Optimizing friction management

Written by Carolina Worrell, Managing Editor
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Suppliers are implementing technology advancements that ensure friction management isn’t a drag.

Friction management suppliers are focusing their efforts on the continuous evolution of their equipment and services in order to provide railroads with extended equipment service life, increased equipment uptime and longer modifier impact zones.

Friction and noise management

Elecsys Corp. added a new variant to its RFM family, the RFM-100S, and enhanced the capabilities of its RFM-100 remote monitoring systems that are used to monitor and control both top-of-rail (TOR) and gauge-face lubricators. The enhanced RFM-100 systems are now available with 4G-modem capability and IsatData Pro, which Elecsys calls the latest in global satellite communications.

The RFM-100S, which monitors noise levels, as well as the friction management unit, is currently in pilot testing at a transit system.

“These significant upgrades are important for remote monitoring products in order to extend their coverage area and enable efficient communication using the latest technologies. On cellular versions of the product family, we’ve also added a data logging and remote retrieval feature,” says Elecsys Chief Technology Officer Daniel Hughes. “The devices will now capture and store every parameter during each train event. If operators need detailed information from field units at some point in the future, they can simply download that data directly from the equipment in the field using our website without traveling to the remote sites.”

Reducing TCO

L.B. Foster Rail Technologies says its focus is on reducing total cost of ownership (TCO) of friction management projects through an increased scope of value-added aftermarket services, enhanced manufacturing capabilities and driven product improvements.

According to General Manager-Rail Technologies Jim Tanner, the company has purchased additional hi-rail service vehicles to maximize customer equipment uptime and will see improved manufacturing efficiencies with the consolidation of its friction management equipment production at its Niles, Ohio, facility.

General Manager-Friction Management Steve Fletcher notes that there has been a wide acceptance of proper top-of-rail (TOR) and gauge face friction management, which has led the industry to focus on the cost of implementing and maintaining an effective friction management program.

“Our efforts have been concentrating on enhancing our customers return on investment by not only reducing the number of applicators required to treat a section of track, but also the application rate required. Both of these are directly related to the types of friction management materials used,” says Fletcher.

Regarding the company’s KELTRACK® line of TOR friction modifiers, Fletcher says, “We continue to drive additional value added for our customers by advancing the chemistry for our KELTRACK® family of products to provide extended carry down of more than four miles while maintaining the performance and safety requirements of the railroads. We have also invested in the development of a TOR Oil product that can provide benefits at up to eight miles. Our customers are going to see very significant improvements in performance as a result.”

L.B. Foster says product performance validation comes from field trials and collaborating with the technical community. Significant efforts have gone into verifying that its friction management materials not only offer fuel and rail savings, but also provide safe operations regarding traction, braking and impact on rolling contact fatigue.

The company notes its AutoPilot™ advanced TOR spray application systems continue to gain market acceptance as use of mobile systems within the rail industry continues to expand. L.B. Foster says these systems are well suited to high-traffic commodity routes, but are also effective in closed loop utility operations and with short line railroads.

Switch plate protection

Interflon Rail USA offers Interflon Lube EP for use on switch plates and fishplates (connector bars). The lubricating coating, MicPol®, uses micronized and negatively charged Teflon® to adhere to the metal surfaces it contacts, resulting in a lubricating coating.

Four milliliters of material are used on each switch plate per application, and Interflon says the coating lasts four to six weeks. The company notes that considering four milliliters are applied, there is little or no runoff to contaminate the surrounding soil, and the surface of the plate remains visible. Soil samples tested in Germany surrounding a switch where Interflon Lube EP was used for two years showed that there were no traceable residues of the Interflon lubricants in the soil.

The company says Interflon Lube EP and its other products for the rail industry lower user costs, help keep the environment clean, reduce friction, reduce energy supplied from the grid, last longer than existing lubricants, improve track safety, prolong the life of switch components and significantly lower switch failure occurrence. Additionally, Interflon says its philosophy of providing training on site and supplying user guides ensures that the benefits of Interflon’s new technology are easily and fully realized.

Managing the gauge face

Loram Maintenance of Way Inc. calls the introduction of its GaugeShield product line, which is designed to efficiently and effectively lubricate the gauge face of the rail, a continuation of the development of innovative friction management equipment.

General Manager-Friction Management Jon Behrens says, “The GaugeShield design focuses on delivering performance and reliability, while simplifying routine maintenance and operation. The ergonomically designed tank provides ample space for maintenance and inspection. The removable grease tank insert allows for easy transfer of seasonal and different manufacturers’ greases, and the cone shaped design funnels grease to the pump to decrease cavitation.”

GaugeShield’s dual-output gear pump has fewer moving parts. The grease output is reliable and repeatable at all operating temperatures and can control two tracks with a single controller. The patent pending dispensing bar, which uniformly dispenses grease across the top of the bar, has a removable insert for inexpensive replacement. GaugeShield can be remotely monitored with Loram’s monitoring and analytics packages.

TOR management

SKF/Lincoln Lubrication Systems has added several new and upgraded products to its TOR lubrication line. The company says its new contact applicator is compatible with low-viscosity friction modifiers, and features high-strength foam and adhesive that provide long service life. Suitable for a range of rail sizes, the contact applicator’s impact-zone cushion seals and minimizes splashing of lower-viscosity material.

SKF upgraded its Lincoln metal contact applicator after six-plus years of field experience and testing. The applicator weighs less than 50 pounds and is compatible with higher-viscosity and “drying-type” friction modifiers. A significant improvement is its simple installation, which is accomplished with stud clamps and slotted shims. Re-installation requires only one wrench size.

A new reservoir and divider valve models for drying-type water-based friction modifiers also have been introduced and can be retrofitted to existing field installations. The new reservoir automatically shuts the system down in order to avoid water-based modifiers drying up inside pumps. A non-contact level sensor reads when the level is too low and interfaces with the controller, and the pre-assembled UV divider valve withstands the abrasive properties of drying-type friction modifiers for reliable operation.

Technology focus

“Our ongoing push to become more vertically integrated recently included the launch of our new TOR friction modifier, TOR Armor™,” says Whitmore Rail Director of Railroad Sales Bruce Wise. “It provides optimum friction at the wheel/rail interface and greatly reduces lateral creep. We are also about to introduce a new TOR wiping bar for heavy-haul freight and transit applications. Another key part of our product line is our high-tech AccuTrack® electric trackside lubricators. They deliver consistent output in all temperatures and come in a variety of tank sizes. A new, U.S.-made version of AccuTrack will be available later this year.”

“Most of our worldwide customer base continues to see the benefits of a solid rail friction management program and looks to Whitmore Rail for the next breakthrough,” says Wise. “Because we make and offer a comprehensive friction management line of products, we project our business to grow significantly this year. Plus, our customers are always looking for new efficiencies and ways to lower maintenance costs and increase safety. We are ideally positioned to meet their specific needs because we offer the convenience of ‘one stop shopping’ to the railroads.”

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