Thursday, June 14, 2012

Crossing with the utmost care

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Century Group's concrete grade-crossing surface being installed. Century Group's concrete grade-crossing surface being installed.

Whether it’s  a freight train, passenger train or a pedestrian crossing the rails, grade-crossing surfaces must be in tip top shape to provide a safe and smooth ride.

According to Linda Thomas, LT Resources, Inc.,  president, railroads continue to seek products that provide a longer service life to best utilize their maintenance and construction dollars, including grade-crossing surfaces that provide a smooth ride. Following our annual grade crossing update you can find the “E&M Guide” and “Grade-Crossing surface data” sheets begining on page 28.

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Century Group

Century Group has more than 60 years of experience in the precast concrete manufacturing business and 25 years experience in producing precast concrete grade-crossing panels. Century also has more than three decades of experience in railroad construction, having owned and operated a railroad construction company.

“Our wealth of experience provides us with personnel who go to project sites to assist our customers in the design, development and manufacture of grade-crossing panels to be installed in DF track, turnouts, diamonds, extreme loads and other complex applications, such as restraining rails in curves, crossovers, wide/narrow gauge, pedestrian devil strip panels and ADA applications,” explained Jerry McCombs, vice president sales, railroad products division. “We have the expertise and flexibility to custom design a crossing surface to meet the customer’s specific needs.”

Century Group manufactures crossings for numerous rail sizes with features such as custom surfaces to match color and textured paving at passenger station platforms and sidewalks. The company also offers the option of providing crossties along with its crossing surfaces and specializes in custom manufacturing panels for various rail configurations.

“Century has developed a flangeway filler that is more durable and has a greater electrical resistivity than the industry standards of today,” McCombs noted. “We also offer a system that incorporates an interface for asphalt on the field side, while utilizing standard panels for the gauge area.”

Century’s manufacturing facilities are certified by the National Precast Concrete Association.

“The NPCA plant certification is a challenging test for a precast concrete manufacturing plant’s ability to produce consistently reliable quality concrete products,” he said. “This, combined with improved capacity at our manufacturing facilities, allows us to respond quickly to our customers’ needs.”

He noted that the certification of its manufacturing facilities demonstrates Century’s commitment to the highest of standards in all areas of production, safety and information management. The company also continues to batch/mix all of its own concrete at the company-owned-and-operated facilities.

“Using 12,000 psi stronger reinforcement, combined with hands-on QA/QC from batching/mixing our own concrete, along with owning/operating our own fabrication shop, enables us to provide a higher quality product to the market place,” McCombs added.

HiRAIL Corporation

HiRAIL Corporation manufactures a complete line of rubber grade-crossing surfaces including HiRail, Pede-Strail and HiRAIL RS. The company says its crossings are a true green product being manufactured from recycled tires and can be recycled again after their useful life.

This year, HiRAIL offers its full-depth rubber crossing material in a lagged down design. The pads are pre-drilled and the holes are countersunk. Lags and rubber plugs are provided.

Hi-Rail full-depth rubber grade-crossing systems are said to provide a smooth, safe and attractive crossing surface for motor vehicles. They are manufactured to accommodate most common rail sizes, rail fastenings and wood, concrete or steel ties.
Pede-Strail is a pedestrian crossing surface that meets ADA requirements. Pede-Strail has all the features of HiRail full-depth rubber and comes with a raised diamond surface for pedestrian stability.

HiRAIL RS is a rubber rail seal product that works in conjunction with asphalt or poured in place concrete crossings and is manufactured to fit most common rail sizes on timber ties with standard track spikes.

“Any new crossings being constructed are due to double track projects or new at-grade transit line,” said Walt Barry, director of sales and marketing. “I feel that the majority of the crossing surface purchases are for replacement. The Class 1 railroads seem to be the largest purchasers of crossing surfaces, probably because they have the largest number of at-grade crossings.”

Barry notes that he believes crossing surface maintenance and improvement projects are holding steady this year and doesn’t see much of a change for the near future.

“My feeling is that in high-speed rail territory, the goal would be to have as few at-grade crossings as possible,” he explained. “Where it is not feasible to eliminate a crossing, the major modifications would be in the crossing signals. I cannot think of any modifications to the crossing surface that would be necessary due to HSR.”

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HiRAIL's rubber grade-crossing surface post installation.

KSA

KSA is a PCI and AAR M-1003 certified facility located in Sciotoville, Ohio, which has been in operation since 1992. The KSA concrete grade-crossing design is a full-width, full-depth system that accommodates rail sizes from 112-lb. to 141-lb. rail. Its panels are designed for both timber and concrete crossties  and are manufactured with a heavy steel angle frame, high-strength 7,000 psi concrete and come with attached rubber flangeway, bearing pads, deflectors and lag screws.

The company notes its backlog of orders is very good and with summer coming on, it usually increases. 2012 looks to be a very similar to 2011, which was one of KSA’s better years.

LT Resources

LT Resources’ new 136-lb. mainline crossing surface is now available for late summer delivery. The Endurance®-XL Plus design utilizes the proven Endurance®-XL manufacturing process. The company notes the patented composite technology and engineered plastics formulation provides superior performance and extended service life, especially in severe environments.

