RTS January 2021

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February 2018 // Railway Track & Structures 1

SIT AND LISTEN William C. Vantuono Railway Age

Bill Wilson

Railway Track & Structures

Railway Age, Railway Track & Structures and International Railway Journal have teamed to offer our Rail Group On Air podcast series. The podcasts, available on Apple Music, Google Play and SoundCloud, tackle the latest issues and important projects in the rail industry. Listen to the railway leaders who make the news.

Kevin Smith

International Railway Journal

Podcasts are available on Apple Music, Google Play and SoundCloud


January 2021




Distancing itself Maintenance-of-Way sector attempts to recover from global pandemic


Alternative current Jointless AC and DC track circuits for a low-cost broken rail detection system


Looking inside the rail Rail flaw detection keeps trains off the ground




A buzz cut Helicopter operation helps clear vegetation in Vermont



On Track The MTA should be holding the cards here

DEPARTMENTS On the Cover A Norfolk Southern crew conducts train maintenance.


Photo courtesy of Norfolk Southern

26 Follow Us On Social Media @RTSMag



TTCI Geosynthetic system performance in a wet track environment

NRC Chairman’s Column Women are making inroads across the industry ... and we’re better for it

AREMA News Message from the President, Getting to know


Last Stop Hanging by a string

January 2021 // Railway Track & Structures 1


VOL. 115, NO. 6 NO. 1 PrintVOL. ISSN 117, # 0033-9016, Print ISSN ## 0033-9016, Digital ISSN 2160-2514 Digital ISSN # 2160-2514 EDITORIAL OFFICES EDITORIAL OFFICE 20 South Clark Street, Suite 1910 3680 Heathmoor Drive Chicago, Ill. 60603 Elgin, (312) IL 60124 Telephone 683-0130 Telephone 336-1148 Fax (312)(630) 683-0131 Website www.rtands.com BILL WILSON Editor-in-Chief wwilson@sbpub.com DAVID LESTER KYRAC. SENESE Managing Editor dlester@sbpub.com ksenese@sbpub.com CORPORATE OFFICES BOB TUZIK 88 Pine Street, 23rd Floor, Consulting Editor New York, NY 10005 btuzik@sbpub.com Telephone (212) 620-7200 CORPORATE OFFICES Fax (212) 633-1165 55 Broad St 26th Fl. ARTHUR J. MCGINNIS, New York, N.Y. 10004JR. President and Telephone (212)Chairman 620-7200 Fax (212) 633-1165 JONATHAN CHALON ARTHUR Publisher J. MCGINNIS, JR. President and Chairman MARY CONYERS Production CHALON Director JONATHAN Publisher NICOLE D’ANTONA Art Director MARY CONYERS Production Director HILLARY COLEMAN GraphicD’ANTONA Designer NICOLE Art Director MAUREEN COONEY Circulation Director ALEZA LEINWAND Graphic Designer MICHELLE ZOLKOS Conference Director MAUREEN COONEY Circulation Director CUSTOMER SERVICE: 800-895-4389 Reprints: PARS International MICHELLE ZOLKOS Corp. 253 West 35th Street 7th Floor Conference Director New York, NY 10001 CUSTOMER SERVICE: 800-895-4389 212-221-9595; fax 212-221-9195 Reprints: PARS International Corp. curt.ciesinski@parsintl.com 253 West 35th Street 7th Floor New York, NY 10001 212-221-9595; fax 212-221-9195 curt.ciesinski@parsintl.com

The MTA should be holding the cards here


atch out ATMs everywhere! Somebody thinks he has a license to spend! The top topic from my 15-year-old these days is when he can get his own ATM card. Apparently most of his friends have one, and he wants to feel the force. He will be driving in a year, and with that comes a card where he can manage finances, be responsible, etc., but until then this honor needs to be earned. It’s a responsibility, not a luxury. With the card comes an enormous pressure that I think is out of the cognitive range of someone who has not even received the legal OK to drive on the streets. A luxury like this comes with consequences. There needs to be some ability to budget, and throwing around gift money from relatives does not really qualify. The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) appears to be driving its budget recklessly. We are not talking a hit-the-curb moment here. No, this is a full dive through a restaurant window. According to a recent New York state audit under the direction of Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, several LIRR infrastructure projects over the past decade have been coming in over budget and late in terms of project schedule. The audit looked at 11 projects from LIRR’s capital programs covering a 10-year span from 2010 and 2019. Ten of those jobs were finished late, ranging from a few months to a few years, while eight of the 11 projects ran over budget for a total cost overrun of almost $70 million. The report also found that LIRR project managers would violate their own written procedure. Project plans and kickoff meetings would not take place and budgets were not properly developed. Apparently the situation was so bad an air bag was deployed. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) Capital Construction & Development agency has now taken over the management of capital

projects in order to speed capital project delivery and reduce cost. The results have been positive. LIRR’s Double Track project, which has been under the agency’s oversight and should be finished a year ahead of schedule, has moved along marvelously and should serve as a positive example to transit agencies everywhere. The New York State Comptroller also made some recommendations moving forward, with one of them calling for LIRR to adopt MTA standards to strengthen project management procedures. LIRR appears open to some of the advice, but has slammed the door like a teenager with other attempts to tell it what to do. What is upsetting here is the management recklessness created by adults that are being paid to do the best, not the worst. LIRR is not alone here. There are a lot of construction firms and agencies which have the wrong people holding the cards. The astonishing action here is LIRR got caught misbehaving for over 10 years, and it thinks it has the right to stomp its foot and reject some of the advice coming from the comptroller. Maybe there is a good reason here, but for now I think the LIRR needs to put its headphones on and start working better. Or better yet, let the MTA do the work for the LIRR until the troubled agency delivers the right message, and has the right people in place. Until then, LIRR riders everywhere might want to watch out. There might be an out-ofcontrol train on the tracks packed with a fare increase in the near future.

BILL WILSON Editor-in-Chief

Railway Track & Structures (Print ISSN 0033-9016, Digital ISSN 2160-2514), (USPS 860-560), (Canada Post Cust. #7204564; Agreement #40612608; IMEX P.O. Box 25542, London, ON N6C 6B2, Canada) is published monthly by Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, 88 Pine Street, 23rd Floor, New York, NY 10005. Printed in the U.S.A. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and additional mailing offices. Pricing: Qualified individual and railroad employees may request a free subscription. Non-qualified subscriptions printed and/or digital version: 1 year Railroad Employees (US/ Canada/Mexico) $16.00; all others $46.00; foreign $80.00; foreign, air mail $180.00. 2 years Railroad Employees US/Canada/Mexico $30.00; all others $85.00; foreign $140.00; foreign, air mail $340.00. Single Copies are $10.00 ea. Subscriptions must be paid for in U.S. funds only. COPYRIGHT © Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation 2020. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced without permission. For reprint information contact: PARS International Corp., 102 W 38th St., 6th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10018 Phone (212) 221-9595 Fax (212) 221-9195. For subscriptions and address changes, Please call (US Only) 1-800-553-8878 (CANADA/INTL) 1-319-364-6167, Fax 1-319-364-4278, e-mail rtands@stamats.com or write to: Railway Track & Structures, Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, PO Box 1407, Cedar Rapids, IA. 52406-1407. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Railway Track & Structures, PO Box 1407, Cedar Rapids, IA. 52406-1407.

January 2021 // Railway Track & Structures 3

RAIL NEWS DELIVERED TO YOU AT HIGH SPEED RAIL GROUP NEWS brings you a daily round-up of news stories from Railway Age, RT&S, and IRJ. This email newsletter offers North American and global news and analysis of the freight and passenger markets. From developments in rail technology, operations, and strategic planning to legislative issues and engineering news, we’ve got you covered.

