• M/W

Gripping Task

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, Editor, Railway Track & Structures; and Engineering Editor, Railway Age
RPS pic 1

Fastening system developments are ensuring track integrity, as more is demanded of rail infrastructure. Market growth for fastening systems continues to see a push from heavier and more frequent loads, and suppliers remain focused on research efforts to ensure their products have the proper clamp, vibration resistance and fatigue life to serve the railroads well.

Alcoa Fastening Systems (AFS) provides the Huck brand of fasteners for the worldwide rail market. AFS’ product line includes the C50L, BobTail and the new Huck 360. According to the company, its fasteners have been used in more than 3,000 frogs and hundreds of other track components and have been designed to provide uniform clamping power, vibration resistance and reduced flexing. All factors the company says leads to reduced maintenance and longer fatigue life.

The Huck 360 is AFS’ newest product and has been performing well on a heavy haul, Class 1 line. According to Rocco DiRago, product manager for the Americas, the challenge posed to the company was how to provide all the advantages of a traditional Huck product but have the ability to install that product with traditional rail tools. The answer says DiRago is with the Huck 360, which delivers five times the fatigue life of other fasteners, vibration resistance and can be installed and removed using traditional rail tools.

RPS pic 1Amsted RPS has been in a growth period during the past year. The company expanded its design and research lab, added a Canadian sales manager, expanded its engineering and project management teams and celebrated the manufacture of the 850 millionth anchor.

Amsted RPS kicked off 2014 with the introduction of the Amsted RPS e-clip style, elastic fastener clip, manufactured in Atchison, Kansas for all types of track.

“e-clips have been one of the most popular elastic rail fasteners in North America,” said John Stout, vice president of sales and marketing. “And now we have taken the challenge of providing our customers with a high quality and cost effective domestic e-clip alternative with the excellent service you have come to expect from the Amsted RPS team.”

According to the company, the Amsted RPS e-clip is produced with an innovative low-stress manufacturing process that significantly improves performance and enhances the working range of the clip, offering improved fatigue limits for long life and reduced maintenance costs.

Also new to the Amsted RPS product line is the premium long-reach clip, the SL 6030, which was tested to withstand 100 percent greater overdrive load capacity without impacting toe load or clip geometry. The SL 6030 retrofits into Safelok-style shoulders and can be installed and removed with existing MOW equipment.

Last year, Amsted RPS and Switzerland-based Schwihag AG entered into a joint venture to produce “skl” style rail fastening systems; better known at Amsted RPS as the ME63 System. The system includes the ME1 clip, rail pad, abrasion plate, field guide plate, gauge guide plate, screw spike and dowel, all allowing the system to cover the entire width of the rail seat. In 2014, Amsted RPS will accommodate multiple rail base sizes and industrial applications.

The ME1 clip, manufactured in the Atchison, Kansas plant, is made with a special process to reduce stress on the clip during production resulting in high dynamic fatigue strength. The company says other benefits include lower maintenance costs, increased fatigue life and the ME1 clip’s middle bend prevents rail rollover and protects the clip against over-stressing.

Amsted RPS understands that as railroads have evolved, research has shown that a more resilient track structure results in less maintenance and longer life.

“To meet this need, we have built on this insight and provide a wide range of resilient products including rail clips, ballast mat, Under Tie Pads, and bonded fastening systems” said Wes Hodges, vice president of Amsted RPS.

In 2012, Amsted RPS partnered with Netherlands based company, edilon)(sedra, known for its products designed to minimize impacts and reduce noise and vibration. Amsted RPS says the partnership has been able to provide high performance, cost-effective products such as embedded block (EBS), embedded rail systems (ERS) and resilient Trackelast pads.

As mentioned, the company’s research and development lab went through an expansion in 2013. Its design, which has four distinct cells, allows multiple configurations for testing a variety of fasteners from heavy haul to mass transit, incorporating customer specific requirements, AREMA Chapter 30 recommendations, and international standards.

