Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Getting better with the basics

Written by  Tom Judge, former Engineering Editor

The railroad industry has a safety record that’s the envy of many other industries, yet when railroads think safety, they think continuous improvement. The most important element is a strong safety culture, supported by training and technology.

Talk of advanced technologies—PTC, ECP brakes, Genset locomotives, etc.—may dominate railroading today, but many basic safety appliances, day and day out, perform the often-unheralded yet vital task of protecting railroaders and their equipment. Suppliers are full of good ideas and innovative products; following are some of the newest examples of their safety equipment.

“The Nolan Company continues to improve and broaden its track safety product line,” says J. D. Anderson, vice president-sales. “Our track safety product line includes derails, rail skates, car blocks, car stops, bumping posts, wheel chocks, and blue flags with warning signs/lights. We have been particularly active in developing our derail series. Rail industry customers continue to demand lighter, better performing, and ‘low profile’ derails. In response, we’re expanding our entire derail product line.”

Nolan derails are manufactured in three basic models:

1. Sliding Model SD series, which requires a separate operating device for permanent installation.

2. Hinged Model HD series, a permanent installation hand thrown directly on or off the rail.

3. Portable Model PD series, lightweight units that can be carried to locations for applications where railcar movement must be controlled.

The new derails are fabricated from high-strength steel and designed to allow for increased “travel runs” along the derail head. These improvements extend across the portable, hinged, and sliding derail product lines. Nolan offers low-profile derails in the HD and PD series, and will soon in the SD series All low-profile derails are 2.75 inches above the top of the railhead. “This ensures effective derailments of all types of railcars, switch engines, and main line locomotives,” Anderson says.

Nolan’s Derail Operating Stand is installed on the opposite rail of the derail unit and pushes the wheels of the rolling stock into the throat of the derail head, aiding the derail in its operation. An expanded Derail Operating Stand line includes standard manual, ergonomic manual, pneumatic (air-powered), and electric. Nolan’s rail skates are of a cast ductile alloy construction designed to carry car wheels and to prevent flat spots or additional damage when wheels are locked and skidding occurs. Three styles are available.

Nolan’s wheel chocks are used for fast, temporary blocking of all types of railcars. Says Anderson, “All models fit 60- to 141-pound rail. Wheel chocks can be modified for flush rail. Flags for use with the wheel chocks are priced and sold separately from the chock to provide the most flexibility in choosing options. Our Model CS-50 is a worldwide industry stand-by, used when heavy and expensive bumping posts are not required. Rugged, yet simple to handle and attach, the CS-50 utilizes four one-inch diameter bolts and two wedge-type clamping plates for mounting. As the car bumps the CS-50, the wedge design tightens its hold on the rail. No drilling is required when mounting these car stops, which are cast in special ductile alloy.” Nolan’s Model CS-60 is a hinged-type car stop designed for permanent installation on flush and exposed rails. In the raised position, the CS-60 protects workers, warehouse doors, and crossover walks, or it swings down out of the way. It may be padlocked (padlock not included) in the up or down position.

Nolan’s lightweight and strong Model C car blocks have a rotating cam locking device for extra safety. “The units lock so tightly to the rail that they are used daily on barges to prevent car movement,” Anderson says. “The Model C-3 is specially designed as a crane block. It’s used in mills and wherever overhead cranes are operated.”

With Nolan’s Model BFSH Spike Hinged Staff, the tie plate base may be spiked down or lagged to a tie between the rails or on either field side. Its hinged design enables the staff to lay flush when not in use. It is available with an optional flashing blue light.

“All Nolan flags are economical, lightweight, and quickly installed,” Anderson says. “The flags feature a tough, baked enamel background with bold white reflective letters. All meet Federal Railroad Administration rules and OSHA regulations. ‘Stop’ and ‘Derail’ flags are available with red or blue backgrounds. All flags are printed on one side and weigh approximately one pound. All our track safety products have been tested at TTCI.”

Western-Cullen-Hayes manufactures a complete line of railroad derails and accessories including sliding, hinged, field side, and portable styles. It also makes Wheel Crowders for special applications. W-C-H derails are made of lightweight, high-strength alloy steel and have a low-profile design that will clear locomotive snow blades and other obstructions. The company can also design custom control equipment to interlock derails with train doors, tank car loading equipment, grade crossing signals, and other warning devices.

