This month sees the world's two largest track maintenance exhibitions take place just five days apart on different continents. David Burns highlights the latest developments that jetsetters can compare at the Railway Engineering Maintenance & Supply Association show in Dallas and the German Railway Engineers' Association (VDEI) exhibition in Münster

COMMERCIAL managers demand from their engineering colleagues that less time is spent maintaining the infrastructure. At the same time, those same commercial managers want to run heavier and faster trains.

It is the engineer who must balance these conflicting demands, using a growing array of machines and technology. Many examples will be on display at this year's maintenance machinery exhibitions in Dallas and Münster. Both lists of exhibitors show a marked reduction in the number of larger companies, reflecting several mergers of material and equipment suppliers. In North America, where just six railways now account for 80% of the business, some companies have chosen not to exhibit.

On a more positive note, the number of smaller companies has increased, particularly consultants and contractors. There appear to be significant advances in machine control systems, making the machines more reliable and thus more productive.

So, what is happening in rail infrastructure technology?

Track components

Ballastless track is regarded by many as the best type of track to minimise the need for maintenance. Unfortunately, the first cost is high, and installation usually requires total track possession for up to 10 days. Pfleiderer Track Systems has a product that, while still more expensive than conventional track, can be installed in a maintenance possession of a few hours. The Rheda 2000 ballastless track is a twin-block sleeper with a reinforced lattice connection between the sleepers. The Getrac A3 is a specially designed sleeper that is placed directly on an asphalt layer. This system has the advantage of a reduced structural height and is especially suitable for tunnels. This company will also be exhibiting products specifically designed for urban locations.

Corus Rail's exhibit will include its 'Silent Track' technology aimed at at cutting rail noise. Grooved rail and steel sleepers will also be displayed.

A switch that is operated frequently requires regular lubrication unless rollers are used to support the switch rail. Austroroll's point rollers almost eliminate the need for lubrication and, as there is no need to lubricate the slide plate, there is no pollution of the ground water. To distribute the load from the rail to concrete sleeper or slab track, it is necessary to use an elastomeric pad. The same material used under the sleeper or under the ballast can substantially reduce noise and vibration levels. Getzner is exhibiting a range of products including sleeper pads, which are designed to be attached to the sleeper during the manufacturing process.

When installing new concrete sleepers, Pandrol's Fastclip FC has a distinct advantage, in that the rail-sleeper fastening system is delivered to the site pre-assembled. After the rail has been laid, all that is required is to slide the clip forward. Fastclip FD is a low-cost version specifically designed for low or medium-density operations, with rail sections up to 50 kg/m, and axleloads up to 20 tonnes. To attenuate dynamic forces and reduce noise, this company developed the natural rubber Vipa rail pad. For further noise reduction, Pandrol has developed a rail 'chair' that locks the rail in place by elastomeric wedges under the head of the rail. Called Vanguard, this is currently being tested in Hong Kong and Boston. The 'e plus' clip has been developed to reduce the problem of short insulator life in locations where there is a high lateral force.

For electrified railways there is a need for many different types of electrical connectors, typically for signal cables. A Kaufmann has a wide range, and has recently developed connectors for locations where welding or drilling is prohibited.

Track inspection

Over the years it has been determined that manual inspection is the best way to check sleepers, and the Zeta-Tech TieInspect??, a palm-sized computer, has been specifically designed to collect and analyse this data.

Another piece of computer equipment for the track inspector is the Ensco TrackMasterTM Manage. This palm-size device contains all the necessary rules and records. It has GPS location finding capability, and can calculate exceptions to safety standards. A track geometry car equipped with the appropriate software can automatically download the GPS co-ordinates of a suspected defect to the TrackMaster. The inspector is then able to find the defect quickly, confirm the car's readings, and even set in motion rectification procedures.

While track geometry is considered to be the primary indicator of track condition, there is a growing belief that track strength is even better. This is especially true for track where high speed is not the primary requirement. The Holland Company's TrackStar is specifically designed for measuring track strength. The road-rail vehicle applies a prescribed lateral and vertical force to the rail and measures the rail displacement. When this is combined with data from ImageMap's geometry measurement (also mounted on the vehicle), a very comprehensive picture of the track condition is created.

Periodically it is necessary to determine the exact location and elevation of a track. By hand this was a major task, but with the Plasser & Theurer Emsat 120 track survey car it is almost automatic. When in mapping mode, the car operates at 2·5 km/h and uses GPS to determine its absolute location. The track alignment data is plotted to the accuracy of 1mm in 250m and, when required, that data can be transmitted to a tamping machine. The EM 80E track geometry car, which is being exhibited, is a middle speed range vehicle that has the latest electronics and software.