Amsted RPS says new product development is expedited by combining Finite Elemental Analysis with experimental validation. Material models can be modified to hit design specific stiffness and deflections with the first prototype as with the Amsted RPS End Restraint for Special Trackwork (ERT) and the Loadmaster Timber Tie.

“This allows us to provide innovative solutions to unique problems in a short period of time” said Chase Nielsen, engineering manager.

To expand on this idea, Amsted RPS is developing in-field measurement systems to capture rail deflections and vibrations. This field data can be imported into the control system to provide solutions for customer specific problems. Specific areas of interest are load distributions and fastening system component wear under non-ideal conditions caused from rail seat deterioration.

CSBN-Assembly Copper State Bolt and Nut Co. believes in continuous improvement and notes many improvements begin with data received from the field and receiving feedback from those who use the company’s products, such as the Heavy Duty Frog Bolt.

The company says its goal is to identify long-standing problem areas and eliminate them where possible and create efficiencies to ultimately reduce the overall cost to its railroad partners.

One of the items it recently introduced to the market was the Qwikline Chase nut as an ancillary item to its Heavy Duty Frog bolt. The company says the Chase nut helps to save a thread damaged frog or diamond bolt by reclaiming the threads quickly and safely while using the same installation equipment and without bolt removal.

Copper State Bolt and Nut Co. continues to test processing and material combinations to achieve the longest lasting bolt in the industry regardless of weather conditions or application and recently partnered with a railroad to test a severe duty cold weather bolt, which the company says has had promising results in all tests to date.

According to Bill Treacy, general manager, Transit Products, L.B. Foster Co., 2013 proved to be a great year.

“We experienced record results for our Transit Products business last year as we supplied direct fixation fasteners (DFF) for a number of key projects throughout North America. 2014 is looking like it will also be a very active market for our products as new projects come forward. Many of the projects on which we work can take two to three years, or even more, to come to fruition. The Honolulu Area Rapid Transit (HART) project, which resulted in the largest award of business for L.B. Foster, is a great example of that. In addition, right now, we are seeing a balance of opportunities with North American transit agencies for either new construction or to upgrade existing infrastructure. There is lots of activity coast to coast. California is heating up, and we are starting to see the impact of funds made available from the Federal Transit Administration’s Emergency Relief Program for recovery and relief efforts in areas in the Northeast U.S. affected by Superstorm Sandy in late 2012. And, as mass transit ridership in general, and the use of heavy, commuter and light rail modes in particular, grow, more projects will continue to come forward. According to the latest data from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), ridership on those three modes was up one percent on a year-to-date basis through the third quarter of 2013 and is on track to hit record ridership levels for the year. Transit agencies see increasing ridership and are investing to maintain their track and improve safety performance along with increasing service reliability and performance.”

Treacy continued, “From a new product development perspective, we work with the transit agencies to develop new and improved fastening technologies to help them achieve these goals. We continue to meet changing industry conditions, as well as develop engineering-based, rather than simply product-based, solutions.”

Per Korhan Ciloglu, R&D manager, Rail Products, “We have seen the benefits of offering bundled solutions to our customers and are moving more so in the direction of packaging our products and services. As one example of an expansion of our capabilities beyond traditional product ranges, this past year we introduced an offering consisting of our new line of FOSTERBOND™ epoxy adhesives, an insert and installation methodology in a bundle for repairing our customer’s anchoring systems. This expands our presence with the transit agencies into the maintenance side of the business. But we also continue to address specific customer issues with new technology developments, not only with our fastening systems, but also with other transit products such as our recently patented anti-tracking bracket, hybrid tie extension insulator and new formulations for our third rail tie extensions. We believe that these solutions will provide maintenance and operating benefits for our customers.”

“As we look to become a broader global player in the worldwide transit fastener market, we are collaborating with our UK-based team to transfer their technical and product knowledge from Europe for North American applications,” said Ciloglu. “We are also working closely with that team to develop technical solutions for use in the UK or other global applications. We are quite optimistic about the future use of our fastening products and solutions around the world.”

Treacy concluded, “As a company, L.B. Foster is bullish on the global transit industry. Based on favorable macro market trends and our continuing commitment of investment and resources in this key end use market, we believe that there will be significant opportunities for growth.”

