Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Keeping things running smoothly

Written by  Tom Judge, former Engineering Editor
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Friction modifiers are proving their worth on track daily by improving fuel efficiency, reducing noise and increasing wheel and rail service life.

Railroads have long acknowledged the benefits offered by rail lubrication. But companies in the friction modifier market are continuing to make advances to help their railroad customers.

Environmental Lubricants Manufacturing, Inc.

ELM, active in bio-based grease development, continues to develop greases as rail flange lubricant along with many other vegetable-oil-based switch lubricant, hydraulic and gear oils. ELM is part of The Enviro Force of Portec Rail Products, Inc. The technology for these products came from a license from the University of Northern Iowa’s National Ag-Based Lubricants Center (UNI-NABL) with initial research dating back to 1991. A recently introduced bio-based rail curve grease called TempFlex comes in two formulations, one for operation in temperatures ranging from 35°F to 160°F and the other for temperature ranges of 0°F to 100°F.

These products benefit from a newly patented manufacturing process where microwave energy is used to perform the chemical reaction for making the grease. “A more uniform and stable bio-based grease is created,” says Lou Honary, Ph.D., founding director. “Microwave heating does not impact the stability of the grease during manufacturing as much as conventional heating methods.”

“First, bio-based greases have gone through years of evolutionary improvement and are performing as well and in many cases better than conventional greases,” Honary says. “In our estimation, the price barrier for bio-based greases would begin to disappear as the price of petroleum surpasses $90/barrel. The new technology of using microwaves to make bio-based greases promises to reduce the manufacturing cost further.

“Today, actually for large volume purchases, the price of bio-based greases can be lower than that of petroleum-based greases,” he says. “Since the product is biodegradable and environmentally friendly, it can be applied to tangent tracks as well as the curves, resulting in significant friction reduction and fuel saving. “Second, the Railroad Safety Improvement Act, signed into law in October 2008, required the Federal Railroad Administration to conduct a study on the use of bio-based lubricants in the freight and passenger rail industries,” he says. “Through a competitive grant process, UNI-NABL is to receive $370,000 to conduct this study.” UNI-NABL’s research, in part, will include potential use of soy-based grease and soy-based hydraulic fluids to perform according to railroad industry standards, and potential use of other readily available biodegradable lubricants to perform according to railroad industry standards.

Lincoln Industrial Corp.

Pete Laucis, director of product management at Lincoln Industrial Corp., says Lincoln has developed several new products applicable to rail lubrication: a 200-lb. Reservoir providing compact, turnkey package for customers dealing with space constraints; a Digital Controller offering flexibility in lubrication intervals, fewer components and a more compact design; a 600 mm Gauge Face Short Bars, allowing lubrication closer to or in the spiral of a curve; Special Systems for Metro/Transit Applications, providing unlimited tank customization for unique applications; a Next-Generation Gauge-Face Dispensing Bar; New Installation Accessories, designed to reduce maintenance time; and Electronic Interfaces with User-specific Communication Platforms, compatible with telemetric systems.

Says Laucis, “One area of rail lubrication that seems to be changing is that customers are looking for a mix of products that may meet their applications at a more value-added price point—not a simple task to accomplish.”

Portec Rail Products

“The past year has been an exciting and progressive one for friction management, with the North American Class I’s continuing to make major strides in upgrading their existing gauge-face (GF) lubrication infrastructure, as well as further embracing and adopting the more recent technology of Top-of-Rail (TOR) friction control,” says Kevin Oldknow, Portec Rail vice president, Friction Management Corporate Division. “Portec has been working with customers and third-party research institutions to generate rigorous, documented proof of the benefits that friction management can yield in areas including rail and wheel wear, lateral force and L/V ratios, track structure degradation, rolling contact fatigue and energy (fuel) consumption,” he says. “The economic benefits are substantial, with typical savings of 3%-to-8% observed through the combination of the Portec Rail PROTECTOR® application system and Kelsan Technologies KELTRACK® friction modifier.

“The Portec Rail Group’s Total Friction Management (TFM™) model, as deployed at Canadian Pacific, continues to demonstrate the major benefits that can be gained through effective management of GF and TOR friction control resources and maximization of equipment uptime,” he says. The TFM approach stresses innovation to continuously improve performance while reducing costs. “A good example of this is the launch of KELTRACK® ER (Enhanced Retentivity), which employs a reformulated chemistry to improve film durability, achieving equivalent benefits to previous versions at significantly reduced application volumes.

“Gauge-face lubrication in heavy haul requires high-performance grease products with Extreme Pressure additives designed to withstand the severe pressures and temperatures at the wheel flange/GF interface, where simple lubricants would break down and become ineffective,” Oldknow says. “At the Wheel Tread/TOR interface, unique friction modifiers (such as KELTRACK®) are required to reduce friction to a controlled level that yields the benefits described above without impacting braking, adhesion, signaling, ultrasonic testing or sanding. In other friction control applications, such as hump yard lubrication for rollability, braking and adhesion are not critical from the standpoints of safety or performance and pressures/temperatures are not severe as in main line track. In these limited conditions, the application of a single, simpler substance becomes possible. To this end, the Kelsan Technologies division has introduced RollControl®, a hump yard lubricant that can be deployed where typical spray based systems are used to improve rollability (i.e., reducing trims and shorts).

“In addition, flexibility has been a key theme for the Portec Rail Group,” Oldknow says. “In the past year, the most recent advancement in the PROTECTOR® product line has been introduced into main line service for testing. The PROTECTOR® FLEX offers a number of possibilities, including application of friction modifiers directly from large volume totes.”


Tranergy says its BridgeGlide™ lubricant reduces the stress state of a bridge; reduces lateral forces, flange friction, top-of-rail wear, and rail gage wear; reduces bridge vibration; and reduces bridge noise. Computer-controlled BridgeGlide™ sprays lubricant where it is needed with no expensive waste. Bridge maintenance staff benefit from safe and clean bridge conditions. BridgeGlide’s™ intelligent computer does not lubricate locomotive wheels like greasers and applies correct lubricant quantity for different friction needs of uphill and downhill trains.

Tranergy says BridgeGlide™ is simple to install and maintain. The combination of the large storage tank and small quantities of lubricant used requires less frequent filling, reducing manpower and exposure to hazard for the maintenance crew. Maintainers no longer need to get track time on a bridge as often.

Tranergy CurvGlide™
 is an intelligent system for wayside railroad track lubrication that senses the passing of train axles on curved rail and automatically lubricates both the top-of-rail and rail gauge corner. CurvGlide™ is field-proven to reduce high lateral forces on an extended continuing curve that directly reduces the train derailment condition. By simultaneously lubricating both top of rail and gauge corner, CurvGlide™ protects trains from the conditions that cause the derailment condition on extended continued curve track.

Every time a train passes Tranergy CurvGlide™, lubricant is sprayed on both rails and in both directions. The lubricant is then carried by the wheels of the train up to one mile from the point of lubrication. If trains travel in both directions, this results in two miles of coverage from a single CurvGlide™ unit.

Intelligence is embedded in the system to distinguish between railroad cars and locomotives. Since CurvGlide™ is an intelligent computer-controlled system, it knows when the locomotive wheels are passing and selectively does not fire on the locomotive, Tranergy says.

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