RAIL From Railway Age, RT&S and IRJ GROUP http://bit.ly/rail_news NEWS




Women are making inroads across the industry … and we’re better for it


The National Railroad Construction & Maintenance Association, Inc. 410 1st Street, S.E. Suite 200 Washington D. C. 20003


t’s more than eye opening to consider how our industry has changed since I came on board more than four decades ago. Time has ushered in sweeping changes that have propelled railways forward on every front. I was reminded of a dramatic change while reading Railway Age’s November 2020 issue honoring distinguished women in rail, including Katie Farmer as BNSF’s incoming chief executive, the first female executive of a Class 1 railroad. It’s no coincidence that quantum leaps forward in our industry have come at a time when women have made significant inroads at all levels and in all sectors–in freight, transit and government as well as among contractors and suppliers. Women have contributed to positive changes in our industry and are in pivotal leadership positions to implement truly visionary changes. One can look to the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) for some obvious parallels. If you’ve been to a recent NRC Annual Conference, you can attest to the fact that women are well represented among railroad engineering and contractor and supplier attendees as well as on NRC committees. A panel breakout session with League of Railway Women (LRW) representatives exploring the role of women in the rail industry was among our most popular and well-attended conference sessions last year. The NRC Board was thrilled to install Ashley Wieland as president of our association in 2019. Although she leads a historically male-dominated association and rail sector, Ashley is the right person for the job. She brings expertise, background and leadership capabilities, but also has gravitas to navigate a strong-minded membership and tackle the challenges of a dynamic association. The NRC also is fortunate to have women on our Board of Directors:

• Erika Bruhnke—Vice President, Training and Media Resources, RailPros • Lisa Roberts—Director, Business Development and Marketing, Omaha Track • Maggie Vouno—National Sales Manager, Holland LP • Mischa Wanek-Libman—Executive Editor of Mass Transit magazine, who serves as an NRC Board observer. The NRC relies on its board members for strategic advice and direction but also to roll up their sleeves and get the job done. We continually seek qualified women to fill open positions on our board and on working committees. Please reach out to Ashely Wieland or to a current board member if you are interested in joining our efforts. One of the more enjoyable opportunities for board members is outreach to colleges and universities with railway engineering and construction management programs. It is heartening to see more and more women in these programs, who then move into internships and full-time positions with railways or with our member companies. They understand—as Katie Farmer noted and Railway Age Editor-in-Chief William Vantuono reinforced—there’s never been a better time for a career in the railway industry. If you want a career where you can make a difference, come aboard. I am looking forward to a thriving 2021 where we will see a lot more of each other.

JIM HANSEN Chairman, National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC)

Tel: 202-715-2920 Fax: 202-318-0867 www.nrcma.org info@nrcma.org


LWAY AGE, RT&S and IRJ rtands.com

January 2021 // Railway Track & Structures 5


Geosynthetic System Performance in a Wet Track Enviornment Evaluating the ability of geosynthetic systems to prevent upward pumping of fines in wet areas Stephen Wilk, Ph.D., Senior Engineer II, Transportation Technology Center, Inc.


ransportation Technology Center, Inc., (TTCI) worked with a Class 1 railroad at a test site in Cleveland, Ohio, to evaluate the ability of three geosynthetic systems to prevent the upward pumping of fines in a wet track and subgrade environment. After approximately 40 million gross tons (MGT) over two years, the results indicate that all of the geosynthetic systems have provided adequate filtering and separation, reducing the fine percentage in the ballast by approximately 70 percent, and the remaining fines are believed to be from ballast degradation and side infiltration. The geosynthetic locations maintained a much cleaner ballast section compared to the control section. Site description The railroad operates a double-track route through the area, and another Class 1 railroad and a local transit agency occupy adjacent right-of-way. Each track carries approximately 20 MGT annually. The double track is located in a 100-ft-wide cut with an elevation approximately 20 ft lower than the surrounding topography. The underlying subgrade in this area consists of relatively impermeable silts and shales with little capability for drainage. Because of the depressed elevation profile and impermeable subgrade, water tends to pond in the adjacent ditches resulting in accumulation of water in the ballast zone. Dynamic pumping during train passage increases water pressure,

6 Railway Track & Structures // January 2021

which pushes fines upward into the ballast zone and can increase the rate of track geometry degradation. In an effort to separate the track from the fine-grained subgrade and reduce fines pumping into the ballast, a 320-ft-long test section was designed with three different geosynthetic system reinforcement materials each installed beneath 80-ft track panels. The test also included an 80-ft control section where clean ballast was installed directly over the shale subgrade. Geosynthetic systems are widely used separation and filter barriers common in vehicular roadway, building perimeter, and railway track applications. Their function is to prevent the deleterious effects of finegrained soil in specific areas or zones during and after construction. These deleterious effects include high soil moisture

retention, low permeability and shear strength, high liquefaction potential, and intergranular lubricating effects. Figure 1 shows the cut region with a thoroughly fouled ballast section before installation of the geosynthetic systems. Mud pumping Track pumping and the filling of the ballast section with fines can occur through multiple mechanisms, including ballast breakdown, surficial soil intrusion, and subgrade soil intrusion. The appropriate remedial method to reduce ballast fine-filling will depend on the mechanism. In this case, the mechanism of ballast fine-filling consisted of hydraulic fracturing of the shallow, soft native shale supporting the ballast section, followed by upward migration of the resulting fines

Figure 1. Fine-filled ballast from mud pumping.



from pumping and flooding (Figure 2). This mechanism of subgrade breakdown and mobilization is well documented in other railway subgrade studies.1 In these situations, draining excess water or installing a barrier layer would address the underlying mechanisms producing the ballast fine-filling. Remedial system installation Due to the difficulty of draining excess water from the track, three different geosynthetic systems were selected for testing and, along with a control section, were installed at the test site in April 2016. These systems included a geocell product underlain by geofabric, a product specifically designed as an interlayer, and a geoweb bonded with fabric. These products are referenced as products A, B, and C, not necessarily in the order described above. Each of these systems was tested in an 80-ft section against a fourth 80-ft control section that had no geosynthetic system installed. Figure 3 shows design details and the test layout. 2018 sampling results To quantify the ability of the geosynethetic systems to reduce subgrade pumping and fine-particle intrusion, shoulder and under-rail ballast samples were collected in each of the test and control sections. The ballast and geosynthetic system conditions were assessed in July 2018 after approximately 40 MGT. A backhoe excavated samples from depths in each of the four test sections for a gradational assessment (Figure 4). Railroad personnel noted that shoulder cleaning had been performed through the entire test zone in early 2018, so samples were collected from between the ties rather than from the shoulder. The percentage of fine material passing the No. 4 sieve and the associated ballast fouling index (FI) for each of the geosynthetic system sections showed significant improvement compared to the control samples. The FI is defined as the summation of percentage by weight of ballast material passing the No. 4 sieve (0.187 in.) and the rtands.com

Figure 2. Breakdown of native shale, followed by upward mud pumping.

Figure 3. Test section layout.

January 2021 // Railway Track & Structures 7


Figure 6. Geosynthetic system exposure showing fines infiltration.

Figure 4. Sample gradation results.

Figure 5. The sampling results.

