• M/W

Extending Rail Life, With Precision

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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Holland LP Mobile Welder

RAILWAY AGE, MAY 2021 ISSUE: Regular steel rail maintenance not only extends service life, but also helps ensure safety. That’s why suppliers of grinding, milling and welding equipment and services are always fine-tuning and introducing new offerings to meet railroad needs. They discuss those, and today’s market.


As industry conditions continue to improve, welding customers are looking to increase work efficiency and scheduling flexibility, Holland told Railway Age. And market demand is changing—from large rail gangs installing new rail to smaller gangs and more repair welding work. “Holland’s MobileWelders are being deployed more frequently for smaller jobs, taking advantage of the short cycle times of flash-butt welding,” the company said.

Holland equipment produces more than 250,000 flash-butt welds per year. “Each of those welds provides us with numerous data points in real-time via our Intelliweld operating system,” it reported. “The system allows us to pinpoint potential issues as they happen and easily tailor our weld programs to customer requirements.” 

The company’s Weld Quality Lab, coupled with weld data collection, “helps us achieve the highest level of weld quality—over 5.5 sigma quality performance—and continually work to minimize the heat-affected zone of the weld.” 

Initially developed in early 2019, Holland now has two mobile laser welding units, providing manganese frog repair service. The robotically controlled welding process reduces heating of the base frog material using laser additive manufacturing technology. “The LaserWelder technology also provides significant long-term savings for railroads by extending the life of the repairs and the frogs,” Holland said. “Initial repairs are now approaching two years of service, with most over 100 MGT of traffic. Some will soon be approaching 150 MGT with minimal maintenance grinding required.”

The company is expanding, and now offers the Holland Rail Services Australia division, which is performing work in the Pilbara mining region. “We have two in-track MobileWelders operating in Australia, with a third in-country and undergoing commissioning,” Holland said.


Rail milling can extend track life by seven to 10 years, according to Linsinger. Today’s railroads are looking for customized solutions to perform the work, and the company produces machines for networks like DB AG (Germany) and Network Rail (Great Britain), plus light rail and metro systems. 

Linsinger MG11 H2 hydrogen-powered rail milling train.

It is now working to enter the India and North American markets. In January, Linsinger’s first SF02T-FS-LB rail milling train was delivered to Toronto for operation by Rhomberg Sersa Rail Canada Ltd. Within the first two months, the technicians were trained and more than 25 successful shifts completed, the company reported.

Linsinger’s newest offering was introduced in November 2020: MG11 H2, a hydrogen-powered rail milling train. “This ground-breaking innovation is the result of a multi-year project,” Linsinger told Railway Age, “and represents an important contribution to the worldwide efforts to become climate neutral—another big step toward zero-emission mobility.” 

Based on the MG11 rail milling train concept, which was developed for small tunnel clearances and short work windows, the MG 11 H2 is equipped with “the latest electric drive- and milling-technology, which facilitated the conversion to a hydrogen-powered version. The machine has the same performance capability compared with the combustion engine-powered models, and it can work at least longer than a full shift (including traveling time to and from the work site) with one hydrogen tank load. Due to the scalability, the fuel cell technology can be used for all milling machine types in the Linsinger portfolio.”


Improved track time and maintenance budget utilization are key for railroads today, Loram told Railway Age. “With enhanced inspection and planning tools, we can take advantage of available track windows, and by leveraging our grinders’ flexibility, we can better align grind effort with track conditions to maximize the life of the rail asset.”

Loram RG412

The company’s RailPro platform helps. “By combining details on past maintenance cycles along with customer traffic levels, Loram leverages vehicle routing tools to schedule grinding multiple months in advance, allowing customers to confirm they have appropriate grinder capacity and ensure work gets done at the right place and at the right time to maintain rail health,” Loram explained. “RailPro Flex allows the pre-grind Rail Inspection Vehicle to inspect for both production and specialty grinders in a single trip, producing detailed grind plans for both grinders.” 

