Suppliers help railroads maintain smooth surfaces at grade crossings to ensure safety for all.
Railroads, motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians all cross paths at grade crossings. This is why safety is of utmost importance to railroads, suppliers and the public. Manufacturers are offering up the most technologically advance products for a smooth and safe passage across.
American Concrete Products
American Concrete Products, which has been in business for more than 60 years, offers crossings for wood, concrete or steel ties. The company can supply for both 8-ft. 3-inch and 10-ft. steel ties. American Concrete Products also offers its customers complete ADA-compliant rubber for all types of ties on the field and gauge sections. An example of this can be found near the entrance to the new College World Series baseball stadium in Omaha, Neb.
American Concrete Products has manufacturing plants in Nebraska and Texas with satellite operations by rail on the East and West Coasts. The company offers steel clad concrete surface crossings for any tie type or length. Customers receive a 10-year free replacement warranty, which the company says is the longest running warranty in the industry.
"The oil and intermodal industries are booming," said Buz Hutchinson, railroad sales and service. "Transportation of fracking materials and crude oil by rail are increasing exponentially. Class 1s are adding to, or improving existing lines, to meet these demands."
Century Group, Inc., has produced precast concrete grade-crossing panels for more than 25 years and has been in business more than 65 years. The company provides personnel who travel to project sites and assist customers in the design and development of panels through "as built" measurements for that particular customer's needs. Century Group's manufacturing facilities are all certified by the National Precast Concrete Association.
The company offers crossings in numerous rail sizes with features such as custom surfaces to match color and textured paving at passenger station platforms and sidewalks. Century Group can also provide crossties with its crossing surfaces and offers custom manufacturing for various rail configurations, such as turnouts, curves, crossovers, diamonds, wide/narrow gauge, extreme loads, pedestrian and ADA crossing applications.
"Century Group also has a system that incorporates an interface for asphalt on the field side, while utilizing standard panels for the gauge area," said Jerry McCombs, vice president of the Railroad Products Division.
"We continue to batch/mix all of 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."
Hanson Pipe & Precast
"Most railroads wait until the crossing has failed before replacing," said Wayne Weszka, vice president, rail products, Hanson Pipe & Precast. "We would like to see crossings put on a schedule like railroad ties and rail to improve the transitions between the tracks and the actual road surface."
He notes the driving factor is funding to improve the signalization areas, however, he says there needs to be more funding to improve the actual grade-crossing surface using more efficient crossings that have longer life expectancies.
"The cost to close a railroad crossing is increasing every year and it is harder to get a complete road closure; longer-life crossing surfaces would help solve this problem," he explained.
In the future, he says he sees a need for a modular railroad crossing that can handle higher volumes and higher train speeds to keep up with today's higher-speed trains. The company notes that it is close to coming out with this new product.
Currently, Hanson Pipe & Precast offers its new 16-ft. by 8-ft. modular crossing and is working on a high-speed module. Hanson's crossing products have a textured, skid-resistant surface.
As it pertains to high-speed rail, Walt Barry, vice president of HiRAIL Corporation, says that he feels the goal would be to have as few grade crossings as possible.
"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," he explained.
The company now offers a rail seal product that can accommodate all types of rail fastenings and it can be installed on concrete ties, as well as timber. It is manufactured in varying lengths so 18-inch tie spacing is not required.
HiRAIL manufactures a complete line of rubber grade-crossing surfaces including Hi-Rail, Pede-Strail and HiRAIL Rail Seal (RS). HiRAIL crossings are a green product, manufactured from recycled vehicle tires and can be recycled at the end of their useful life.
HiRAIL 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. It 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.
Barry says he sees the highest demand from the Class 1s.
"Most likely because they have the greatest number of crossings; we also see a large demand from transit and commuter rail systems."
Koppers states that business has been stable for several years. The company offers full-depth timber crossings meeting Class 1 specifications, including BNSF, Canadian National, Union Pacific and Kansas City Southern.
It also produces generic Koppers specs for full-depth crossings and panels with asphalt in the center. The company offers clients wood crossings that are solid timber panels to cover 8-ft. 6-inch, 9-ft. and 10-ft. crossties or single panels for asphalt centers. Koppers also produces generic panels for both full-depth crossings and for crossings using asphalt centers.
Scott Craig, general manager of KSA, says 2012 was one of the company's best years ever and is expecting 2013 to be very similar or slightly better. He says the Class 1s continue to be steady, but sees a slight upward trend with transits and with industrial applications.
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.
LT Resources' ENDURANCE-XL PLUS design crossing, which is a 136-lb. mainline crossing surface, is scheduled for full-scale production late summer 2013.
The solid panel design includes skid-resistant surface and extends the composite material into the flangeway to provide a more cost-effective product, says Linda Thomas, president of the company. Lifting devices are included to assure efficient installation and easy removal for track maintenance.
