RTS March 2023

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MARCH 2023 | WWW.RTANDS.COM ALSO: BALLAST MAINTENANCE BEST PRACTICES IN SHORT LINE MOW ROLLIN’ OVER Louisville & Indiana working on five-year Ohio River bridge project THE RIVER

Are you prepared for the challenges of spring?

Ballast Management by Loram.

New season. New challenges. Be ready with Loram. The forces of nature are unrelenting. But so is Loram’s commitment to help you mitigate short-term ballast maintenance challenges and resolve recurring problems with effective long-term solutions. From damage caused by spring flooding, washouts or fouling, to complete infrastructure restoration, choose Loram’s geotechnical and industry-leading array of maintenance equipment solutions. Loram is the partner you need to solve the challenges that stand in your way. Learn more at Loram.com

©2023 Loram Maintenance of Way, Inc. Rail Grinding | Ballast Maintenance | Friction Management | Material Handling | Track Inspection Services
Clockwise from top left–HP SBC Shoulder Ballast Cleaner, SlotMachine® / SPS, DumpTrain®, and LRV Specialty Excavator
March 2023 // Railway Track & Structures 1 rtands.com CONTENTS FEATURES Follow Us On Social Media @RTSMag 12 Ballast Maintenance Clean and Dry 20 Rollin’ Over the Ohio River Louisville & Indiana’s Ohio River Bridge 23 Short Line MOW Balancing Need and Budget March 2023 12 DEPARTMENTS COLUMNS TTC Operated by ENSCO Advanced Track Geometry AREMA News Message from the President 4 26 Editor’s Notebook Introducing Special Reports NewsWatch Stories We’re Following NRC Annual Equipment Auction Special Report AREMA Roadbed & Ballast From the Dome Short Line Disaster Relief 3 8 10 11 28 23 On the Cover Louisville & Indiana Ohio River Bridge Photo Credit: Kyle Czapla For story, see p. 20

Powerful and Versatile

and ballast shaping. Sweeping away your track maintenance issues mile after mile is one more way Progress Rail keeps you rolling.

We keep you rolling.


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Introducing “Special Reports”

members at some point in the future. What does this have to do with a “special report?” Well, this is the type of story we’ll be looking at in our new section, entitled “ Special Report .”

As noted above, these reports will appear occasionally and only when we run across a story that fits the bill. And the topics can be anything from conference reports, new technology that is particularly noteworthy, and even accident reports when the cause is track or infrastructure-related. We believe you’ll find these reports useful.

We recently introduced NewsWatch , a monthly column presenting outlines of major news stories that will likely be in the news for a while. This section provides a quick overview of today’s big stories in rail infrastructure and MOW that we think you should be following. And you’ll find some stories that are tangentially related to infrastructure and MOW, but if you work for a railroad in any capacity, these stories will be of interest.

Every now and then we have news stories that don’t quite fit in any of our regular magazine sections, and they’re not necessarily “major” stories. Yet, they are important. One example is an overview of the recent AREMA Roadway and Ballast Symposium held in Kansas City, Mo., from February 6–8. This symposium was for anyone involved in roadway or ballast management, and if you registered for the seminar, the material in all the presentations will be available to you soon. They will also be available to AREMA

While we are working to build our digital media offerings, the magazine, whether you read the digital version or the print version, is the mother ship of RT&S Media. We’re focused on enhancing the quality of the magazine and our digital platforms, and always welcome your comments.

EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK March 2023 // Railway Track & Structures 3 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, 1809 Capitol Avenue, Omaha, NE 68102. Printed in the U.S.A. Periodicals postage paid at Omaha, NE, and additional mailing offices. Pricing: Qualified individual and railroad employees may request a free subscription. 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 2023. 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 +1 (402) 346-4740, Fax +1 (847) 291-4816, e-mail rtands@omeda.com or write to: Railway Track & Structures, Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, PO Box 239, Lincolnshire IL 60069-0239 USA. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Railway Track & Structures PO Box 239, Lincolnshire IL 60069-0239 USA.
An occasional section featuring news items that don’t quite fit elsewhere in the magazine

Advanced Track Geometry Condition Forecasting Using ML/AI

Jay Baillargeon, Program Manager, Federal Railroad Administration Office of Research, Development and Technology, Pueblo, CO

There’s an old adage that says, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Although, it is also said that “it’s difficult to plan without a good prediction.” While the procedures for assessing the condition of track infrastructure are well established, having a good forecast can enable more effective remedial action and optimal maintenance plans. Such data-based forecasting procedures will lead to the safest and most efficient operations.

Track geometry is one of the most common measurements used to assess track condition. With the advent of

Autonomous Track Geometry Measurement Systems (ATGMS), the amount of data collected has risen significantly over the past several years. ATGMS was first introduced in the United States through a research project led by the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Office of Research, Development, and Technology in 2008. Over thirty systems are now operating in revenue service in North America with some exceeding 100,000 miles surveyed per year.[1] This abundance of data allows for integration of machine learning (ML) and other artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to reap greater value from the data, including accurately forecasting future conditions.

As part of FRA’s ongoing research into ML/AI applications for advancing rail safety, ENSCO has completed a multiyear effort to advance such forecasting methods for predicting continuous or “foot-by-foot” track geometry measurements. Continuous data is the data collected by track geometry vehicles that show the uninterrupted measurement of track geometry along a section of track which is commonly depicted in strip charts. In North America, this data is sampled at every foot. There are several advantages to forecasting using continuous data rather than relying on values that exceed a predetermined safety or maintenance threshold, otherwise known as exceptions. One example is a warp exception, which is the maximum crosslevel difference within a 62-foot

span. As track deteriorates, crosslevel condition can vary in complex ways that make it difficult to summarize the forecast in the context of a single value. As such, predicting the continuous condition is ideal for capturing the full behavior of deteriorating track.