No. 200 sieve (0.003 in.).1 The FI provides a practical recognition of the deleterious effects of fines in the ballast, thus it gives the fines percentage extra statistical weight. For both metrics, the three test locations showed approximately a 70 percent reduction in fines compared to the control location (Figure 5). The fines that did 8 Railway Track & Structures // January 2021

appear in the track section are believed to be from natural ballast degradation and possibly from the side if flooding occurred, but there is no evidence of any fines infiltrating the geosynthetic systems. Since the lowest elevations in each test zone were flooded (or saturated) immediately above the geosynthetic system during

the site sampling activities, samples were not taken from these areas because they included washed-in fines and would not properly represent the geosynethic performance. Figure 6 provides a visual measure of the fines that settled in the 6-in.-tall geocells over the 2+ years spanning the test. Although flood sediment-derived fines percentage appears significant in this lower area, the confining properties of the geocells still prevented track geometry degradation. Conclusion Three geosynthetic systems were installed in separate 80-ft test sections, plus an 80-ft control section, at a test site in Ohio by removing the ballast and sub-ballast down to the native soil or rock approximately 16 in. below bottom of tie. After placement of clean ballast on top of the geosynthetic systems, the track panels were reinstalled and the track was surfaced and returned to service. The test section experiences approximately 20 MGT per year. The initial results after approximately 40 MGT (over two years) indicate that all of the geosynthetic systems have provided adequate filtering and separation, reducing the fine percentage in the ballast by approximately 70 percent and maintaining a much cleaner ballast section compared to the control section. The project scope did not include a detailed comparison of the products, which may be useful in a future research project. Reference 1. Li, D., Hyslip, J., Sussman, T., and Chrismer, S. 2016. Railway Geotechnics, Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press rtands.com


DISTANCING ITSELF Maintenance-of-Way sector attempts to recover from the global pandemic

Photo Credit: Norfolk Southern


f 2020 went over like a wet blanket, with mildew, then this coming year should dry out and be wrapped with bounce. That is what we would like to think, anyway, and market feedback suggests 2021 does have some f luffiness to it. But will it take years for the Maintenanceof-Way industry to recover, or will it come more instantaneously? While the pandemic was breathing heavy on the rail industry over the last few months, many were saying due to the lower traffic volumes the MOW sector was doing OK. Less volume meant more time to tend to the rails. However, the equipment sector rtands.com

By Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief


52.75% LESS

29.67% FLAT

17.58% MORE

January 2021 // Railway Track & Structures 9



15.63% 36.46% EXCELLENT


29.17% 18.75% FAIR



15.79% 48.42% EXCELLENT


31.58% 4.21% FAIR






does not necessarily ref lect a positive year. According to the latest State of the Industry survey conducted by RT&S, most businesses are still healthy going into 2021. When you talk to those in the equipment sector the picture seems to be a little more f lat. Of course, we are not here to debate market intelligence, but it should be used as a guide. 10 Railway Track & Structures // January 2021



At press time, Congress had delivered a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill. Most if not all of the $15 billion dedicated to transit will go toward operations to keep service running. What will be crucial to the MOW industry is how fast those on Capitol Hill can put together another long-term infrastructure bill. It is unclear what the Biden administration will have

on its radar during the first 100 days in office, but all signs point to a major bill in the works. “None of us have the accurate crystal ball, but I think ’21 in the first two quarters is going to be in the fact-gathering mode where we will have [a new administration],” HNTB’s Ronnie Hakim told RT&S. “[The passage of the coronavirus relief bill] will lead, I think, for early action by the Biden administration on a larger reauthorization package.” By the numbers As mentioned above, those in the MOW industry (engineers, etc.) seem to be having a good time of it despite the pandemic pounce. According to the 2020 RT&S State of the Industry survey, over 52 percent said the health of their business is good, while just 23 percent said fair and just over 7 percent described it as poor. Even when asked specifically about 2020, over 36 percent painted it as good while just under 30 percent said it was fair. Almost 19 percent described it as poor. When comparing 2020 with 2019, over 52 percent marked 2019 as a better year than 2020, which is not surprising, but over 26 percent claimed 2020 was more successful than 2019. When asked if their company spent more or less on MOW activities in 2020 compared to 2019, a decisive 52 percent said they spent less, while just 17 percent said more. Optimism is high for 2021, as over 48 percent of survey responders are hoping for a good year while over 31 percent believe it will be fair. MOW activities, however, could suffer in 2021, as over 50 percent of RT&S readers believe spending in the market will be f lat over the next 12 months compared to more (over 26 percent) and less (over 23 percent). Readers also were asked in what areas will their company be spending their MOW dollars during 2021. Track inspection and safety led the way, as over 27 percent said they would spend more there over the next year. Bridge maintenance was close behind at 23 percent more. Special trackwork (19 percent), ditching and drainage (18 percent), grade-crossing surfaces (16 percent), ballast maintenance (16 percent), crossties (15 percent) and fastening systems (15 percent) also look strong in 2021. Transit spending appeared to be down when comparing 2020 to 2019, as over 55 rtands.com


percent said their region spent less on the mode of transportation over the last year. It does not look much better for ’21, with 36 percent saying their region will spend more while 36 percent indicating their area will spend less. The transit toll As far as operations go, the transit agency suffered massive losses due to the pandemic in 2020. Ridership was slashed hard, and revenues hit rock bottom in most places. The first stimulus bill helped, but only covered operations and expenses. The second bill was necessary, but with only $15 billion going to transit it was again a rather weak patch. For the most part, capital projects went on as planned, and maintenance activities were done faster and more efficient with less traffic out on the rails. “The transit systems have suffered,” said Hakim, “and they suffered quickly. This was truly unprecedented. The CARES Act funding was critical to transit agencies, but critical to transit agencies only from the perspective of being able to help them fund some of their pandemicgenerated operating deficits as well as additional operating costs. “The CARES Act was critically important to being able to help these transit agencies bridge the gap. But it’s a bridge, not a solution.” There also was the November election to look for aid in terms of future project money. However, it was a mixed bag. Critical referendums were passed in Austin, Texas, and in California, but some proposals were soundly defeated. In Oregon, voters rejected a measure that called for a payroll tax, which forced transit agency TriMet to shutter several future transportation projects. “There were certain projects that continued to advance,” said Hakim. “The funding had already been secured, but many of our large transit agencies had to hit the pause button on their capital program because the funding was not known. “So agencies that relied on tax revenue, that revenue also dipped in 2020, and there was this uncertainty about what funding levels could be assumed for advancing capital programs.” Hakim added she is still optimistic about 2021, with the third quarter serving as the measuring stick as to how healthy the market will be over the next rtands.com

year or two. So how much recovery time from the pandemic can we expect? It all depends on the Biden administration. If a longterm infrastructure bill can be passed in 2021 the recovery could be rather quick. However, if the bill stalls then so will the bounce-back. Transit ridership should be on the upswing starting in mid-2021, but what daily numbers are achieved is tough to forecast. In this area, the recovery could drag. “From a capital perspective, I think ’21 will be a transition year. From a ridership perspective, I think that may take a little bit longer,” said Hakim. Going in for a closer inspection According to the RT&S State of the Industry survey, track inspection and safety should be strong market sectors in 2021. The track inspection market was not isolated from the negative impact of the pandemic. According to Herzog Services, Inc. President Troy Elbert, it struggled. “Supply chains went down, and therefore loadings went down, and [the pandemic] definitely had an impact on the market,” he told RT&S. “The railroads went back to cutting back to the bare minimums. So the track inspection market fell off quite a bit.” Some say the track inspection market was more than 20 percent off in 2020. Much of the work was done early in the year, and due to lighter traffic it was done much quicker rather than being more spread out. After the midyear mark the work basically fell off a cliff. “As the year wore on, customers were forced to reduce budgets, which impacted our ability to keep some equipment working,” Loram Technologies, Inc. said in a statement to RT&S. Both Loram and Herzog see growth in the track inspection segment over the next year, but it will be a gradual one. “We’re coming back a little bit at a time,” said Elbert. “I would not say it’s anything of a spike. I don’t think we will get back to the numbers that were produced in 2019, but it will be close.” Short and timber The past few months have not been any easier for the short line railroad industry, but there were some positive highlights during the dark period. In November, the U.S. DOT announced it was expanding the Railroad






X 14.74%


Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Express program (RRIF Express). The changes will cut the time and costs linked to securing loans for projects that modernize aging freight and rail infrastructure. Loan amounts will be increased from $50 million to $150 million, more types of projects will be eligible for funding, the option to finance the loan amount moves from 40 to 75 percent, and there will be more f lexibility in considering different categories of environmental review. January 2021 // Railway Track & Structures 11




27.16% 9.88%



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American Short Line and Regional Railroads Association President Chuck Baker sees 2021 as being a f lat year for short-liners, which should be a major improvement from 2020. “When I talk to an individual short line and ask them what business will look like next year, the response I get is much more interesting,” Baker told RT&S. “It’s always, ‘We have this new opportunity.’ There are so many dynamic stories.” Baker added that a long-term infrastructure bill might help the short line industry somewhat, but it would not be a game-changer. Ashley Goodin, executive director of the Railway Tie Association, told RT&S that the wood railroad tie business is 14 percent ahead of where their forecasts said they would be in late 2020, but 2021 could be a little slower. “Railroads are on target for CapEx in 2021,” Goodin said. “Right now, the tie market looks fairly stable.”