Recently, LT Resources supplied approximately 1,900 track feet of ENDURANCE-XL Composite Crossings, which were manufactured using a proprietary engineered recycled plastics formulation for the CSX Intermodal Terminal in Worcester, Mass. More than 700 bales of plastic waste, or approximately 233 metric tons of plastic materials, were recycled on this project, rather than disposing of the waste material in landfills.
"Crossing business is off to a very good start this year," said Mark Mottola, national sales manager at Omega Industries, Inc. "We ended 2012 with our busiest year to date and expect 2013 to be even better. Class 1 railroad orders from BNSF, Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific, along with Amtrak and a host of large transit projects, are pushing sales higher each year."
As a result, Omega is in the process of updating its four manufacturing facilities to keep up with crossing- panel demand. The goal is to have annual production capacity of 150,000 track feet (28 miles) of precast panels by the end of this year.
As concrete technology continues to evolve, Omega is constantly keeping an eye on new materials and techniques to help build a better product. The company is now using fiber reinforced concrete in all of its panels. Not as an alternative to rebar reinforcement, but in addition to traditional reinforcing methods.
"The fiber improves panel durability, impact and abrasion resistance and reduces damage from freeze/thaw," Mottola noted. "This adds a little to upfront material costs, but helps offset the higher cost of having to prematurely replace a crossing."
In addition to manufacturing and supplying crossing panels, Omega says it has been taking a more active role in crossing design.
"Many customers have come to rely on us to help field measure and design their more difficult crossing projects," he explained. "There are many techniques we are able to recommend that will increase crossing longevity."
OMNI Rail Products, Inc., offers full-depth heavy-duty virgin rubber, Rubber Rail Seal, TraCast Concrete "tub-style", bolt-on rubber for concrete panel crossings and standard concrete crossings.
Bob Cigrang, vice president of sales and marketing, says he has noticed a trend in specialized rubber blends for flange areas and that transits are driving the most demand. However, he notes that budgets seem to have decreased this year since many cities are struggling financially.
As high-speed rail gains interest year-to-year, Cigrang says the company is currently working on quotes for various projects.
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 for every type of surface, rail size and track construction, including traditional railseal to precast concrete panels.
The rise in transit expansion has led Polycorp to develop a complete line of rail and special trackwork isolation products. The company's patent-pending TrackJacket Encapsulation System allows for stray current and vibration mitigation throughout the whole rail network.
"The rise in fuel costs throughout the world is taking people off the roads and onto the rails," Bedford noted. "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 line of electrical and vibration isolating Epflex railboot, Rail Seal and TrackJacket products to improve their system's performance and reduce future maintenance."
The intricate track construction of high-speed rail requires a number of elastomeric products be used in the track structure, Bedford says and noted that these products facilitate vibration dampening inside the train, as well as the surrounding areas. Because of this, Polycorp has refined its line of elastomeric track products for supply.
Stella-Jones Corporation now offers a Solid Full-Width Timber Panel Crossing for 10-ft. crossties, along with the traditional sized panels for 8-ft., 6-inch and 9-ft. crossties. Another new feature for Stella-Jones crossings includes dap(s) that will accommodate MSR or Pandrol plates with E-clips. Additionally, the company can manufacture crossing panels for turnouts, if detailed drawings are provided.
The company has three basic styles of crossing surfaces: The Full-Width/Full-Depth Panel style for 8-ft. 6-inch, 9-ft. and 10-ft. crossties, which cover the entire crosstie; the Standard Timber and Asphalt style with two 10-inch field side timbers doweled together and one 10-inch gauge side of the rail timbers and the Single/Single style crossing with a 10-inch gauge side timber and a 10-inch field side timber.
"It appears that more customers are coming back to the timber crossings," noted Jim Jordie, regional sales manager. "I believe it may be due to the fact that we have not seen huge increases in the cost of crossing timbers and therefore, they remain a good value for the dollars invested."
"Our new pedestrian features, COLOR-SAFE® and STEP-SAFE®, work as an integrated safety system with our BODAN® Grade Crossing," explained Karen Dinitz, marketing and communications director for TRANSPO INDUSTRIES.
BODAN uses a bridge design concept where the vehicle axle loads are transferred directly to the rails. Panel tests show they are capable of withstanding loads in excess of 44,000 lbs. Its welded steel cage reinforcements support HS 25 traffic loads and the high-friction granular surfacing material provides a skid-resistant surface. BODAN's precast polymer concrete is impervious to salt, diesel fuel and moisture and offers optional surface-mounted LED warning lights, she notes.
Dinitz says there is a new focus on pedestrian and bicycle safety and because of this, the use of color pavement on and through the crossing is commanding new interest.