In the USA the Federal Railroad Administration is responsible for ensuring that the track of the many private railways meets a minimum quality standard. Its latest T2000 track inspection car, supplied by Plasser American, has geometry measurement, laser and inertial based hardware, and software developed and built by Ensco. This car is designed for use on all tracks ranging from low speed freight lines to high speed passenger routes. It has a number of new analysis features, such as communicating by wireless to palm-pilot equipped track inspectors.

Mer Mec of Italy will be showing its Roger 400 multi-diagnostic track inspection car that features automatic video recognition of defects. The company will have details available of its Archimede measurement train that is able to collect more than 100 parameters at up to 200 km/h. Mer Mec is working with Rete Ferroviaria Italiana on a four-year asset management project called RailMaster.

A totally different approach to measuring track geometry is the laser system offered by ImageMap. This can be installed in special-purpose cars or mounted on almost any vehicle bogie. The Laserail 3000 is capable of measuring the track geometry and rail profile every 0·5m at speeds up to 320 km/h. The new Laserail-UGMS measures track geometry in an unattended mode, the data being downloaded wirelessly in a terminus or fuelling station.

To ensure that the track user's wheels are not damaging the track or are not unsafe, ImageMap offers WheelSpec, which uses laser technology to measure wheel profiles as the vehicles pass over at speeds up to 100 km/h.

Ensco is exhibiting a self-contained remote ride quality unit that, when installed in a rail vehicle, communicates any exception to a required ride quality standard to a central server via a mobile phone modem.

Speno will exhibit its US 1-10 rail test car which can analyse rail defects in real time, painting the rail when a defect is found. This vehicle also carries out video inspection of the track and rail. Herzog is exhibiting one of its road-rail rail flaw detector vehicles. The equipment is mounted in a pick-up truck, and operates at about 35 km/h. Using a modem link, defect data is transmitted to a chase vehicle for verification.

Machine control systems

Track machine reliability has always been a problem, so one of the most interesting developments is the Harsco Track Technologies Jupiter 2000 machine control system. This uses only four modules to control the operation of most of the machines the company manufactures. Control signals are sent through a single cable of one of two standard lengths which have 'quick' disconnects. This should improve machine reliability significantly and simplify maintenance.

Sleeper replacement

Railways electing to replace timber sleepers on a selective basis will find the Nordco TRIPP tie renewal machine specifically designed to meet varying track conditions. Nordco is also demonstrating its SS Spiker, which is designed for maximum productivity without resorting to advanced electronics. The CX Spiker is a high performance machine with electronic control that eliminates the need for logic boards.

Spike holes are a major problem when changing rail on timber sleepers. Over the years many compounds have been developed and machines built for plugging the holes. The latest plugging compound and applicator machine will be exhibited by Harsco Track Technologies. The company is also exhibiting its Top Gun Spike Driver that has spike pattern software controlling the machine in such a way that it drives multiple spikes in a tie plate without having to index the machine. The software also controls the depth the spike is driven and a handling system that eliminates the need for lifting heavy spike kegs.

Applying ballast

Probably one of the most interesting recent developments in track maintenance is the semi-automatic ballast train manufactured by Herzog and called the Ballast Plus Train.

The track is pre-surveyed by hand with a GPS location device or by a specially equipped geometry car to determine where additional ballast is required. This data is loaded into a laptop computer. When the ballast train arrives, the technician climbs aboard, hooks up his laptop, and the train proceeds down the track. This can be done at any time of day or night. The computer opens and closes the ballast car doors, dispensing a precise amount of ballast at the exact locations. There is no requirement for manpower on the ground, so the operation is safe and fast. Another state-of-the-art ballast measuring technology is manufactured by Plasser & Theurer. It uses lasers to automatically determine the need for additional ballast. This equipment, which can also measure track clearances, is being demonstrated by Plasser American and can also be mounted on the Emsat 120 geometry car.

Track levelling and lining

The squeeze tamper has been developed from a small machine with an output of maybe 200m/h to machines weighing over 125 tonnes able to tamp 2000m/h. The interesting thing is that machines at both ends of the spectrum are still required.