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ALTERNATIVE CURRENT Jointless AC and DC track circuits for a low-cost broken rail detection system

Photo Credit: David C. Lester


By Dr. Edwin R. Kraft and Dr. Mark W. Hartong, P.E.

rack circuits as normally used in signaling systems work by applying an electrical current to the rails at one end of a track segment and by detecting the current at the other end. When used in a signal system for broken rail detection, a current received at the far end of a block is an indication that the track is safe. As an alternative to traditional track circuiting approaches, we propose using jointless AC and DC track circuits to develop a low-cost broken rail detection system, where installation of a traditional signal system is not economical. The pursuit of alternatives that don’t require the installation of insulated joints is a worthwhile goal. Insulated joints represent a maintenance liability and a potential point of failure of the track and signal infrastructure. As a result, every insulated joint that can be eliminated further reduces the likelihood of an undetected broken rail failure. Additionally, for electrified rail systems: rtands.com

• With double-rail track circuits the use of insulated joints requires the use of expensive impedance bonds; and • With single-rail track circuits DC electrification can magnetize insulated joints, requiring additional regular maintenance to prevent signal-system failures. Bringing in the beacons In the proposed system, beacons would be placed at regular intervals along the track. Each beacon would broadcast a unique 8or 16-bit digital code, so the circuit would operate as a center-fed track circuit. Receipt of these codes at any point up or down the line establishes the electrical continuity of the rails. Conversely, non-receipt of an expected code indicates either that the rail is broken or that the track circuit is shunted. For non-electrified rail lines, the crossbonds could consist of standard track circuit detectors or simple cables with equivalent resistance, typically in the vicinity of 0.25 . These provide a return path

for track circuit current and are needed for providing broken rail protection in the absence of a train shunt. To prevent two beacons from transmitting at the same time and interfering with one another’s signals, different strategies are possible. For example, by using a similar approach to ethernet, each beacon could listen before transmitting its own signal. Receivers or current detectors in this system could be mounted: (1) on-board the locomotive, (2) on a crossbond as traditional signal systems do, or (3) underneath or on the side of a running rail on each side of each crossbond. Rail-mounted detectors would either pick up an AC signal in the rails inductively as cab-signal receivers do, or by using an open-jaw magnetic flux concentrator on the rail with a Hall-effect sensor coded DC or AC signals could be detected. Since current is fed in both directions, a strong 15 A/4 VDC power supply must be used. January 2021 // Railway Track & Structures 13


Figure 1. Current in rails and detectors as the shunt moves.

Since no insulated joints are used, detectable levels of current are likely to reach the third or fourth detector even under wet ballast conditions. In an un-shunted condition, the 15 A feed current divides equally due to symmetry, so each side of the track circuit receives 7.5 A. At each cross-bond, each detector will only receive a fraction of the current flowing in the rails. The remaining current will continue beyond the detector, eventually leaking through the ballast or passing through a subsequent detector. As a result, the current flowing in the rails is always greater than current flowing in the crossbonds: • 7.5 A is fed into the track at 1.065 V; the resistance of the left side is therefore 0.142 . The right side of the circuit will absorb another 7.5 A, so the overall resistance of both sides of this track circuit is half of 0.142 , or 0.071 ; • 0.87 A leaks across the ballast before it reaches the first detector; 6.63 A is still in the rail upon reaching the first detector and the voltage across the rails is 0.678 V; and • With an assumed crossbond resistance of 0.25 , 2.71 A will be drawn through the crossbond and the remaining 3.92 A will continue in the rails past the first 14 Railway Track & Structures // January 2021

rail-mounted detector. The presence of a shunt will reduce electrical resistance so the left and right sides of the track circuit would no longer be balanced. More current flows towards the shunted (left) side and less current towards the un-shunted (right) side. Since the power supply limits total current to 15 A, this will reduce the current in the rail on the right side, even as current measured on the left side continues to increase. Figure 1 shows the effect of adding a 0.06 shunt, simulating a train moving from left to right. It starts 9,000 ft left of the signal generator, moving towards the right until reaching the signal generator itself at location zero. This figure shows current in both the rails and crossbonds, as measured at the first detector on both the left and right side, which are located 3,000 ft on either side of the generator. The top two curves show current measured in rails; whereas the bottom two curves show current in the crossbonds. Of particular interest is what happens to the current in Figure 1 as a train approaches and then crosses over the first crossbond at a distance of 3,000 ft from the generator:

• As a train approaches from the left, current in the rails on the left (or shunt) side will start to rise above 6.63 A, while current reaching the detector on the far side slowly falls. Since the shunt has low resistance it draws current towards itself, and away from the detector on the far side; • Once the shunt passes the crossbond at the 3,000-ft mark, the current measured in the rails at the left crossbond drops precipitously since the shunt intercepts current before it can reach the detector. Once the current drops it remains at a practically constant level until the shunt reaches the feed or signal generator. The current on the opposite-side rail detector and in crossbonds continues to decline, but only gradually as the shunt passes over the crossbond; • As the shunt approaches the generator, the current equalizes on both sides. Once the shunt passes over the power supply, the process reverses.

• In an un-shunted condition, detectors on both side of the code generator receive 6.63 A;

• An approaching train will not pre-shunt a jointless track circuit if the current measurement is taken in the rail. This is

As a train approaches the crossbond at 3,000 ft, the current in the left-side rail rises while the current in the left-side crossbond falls:



the reason why a rail-mounted detector is preferable to a traditional crossbondmounted detector for use with jointless track circuits; • However, there is one additional factor to consider, and that is the question of what is happening to current in the rail detector on the right-hand (opposite) side. Since the feed resistance of the track circuit and the amount of current flowing through the un-shunted right side are linearly related, even while the current flowing to the right side drops, the overall feed resistance of the track circuit reduces at exactly the same rate. By normalizing the current received at the detector to feed resistance at the supply, pre-shunting of the rightside detector can be prevented. Further development The key to operationalizing this concept will be the development and deployment of rail-mounted electrical current detectors. Additional research to support implementation is required. This includes: • Development and prototyping of railmounted current detectors based both on Hall-effect and inductive detection principles; • The electrical modeling of complex track configurations, such as passing sidings and interlocking junctions, which could potentially offer multiple paths for current flow; • Development of cost-effective means of linking detector devices with the PTC/ CBTC data network including the use, for example, of low-cost solar and wireless technologies; and • Development of PTC/CBTC server functionality for integrating rail-mounted detector data with existing train control functionality. In the near future, we hope to further refine and document the entire set of electrical modeling parameters for railway track, including resistance, capacitance and inductance of track and signal appliances. Further development of the electrical modeling framework is needed for the effective modeling of jointless AC track circuits, including power frequency up to audio frequency track circuits. This will be the next phase of work on the concept, which will then be followed by a more detailed analysis of jointless AC track circuits, and their application to complex track configurations. rtands.com

Hall-effect detector with concentrator for AC/DC track circuits win non-electrified territory.

