rebuilt an old autoplow the company still had in inventory. In May, KCSM began using the machine on the BF line near Monterrey.

The autoplow first raises track several feet and hydraulically inserts plow blades under the track. The machine then is coupled to two six-axle locomotives and pulled at a fast walking speed. The blades plow fouled material to the side to prepare track for tie replacement and surfacing.

So far, the autoplow has nearly tripled the undercutter’s daily production. However, the machine isn’t cost effective in congested areas with many turnouts, bridges and grade crossings, so KCSM will continue to seek ways to improve the undercutter’s productivity, railroad officials said in a prepared statement.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/5/2006