Plasser & Theurer is exhibiting four machines starting with the small GWS75 Tamper specifically designed for the track and switches of the urban railway. The 08-16 M84 Tamper is a single-sleeper machine capable of 600m/h. Matched to the output of this tamper are the PBR 400 URS ballast distributor and regulator and the DGS 62N dynamic track stabiliser. When these three machines are used together, they leave the track in such a condition that even high speed trains can operate without a speed restriction.

When tamping switches with concrete sleepers, there is the danger of damaging the long sleepers unless they are lifted at all three rails. The 08-475 4S Unimat tamper is specifically designed for this purpose. The name Unimat also indicates that it is equally at home on plain line as well as with switches.

Where track possession times are restricted, the answer is the massive Dynamic Tamping Express 09-3SX. This machine keeps moving with only the tamping heads stopping to tamp three sleepers at a time. A built-in dynamic track stabiliser settles the track in a controlled manner.

The Matisa Modulo N20-95 tamper is a single-sleeper machine, but it is designed in such a way that many additional features, such as a ballast plough and a lifting device for the diverging line in switches, can be added to the basic machine. When switches need to be levelled and aligned, especially if they are large and have concrete sleepers, a powerful machine is required. Matisa's B66U tamper has four independent tamping heads, a mobile automatic combined clamp and a lifting device for the diverging rail. Thanks to the automation, this large machine can be operated by one man. For line tamping, the production is 650 to 680m/h with a turnout treated in 20 to 25min. Matisa will also be exhibiting a second B66U Tamper that uses the Palas geometry system. This uses fixed-point markers to align the track automatically both laterally and vertically, ensuring better accuracy than if it were aligning from the track itself.

Plasser American will be exhibiting the first Dynamic Tamping Express 09-3SX to be supplied in the USA. It will also display the 09-16 DYNA-CAT, a single sleeper version of the 3X, a much lower cost machine but still with dynamic stabilisation.

Ballast cleaning

The importance of clean ballast for high speed and heavy haul track is well recognised. Ballast cleaning machines are, of necessity, big and heavy, and the RM 95-700 ballast cleaner that Plasser & Theurer is exhibiting is no exception. Although it weighs 165 tonnes, it is a mid-range machine with two screening units that give it a capacity of about 800m3/h. The machine is one of the more versatile units available in that it can apply new ballast wherever required. It does this by hauling a number of MFSD 100 conveyor hopper cars for accumulating the spoil material, and by pushing similar cars that contain new ballast. To avoid time-consuming movement to collect new ballast, the hoppers are loaded locally with a BLS ballast loading station. This machine can excavate from a ballast pile and elevate it into a hopper.

An even larger machine is the RPM 2002-2 formation rehabilitation machine. With this machine, the upper ballast layer is removed separately and cleaned within the machine. The ballast particles are reshaped and sharpened in a crushing plant. After the formation protective layer has been inserted and compacted, the reclaimed ballast is distributed in the track together with the new ballast. A tamping unit at the rear of the machine enables line speeds of 70 km/h to be achieved immediately behind the machine. The star screen has been developed for cleaning wet and clogged ballast. Rotating cams peel the contaminated fines from the coated ballast.

Another machine with an innovative ballast cleaning concept is the PM 200-2R formation rehabilitation machine. With a length of 200m, this is probably the longest track machine ever built. It excavates, reclaims and washes the ballast. A mud separator allows the water to be reused.

Removing fouled ballast is an alternative to cleaning it. For this purpose Loram has developed the Railvac??. Essentially a giant vacuum cleaner, this combines a powerful digging arm with twin engines and vacuum pumps, giving it the ability to excavate compacted ballast, clay, mud, water, sand and soil. The rail mounted machine is capable of travelling at normal track speeds.

Keeping water out of the track formation is widely seen by engineers as an important maintenance function, yet there are few machines specially designed for this purpose. The self-propelled Badger Ditcher from Loram is just such a machine. Its ditching wheel can be operated up to 5m from the centreline of the track and up to 2m below the top of the rail, to any required contour. It is capable of excavating up to 800 tonnes of material per hour. In the winter the machine can be converted to perform snow removal.

Tracklaying and renewal

The Matisa P Series track renewal machines can remove timber sleepers, replace them with timber or concrete, or replace concrete with concrete and, with modification, lay new track. The P95 machine on display is capable of renewing 600m/h with start-up and shut-down times of 8 to 15min.

The SUZ500 UVR relaying train from Plasser & Theurer marks a significant development - it can lay two sleepers at once, increasing the production speed over previous models. With the addition of a SZDA rail pulling and conveying unit, it can carry the new rails with it. Even more interesting is that the unit can be converted to a tracklaying machine with only simple adjustments.

