DENVER, Colo. – Union Pacific Railroad’s Engineering team recently tackled a monumental effort at its equipment shop in Denver, Colorado – rebuilding the first of 32 massive track maintenance machines to make them more user-friendly, enhance safety and simplify repairs.
“This is the most extensive undertaking attempted at the shop and the first of its kind, the result of more than 16,000 reportable injury-free hours of work,” said Casey Prewitt, senior manager-Maintenance of Way Shop. “It’s the first time a Dynacat has been rebuilt outside of Plasser American’s facility in Chesapeake, Virginia.”
The continuous action tamper machines ride Union Pacific’s rails after maintenance is performed and before traffic resumes as part of the track surfacing process. The machine’s work heads move independently, from railroad tie to railroad tie, executing a tamping maneuver to pack ballast – a gravel-like rock that supports rail – into place.
Over a three-year period, Union Pacific’s Engineering team worked hand in hand with the railroad’s machine operators and mechanics, as well as Plasser American engineers, to reconfigure the machine to align with railroad specifications.
“All this was done with input from as many managers and craft professionals in the field as possible,” Prewitt said. “We asked, how can we make it user-friendly? What do we want it to look like? How can we enhance safety? How can we make it easier to access?”
Union Pacific’s Dynacat customizations include: a redesigned cab to improve ease of access, enhance visibility and improve air flow; relocation of valves, hoses, manifolds, electrical panels and pumps for easier maintenance access; and replacing the manually operated extension bar with a hydraulic telescoping boom for greater maneuverability.
To efficiently replicate the process on future rebuilds, the team meticulously documented how the machine came apart. Working with a third-party engineering consultant, 3D-imaging tools were used to create ‘before’ and ‘after’ engineered drawings and capture part placement.
Over the next several years, Union Pacific will upgrade 32 continuous action tamper machines with employee feedback in mind. The work will be done at the Denver shop by its craft professionals, allowing the railroad to cost-effectively customize the machinery with a Plasser-generated rebuild kit containing more than 3,000 parts.
“The team consistently responded with the utmost professionalism and patience necessary for such an intense scope of work,” Prewitt said. “The Dynacat is the largest machine ever worked at this shop, yet the team worked safely throughout the entire process. This was not by coincidence – it was through determination, resolve and a commitment to the details. I could not be more proud of the entire team!”
The rebuilt machine will be used on various projects throughout the railroad’s Northern Region.