In addition, “RailPro Infinity takes full advantage of the capabilities of the RG400 series machines to precisely match the exact needs of each section of track by designing custom grind patterns in real time throughout the shift, based on rail shape and rolling contact fatigue conditions to reduce over- or under-grinding, resulting in extended rail life.”


Orgo-Thermit’s rail grinding clients want a refined product. “This is where our precision grinding division excels as we are capable of matching any desired profile and can achieve a surface finish of 3-5 microns,” the company told Railway Age. It is also moving toward a more targeted, analytical approach to maintenance grinding—with more data to establish and support grinding plans.

Orgo-Thermit Eddy Current inspection probe.

On the welding side, freight railroads demand “the highest quality of field welding consumables,” Orgo-Thermit noted. “Our latest innovations have come in the form of metallurgical powder weld filler metals, designed to be compatible with the hardness of modern-day premium rail steels.”

A more recent company product now eliminates the D.O.T. hazardous for transportation igniter required for initiating the Thermit® reaction: The Safe Start Degradable Crucible System.

Also new: An Eddy Current inspection will be included with Orgo-Thermit’s rail grinding service package. The equipment—capable of measuring surface defects up to depths of 2.7mm—will inspect the running surface and, more important, the gauge corner of the rail for instances of rolling contact fatigue, the company explained. “By identifying the scope of the rolling contact fatigue, you will be better informed to take preventive actions, such as rail grinding or rail replacement in extreme cases.” 

As the rail industry continues to receive funding and support for large infrastructure projects and rehabilitation, Orgo-Thermit has a positive long-term outlook.


“Customers are looking for partnerships that can offer support in every stage of the process—from innovative design and installation right through to operation, monitoring and maintenance of their infrastructure,” Pandrol said.

Pandora Connect mobile version.

The company now offers Pandrol Connect, a mobile app comprising three modules: a mobile version for welders to record on-site data and for welding controllers to review data; an online monitoring app to review weld information from the office, for example; and an online administration tool to apply settings to local standards. To increase documentation, the app can also be connected to preheating equipment, and QR codes allow consumables to be scanned. It not only captures live weld data—and stores that data in the cloud—it saves time and improves the traceability of welds for contractors and rail network operators, Pandrol said.

The company is also offering AutoSeal Moulds, which “have a built-in felt that expands during the preheating phase of welding, creating a tight seal between the mould and rail.” This eliminates the need for luting with paste or sand, Pandrol said, while preventing welding leaks. Compatible with all rail types, these self-sealing moulds allow for faster welding speeds, saving 5-10 minutes per weld; enhanced welder ergonomics; increased reliability; and reduced plastic waste, according to the company.

Pandrol told Railway Age that it continues to invest in technical solutions for improving the mechanical proprieties of aluminothermic welds used in heavy-haul applications. 


“Safely executing high-quality welds in a manner that minimizes delays to the network is key to a successful welding operation. We are continually exploring ways to decrease our welding cycles without compromising quality or safety in order to give track time back to our clients,” Progress Rail told Railway Age.

Progress Rail Narrow Head Flash Butt Welder.

Working with international supplier EO Paton, the company recently developed the Narrow Head Flash Butt Welder for its mobile units. This head can be used with extended boom trucks when welding turnouts and in tight spaces. Tall and narrow, it requires only 8.5 inches of clearance from the adjacent rail or fixed object.

Progress Rail noted that clients are increasingly requesting a welding unit with more overall tonnage. “Historically, the requirement for additional tonnage may have been supported by utilizing an ‘external puller’ to supplement the weld head’s on-board tonnage,” the company explained. Its engineers have now developed a high tonnage weld head that eliminates the need for an external pull, which increases system reliability and user safety, Progress Rail says. The new unitized welding head features an integrated puller that is expected to yield 220 tons of force.  

“The industry faced many challenges resulting from the pandemic, but railroads were able to adapt and carry on with welding work,” Progress Rail said. “Some projects were delayed, but we are optimistic that the backlog of work and increased national focus on infrastructure projects will drive demand for rail welding.”

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