Overhead line equipment

Specialised machines for catenary installation and renewal have reduced the time required to renew a complete section of wiring from 5 days to 5 h. The Plasser & Theurer FUM 100.128 can install the carrying cable and contact wire and tension the section in a single operation.

Rail grinding

The most critical aspect of rail maintenance is the surface of the rail. This requires not only maintaining the profile, which should vary according to track geometry, but also removing a certain amount of metal to eliminate surface flaws that can develop into serious defects. To be able to do this work with any reasonable degree of productivity requires a very sophisticated machine.

Speno is exhibiting four machines. The RR48 M-2 grinder with 48 stones is equipped at each end with a laser rail profile measuring system, so that irrespective of the direction of travel, the operator has a 'before and after' profile of the rail. For single pass grinding, this machine can be coupled to similar units and operated as a single machine. The RR24 M-14 modular grinder is a 24-stone machine which can be used separately or coupled with other machines for a higher metal removal per pass.

For the urban environment, Speno offers the LRR16 M-1 medium grinder, specially designed for a 90 km railway in Japan, where it is required to operate in a very environmentally sensitive situation. The SRR16 M-1 urban grinder has been designed to operate in Brussels, grinding both conventional and grooved rail in tunnels and through switches and crossings.

The Harsco Track Technologies grinder is also based on the modular concept, where 8 or 10-stone machines can be coupled to form a larger unit. This machine has the latest Jupiter System controls, an integral dust collector, and can be easily moved by road between operations.

In some situations there is a need for a versatile rail grinder. Just such machines are the Loram L Series grinders. The L Series 8-stone grinder is designed for heavy haul or urban railways, can treat all shapes of rail, is gauge convertible, and has dust collection and noise suppression. It too can be transported by road. The patented offset grinding capability gives maximum flexibility in positioning the grinding wheels.

Rail welding

Plasser & Theurer has recently improved the performance of its rail welding head. The APT600 S welding head now has 2500 kN of clamping force, 1000 kN of compressive force, and can handle a rail of up to 15000mm2 cross-section, and a compression length of 90mm. With these characteristics, and when integrated with the auxiliary stretching jack, welding at the neutral temperature is possible.

People transport

Use of road-rail pick-up trucks for track inspection, transporting crews to small repair or maintenance assignments, is increasing in popularity. There are at least three reasons for this. Vehicles are mass-produced and inexpensive, and not being required to travel from a siding, they do not require a full track possession. They also provide the crew with transport to a restaurant for lunch! The Harsco Track Technologies HR1500 Hy-Rail guide wheel attachment is among the latest devices in road-rail technology.

In track maintenance it is often necessary to move freight wagons. Shunting locomotives are expensive and require a train path to reach the worksite. Brandt Road Rail Corp has developed its road-rail Power Unit from heavy-duty road lorries. It is capable of moving up to 15 fully loaded wagons at speeds of 65 km/h.

Switch transport

Prefabrication of turnouts can help ensure higher quality, reduce possession times and improve labour efficiency. The problem is getting the turnout to the installation site. The latest vehicle for this purpose is the Matisa WTM turnout transport wagon. When three wagons are used, they can carry the longest available turnout. One unique feature of these vehicles is that the platform can be moved 500mm horizontally to allow the turnout to avoid obstructions.

Management software

When it comes to managing the infrastructure, Zeta-Tech has developed a complete range of software. TieLifeTM takes the data from the TieInspect program and develops a sleeper maintenance management plan. The company also supplies RailLifeTM for rail life determination.

For rail testing and replacement planning there is RailManage??. Given that rail maintenance, primarily grinding, can extend rail life by 200 to 300%, the company has also developed SmartGrind to manage a grinding programme. Overall track maintenance is managed with yet another software package called Mowis¨. These programs are being used extensively in North America and in the UK.

Ensco has integrated the geometry car data with the data from its TrackMaster Inspect to form a comprehensive track database that can produce reports on current track condition and degradation rates. This software is part of its TrackMaster Manage range mentioned earlier.

Who's at which show?

