Safety of employees continues to be top priority when it comes to materials handling equipment.
Suppliers and manufacturers are working hard to provide railroads both big and small with the latest equipment with new technology in order to move material to the work site, unload it and put it in its place.
Georgetown Rail Equipment Co.'s (GREX) Self Powered Slot (SPS) will soon showcase hardware and software combinations to enable downloading of tie set out information from Aurora's Machine Vision Tie Inspection Systems data for accurate tie replacement distribution.
GREX says Aurora will scan track at 30 mph or greater and grade ties for replacement values using customer- specific grading models. The data will then be processed through optimization algorithms using customer-specific parameters and uploaded to the SPS work platform for accurate, automated placement when ties are unloaded, the company notes. Tie grapple pick up counts will be managed with each swing. GREX says this will optimize exact placement and software will enable accurate set out, regardless of the direction of travel.
"An encoder will insure managed location data and combine with readily available computer-assisted mapping software for exact placement for the ties that have been graded for replacement," noted Lynn Turner, vice president of marketing and sales. "The combination of several technologies and advances in computer-assisted modeling and grading, not only maximizes the work that can be accomplished in limited work windows through automation, but offers enhanced safe work practices resulting in fewer incidents and injuries."
The integrated systems from GREX are currently going through field testing and will be commercially available for the upcoming heavy maintenance season, GREX says.
Herzog Railroad Services, Inc., offers customers its Multi-Purpose Machine (M.P.M.), which is a single-operator machine that can be maneuvered from the power unit, "b" cab or from the excavator perched on top of the gantry system that extends the length of the six Herzog-built well cars that have a capacity of almost 500 total cubic yards. When stopping to work, four dog-eared clamps lock the excavator bogey into place. Both ends of the machine are set up with a horn, bell, ditch lights and headlight so travel back and forth to work locations can be minimized during short work windows.
M.P.M.'s come standard with two grapples, a bucket and a magnet and, upon request and availability, there is a tree shear available at no extra charge. A brushcutter or auger is also offered, based on availability and for an additional charge. The tree shear is capable of cutting down trees up to 27-feet tall and 14-inches in diameter with just one cut, notes the company.
"The shear clamps down on the tree before it makes its cut so the trees can be easily loaded into the machine," explained Timothy Francis, vice president of marketing. "The auger has been used to install foundations for positive train control (PTC) installation. Another time-saving benefit of this machine is the rotatilt indexator head with quick connect attachments. Operators can travel from one end of the machine and change attachments in just a couple of minutes."
Herzog has used the M.P.M. to distribute and pick up ties and OTM, pick up scrap rail or move second hand rail (300-foot) short distances for relay, ditch, brushcut, thin trees, remove bridge decks, haul snow from yards, remove and replace crossings, haul away old code line, install PTC signal foundations and more.
The most recent application for the M.P.M. has been a rail shear the addition of a second excavator and operator to the machine consist. Perched up on the machine is one excavator with a rail shear head for shearing the rail and one with a grapple for loading the rail into the machine. Herzog has been testing this method since early January and the production results have exceeded the company's expectations.
Loram Maintenance of Way, Inc., says its Raptor Rail Handling System was designed for speed, performance, reliability and safety and, depending on conditions, has a loading productivity output up to 3,000 to 5,000 feet-per-hour.
"The current North American rail train fleet utilizes antiquated equipment that struggle to meet customer needs," noted Scott Diercks, manager, product development. "Fleet renewal is a requirement due to the age and condition of existing equipment. During fleet renewal, customers are seeking new technologies that will allow them to increase productivity, enhance safety and lower cost by reducing the units required to load and unload rail."
Loram says its customers are not simply replacing old equipment; they examine the whole process and look at ways to reduce resource waste, cost and provide the most value for their company. Notably, this approach is forcing innovation into the rail maintenance industry, the company says.
"In terms of safety, the traditional process of loading rail includes significant risks," Diercks explained. "Customers are seeking a more ergonomic environment with enhanced safety features to reduce risks for their employees."
Loram says its Rail Handling System was made to diminish risk of injury by reducing the human interaction with the rail.
"One of the key advantages of Loram's equipment is that it retains total control of the rail while loading and unloading," Diercks said. "The equipment also provides a very stable and ergonomic work station that locks the rail in place mechanically when there is a need to come into physical contact with the rail. Loram has experienced zero injuries since the equipment was commissioned in 2002."
Railway Construction Equipment Co. (RCE) has added additional machine sizes to its hi-rail excavator line up, offering machines that can handle a wide range of material-handing tasks on- or off-track, such as tie handing and distribution, rail handing, scrap and material reclaiming and larger tasks that require heavy lifting capabilities, such as track panel handling and placement.
"Combing these units with RCE's swing loader swing crane, we can offer material handling units to fit anyone's needs," noted Dennis Hanke, sales manager. "Today's customer is looking for machine versatility, larger, more versatile machines that are capable of handling the heavier rail components used in building today's rail systems."
Since its inception, R.J. Corman Railroad Company/Material Sales says it has delivered to the industry safe, quality and cost-effective material management and distribution. Through 10 maintenance-of-way yards, the company provides material delivery service, 24/7.
"With a continuous improvement approach, R.J. Corman Railroad Company/Material Sales identifies new technological advancements to improve or replace its existing fleet," said Nicholas Spalding, director, material sales. "Railroaders want to know how technology can improve safety and efficiencies. We're currently researching newly-designed grapples, ones that are lighter yet maintain or improve lifting capacity. This allows us to haul more material, safely. The company recently considered cabbed grapples, as well. Providing the safest working environment to our number one asset, employees, is paramount."
Spalding explains the railroad industry is evolving and Class 1s are experiencing historic operating margins enabling considerable capital investments.
"Through improved safety, technology and customer/supplier relationships, that trend will continue," he noted. "The future is bright for our industry and we're determined to deliver safe, quality service with the innovation that Rick Corman built our reputation on."
V&H Inc., Trucks', Creep Drive System has recently been upgraded with a display that is mounted at the operator's station. The display has the ability to monitor the chassis oil pressure, water temperature, tachometer and ground speed, along with displaying system trouble codes. The system can also be accessed remotely to help diagnose problems in the field.
"The market for material handling-type trucks was soft the last quarter of 2013," said Tim Minor, railroad support, Kansas Division. "I believe this can be attributed to the harsh winter that we had across much of the country. However, the request for material handling trucks and material carts by the contractors has picked up since the first part of the year. Quick lead times are always a concern, especially for the contractors, but we try to keep 'work ready' trucks in stock for the customers that have an immediate need."
Grapples and magnets are usually always standard, Minor says. Options include hitch packages to pull a material cart, tool circuits, train air packages to move railcars and drive systems to move the truck from the operator's station. The most unusual request was a jet-powered snow blower, he notes.
V&H is now installing seat pressure switches on all material handling trucks that are equipped with loaders and drive systems. The operator has to be sitting in the seat before the drive system will function and it will shut down if the operator comes out of the seat anytime the system is in use.