DSC05309TTCILewis Bolt & Nut Co. has been focusing on a new Sealtite hook bolt design for bridge decks that it says emphasizes simplicity, functionality and, most important, safety.

The company says the patent-pending Sealtite Quick-Set™ Hook Bolt System allows installation in minutes from on the deck itself instead of having to drill holes and lie on the creosoted deck or using a bucket over the side to attempt installation. Lewis Bolt says the system is designed so the installer can fully engage the flange by reaching down between the ties. A specially designed bracket is slid over the hook bolt and attached loosely with a flat washer and hex nut. While holding the bracket, the installer reaches down and attaches the hook bolt to the flange. The bracket then rests on ties on either side and is secured by tightening the nut. The bracket is further attached with 3/8-inch diameter nails or the Lewis Recessed Head (high strength) Timber Screws.

Lewis Bolt has also incorporated a built-in tie spacer set at a four-inch width, but other tie spacing amounts can be accommodated. The company says the new system can resist lateral and vertical movement with the aforementioned features and the hook bolts angled inward 15 degrees. The company notes that dapping, as well as holes drilled for traditional Hook Bolts are a potential for propagation of cracks, and ultimate premature failure of the costly bridge ties. With the Sealtite Quick-Set Hook Bolt System the company states that dapping needs are, at a minimum, reduced and holes are eliminated.

Pandrol USA says the demand for high performance elastic fastenings was very strong in 2013, a trend that is expected to continue into 2014 as North American railroads continue to improve their track systems and increase their capacity.

“Our engineering staff is continually working with engineering and maintenance-of-way personnel of railroads and transits to address their concerns and to explore the need for improved products,” said Frank Brady, Pandrol USA president. “We are also working with our suppliers to improve their logistics and materials. Some of the resulting product improvements are not obvious, such as modifying a plastic resin to increase insulator life, or changing the dimple pattern on a pad to reduce slippage.

“One of the more significant events that occurred in the past 12 months was the result of a collaborative effort by Pandrol USA, Arkansas Steel Associates and Southwest Steel Processing. In November 2013, new robotic tie plate production lines were inaugurated. The new lines are designed to manufacture Pandrol VICTOR tie plates for wood ties. The new robotic VICTOR tie plate production lines represent a major investment in both time and money by all three of the companies involved and will enable us to meet the growing demand for this product,” noted Brady.

The new production line more than doubles the capacity to supply VICTOR tie plates. Each of the two production lines is equipped with an induction furnace, a robot to take the heated base plate to a 1,000 ton press, and a robot to place the cast shoulders in place to be swaged into the base plate. Each line produces a finished VICTOR plate every 17 seconds. Once the shoulders are swaged in place, they have a pull out strength more than double those specified for shoulders in concrete ties.

Pandrol VICTOR plates are available in both 16-inch and 18-inch versions and enable the specification of both the type of shoulder and the hole punching type and pattern required. The tie plates can be supplied with a shoulder suitable for either Pandrol “e” or FASTCLIP fasteners or with a ROLLBLOCK. The tie plates can have holes punched for cut spikes, screw spikes or some combination of the two.

The company says its VICTOR system combines the durability and ductility of an AREMA tie plate with the benefits of resilient fastenings with the flat tie plate providing the maximum bearing area, while the use of Pandrol’s fastenings provides holding power, prevention of rail rollover and reduced maintenance. Pandrol USA also notes that testing at TTCI, with 39-ton axle loads, has shown a five-fold decrease in gauge widening when using resilient fastenings on wood ties.

Pandrol USA’s plastic injection molding plant is now in full production with eight high capacity injection molding machines and a ninth smaller machine for prototyping and short production runs. The plant is solely dedicated to the production of railroad tie pads and insulators that are used with Pandrol’s track fastening systems.

The company says it is able to more effectively meet customers’ requirements and control product quality by vertically integrating the production of tie pads and insulators, as well as rail clips for the various Pandrol fastening systems.