TABLE: Austroroll V

Brandt Road Rail Corp R

Corus Rail V

Ensco R

Getzner V

Harsco Track Technologies R

Herzog R

Holland Company RV

ImageMap RV

A Kaufmann V

Loram R

Matisa V

Mer Mec V

Nordco R

Pandrol RV

Pfleiderer Track Systems V

Plasser & Theurer V

Plasser American R

Speno V

Zeta-Tech RV

R = REMSA, Dallas; V= VDEI, Münster

CAPTION: Top:The 09-16 DYNA-CAT from Plasser American Corp combines a single-sleeper continuous-action tamper with dynamic stabilisingcapability

CAPTION: Rheda 2000 ballastless track from Pfleiderer Track Systems was used on German Railway's K?€?ln - Frankfurt high speed line

CAPTION: The Tripp sleeper renewal machine from Nordco is designed for spot replacement of timber sleepers

CAPTION: Below left: The TrackStar road-rail vehicle from Holland Company is designed to measure track strength

Below right: The Power Unit adapted from a lorry by Brandt Road Rail Corp can move up to 15 fully loaded wagons

CAPTION: The Ballast Plus Train developed by Herzog uses computer-controlled discharge gates to ensure accurate delivery by both quantity and location

CAPTION: Jupiter 2000 Machine Control System by Harsco Track Technologies

CAPTION: RPM 2002-2 Formation Rehabilitation Machine from Plasser & Theurer

CAPTION: Matisa P21 ETF track relaying machine operating at night

CAPTION: Both the RGH20C rail grinder supplied by Harsco Track Technologies (left) and the Speno RR24 M-14 (below) are modular units designed to operate in multiple when required

CAPTION: WTM turnout transport wagon from Matisa

A tale of two cities - more electronics and more software

This month sees the world's two largest track maintenance exhibitions take place just five days apart on different continents. Independent consultant David Burns highlights the latest developments that jet-setting engineers can compare at the Railway Engineering Maintenance & Supply Association show in Dallas and the German Railway Engineers Association (VDEI) exhibition in Münster. Significant advances have been made in machine control systems, making machines more reliable and giving better productivity. Equipment on show ranges from track fastening devices to giant track renewal and formation rehabilitation trains

Un conte pour deux villes -plus d'électronique et plus de logiciels

Ce mois-ci, à cinq jours d'intervalle sur des continents différents, se tiennent les deux plus grandes expositions de matériel d'entretien des voies. David Burns, consultant indépendant, donne un coup de projecteur sur les derniers développements que les ingénieurs de la jet-set peuvent comparer en allant de l'exposition de la Railway Engineering Maintenance & Supply Association à Dallas à celle de l'Association Allemande des Ingénieurs des Chemins de Fer (VDEI) à Münster. Des avancées significatives ont été enregistrées en matière de systèmes de commande, rendant les machines plus fiables et conduisant à une meilleure productivité. Les équipements présentés vont des attaches de rails aux suites complètes de renouvellement et de remise en état des voiesEine Geschichte aus zwei Städten - mehr Elektronik und mehr Software

In diesem Monat finden die beiden gr?€?ssten Ausstellungen zum Gleisunterhalt nur fünf Tage auseinander auf zwei verschiedenen Kontinenten statt. Der unabhängige Berater David Burns zeigt die H?€?hepunkte der neuesten Entwicklungen, welche jet-settende Ingenieure an der Ausstellung der Railway Engineering Maintenance & Supply Association in Dallas sowie der IAF 2003 Ausstellung des deutschen VDEI in Münster miteinander vergleichen k?€?nnen. Wesentliche Fortschritte wurden im Bereich der Steuerungssysteme erzielt, was zu zuverlässigeren Maschinen und dadurch zu besserer Produktivität führt. Die an den Ausstellungen gezeigten Ausrüstungen reichen von Gleisklemmen bis zu riesigen Gleiserneuerungs- und Oberbau-Rehabilitierungs-Zügen

Un cuento de dos ciudades - m? s electrónica y m? s software

Este mes tendr? n lugar las dos exhibiciones de mantenimiento de vía m? s grandes del mundo con cinco días de diferencia y en diferentes continentes. El consultor independiente David Burns nos subraya los últimos desarrollos que pueden comparar los ingenieros trotamundos en la feria del Railway Engineering Maintenance & Supply Association de Dallas y en la exhibición de la Asociación Alemana de Ingenieros del Ferrocarril (VDEI) de Münster. Se han llevado a cabo importantes avances en los sistemas de control, haciendo m? s fiables a las m? quinas y mejorando la productividad. La maquinaria que apareceré en ambos eventos va desde los sistemas de fijación de carril a grandes trenes para la renovación de la vía y la rehabilitación de la plataforma