Norfolk Southern, looking to improve efficiency in tie replacement, is the first Class 1 railroad to adopt new automated tie-marking technology from Georgetown Rail (GREX.)
But NS won’t be the last. A number of Class 1s in North America have begun testing the technology.
“Everyone needs it. Everyone wants it,” according to Greg Grissom, GREX president.
So what is “it”?
Essentially it’s an Aurora automated tie-inspection truck with a box of paint hanging on the back.
But that simple explanation belies the breakthrough it represents.
The tie-marking vehicles (NS has two in operation now) simplify the work involved in replacing wooden crossties by
- a) reviewing the results of previous a tie-inspection survey;
- b) riding the rails to take a new real-time survey;
- c) orienting itself to make sure its two sweeps line up logically;
- d) applying a tie-replacement logic that the railroad has created; and then
- e) marking the ties that the tie gang will replace with paint.
Buzz about the tie-marking system began in January at the NRC Conference in Marco Island, Fla. In his presentation on capital spending plans, Jon Zillioux, NS assistant vice president – sourcing, said that his Class 1 had adopted a tie-marking system.
Given that every Class 1 in North America except CN is already using Aurora tie-inspection vehicles, the team at GREX says it seems inevitable that they will all soon adopt automated tie-marking as the next logical step.
For more on technological breakthroughs in crossties, check out the coverage in the upcoming March issue of our sister publication, Railway Age.