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TTCI researchers share R&D advances at AAR's annual 'review'


By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor

A record 510 people registered for the Association of American Railroads' (AAR) 18th annual review of ongoing research and development at the Transportation Technology Center Inc. (TTCI), and most of them were in attendance yesterday at a convention center in Pueblo, Colo., to learn the latest.

Including TTCI staffers and presenters, about 550 people attended the event, said TTCI Senior Vice President of Technology Semih Kalay during his opening remarks. The AAR Research Review included 18 presentations, four panel discussions led by Class I executives and numerous poster sessions in the lobby adjacent to the meeting salon.

The presentations focused on various track, bridge and rail-car technologies designed to improve safety and productivity, such as by reducing fuel consumption and emissions, extending rail life and preventing derailments, said Kalay.

The technologies include a cracked wheel detection system, integrated freight-car truck, remote-operated hand brake, thermite weld overlay treatment, half-frame concrete tie, next-generation insulated joint and machine-vision car inspections.

TTCI Senior Scientist David Davis described one of the emerging technologies during his presentation: a continuous mainline rail switch. Designed for use on mainline industrial sidings, the switch lifts cars' wheels over a mainline so a train maintains a smooth ride and the turnout lasts a long time in service, said Davis. Last year, Progress Rail Services built a prototype switch for BNSF Railway Co. that was tested for several months. Now, the switch will be tested by BNSF in revenue service, he said.

TTCI Principal Engineer Duane Otter's presentation on advanced bridge designs and materials included examples of other new technologies. For example, a recently developed onboard bridge condition detection system was designed to determine the feasibility of assessing bridge condition. The first target for the system, which is in its infancy, is short-span trestles, said Otter.

In addition, a hybrid composite beam (HCB) bridge span that performed well during tests at TTCI will be heading to revenue service testing. BNSF plans to monitor a second-generation HCB span on a bridge near Springfield, Colo., said Otter.

Overall, the various presentations shed light on what has become vital to railroading: strengthening the industry through technology, said Union Pacific Railroad Vice President of Engineering Dave Connell, who moderated a panel discussion.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/6/2013