Rethinking Wheel Lubrication

Written by Kevin Smith, Editor-in-Chief, International Railway Journal
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IRJ at RAILWAY INTERCHANGE 2019: Local supplier Robolube hosted demonstrations of its advanced gauge face lubricator system at BNSF’s Northtown Yard outdoor exhibition area in Minneapolis. The system “offers complete wheel lubrication coverage and no waste, eliminating potential environmental contamination,” the company said.

The Robolube 2000 system was tested at FAST (Facility for Accelerated Service Testing) at Transportation Technology Center Inc. (TTCI) in 2017-18, and the results of these trials have led to improvements unveiled at this week’s exhibition.

Among these is shifting from a hi-rail to a wayside application system. The dual-belt-drive nozzle mechanism applies the grease on an 8-foot section of the rail, with the lubricant applied directly to the rail head corner and in direct contact with the wheel flange, ensuring complete wheel coverage and that no lubricant is wasted. A typical lubrication cycle uses 41ml of lubricant compared with 177.4 to 236 ml on a conventional lubrication system.

Power for the system is provided by a wayside unit that includes a 14-gallon lubricant tank and a 223.5kW water heater to melt ice and snow. Power is provided by a 7kW Kohler LP engine with batteries that offer 1,200 hours of reserve power. The unit requires annual maintenance.

The system is designed for main line track used by 60-80 trains per day. Robolube is targeting application in the North American market. The solution is patented in the U.S. and Canada.

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