Antenna for inductive pick-up of AC track circuits in electrified territory. January 2021 // Railway Track & Structures 15


Rail flaw detection keeps trains off the ground By David C. Lester, Managing Editor


leaning up a derailment is an expensive, huge headache. Expensive in terms of direct personnel and equipment costs, along with freight claims. Perhaps the greatest expense comes from delayed freight and frustrated customers. Any way you slice it, derailments must be avoided. One of the best ways to prevent 16 Railway Track & Structures // January 2021

derailment is to have a robust rail flaw detection program. Addressing rolling contact fatigue (RCF) before it becomes a transverse defect is critical. Despite the best preventive efforts, rails will develop defects, which underscores the need for diligence during rail flaw inspection trips. Toward the end of each year, we reach out to rail flaw detection vendors so they can

discuss their latest products for this critical work in our January issue. This year, we have entries from Sperry, Herzog, Nordco and a Turkish company, Ekemon. Sperry Elmer is an artificial intelligence tool and Sperry’s newest rail safety initiative. Elmer uses machine learning based on neural rtands.com

Photo Credit: Enekom



networks to process data from rail flaw detection systems and to identify patterns in the data that may indicate the presence of defects. The system learns from the data gathered by ultrasound, induction and eddy current inspection methods, applying modern, AI-driven data analysis. Here are some of the highlights: • Sperry is the only company using AI and was developed entirely in-house by Sperry; • Elmer gives consistent results and reduces human intervention during analysis; • Elmer reduces the amount of verifications that need to be done on track, improving worker safety; and • Elmer is being used by Sperry’s non-stop customers around the world. Joint bar inspection system This system utilizes high-definition cameras to photograph joint bars as a test vehicle traverses the rail lines. These images are then reviewed for evidence of any cracks and other anomalies and greatly aid track inspectors in locating defective joint bars so they can be removed prior to potential failure. Vision System Sperry’s Vision System allows operators to view the rail surface of a suspected defect in the form of a digital image. The Vision System is used to improve the operator decision-making process and help avoid missed and unnecessary hand-testing stops. 18 Railway Track & Structures // January 2021

It is used in conjunction with Sperry’s ultrasonic and induction equipment. Eddy current Eddy current uses electromechanical induction to detect and characterize defects that occur on and below the surface of the rail, such as rolling contact fatigue (RCF)—a condition in which normal wheel contact and loading cause small fractures to form at the head surface of the rail. Eddy current offers full surface coverage of the railhead and can be deployed on any Sperry vehicle. Herzog Maintaining rail health is a constant challenge for the railroads. Finding defects before they become a problem requires repeat assessment and taking advantage of the time suppliers are on track. Thus, more frequent testing provides railroads with a larger data set to use in their predictive maintenance programs. In Start/Stop Verification, after a defect is identified, the operator stops the detector car, steps out of the vehicle and manually confirms if the defect is indeed present using a portable ultrasonic device. In Continuous Testing (CT), Herzog’s ultrasonic CT vehicles scan the rail in bulk mode and transfer test data to an off-site location for review by a CT analyst. “Herzog’s CT program was developed in partnership with our customers to bring a tailored product to the industry. By working closely with our engineering teams we were

able to capitalize on correcting deficiencies within existing CT methods and maximize on workflow efficiencies, helping to support precision scheduled railroading initiatives,” explained Troy Elbert, president of Herzog Services, Inc. Herzog is continually looking for ways to improve the speed of data collection and processing, especially now that CT has been given the green light by the FRA as an acceptable method of gathering rail inspection data. Herzog’s ultrasonic CT vehicles scan the rail in bulk mode and transfer test data to an off-site location for review by a CT analyst. Any suspect indications are flagged for further assessment by an on-site field verifier within the time allotted by FRA regulation. The CT process allows the railroads to test with increased coverage in shorter work windows. Herzog offers three vehicle platforms fitted with multi-channel ultrasonic testing hardware to efficiently traverse different classes of track. The Hyrail Freightliner for main line track inspections; the Hyrail Pickup for mountainous regions and urban settings; and the Hyrail UTV for use in sidings, yards and areas with tight clearance envelopes. Transducers are mounted to the vehicle’s testing carriage at standard industry probe angles to find different types of defects in the rail. Once on the track and ready to test, Herzog employs a different rail-testing process according to the specific requirements of each railroad. rtands.com

Photo Credit: Sperry

Elmer is an AI tool and Sperry’s newest rail safety initiative.


Nordco Nordco’s OnePass is a portable rail flaw detection system designed to inspect tracks with a single pass over the rail. This innovative, digital solution for manual rail inspection is ideal for ultrasonic testing in railway yards, crossovers, plug rail and short run applications. Nordco has bundled the latest detection and digital processing technologies in a compact unit to bring leading UT capabilities to hand-testing applications. OnePass is designed with the same RSU wheel probe and Digital Signal Processing Technology as is employed in Nordco fullfeatured rail flaw detection vehicles. Nordco’s RailTruck software produces detailed logs and reports of all identified defects. Ergonomically designed, the OnePass inspects rail integrity with an industryleading 11 transducers and presents software recognized defects in a B-Scan view. Detect verification is supported with an integrated hand test kit and on-board flaw detection software. The OnePass employs Nordco’s exclusive

Herzog’s Hyrail Freightliner for Continuous Testing.

XL9-11 wheel probe, technology designed specifically to perform ultrasonic testing on

rail, featuring 11 inspection transducers and a maintenance-free direct encoder for local

Driving velocity in the rail industry. TRACK MAINTENANCE


Photo Credit: Herzog



January 2021 // Railway Track & Structures 19


distance measurement. The XL9-11 design allows full coverage of the railhead and web as well as a 0° crystal for base detection. Recent design enhancements have made the OnePass better able to withstand the harshest environments while remaining lightweight and ergonomic for optimized operator experience. The entire unit and all accessories are packaged in a single rugged pelican case for transport. Nordco’s RFD team can perform OnePass testing as part of an overall track inspection program or add OnePass to an equipment fleet for testing on demand. Enekom With railways being among the most demanding means of transportation, railway safety has always been an issue of concern. For the railway system to operate flawlessly, constant monitoring and inspection of railway tracks is a necessity. However, with ever-increasing railway traffic trend and the effect of sudden and fast climatic change patterns worldwide, it is becoming

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The fractured rail tests are run automatically at the time intervals determined by the user or started anytime manually by the operator or alternatively by a built-in AI algorithm. The system’s remote diagnostic test results and telemetry readings from the system modules as well as fractured rail test results are constantly displayed and recorded by the server/ computer located in the remote alarm/ control center, and all critical results are relayed to authorized personnel’s smartphones in real time. Apart from real-time detection of rail defects, RailAcoustic also can follow the train movements with precise train speed information, detect f lat-wheels, landslides, track wash-out and f lood conditions. In addition, extensive qualification tests are being performed on new system functions, such as the detection of rail buckling and major rail internal defects. The system can be applied on high-speed rail (ballasted track and slab-track), and all modernized railway lines and metro lines.

more and more difficult to ensure safety on the railways with old-fashioned and traditional methods. Enekom offers a leading-edge acoustic sensing and monitoring technology to ensure railway track safety: RailAcoustic. The RailAcoustic system, which won the 2020 Innovation Award of the European Railway Clusters Initiative (ERCI), was developed to eliminate the rail infrastructure experts’ concerns about rail integrity issues on the existing and new railway tracks in the construction phase, most importantly for broken and fractured rails. RailAcoustic is the only proven and patented system in the world, including the U.S., EU and Asia, that makes it possible to stop a train before it reaches to a possible fractured rail area. The system monitors track safety 24/7 by injecting acoustic signals to the rail body and measuring the change in amplitude of the injected acoustic signal from a long distance and also utilizing the data generated by the reflected acoustic signals coming from defected rail zones.