The company says controlling the process, from design through material specification, material purchase, and production ensures greater flexibility. And notes all injection molding machines are tightly computer controlled and monitored to insure accurate parts production, while the use of state-of-the-art robotics reduces material handling.

Pandrol USA says the capability to do its own design and prototyping, allows the company to assist its customers in developing new product variations and to test new resins and product designs to improve and enhance field performance.

Pandrol USA has also reduced the maximum weight per bag of its products in an effort to minimize the health and safety issues associated with manual lifting activities. The maximum weight per bag of resilient fastenings is 48 lbs., FASTCLIPs and ‘e’ Clips are now being packed 25 per bag and ‘PR’ Clips are being packed 15 per bag.

Pandrol USA says that while there are no specific standards in place for how much a person can lift or carry, the new packaging weight limits are based upon the National Institute of Occupational Health’s (NIOSH) mathematical model, which helps predict the risk of injury from repetitive strain. Pandrol USA’s new fastening packaging is below the acceptable weight, which nearly all healthy workers could lift over the course of an eight hour shift without increasing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders to the lower back.

WA spikesKeith Ishaug, chief executive officer, Rail Forge LLC, says railroads derive significant benefits from the company’s GageLok fasteners, including extended system life and reduced maintenance-of-way expenditures. According to Rail Forge, the premise behind GageLok fasteners is simple: To hold longer and stronger than traditional spikes. Ishaug says the company works with railroads and maintenance contractors to find new areas to solve problems and add value with its products.

One of those areas has been in helping railroads meet sustainability goals.

“At CN, GageLok screws have demonstrated significant improvement in maintenance intervals, contributing to reduced waste and fuel consumption. We have collaborated on numerous projects with Axion International, where the combination of ECOTRAX composite ties and GageLok screws gives users a solution that significantly outlasts other alternatives in high decay applications, such as tunnels. When you look at these situations and you also consider the improved MOW work conditions, reduced costs and so on, Rail Forge can help our customers make a sustainability contribution not just in the ‘green’ sense, but in the broader sense involving community, employees and shareholders as well,” said Ishaug.

Ishaug says that at the most basic level, Rail Forge is enhancing durability for the railroads by providing an easy-to-install fastener that stays securely fastened.

“Rail Forge is continually working on product refinements. Ease of installation/removal and superior performance over time are the main benefits of our products, and we have numerous development initiatives under way which will allow us to expand our advantage in those areas,” he said.

While Ishaug notes GageLok fasteners’ ease of installation, when it comes to removal, the challenge is making it easy for the railroads but hard for thieves.

“In the past year, we have focused on features that impact ease – or difficulty – of removal. For example, theft of metal track components is a major problem in Latin America and other areas,” said Ishaug, “Rail Forge has worked closely with affected railroads to incorporate advanced security features in our fasteners to impede theft of critical track components.”

VOSSLOH FASTENING SYSTEMS says 2014 will see the completion of its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Waco, Tex. The facility is currently in partial production and should be in full production by this summer.

Ron Martin, vice president and general manager of Vossloh Fastening Systems, says the plant opening will provide jobs, reduce lead times, and allow the company to compete in the North American transit and high speed systems markets where it has extensive international experience.

“Our 300 series and DFF 300 UTS fastening systems for slab track, with significant noise/ vibration attenuating and electrically isolating qualities are gaining interest in the North American market. These systems already have a proven history, for both higher speed and conventional commuter systems, in other global markets,” said Martin.

He said Vossloh is constantly testing and validating its designs for durability and to see where the company can improve.

“Recently, we introduced a redesigned screw/dowel combination that will lead to easier installations in areas where debris could be an issue. Our new Heavy Haul System, the W40, was introduced to the market in October of 2013 and has some of the highest fatigue limits on the market, which in combination to some geometrical features will reduce rail deflection, tilting and rail creep,” said Martin. “With the redesigned rail pad, this system is providing a more stable rail seat reducing the potential for rail seat abrasion, a major concern of anyone using concrete ties.”

Martin says Vossloh Fastening has several other projects in the development stage including the creation of a corrosion resistant fastening system for special track applications.

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