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Rail News Home Supplier Spotlight

April 2021

Rail News: Supplier Spotlight

From PTC to signal systems to grade crossing work, better designs and approaches are service providers’ top priority

The company’s PTC and radio communications testing lab in New York has marked its first anniversary.
Photo – Dayton T. Brown Inc.


Compiled By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor

Balfour Beatty

The failure shown in this graphic might not be found solely by a visual inspection.
Balfour Beatty

A large international player in the construction and rail industries, Balfour Beatty has aimed to continuously develop technology solutions to meet industry and client needs for over 100 years. OmniLX and a switch rod project are two recent examples of such solutions.

Balfour Beatty developed OmniLX to meet an industry need to improve grade crossing maintenance regimens. The condition monitoring solution enables a “predict and prevent” approach to maintenance, extending asset lifespan and increasing reliability, Balfour Beatty officials said. Although an OmniLX rollout began at 2020’s end, product acceptance is expected in the next few months.

OmniLX’s noninvasive modular design enables monitoring to be done more safely and cost effectively. Data is managed through a cloud-based analysis system accessed through any web interface. Balfour Beatty’s multidisciplinary team can provide a full turnkey solution that is already widely implemented, company officials said. Balfour Beatty now is working to enhance OmniLX with environmental monitoring.

Meanwhile, the switch rod project was a natural byproduct of the company’s strong in-house knowledge, company officials said. After a client approached the company with a long-standing switch rod reliability issue on their point machines that was causing significant disruptions, Balfour Beatty developed a soup-to-nuts solution ranging from analyzing, defining and designing functions to building and testing a replacement product, they said.

Balfour Beatty’s design aimed to balance resilience with increased stiffness and better adjustability to reduce the risk of failures. The product was easy to retrofit and now is deployed across much of the client’s infrastructure, Balfour Beatty officials said, adding that the product design has rolled out progressively since 2014.

Dayton T. Brown Inc.

Among the leaders in the fields of testing, engineering, logistics, technical publications and military mission systems, Dayton T. Brown Inc. (DTB) recently marked the first anniversary of its positive train control (PTC) and radio communications testing lab in Bohemia, New York.

The 2,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility further solidifies the company’s position in railroad qualification testing, DTB officials said. The lab serves railroads and suppliers with qualification testing and diagnosis services, as well as troubleshooting of PTC and PTC II communications systems.  

“Interference, integration, and interoperability testing and evaluation in the field is costly, time consuming and extremely difficult to perform consistently in the densely populated areas of the Northeast Corridor,” said Thomas Volpe, DTB’s senior director of business development-transportation systems. “Utilizing a controlled lab environment allows our engineers to demonstrate functional performance, evaluate protocol, capacity and throughput, detect issues, and develop mitigation approaches that will ultimately expedite the continued successful deployment of [a] PTC system.”

In addition, quick identification and cost-effective solutions found in the lab can reduce risk and improve schedules while allowing a rail line to maintain revenue service continuity and safety.

The lab resulted from a contract awarded by MTA Metro-North Railroad in September 2019 to support PTC systems that use communications-based train control technology to reliably and functionally improve safe operation, DTB officials said. The signaling solution being deployed on the Northeast Corridor features communication systems that are common among transit agencies and commuter and freight railroads.  

HNTB Corp.

The engineering firm has performed work for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s Route K.
HNTB Corp.

HNTB Corp.’s communications and signal engineering team is one of the nation’s largest. Comprising former owner-operators and suppliers, as well as in-house trained personnel, the firm’s C&S professionals offer the experience and expertise needed to deliver improvements, operational efficiencies and cost savings to clients nationwide, HNTB officials said.

The firm takes an operations-based approach to C&S projects. Delivering safe, reliable solutions also means providing clients with the tools needed to manage them. Train control installations begin with simulating current operations to document headway and speed improvements. HNTB offers special expertise in brownfield projects that modernize existing systems, staging the work to minimize service disruptions, company officials said.

The firm’s ongoing C&S projects include a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) drawbridge replacement and PTC work; New Jersey Transit PTC work; Metro-North Railroad’s radio system replacement; the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Crenshaw Line; the MBTA/Amtrak South Station Tower 1; MTA/Amtrak/Metro-North Penn Station access; Bay Area Rapid Transit’s K-Line; and Brightline Trains service and signal improvements.

HNTB’s C&S services include automatic block signal systems; automatic train control and can signal systems; interlocking design; PTC and communications-based train control; vehicle identification systems; signal system test procedures, testing and cutovers; vital and non-vital application logic simulations; fiber-optic data transmission systems; security and access control systems; CCTV and video conferencing; public address and passenger information systems; fare collection; and radio systems.

Pacific Railway Enterprises Inc.

To meet the needs of its clients — which include freight, passenger and commuter railroads, and light- and heavy-rail systems — Pacific Railway Enterprises Inc. (PRE) offers several key services. They include communication and signal engineering, from concept to final design, field inspection, application software development, and testing and commissioning services.

Systems Engineer Caroline Le builds a color light simulator for the company’s internal rack testing.
Pacific Railway Enterprises Inc.

The most important aspect of PRE’s success is consistent support for its clients, whether that’s working with the engineering group to gain a better understanding of communications and signals, working with operations to ensure that the systems designed provide for the best operational outcome, or working directly with construction and maintenance staff to assist with any issues as they arise, company officials said.

In the minds of PRE’s employees, the end user is key, they added. Communications systems design must provide high uptime and redundancy related to failures. Signal systems that are designed must be operationally efficient and fail safe.

With the implementation of PTC, the company has developed a keen understanding of the systems clients have installed, and are assisting customers with the demands associated with operating under PTC, PRE officials said. The firm’s staff is qualified to perform radio spectrum analysis for PTC slot planning, enabling PRE to help support radio additions and relocations, they said.

Progress Rail

Among the leaders in the signal industry, Progress Rail offers turnkey solutions for customers by providing design, wiring, structures and installation services. The company’s signal engineering group has been designing wayside and grade crossing systems for railroads since 1992.

An aerial shot of Chicago Transit Authority track taken by a drone.
Progress Rail

Employing a high number of engineers enables Progress Rail to offer a wide range of products and services to better meet customers’ needs, including planning and surveys; wayside, transit and crossing design; application software creation and testing; project management and testing; and commissioning.

The company has developed experience in an array of signaling platforms and can test application software using either controllers in its modern test labs or through industry standard simulators.

Progress Rail’s wiring and installation units based in Louisville, Kentucky, and Hudson, Wisconsin, work with the company’s engineering teams to ensure a seamless experience for a customer.  Its experienced wiremen help ensure any bungalow they wire is delivered on time, meets specifications and assures high quality.

Progress Rail can provide its own signal structures such as MLPs, cantilevers, signal bridges and platforms. Its team of engineers work closely with customers to ensure all their specifications are incorporated into a design. The company also can provide customers with its own design options to meet their requirements. n

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