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CUT Photo Credit: Asplundh

Helicopter operation helps clear vegetation in Vermont


hroughout the months of July through September, an unusual buzzing sound was heard along the Vermont railroad. While the buzzing was not especially noteworthy to nearby residents, it was the sound of increased


safety and cost savings for the Genesee & Wyoming Railroad. The source of the buzzing was Rotor Blade, an aerial vegetation and utilities management company and affiliate of Asplundh, which was hard at work on an unprecedented

191-mile right-of-way clearance project. The goal of the project was to alleviate damage to railway equipment and minimize delays due to downed trees and fallen debris along the line. Using a fleet of MD500 aircraft and an 894-lb, 10-blade saw hanging 134 ft January 2021 // Railway Track & Structures 21


The Vermonter Clearing Project marks the longest continuous railroad span that any aerial vegetation management company has completed.

22 Railway Track & Structures // January 2021

lines being heavily overgrown and potentially unsafe. With 191 miles of right-of-way, traditional ground crew trimming methods, which average 2-3 miles per week, would have taken well into the next year, even without factoring in winter-related delays that are frequent for the region. With Rotor Blade’s capabilities, consistently averaging over 15 miles of cutting per week, the entire project was more feasible before winter weather moved in. The heavily wooded area along the border of New Hampshire and Vermont running up through northern Vermont consists of a variety of tree species, but most commonly cottonwood, poplar, maple, pine and oak. Genesee & Wyoming runs shipping trains along the famously scenic span of rail line and partners with Amtrak to diversify the line to commuter and tourism as well. With so many different rail industries relying on the use of the line throughout the year, Rotor Blade coordinated with ground crews from National Railroad Safety Services to complete the project while the line was operational and in use. The Vermonter Clearing Project marks the longest continuous railroad span that any aerial vegetation management company has completed. Rotor Blade began the project in mid-July, with a mandatory completion date set by Genesee & Wyoming of Dec. 31. With the efficiency that the aerial saw provides, the

project was completed over two months ahead of schedule, safely and without incident, wrapping up before the end of September. Additionally, the job was completed under the set budget, leaving the railroad with additional funds for more clearing or other vegetation mitigation at a later time. Gradall/Fecon Gradall Track Star railway maintenance machines fitted with a Fecon Bull Hog mulcher quickly shred all kinds of vegetation encountered along railways. The full-tilting, telescoping Gradall boom can reach virtually any vegetation, whether trackside or in the canopy. The powerful Bull Hog quickly shreds materials, clearing brush, limbs, debris, trees and other vegetation. Bull Hog models available include the heavy-duty CEM36 and the BH40EXC for severe-duty applications. Both models feature a 36-in. cutting width and 18 cutting tools. With a telescoping boom rather than an articulating arm, the Gradall allows unrestricted access, while the low profile allows for easy transport through tunnels and catenary systems. The Gradall and Bull Hog combination is ideal for Maintenanceof-Way/vegetation management projects on railroads of all types. In addition to mounting the Bull Hog on Gradall Track Star bodies, the team at MacAllister Railroad Machinery also can supply Cat rtands.com

Photo Credit: Asplundh

below the helicopter, right-of-ways could be cleared efficiently and safely, even over rough and wet terrain that would typically impede ground crews. As a result of the orientation of the saw and the maneuverability of the aircraft, vegetation could be trimmed back from the ground to the treetop, leaving 100 percent clearance within the right-of-way. Railways benefit from this complete clearance because it enables sunlight and wind to reach the ground, drying up wet and marshy areas faster and lengthening the lifespan of the rail line. Additionally, this enables vegetation brush spray programs to be more effective in maintaining clearance and reducing the need for cutting in the future. The aircraft cutting from above the tree line–rather than below like other methods require–makes aerial vegetation management an attractive alternative for many projects. While cleanup of the fallen vegetation is still required, this can be done after the helicopter has moved safely down the right-of-way. There is no crew required on the ground below the saw while it is working, and the right-of-way is kept completely clear of people and equipment in the vicinity, eliminating the possibility of crew injuries and damage from falling debris. Time is of the essence in many locations, and the Genesee & Wyoming rail line could not afford to head into a cold winter with their


308, 314, 320, and 325 excavators with hi-rail packages for on-track vegetation management and Maintenance-of-Way applications. The company offers sales, rental, leasing and service, including 24-hour emergency service seven days a week. Asplundh Asplundh Railroad Division has expanded its fleet with a modernized spray train for greater herbicide application efficiency. The train has high capacity for long distances of main line and is equipped with a new programmable automated control system that enables the capability to program no-spray zones. These enhanced control features are programmed with GPS coordinates for crossings, bridges and structures. The new spray car features bay windows on both sides for greater visibility, as well as mounted cameras to improve line of sight while spraying herbicide, as well as the ability to spray in either direction without having to turn the car. Additional mixing and spraying features have been added to improve overall operations and safety.

Photo Credit: Vancer

Corteva Agriscience Corteva Agriscience continues to deliver optimum solutions and strategies for freight and passenger railroad companies seeking quality vegetation control. The brand’s evolving portfolio of selective herbicide products support the management of problematic vegetation throughout a variety of application sites, including railroad crossings, ballast zones, right-of-way corridors and off-track areas. TerraVue herbicide represents Corteva’s latest advancement in vegetation management. Unconditionally registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), TerraVue offers effective control of more than 140 broadleaf weeds and brush species. Rinskor active partners with the proven active, aminopyralid, to deliver the following features of TerraVue: • Low use rate; • Low-odor formulation; • Flexibility across use sites; • Season-long residual control; • Low volatility; • Safety to desirable grasses, forbs and shrubs; • Two active ingredients classified as reduced risk under the EPA’s Conventional Reduced Risk Pesticide Program; and • Ability to use on grazed areas.

species such as grasses and forbs helps create a natural barrier against incompatible or invasive species, which can reduce re-treatment requirements and future maintenance costs for railroad vegetation management programs. These results also minimize environmental hazards and threats to railroad infrastructure, including: • Poor drainage; • Railcar slippage; • Compromised railroad mechanics; • Line-of-sight issues; and • Fire hazards. When used for total vegetation control on most bare ground sites, applications of TerraVue can be made by broadcast, pretreatment or spot treatments at an application rate of 5.7 oz/A. The fact that TerraVue is compatible with multiple tank-mix partners also is an added benefit for vegetation management programs battling weed resistance. Progress Rail Progress Rail, a Caterpillar company, serves Class 1 and short line railroads, DOTs, utility companies, contractors and municipalities by manufacturing a range of heavy-duty, reliable Kershaw equipment for vegetation management. Kershaw machines tackle tough brush clearing, tree trimming and general vegetation control, ensuring railroads can access track or right-of-ways quickly and easily. Multiple Kershaw offerings are available to perform routine and rugged railroad maintenance,

such as the SkyTrim 75G2 Hi-Rail for specialized vegetation control, the SkyTrim 75HRT truck for on-highway and rail applications, the Klearway 500 industrial brushcutter for overgrowth, and the All Terrain Carrier (ATC) available for specialized bucket lift configurations. Developed specifically for electrical utility and railroad applications, the Kershaw SkyTrim 75 HRT High-Rail Truck is an over-the-road, rubber-tired prime mover vehicle, outfitted with a rear-mounted, airconditioned tilt cab with ergonomic joystick controls and an attached telescoping boom. The boom includes a saw-type cutter head designed to extend up to 75 ft to safely and efficiently trim trees. Equipped with hydraulically deployed wheels and a standard 100-gal fuel tank, the machine can propel down the track in a matter of minutes to clear limbs and overgrown brush with ease. Vancer Maintaining remote vegetation can be a challenge. If it isn’t combatted early in the season, it can lead to high fire risks and rail cargo damage. To efficiently manage vegetation, it is necessary to use hi-rail equipment outfitted with tools such as brush cutters, mowers, and mulching heads. Versatility wins out with the Vancer CHX25 Hi-Rail Excavator. It is ideal for remote rail areas, and its 20-ton model allows for multiple tool functionality. It can be paired with many attachments in order to rotate the head a full 360°. When paired with the Vancer brush

The Vancer CHX25 Hi-Rail Excavator is ideal for remote rail areas.

