Track maintenance experts share success stories at Interchange

Written by Jennifer Nunez, Assistant Editor, Railway Track & Structures
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Maintenance-minded folks at the AREMA Conference gathered throughout the day October 6 to soak up 10 informative presentations revolving around maintaining the world's railroads, which is no small task.

Session Chair and AREMA Functional Group Vice President Bruce Williams started things off with an appropriate safety briefing.

Topics of the day included geothermal switch heater installation, bridge tie replacement methodology, geohazard mitigation and top of rail products, among others.

One particular presentation, Aerial LiDAR Survey of Track Geometry in Union Pacific’s Strang Yard, presented by Christopher Villar from Surveying and Mapping, LLC, was held toward the end of the day, but still had impressive attendance.

For this project, Surveying And Mapping, LLC (SAM) partnered with Union Pacific to explore alternatives to the traditional survey method, which includes crews on the ground capturing individual static location measurements every 50 feet along each of the tracks. It was noted that the traditional method meets accuracy requirements but is disruptive to yard operations for weeks at a time and creates safety concerns.

The presenters compared surveying using LiDAR data obtained from an aircraft to the traditional method. The aerial approach was noted to offer low impact on yard operations and no fouling of tracks, easing safety considerations.

Both methods matched with enough precision determining aerial LiDAR acquisition as a viable alternative to traditional methods in busy yards where impact to operations is disruptive. It was also noted that every yard and application varies; however, when comparing costs of traditional survey versus aerial LiDAR, significant cost savings related to yard operation efficiencies and intangible savings of enhanced safety, as well as the ability to revisit the data to extract additional information as needed provides significant value to rail operators and maintenance.

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