Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Annual AAR Review puts focus on efficiency

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Some of the world's top experts in railroad technology came to Pueblo, Colo., this week to hear about the latest research from what many acknowledge is the industry's top laboratory, the Chieftain reports.

It's the 15th annual Association of American Railroads Research Review, which has been drawing engineers, technicians and corporate leaders here for years. Most of the research is done in Pueblo at the AAR's Transportation Technology Center Inc., the 52-acre site northeast of the city's airport.

Roy Allen, TTCI president, said that this year's attendance, 435 by Tuesday afternoon's count, was the largest ever.

Last year, he said attendance was down but things seem to have turned around, due in part to more government money being spent on rail research. "Of course that hasn't been in freight but there is some benefit," he said.

The primary theme of each year's event, he said, has been "improving safety and efficiency." From early Tuesday morning until breaking for dinner just before 5 p.m., there was a steady stream of reports covering the primary areas of investigation at the center. Today, many of those attending will visit the center itself for tours and a first-hand view of the research they've been hearing about.

Talks Tuesday covered results from the ongoing heavy-axle-load program designed to help haulers of coal and other commodities reduce wear on rails and wheels, new ways of monitoring track conditions to prevent derailments and methods to extend the life of rail and rail cars and thereby lower costs.

Allen said one of the highlights was a discussion of automatic inspections of rail cars.

The center has patented some of its own devices that can spot problems on cars as they move past and methods are constantly improving, he said.

"Through very, very clever software, we can look for cracks," Allen said. Besides wheels, the cars' undercarriages can be checked, along with safety devices like ladders and hand brakes.

The devices can check moving trains, traveling past at 40 mph or more so trains don't have to be stopped for inspections and, he added, people don't have to do it. "The vision is to have most inspections of rail cars done automatically, instead of having people walk through 20-degree weather." Crews that had been inspecting can spend their time repairing things the automatic systems discover, "turning finders into fixers," Allen said.

In addition to the AAR members in the United States, Canada and Mexico, representatives from firms and government agencies in Germany, Austria, China, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom were in attendance.

Some of the world's top experts in railroad technology came to Pueblo, Colo., this week to hear about the latest research from what many acknowledge is the industry's top laboratory, the Chieftain reports.

It's the 15th annual Association of American Railroads Research Review, which has been drawing engineers, technicians and corporate leaders here for years. Most of the research is done in Pueblo at the AAR's Transportation Technology Center Inc., the 52-acre site northeast of the city's airport.

Roy Allen, TTCI president, said that this year's attendance, 435 by Tuesday afternoon's count, was the largest ever.

Last year, he said attendance was down but things seem to have turned around, due in part to more government money being spent on rail research. "Of course that hasn't been in freight but there is some benefit," he said.

The primary theme of each year's event, he said, has been "improving safety and efficiency." From early Tuesday morning until breaking for dinner just before 5 p.m., there was a steady stream of reports covering the primary areas of investigation at the center. Today, many of those attending will visit the center itself for tours and a first-hand view of the research they've been hearing about.

Talks Tuesday covered results from the ongoing heavy-axle-load program designed to help haulers of coal and other commodities reduce wear on rails and wheels, new ways of monitoring track conditions to prevent derailments and methods to extend the life of rail and rail cars and thereby lower costs.

Allen said one of the highlights was a discussion of automatic inspections of rail cars.

The center has patented some of its own devices that can spot problems on cars as they move past and methods are constantly improving, he said.

"Through very, very clever software, we can look for cracks," Allen said. Besides wheels, the cars' undercarriages can be checked, along with safety devices like ladders and hand brakes.

The devices can check moving trains, traveling past at 40 mph or more so trains don't have to be stopped for inspections and, he added, people don't have to do it. "The vision is to have most inspections of rail cars done automatically, instead of having people walk through 20-degree weather." Crews that had been inspecting can spend their time repairing things the automatic systems discover, "turning finders into fixers," Allen said.

In addition to the AAR members in the United States, Canada and Mexico, representatives from firms and government agencies in Germany, Austria, China, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom were in attendance.

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