The selectivity of TerraVue to desirable rtands.com

January 2021 // Railway Track & Structures 23

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cutter attachment, this machine can remove large tree branches and brush. Pair it with a mower deck to control grass and weeds, and add drum-style mulching heads to cut and grind trees and stumps. Vancer also supplies an innovative chain saw attachment that uses a grapple system to securely cut and dispose of branches. Add a tow cart to the CHX25 to gather branches in bulk and reduce time spent clearing work areas. Other popular vegetation management options Vancer provides include skid steers outfitted with tools for removing brush, mowing, and mulching. The Huddig backhoe allows for efficient vegetation management with its articulating center pivot system and its ability to run multiple attachments. RCE With the use of RCE’s hi-rail excavators equipped with a brushcutter head, brush management can be achieved both in an on-track and off-track mode. Unlike traditional dedicated on-track brush cutters, RCE’s hi-rail excavator can be used for a wide range of rail maintenance duties such as removal and installing ties, undercutting ballast, laying new rail, and standard excavation tasks. In the past couple years at RCE, the company has expanded its Railavator lineup, including two new models–the 245G and 250G Railavators. RCE now provides seven John Deere models–50G, 85G, 135G, 210G, 245G, 250G and 350G. The company has seen an increase in the number of hi-rail excavators going out with brush cutter heads. RCE also has an all-makes rail gear package so it can now equip Cat, Deere and Komatsu 20-metric-ton excavators with high rail.

24 Railway Track & Structures // January 2021



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Message From The President

ixed-use corridors present unique engineering challenges not found on railways that are dedicated exclusively to either passenger or freight service. The accommodations required to maximize the safety and efficiency of each service type are often distinct and sometimes conflicting. The NICTD South Shore Line (SSL) owns and maintains a mixed-use passenger/freight corridor and now has over two decades of experience in the design, construction and operation of high-level boarding platforms. These facility enhancements have substantially improved passenger service without negatively affecting freight operations. Floor-level boarding implementations have been made at various times; as communications and train control technology have evolved, the design considerations have changed accordingly. This article will be a two-part series and is intended to assist other carriers who may be contemplating high-level boarding facilities. The SSL provides passenger service between South Bend, Ind., and Chicago. Electric Multiple Unit trains operate from South Bend to Kensington Interlocking on the SSL and then continue to downtown Chicago on the Metra Electric District (MED). Tenant freight operations are conducted with diesel locomotives. When the modern passenger fleet was acquired, all passengers boarded and alighted via lowlevel platforms on the SSL and via high-level platforms on the MED. The passenger cars have stairs at each end to facilitate low-level alighting and boarding. This requires alighting passengers to 26 Railway Track & Structures // January 2021

and constructed to remain outside of this clearance profile, but the risk of a wide load, shifted lading or vehicle suspension failure fouling the clearance remains. The author has heard legends of unsecured plug doors slamming into and severely damaging platforms. The SSL analyzed and sought to mitigate these hazards. In 1995, the SSL began the task of confronting clearance safety issues in the design of its first modern-day, highlevel boarding platforms, which were to be constructed at the Hammond, Ind., station. These platforms would be built to accommodate an eight-car train, 680 ft in length. Novel approaches such as movable platforms, mechanized bridge plates and drawbridge-type edges were evaluated. In comparison to robust and proven wayside appurtenances, these mechanisms were considered complicated, insufficiently reliable, prone to failure and vandalism, and presented an elevated risk of collision damage. Multiple moving parts would require regular maintenance and lubrication. Platform edges would need to be frangible and sacrificial to avoid train damage and associated service disruptions. A nearby store of custom-made spare platform edges would be required to sustain train service. Snow- and ice-clearing subsystems would be complex and extensive. New and atypical maintenance skill sets and training would be needed in the workforce. An interface to the wayside signals would be required to minimize the potential of a wide load colliding with an unintentionally deployed platform. With the paramount objectives of safety, reliability, availability and maintainability in mind, SSL Engineering staff opted to build gauntlet tracks and utilize more conventional and robust railway systems. Further design considerations, lessons learned and future plans will be discussed next month.

All doors open for high-level use, but center doors remain closed at low-level platforms. rtands.com

Photo Credit: Vic Babin


VICTOR R. BABIN AREMA President 2020-21

form two single-file lines moving slowly down the aisle to each end door, down the stairs and onto the low platform. The process is then repeated in the opposite direction by boarding passengers. During peak periods, the entire process takes approximately four to five minutes at each low-level boarding platform. Wheelchair access requires the conductor take the additional steps of retrieving a lift from a storage shelter, raising and lowering the lift and returning the lift to storage–several more minutes of dwell at the station. The cumulative dwell time of all stations is a component of the trip times of all passengers whose trains stop at low-level boarding stations. Dwell times at stations where passengers board at the level of the car’s floor are considerably shorter. For high-level boarding, double doors are opened at mid-car and trap doors are deployed over the stairs at the end doors. Passengers with or without disabilities quickly alight and board, moving smoothly from floor to platform in four separate lines from seat to platform. The distance from seat to door is cut in half, stairs are bypassed and the entire process is reduced to approximately 45 seconds. Hence, every station converted to a high-level boarding facility reduces the trip times by three or more minutes. If seven stations could be converted, the longest system trip would be reduced by 21 minutes. System capacity would be increased accordingly and more trains could operate during peak periods. However, industry experience on mixeduse passenger/freight corridors has demonstrated that the solution is not simply a matter of building a high-level platform. Generally, North American passenger and freight trains fit within the horizontal dimensions of an Association of American Railroads (AAR) Plate “C” clearance envelope. High-level platforms are designed

Getting to know Committee 37’s Wiedmann commuter lines, which were taken over by the local transit agencies in the cities affected. I received a request from a good friend to join Philadelphia’s SEPTA team, responsible for the operation and maintenance of the old Reading Company and Penn Central lines. I stayed with SEPTA for 14 years before moving into a consulting position. From there, I spent 10 years with US&S, and 10 years (and counting) with Burns Engineering. How did you get involved in AREMA and your committee?

WILLIAM D. WIEDMANN Director, Communications & Signals Burns Engineering Why did you decide to choose a career in railway engineering?

I didn’t choose railway engineering, it chose me. In 1976, I was furloughed from General Dynamics in Groton, Conn., because of a union work stoppage. I returned home to look for work. As often happened back then, my dad had a friend who worked on the railroad and when told that I was looking for work he sponsored me, and the rest is history. How did you get started?

In April of 1976 Amtrak took over the Northeast Corridor from Penn Central assuming direct control of trains, track, dispatching, signaling and maintenance. I was hired in July of ’76 to work on a signal construction gang with no knowledge of railroading, let alone signaling. I soon discovered that, to me, signaling was one of the most interesting areas of railroading. Because Amtrak had just acquired the railroad, there was a lot of opportunity to advance quickly. Because of that, in short order, I was able to advance up the ladder into a management role. When Amtrak advertised for a position as a signal instructor in Lancaster, Pa., I applied. Surprisingly, I landed the job. A small team was formed to establish curriculum, training aids, scheduling, boarding, etc., for Amtrak’s initial training program. From there, it was onto signal design. Then, in early 1983, Conrail divested itself from the rtands.com

I joined AREMA Committees 36 and 37 because they most aligned with my position and covered the levels of technical expertise I wanted to build upon at Burns. I found that the conversations that permeated the committee meetings were meaningful and informative and the networking was important to building my career goals. I chose to join subcommittee 37-1, the

FIND YOUR PASSION; RAILROADING HAS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE. application of signaling principals and procedures, because it was of the most interest to me. I became subcommittee chair of 37-1 about five years ago before stepping up to committee chair this year. I remain an active member of Committee 36 as well. Outside of your job and the hard work you put into AREMA, what are your hobbies?

