INTRO: Canadian Pacific is introducing electronically-controlled application of liquid friction modifiers to the rail top, which lowers damaging wheel/rail forces and improves adhesion when the rails are wet

BYLINE: Michael Roney

General Manager, Track Maintenance Canadian Pacific Railway

CANADIAN PACIFIC Railway operates across Canada and the US Northeast and Midwest through some difficult terrain. The company has often turned to technology to grow profitability, and has seen a long trend of reducing freight operating costs and increasing traffic. One of the greatest potential technology levers has just been pulled, and is gradually notching up to full power. Its name is ’100% Effective Friction Control’ (EFC).

In the recent past, key technical advances have included North America’s youngest fleet of fuel-efficient diesels with AC drives, distributed mid-train power in both bulk haul and intermodal trains, frame-braced steerable bogies under wagons with gross weights of 129 tonnes, and preventive rail grinding.

EFC means progressively upgrading our ability to control friction levels on all rail surfaces contacted by wheels to achieve the best balance between wear, metal fatigue and wasted fuel. It goes far beyond simply applying gobs of grease to reduce rail wear in curves. It means consistently getting the right combinations of friction reducers and modifiers in the right place. It means protecting all main line curves on the top of both rails as well as along the gauge face.

The journey started with rail wear studies in 1999. CPR has been fortunate to have had Laserail¨ (and before that Liteslice¨) optical rail wear measurement since 1987. Almost from the outset, rail wear data has been a planning tool for renewal programmes, using statistical trending to forecast wear up to four years ahead.

While projecting which curves were approaching wear limits and due for re-railing, CPR planners observed considerable variations in wear rates for curves of the same radius, cant and metallurgy. Variations in grease delivered were suspected, and in fact confirmed when CPR contracted with Portec Rail to run their DMFSurveyor