Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Annual Report: Grade Crossing Surfaces 2014

Written by 
A Cenutury Group grade crossing surface finished and in use.
A HiRAIL pedestrian crossing being installed for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Industry Railway Suppliers’ Turtle Trax Temporary Railroad Crossing in use.
LT Resources’ ENDURANCE-XL PLUS Highway-Rail Grade Crossings with AREMA standard engineered composite ties on CSX mainline double track in the Chicago area.
An Omega crossing installed for the Utah Transit Authority.
Polycorp’s Removable Railseal installed in the Toronto Transit Commision’s Long Branch Loop.
A Cenutury Group grade crossing surface finished and in use.

Railroads look to suppliers for smooth grade-crossing surfaces to ensure safety for everyone and everything that passes over and on the tracks.

Safety is of utmost importance to all railroads whether it's Class 1, shortline, intercity, commuter or transit and certainly it is top priority when it comes to the point where railroads and people meet at grade crossings. Suppliers are offering the smoothest of surfaces and latest technology to ensure safe passage for all.

American Concrete Products
American Concrete Products offers its Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) fully-compliant, colored flangeway filler.

Orders from transits and shortlines are increasing and many more locations are looking for ADA-compliant crossings.

"Steel ties are being used more often, so it is important to offer a precast crossing that can be secured to that type of tie," noted Buz Hutchinson, railroad sales and service.
American Concrete's surface is a light broom finished concrete sealed from contaminates. Hutchinson says that concrete used in the company's manufacturing has much higher compressive strength than specified.

"Our 10-year warranty exceeds other crossing materials," Hutchinson explained. "Increased truck traffic created by the intermodal industry is causing other crossing material to fail before its lifespan. Concrete crossings are being installed as replacements because of the warranty."

Century Group
Century Group, Inc., has produced precast concrete grade-crossing panels for more than 25 years and has more than three decades of experience in the ownership and operation of a railroad construction company. The company has more than 60 years in precast concrete manufacturing and provides personnel who travel to project sites and assist customers in the design, development and manufacturing of custom grade-crossing systems.

Century Group says it offers the convenience of prefabrication, combined with the exactness of a custom-made product to provide long-lasting grade-crossing panels to its customers.

The company offers crossings in numerous rail sizes with features, such as custom surfaces to match color and texture paving at passenger station platforms and sidewalks. Century Group specializes in custom manufacturing panels for various rail configurations, such as turnouts, curves, crossovers, diamonds, wide/narrow gauge, extreme loads, pedestrian and ADA crossing applications, says Jerry McCombs, vice president, Railroad Products Division.

Century Group's manufacturing facilities are certified by the National Precast Concrete Association. McCombs says the certification demonstrates Century's commitment to high standards in all areas of production, safety and information management.

"We continue to batch/mix all our own concrete at our company-owned/operated facilities, versus using ready-mix, combined with using grade 72 reinforcement versus grade 60," said McCombs. "Using 12,000-psi stronger reinforcement, combined with hands-on QA/QC from batching/mixing our own concrete and having certified welders, enables us to provide a high-quality product to the marketplace. Improved capacity and inventories at our manufacturing facilities allows us to continue to respond quickly to our customers' needs."

HiRAIL Corporation
HiRAIL Corporation manufactures a complete line of rubber grade-crossing surfaces, including Hi-Rail, Pede-Strail and HiRAIL Rail Seal (RS). HiRAIL full-depth rubber crossings are a green product, manufactured from recycled vehicle tires; they can also be recycled at the end of their useful life.

HiRAIL says its full-depth rubber grade-crossing systems 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 or concrete ties using all types of rail fastening.

Walt Barry, vice president, says he sees crossing surface maintenance and improvement projects holding steady and that he doesn't expect much of a change in the near future.

"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 or grade-separate a crossing, the major modifications would be in the crossing warning devices more than the surface."

Industry Railway Suppliers
Industry Railway Suppliers, Inc., now offers its new product, Turtle Trax Temporary Railroad Crossing and says it is an innovative new way to traverse a railroad crossing using a lightweight, safe, portable and reusable system.

The Turtle Trax is made from a mixture of high and low density polyethylene, 100 percent recycled plastic (HDPE.) The Trax have cylindrical holes in the surface for drainage and weight reduction and the puzzle-like interlock allows modification of both the length and width of the Trax according to customer needs.

The company notes that a Class 1 railroad engineer aided in the design of the temporary crossing, solving the issues encountered by the track/engineering departments when permanent crossings are either taken out of service by tie and/or steel gangs during railroad crossing repairs.

"It was also recognized that this product fills a need for the mechanical department-scooter crossing in yards," explained Chuck Slater, vice president of sales. "Turtle-Trax offers the ability to put multiple sets in place so maintenance vehicles, ATV's, etc., can easily maneuver congested yards. Market factors include reducing down time for crews (for injuries sustained moving heavy steel plates, waiting for help to move the plates, and waiting for a material, such as asphalt, to arrive) and the time consuming activity of adding and removing asphalt to create temporary crossings, as well as prolonged interface with pedestrians during repair jobs. No cranes or added lookouts are required when installing the Turtle-Trax product."

Slater says rail programs and maintenance of rail are driving demand and that this product allows railroad customers to move maintenance vehicles across the track in remote areas much more efficiently than driving miles upon miles to the nearest crossing to move from one side of the track to the other.

"Railroad spending across the board has increased," he said. "Suppliers have benefited from the rail renaissance, crude by rail and the various railroad initiatives to transport goods more efficiently and safely while improving operating ratios, are all contributing factors to the increased spending."

Slater points out that high-speed rail is all about efficiency and speed and that Turtle Trax in action benefits railroad repair crews saving time, money and creates a safer work environment for all parties involved.