W-C-H’s Model HBXS and Model WCX Wheel Crowder are designed specifically for use at locomotive and car repair facilities. W-C-H recommends the use of single-direction derails, but some locations require the capability of derailing rolling equipment from either directions. That’s why both units incorporate the bi-directional capabilities of earlier designs, but add significant length to the derailing block to ensure that today’s heavier equipment is safely derailed. The longer derail block and crowder blade provide a bi-directional derail with a deflection angle similar to the company’s single-directional derails. “Deflection angle is critical to the effective function of any derail device,” W-C-H notes.

Both these devices can be retrofitted to any site where a W-C-H sliding derail is currently in service. They can be used with the company’s Delectric, WCHT-72, Eldo, or Solar Tech Power Derail Operators. The Model HBXS can also be thrown with W-C-H’s HRS-100 manual High-Rise Operating Stands, and is manufactured in sizes to fit most popular rail sections. “Because the DeLectric is motorized, derails can be applied or removed from a remote location with just a push of a button,” the company says. “DeLectrics can be interlocked with plant rail doors, locomotive fueling stations, and railcar loading or unloading equipment so that the derail cannot be applied or removed while the interlocked appliance is operating or the door is closed.”

The W-C-H ELDO (Electric Lock Derail Operator) contains a solenoid locking device and associated electrical equipment mounted inside a rugged, compact, weather-resistant steel housing. “It is an uncomplicated device that electrically locks a Hayes Type HB Sliding Derail on the track to prevent the unauthorized entry of a train into a particular area or building. Responsible persons in the work area operate the ELDO locking control, and the train crewmen are responsible for removing and replacing the derail, virtually eliminating the possibility of an inadvertent derailment,” the company says. “The control circuit for an ELDO can be interlocked with plant rail doors or freight car loading and unloading equipment so the derail cannot be unlocked while the equipment is operating or the door is closed. ELDOs are also used to initiate bells and beacon lights to warn workers in an area being protected. Grade crossing signals can be initiated by an ELDO where a road crossing lies between the derail site and the area being protected.”

W-C-H’s AAMBF (Articulating Automatic Mechanical Blue Flag) is designed to be used with W-C-H Model HB sliding derails. It spikes to the crossties between the rails and attaches directly to the rail. When the derail is moved off the rail, the AAMBF pivots down flat between the rails, allowing unrestricted passage of rolling stock. When the derail is placed in the derailing position, the AAMBF raises to provide Blue Signal protection for employees working on, under, or between rolling stock, in compliance with FRA and OSHA requirements. The AAMBF incorporates a gear-reduction box and a 360-degree articulating shaft for smooth operation, reducing damage to the unit if it’s accidentally struck by rolling stock. It's available with a blue light for nighttime visibility.

Aldon Company, Inc., offers the Guardian package, which includes a hand-operated, hinged sign holder; a sign plate measuring12 inches x 15 inches; and a solar light with 360-degree visibility and six-LED brilliance. A gravity switch turns the light on or off round the clock, so the unit continually protects a siding. The lens is shatter-proof; the unit weighs 25 pounds.

Aldon’s ergonomically designed Mousetrap spring-loaded folding sign holder is designed for use on industrial sidings where OSHA regulations require a blue warning sign to be posted. The sign holder is fastened to a railroad tie and can be installed on the field or gauge side of the rails. Stepping down on the pedal lowers the sign holder below top of rail. Stepping on a roll pin just above the pedal raises the sign post to be locked into an upright position. The finish is powder coated yellow for high visibility. Sign plates are sold separately.

Aldon recently introduced SaberTooth™ portable derails. Thumbscrews instead of set screws are used to attach the derails, eliminating the use of wrenches and preventing damage to rail surfaces. A patented anchor hook bites into the tie during derailing to prevent the derail from sliding forward. The one-way derail handles freight cars and all sizes of locomotives, fits 90- to 141-pound rail, and weighs 35 pounds. It is available in either left- or right-hand style. The two-way derail handles freight cars and four-axle locomotives. It fits 100- to 136-pound rail and weighs 50 pounds.