Thursday, December 22, 2011

Efficiency, under contract

Written by  Mischa Wanek-Libman, Engineering Editor
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Contractors offer a range of expertise, which always points toward productivity.

Maintenance-of-way contractors share a railroad's responsibility toward budgets, time frames, and above all else safety. Among business relationships in the rail industry, few can offer a partnership that strives for enhanced productivity the way contractors can. Railway Age posed one question to contractors: What are you doing to help railroads push toward productivity?

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Brandt Rail Services
Texas-based Brandt Rail Services, a division of Brandt Road Rail Corp., is the first U.S. operating venture for the Brandt family of companies. Steve Orrell, vice president-Rail Services, says that while outright purchase of the company's product line is the preferred method of exposure, the purpose of BRS is to provide another option for accessing the productivity and value of Brandt equipment designs. "Using a packaged service plan offers more flexibility and finance options. I believe this will allow maintenance planners another set of tools for doing more with less," says Orrell.

Two of Brandt's machines, the Rail Tool and the Power Unit, are now offered for short-term service, a new option for the company's railroad customers. The Rail Tool is an excavator-based work platform that pulls its own ballast cars and is used for spot undercutting, right-of-way cleanup, and material handling. According to Orrell, the Power Unit is a work train with a truck-based power option providing locomotive-like performance with on/off-track capability.

Colo Railroad Builders
Colo Railroad Builders believes a safe work environment is critical to productivity. Terry Benton, president-Production Division, also says the company focuses on quality, as well as getting the job done right and completing it on time.

In order to accomplish this, Benton points to three key things the company provides: an experienced, trained workforce, where training is an on-going process; quality, well-maintained equipment and flexibility in its scheduling; and work processes in cooperation with customer business flows.

"We seek to exceed our customer's expectations. Communication during all phases of the project are essential, and we strive to accomplish this through teamwork with the railroad," says Benton. "This all rolls into a partnership focus that aligns with, and compliments, our customer's strategic goals."

Delta Railroad Construction
Delta Railroad Construction, Inc., says it contributes to higher productivity in the midst of shorter work windows with its re-manufacturing division, Quality Track Equipment.

"QTE is in the middle of a project where we are re-manufacturing multiple MKIV Production Tampers for a client," says Steve Pratt, resource and logistics manager. "In the process, we are updating the machines with Harsco Rail's latest operating software system (Jupiter 2), which minimizes downtime, maximizes production time, and is self diagnostic to enable to the operator or mechanic to find and correct problems faster. This system also has other options that are available, such as Dual Reference Lining, Surface Fit/Best Fit, Production Reporting, and Tie Finder. The Tie Finder option provides automatic tie tamping and reduces operator fatigue. The remanufactured machines are also being fitted with Tier 3 diesel engines so they are more environmentally friendly with their emissions."

The machines are all being remanufactured to be identical, which allows Delta's customers to keep fewer parts on hand. "If one mechanic uses up his inventory, his counterpart across the way may have the part he needs as they are all stocking the same repair parts. Reduce parts investment, reduce downtime, and optimize uptime," says Pratt.

"Georgetown Rail Equipment Company's vision is to be known for, and provide innovative, high quality solutions to the railroad industry," says Lynn Turner, vice president-marketing and sales. "To accomplish this, GREX continually works to identify areas of need by listening for problems and providing solutions. Our role has evolved greatly since our inception in 1992, when moving aggregates was our only business. Today, GREX continues to improve and modernize core business, while taking on the role of applying the latest technology to age-old problems. Our customers expect us to assist them in streamlining maintenance and improving the workflow. Aurora's automated tie inspection system using machine vision technology provides objective assessments of tie condition in near real time. Our newest product, BallastSaver, provides accurate and high speed ballast profiling capability, allowing material delivery in the exact amounts needed, where needed. Meanwhile, our traditional SPS and DumpTrain equipment continue to be accepted as a 'best practice' tools for customers."

Harsco Rail's Rail Renewal System (Model RRS) was developed in partnership with Union Pacific to provide automated repair of concrete ties with rail seat abrasion. According to Stephen Byers, senior director at Harsco Rail, the Model RRS can repair rail seat abraded concrete ties, as well as replace failed pads, insulators, and rail clips on a production basis.

The RRS features an Induction-style Rail Heater, which Byers says is not only safer; but allows the railroad to extend the work season and be more productive on cold days. Once the rail is threaded back onto the rail seats, the Clip Car is used to set the insulators and clips and then apply the clips to rail that has been heated to the proper rail laying temperature by the induction-style heating unit.

"Overall, the RRS provides high speed concrete tie repair, and fastener and rail renewal capability on concrete sleeper track with a production rate of a half a mile an hour (720 meters/hour) corresponding to 22 ties/minute In addition, the RRS provides efficient material handling in that it carries sufficient material to complete two track miles of rail and/or pad and clip replacement without having to reload," says Byers.

Herzog Railroad Services, Inc.
For Herzog Railroad Services, Inc., enhancing customer productivity begins with enhancing its equipment. One example is HRSI's hi-rail ballast profiling vehicle equipped with Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) equipment. Nathan Landes, project manager-research and development at HRSI, notes the ProScan LIDAR truck's military-grade GNSS Inertial system and LIDAR scanners give Herzog a more accurate evaluation of a ballast profile. Landes says the ProScan LIDAR offers railroads a mobile solution that will insure the correct amount of ballast is where it is needed, when it is needed.

HRSI also is working on is the Automated Tie Down Car, which utilizes spring-loaded, hydraulically actuated clamp assemblies to hold ribbons of rail in place. When the rail is ready to be unloaded, the rail train operator uses a transmitter to initiate unloading. The Tie Down Car eliminates the need for workers to be on top of the car loosening bolts, which HRSI says results in improved safety, as well as time savings, enhanced efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. The Tie Down Car is completed and will be in the field for tests shortly.

Kevin Flaherty, vice president M.O.W. sales and marketing, says Holland Company continues to invest in research and development that is focused on improving productivity through developed and applied technology.

"Presently, we are performing in-track field applications of our Head Defect Repair (HDR) weld that enables the railroad to replace a section of the head of the rail, to eliminate a defect without disturbing the neutral rail temperature. This process can be accomplished in less time with a better quality solution than other options," says Flaherty. "Additionally, we have advanced our technology related to the Holland Vision Systems on our TrackStar testing units and have begun providing tie classification data to some of the railroads. This is greatly improving the productivity associated with tie inspections and replacement. The vision technology is expanding to include, rail surface, fastener, and condition assessment."

"Loram's goal is to provide its customers services that maximize production in available track windows," explains Tom DeJoseph, vice president of marketing and sales. "We understand that time dedicated to maintenance is time taken away from revenue service. To capitalize on valuable track time, Loram develops faster and more productive m/w equipment."

According to DeJoseph, Loram's RG400 Series production grinders are the most productive grinders available, grinding at speeds up to 20 mph. Onboard optical rail measurement systems combine quality assurance services with the rail grinding program, further maximizing track time.

Loram's RGS Specialty Grinder was built off the same platform as the RG400 Series.

"We created a specialty grinder with the same 30-hp grind motors as the production grinders that tackles specialty trackwork such as switches and crossings," explains DeJoseph. "Track time is maximized by grinding trouble areas on open rail as the RGS travels between switches or crossings."

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