The company's hose bridge can be used in conjunction with the Turtle Trax if a customer needs to ramp up to the surface on the outside (field-side) of the rails.

KSA says 2013 was its best year ever and 2014 looks to be very similar. The company notes its backlog of orders is very strong and its busy time of year is just beginning.

"Our territory seems to be expanding," explained Scott Craig, general manager. "We are now providing crossing panels to states both in the north and the south that we haven't in the past or it has been many years. We are working on new ways to improve the longevity of the panels and I hope to be able to share these in next year's edition."

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 complete with attached rubber flangeway, bearing pads, deflectors and lag screws.

LT Resources
LT Resources' newest product, the ENDURANCE®-XL PLUS Composite Crossing, was designed with direct input from Class 1s, includes a built-in composite flangeway filler and accommodates all mainline rail profiles and all types of fastening systems.

ENDURANCE-XL PLUS panels are manufactured using an engineered recycled plastics formulation, resulting in a durable, long-lasting grade-crossing product suitable for all types of traffic conditions, notes the company. In addition to the built-in composite flangeway filler, other special features include lifting devices for easy installation/easy removal for track maintenance, a molded skid resistant surface and beveled ends. Full-depth panels are manufactured for 112-lb. and 115-lb. rail profiles, as well as 132-, 136- and 141-lb. rail profiles and can be used with traditional eight feet six-inch, nine-foot or 10-foot treated wood ties or composite ties.

"The fact ENDURANCE-XL PLUS Crossings and composite crossties utilize recycled plastics, which are in turn recyclable, is of great interest to Class 1s, shortlines, transits, municipalities and industrial customers with corporate sustainability programs in place," explained Linda Thomas, president. "State departments of transportation consider ENDURANCE-XL PLUS a premium surface product and Class 1s are in various phases of including the product in their engineering standards."

Thomas notes that many times, railroads must spend their maintenance budgets to maintain their track (ties, rail/OTM); crossings get whatever is left, thus the quest for high-performance crossing surface products to minimize on-going maintenance issues.

As it pertains to high-speed rail, she says that although the ENDURANCE-XL PLUS design is suitable for high-speed rail, LT Resources has several new designs in the works for both domestic and international applications.

Crossing demand is at an all-time high, according to Omega Industries, Inc. Freight and industry crossing orders are up compared to the same time last year, explains Mark Mottola, national sales manager.

"According to other vendors I've spoken with, demand for all track materials is high," he said. "Longer lead times have forced railroads to plan ahead, resulting in larger than normal early-season orders. In years past, we've slowed production over the winter months and picked back up again in the spring; this is no longer the case, as we are running at full capacity year round."

Mottola says he sees positive growth in the transit market; both light rail and commuter rail, crossing demand is up and has continued to increase each year. As more people travel by train, there is a push toward producing safer crossings for pedestrians, wheelchairs and cyclists, he notes.

"To meet these demands, our engineers have developed a new ADA rubber flangeway profile, along with a coarse, non-slip concrete surface. The beauty of a coarse concrete surface is that it remains skid resistant even when wet."

Polycorp Ltd.
Polycorp Ltd. has developed a new Removable Railseal crossing system for use in concrete road surfaces and high-wear areas.

"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," said Brad Bedford, technical sales coordinator. "This new design allows for overnight rail and fastener repairs to be made without costly detours and rush hour road closures."

Polycorp manufactures products in the U.S. and Canada for every type of road surface, rail size and track construction, from traditional railseal to precast concrete panels. If required, Polycorp can supplyBuy America products for all grade-crossing styles.

The rise in transit expansion has led Polycorp to develop a complete range of rail and special trackwork isolation products. The company's patented TrackJacket Encapsulation System is comprised of a full line of products that work together to mitigate stray current and provide vibration isolation across the entire network.

"The rise in fuel costs throughout the world is taking people off the roads and onto the rails," he explained. "This has resulted in an all-time high in transit ridership. This increased ridership 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 patented TrackJacket system for electrical and vibration isolation to improve their systems performance and reduce future maintenance with prolonged road and track life."

Bedford notes that the continuing rise of freight tonnage has caused maintenance budgets to rise accordingly to keep the rail network running smoothly and avoid costly delays due to failures in the system. There has also been a significant increase in intermodal facility construction and maintenance to handle the increased year-over-year tonnage, he explains. This continuing growth has led Polycorp to develop a line of Epflex Railseal specifically tailored to ports and intermodal yards.

The company says the intricate track construction of high-speed rail requires a number of elastomeric products be used in the track structure and that these products facilitate vibration dampening inside the train, as well as the surrounding areas. Polycorp has refined its line of dynamic elastomeric track products for supply.

Stella-Jones Corporation produces full-depth timber wood crossings for Class 1 and commercial markets.

"We offer crossings from several locations and we are pleased to announce that we have opened up a new bridge and crossing line at our Russellville, Ark., facility," explained George Caric, vice president marketing.

Stella-Jones is now able to supply Midwest and Southwest customers with its timber crossings and several of its plants now offer timber crossing treated with the one-step borate process that extends the useful life of the material.

TRANSPO INDUSTRIES, Inc., says its Color-Safe® pavement marking has seen increased interest around the country as a safety feature on roadways.

"The use of color as a dynamic envelope is an economic and effective warning for drivers," noted Rudy Gradishar, Midwest regional sales manager. "We are very excited to see this method of increasing public awareness and safety around railroad crossings come in to more common use."

BODAN® is a precast reinforced polymer concrete crossing system and the company notes that unlike other crossings, BODAN does not rely on crossties for attachment or support. The modular design was built for easy removal to perform routine track inspection and maintenance.

Get the latest rail news

The inside scoop from RT&S, IRJ and Railway Age on and off the track. Join our email list.