I have always been a voracious reader; books can remove you from your day-today reality and take you to places you will never get to go to. Historical novels are some of my favorite books, with sci-fi as a close second. A really good sci-fi writer will research a subject to the point that may almost foretell the future. Golf also is a hobby that I enjoy, although

it evidentially doesn’t like me. Although I struggle with the game, I still go out to try my own patience. Tell us about your family.

I have been married for 42 years to my wife Patty who has endured all of the travails that come with being a railroad spouse. Without her support, the career I’ve enjoyed would not have been possible. I have two sons who are married with two children of their own, blessing us with four grandchildren. My oldest son is a senior signal engineer at Burns and my younger son works for Lockheed Martin. If you could share one interesting fact about yourself with the readers of RT&S, what would it be?

Early in my career as a signal maintainer, I would ask the tower operator if I could work as his ‘leverman’ with the old Model 14, electro-mechanical interlocking machines. The operator would call out a route and I would have to line the switches and clear the signals for the train. It is one of the ways I learned the relationships between signals, switches and locking. What is your biggest achievement?

When I started at Burns, my primary goal was to develop a viable and profitable signal engineering group. Growing a signals team within Burns Engineering’s railroad and transit group from one employee into a Communications & Signals team of over 30 people has capped off an incredibly fulfilling career. What advice would you give to someone who is trying to pursue a career in the railway industry?

Find your passion; railroading has something for everyone. Get to know what is available to you before committing to a singular discipline within the industry. There are so many areas of engineering available to pursue in railroading, including systems engineering, mechanical, structural, power, communications, IT, safety, civil, electronics. Careers in vehicle maintenance, operations, defect detection, train control, signal engineering, communications systems, track structure ... and the list goes on and on. January 2021 // Railway Track & Structures 27


Happy New Year! AREMA would like to wish you and your family a prosperous new year.

o n l i n e s o o n a t w w w. a r e m a . o r g o r contact us at info@arema.org for more details.

Do you want to generate leads, promote a product and reach a target audience? Sign up for sponsorship at the AREMA 2021 Annual Conference in conjunction with Railway Interchange. Please visit www.arema.org or contact lmcnicholas@arema.org for more information on sponsorship investment opportunities.

Did you miss the AREMA 2020 Virtual C o n f e r e n c e & E x p o? T h e p l a t f o r m will be open for one full year for you to network and learn while on the go. Purchase now at www.arema.org and have access until Sept. 15, 2021.

The 2021 Communications & Signals Manual will be available soon. With ove r 50 n ew, rev i se d, re af f i rm e d o r extended Manual Parts, it’s the perfect ti m e to g et th e 2021 M a n u a l. O rd e r

Leverage the power of your trusted association’s Railway Careers Network to tap into a talent pool of job candidates with the training and e d u c a t i o n n e e d e d f o r l o n g -t e r m success. Visit www.arema.org/careers to post your job today.

AREMA members, if you have not already done so, be sure to renew your membership today to take advantage of what AREMA can of fer you. Login n o w to w w w.a re m a .o rg a n d re n e w your 2021 dues online. Not an AREMA m e m b e r? J o i n n ow to g et exc l usive ra te s o n p ro d u c ts a n d e d u c a ti o n a l c o u r s e s , c o m m i t te e o p p o r t u n i t i e s , access to the directories, subscriptions to your favorite magazine and much more.



MAY 18-19

SEPT. 14-15

Committee 8 - Concrete Structures and Foundations Virtual Meeting

Committee 15 - Steel Structures Pueblo, Colo.

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FEB. 2-3

JUNE 3-4

Committee 15 - Steel Structures Virtual Meeting

Committee 8 - Concrete Structures and Foundations Anchorage, Alaska

2022 MEETINGS FEB. 8-9

MAY 19-20

SEPT. 29-30

Committee 15 - Steel Structures Fort Worth, Texas

Committee 15 - Steel Structures Chicago, Ill.

Committee 15 - Steel Structures Virtual Meeting

Join a Technical Committee Joining a Technical Committee is the starting point for involvement in the association and an opportunity for lifelong growth in the industry. AREMA has 29 Technical Committees covering a broad spectrum of railway engineering specialties. Build your network of contacts, sharpen your leadership skills, learn from other members and maximize your membership investment. If you’re interested in joining a technical committee or sitting in on a meeting, please contact Alayne Bell at abell@arema.org. For a complete list of all committee meetings, visit https://www.arema.org/events.aspx.

28 Railway Track & Structures // January 2021



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January 2021 // Railway Track & Structures 31


Hanging on by a string COVID-19, the economy, and lack of Congressional action have put transit agencies in dire straights By David C. Lester, Managing Editor

A David C. Lester


32 Railway Track & Structures // January 2021

s I’m writing this, jumbo jets are on the move with cargo holds filled with millions of doses of the new Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. The U.S. government has provided Emergency Use Authorization for the vaccine, as it believes the potential benefits outweigh the risks, but not official authorization. The world anxiously waits to see if the vaccine will be effective enough to put a massive dent in the numbers of coronavirus infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. With a significant lack of adherence to safety protocols such as mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing, the virus is raging through the U.S. and much of the world. It appears the vaccine is our only hope of getting the pandemic under control. The impact of the pandemic on the nation’s transit industry has been severe. Indeed, most transit agencies have seen extreme ridership drops, and they are scrambling to figure a way out of a continuing death spiral. The vaccine’s impact remains unknown, but it’s going to take a while, even if it works well, for people to feel comfortable f locking back to transit. Nevertheless, the vaccine is one driver of hope. The other is action by the U.S. Congress to provide a relief package to the beleaguered industry. At the moment, though, that seems even less hopeful than the vaccine working. The transit industry has requested about $32 billion in relief, while, at last count, the congressional relief bill only provides for $15 billion. Transit operators have pointed out, though, that even $32 billion would only be a shortterm remedy; $15 billion would be even shorter term. With paltry ridership, the vaccine’s impact (if it is positive) not being felt until sometime around Q3 of 2021, and Congress’s lack of action, transit agencies are likely in the toughest spot they’ve ever been. On Dec. 9, the National Coalition of Transportation Agencies held what they referred to as a “virtual rally” to make the case to the U.S. government that the

nation’s transit industry is in terrible financial shape, and it needs funding fast. Representatives from transit and commuter rail systems in New York, Denver, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Miami, Salt Lake City, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and New Orleans joined the call and explained how their agencies are doing. Some transit leaders said that while federal funding could ensure continued service and continued employment of workers, they also said they need a tremendous amount of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for employees, along with cleaning supplies to make trains as virus-free as possible. While the transit industry hopes for the best from the vaccine, right now, immediate support must come from Congress. While transits are by no means the only ones suffering in this economy, bold action from our lawmakers is crucial. The current bickering over a relief bill is absurd, and the prospect that we will not have a bill of any sort before the end of 2020 is incredible. Those in the House and Senate who don’t appreciate the gravity of the situation are either misguided, ignorant, or both. Given that a significant percentage of the U.S. workforce has been able to work from home during the pandemic, and transits are grappling with the economic and safety impacts, it’s reasonable to assume the industry may look different once the pandemic is under control. Many major corporations have said that either employees may continue to work from home in a post-pandemic economy or adopt a hybrid model that entails working in the office two or three days a week and working from home for two or three days. Regardless of what happens on this issue, the substantial portion of the workforce that cannot work from home will need clean, safe, and reliable transit. Meanwhile, we should demand that transits get the federal funding needed to ensure they’ll still be around in a postpandemic world. rtands.com

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