The 136-lb. solid-panel mainline design includes an updated skid-resistant surface and extends the composite material into the flangeway to provide a more cost-effective crossing surface product, says Linda Thomas, president of LT Resources. Lifting devices are included to assure efficient installation and easy removal for track maintenance. Endurance®-XL Plus panels will be manufactured for use with 115-lb. rail, as well as 136-lb. rail and can be supplied with or without the built-in composite flangeway filler, depending on customer preference. Panels will accommodate virtually any type of fastening system and can be used with 8-ft. 6-in., 9-ft. or 10-ft. wood or composite crossties.

LT Resources will continue to supply the current Endurance®-XL design while it transitions to the new Endurance®-XL Plus design.

“The trend toward green products continues,” noted Linda Thomas. “LT Resources’ products utilize recycled and recyclable materials that address corporate green initiatives.”

Thomas says that new transit projects and intermodal facilities, as well as continued highway-rail safety improvements, help to keep the crossing market strong and active.

The company works closely with end-users and engineering firms to develop and supply cost-effective durable composite materials to meet their needs, something Thomas takes great pride in providing clients.

LT Resources supplies composite crossties for use under Endurance®-XL and Endurance®-XL Plus Highway-Rail Grade Crossings, for a complete composite package. As IntegriCo Composites’ marketing representative, LT Resources notes it can supply competitively-priced composite crossties and switch ties to meet AREMA standards for use in a variety of applications, including heavy-haul freight, light-rail and transit, high-decay areas and severe chemical environments.

Omega Industries, Inc.

Omega Industries, Inc., is close to launching its newest product, which will be a tieless crossing system placed directly onto a prepared subgrade. The system is said to eliminate the need for crossties, tie plates and ballast, which in turn, would save time and money during the installation. This system is made to work well in heavy-load situations such as industrial plants and ports where container carriers tend to punish standard crossing panels. 

“Business in general is off to a very good start this year,” explained Mark Mottola, national sales manager. “We are experiencing our busiest spring to date and expect the remainder of the year to bring more of the same. If this is an indication of where our economy is heading, I would say it’s a step in the positive direction.”

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Omega's concrete grade-crossing surface installed at the Port of Vancouver.

OMNI Products, Inc.

OMNI Products, Inc., offers a complete product line and can custom blend rubber in-house for better electrical resistance on both its concrete and rubber grade crossings.

As for concrete products, the company manufactures TraCastTM, a “tub style” tieless concrete crossing, ECR concrete crossings with embedded rubber, common standard concrete with bolt-on rubber and improved concrete with full-depth virgin rubber on both sides of the rail.

Rubber products include Full-Depth Heavy Duty, that OMNI says is the only full-depth virgin rubber crossing available, which withstands high traffic levels; Steel Reinforced, which is good for heavy lift trucks or other industrial applications and RailGaurd VRA, which is used in conjunction with asphalt or concrete protect the track structure by absorbing traffic impact loads.

Bob Cigrang, vice president of sales and marketing at OMNI Products, says that trends he sees include more customization, custom-made crossings for turnouts, steel ties, concrete ties, guard rail and larger tie plates.

Polycorp Ltd.

Polycorp Ltd. has developed a new removable rubber crossing system for use in concrete road surfaces. The system allows the rubber railseal to be removed, repairs to be made and the rubber reinserted in a fraction of the time it takes for traditional repair work, notes the company. This new design allows for overnight rail and fastener repairs to be made without costly detours and rush-hour road closures.

Polycorp manufactures products for every type of road surface, rail size and track construction. From traditional railseal to precast concrete panels, Polycorp can supply material for any grade-crossing style.

“The rise in transit expansion has led Polycorp to develop a complete line of rail and special trackwork isolation products,” explained Brad Bedford, technical sales coordinator for the company’s Engineered Products Division. “Polycorp’s patent-pending TrackJacket Encapsulation System allows for stray current and vibration mitigation throughout the whole rail network by providing innovative products to compliment each other and form a seal against stray current loss.”

The rise in fuel costs throughout the world is taking people off the roads and onto the rails, he says. This has resulted in an all time high in transit ridership. This increased ridership, Bedford says, has seen the payback shortened for transit expansion in major city centers leading to immediate launches of shovel-ready projects.

“Many of these expansion projects are utilizing Polycorp’s line of electrical and vibration isolating Epflex Railboot, Railseal and TrackJacket products to improve their systems performance and reduce future maintenance,” he said.

The continuing rise of freight tonnage has seen the need for maintenance budgets to rise accordingly to keep the rail network running smoothly and avoid costly delays due to failures in the system, Bedford notes.

“There has also been a significant increase in intermodal facility construction and maintenance to handle the increased year-over-year tonnage,” he explained. “This continuing growth has led Polycorp to develop a line of Epflex Railseal specifically tailored to ports and intermodal yards.”

The intricate track construction of HSR requires a number of elastomeric products be used in the track structure, he says. These products facilitate vibration dampening inside the train, as well as the surrounding areas.

TRANSPO INDUSTRIES

TRANSPO INDUSTRIES offers its T28 Color Safe Surface (color pavement) for pedestrian crossings, which is said to increase delineation and safety. Its high-friction granular surfacing material provides a skid-resistant surface.

Karen Dinitz, marketing director, notes that more railroads are looking for reduced-maintenance and longer life for crossing surfaces. She also sees a definite uptick in interest when it comes to HSR lines and sees the trend holding steady for the future.
More pedestrian warning and crossing safety features like surface-mounted flushing warning LED lights offered with Transpo’s Bodan® system, Dinitz says are what railroads are looking for.

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