UTLX “Tank Car of Tomorrow” nears testing milestone

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Union Tank Car Company’s patent-pending, prototype “Tank Car of Tomorrow” TIH pressure tank car is nearing completion of its second year of accelerated field tests, “reliably equaling more than five years of normal service,” the company announced on June 3, 2014.

In 2011, Union Tank Car built a test group of pressure tank cars under Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) special permit SP-15036. These cars were designed to transport specific Toxic Inhalation Hazard (TIH) commodities that are commonly used by industry, metropolitan water districts, and consumers. Based on a long-standing Union Tank Car design, the double-hull (“tank-within-a-tank”) concept “was enhanced to create a tank car that is more resistant to punctures in an incident involving head or shell impacts,” the company said.

A trial car is now in its 15th cycle of testing by Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TCCI). Since August 2012, the car has accumulated more than 150,000 miles on a defined route within Union Pacific’s rail network. The test criteria prescribe a mix of loaded and unloaded cycles to approximate real interchange conditions. About halfway through the regimen, the car was visually inspected and unloaded for a battery of magnetic particle and ultrasonic tests. “The car passed every test,” Union Tank Car noted.

In June, the trial car will be returned to the UTLX manufacturing plant in Sheldon, Tex., for intensive inspection according to remaining SP-15036 requirements. The car will be tested with multiple non-destructive methods to further prove the design before being restored to operational readiness. The car then will be returned to TTCI in Pueblo, Colo., for final testing.

Ten more cars built under SP-15036 “are performing safely in revenue service,” Union Tank Car said. “All feedback from carriers and the FRA has been favorable. We will use the test conclusions to collaborate with the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) on final regulatory authorizations so that the ‘Tank Car of Tomorrow’ can go into general production under its own DOT classification.”

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