Additionally, continuous track geometry is valuable when used in Track Quality Indices (TQI). TQIs are used with segmented lengths of continuous data and provide a track condition quality summary based on the data within a specific segment. Often the segments range from 200 feet to more than a mile. TQI calculations often use standard deviation as a calculation method, which is useful to quantify how “rough” or “smooth” a track is. This is valuable information when developing maintenance plans.

Forecasted continuous track geometry assessment is valuable in several areas, including identifying when a condition could become a major safety concern. An example would be forecasting when a near-urgent track geometry exception could become an urgent exception. Similarly, forecasted continuous track geometry can be used to predict TQIs into the future. Lastly, a useful byproduct of ML/AI track geometry prediction is its ability to accurately fill in gaps of missing data that can naturally occur in certain situations, such as blowing snow interfering with the ATGMS laser measurement.

ENSCO initially conducted a review of time-series forecasting methods used extensively in other industries that were adaptable to forecasting continuous track geometry data. Based on this review, the

4 Railway Track & Structures // March 2023 rtands.com TTC OPERATED BY ENSCO
Three di erent forecast models are evaluated for degree of accuracy.
Figure 1. Predicted versus actual track geometry data using the Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA) model.

research team focused on evaluating two methodologies, from which three prominent forecasting models were derived. These models were successfully used in other industries.

Forecasting Methods

In time-series forecasting, there are two main methods used: point processing and segment processing. ENSCO evaluated both methods to determine which one would work best for the railroad application.

As the name suggests, point processing forecasts each data point individually. By combining these individual data point forecasts, the research team was able to create a comprehensive forecast for an entire track section. It is important to note that this method requires historical track geometry surveys to be overlayed and aligned accurately.

Segment processing divides the data into segments of a pre-defined length, rather than focusing on individual points. The data signatures of each segment are then used as inputs for pattern recognition algorithms to calculate the forecasted signatures. Each individual forecasted segment is joined to create one continuous strip chart. Segment processing is less dependent on perfectly aligned historical surveys and, thus, can tolerate small data misalignment without significantly decreasing the accuracy of the forecasts. Furthermore, segment processing also allows the use of different pattern recognition algorithms to improve the robustness of the prediction.

Time Series Models

ENSCO investigated the three different forecast models using vertical profile (i.e., 62-foot mid-chord offset) track geometry data for a 1,500-foot length of a high-tonnage, freight railroad track. More specifically, these models were:

• Auto-Regressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA),

• Seasonal Auto-Regressive Integrated Moving Average with Exogenous Factors (SARIMAX)

• Facebook Prophet

Eighty-three surveys were conducted between May 2017 and January 2020 in approximately one-week intervals using FRA’s ATGMS-equipped boxcars.

The ARIMA model, which used the point-processing method, is widely

used in academia and by researchers to predict aspects of real-life scenarios and applications. The research team used the first eighty-two surveys as a training set for the model, then used the eightythird survey to compare against the predicted survey. When comparing both the forecasted and actual eighty-third survey data, the forecast was remarkably accurate, with a root mean square error (RMSE) of only 0.00015 inches. Figure 1 shows an overlay of the forecasted and actual eighty-third survey. It is important to note that a limitation of the ARIMA forecast model is that it cannot incorporate the effects of track maintenance that can occur prior to the forecast survey.

SARIMAX is an extension of the ARIMA model. It also uses the pointprocessing method, but it is better adapted to handle the corrective effects of track maintenance that can occur in the training data. With SARIMAX, users can add variables to represent external factors that may cause sudden and significant changes, such as track maintenance (e.g., tie replacement, undercutting, and surfacing). The results showed that SARIMAX’s ability to address track maintenance was effective, though it did not perform as well as Facebook Prophet in terms of predictability.

Facebook’s Prophet is an open-source forecasting model developed by Facebook’s core data science team. Robustness to missing data, trend shifts, and outliers are among its key features. It allows to be segment processed and the effects of track maintenance occurring

within the training data can be incorporated. The research team trained this model using the same track geometry surveys used to evaluate the previous two models. Figure 2 and Figure 3 depict the Prophet model without and with the effects of track maintenance in the training data. Figure 2 and Figure 3 show five forecasted surveys compared with their corresponding actual surveys over a five-week period. Because it is difficult to visually compare the forecasted and actual surveys from the figures, the heat maps below the strip charts provide the RMSE of each of the five surveys (the five rows shown in the heat map) and for each segment (each vertical column of the heat map). The bottom heat map includes the effects of track maintenance and has more blue segments, meaning that the forecasted and actual track geometry data are in better agreement when track maintenance effects are incorporated. Overall, the Prophet model, inclusive of track maintenance effects, achieved good agreement between five forecasts made at weekly intervals with an overall RMSE of 0.0212 inches.


Through this effort, ENSCO determined that Prophet outperformed SARIMAX models. In addition, for scenarios in which track maintenance occurred and was represented in the data, Prophet model also outperformed the ARIMA model. However, the ARIMA model produced a much closer match between the forecasted and actual measurements when no intervening track maintenance

March 2023 // Railway Track & Structures 5 rtands.com TTC OPERATED BY ENSCO
Figure 2. Prophet Forecast Model without including effects of track maintenance

occurred between surveys.

Presently, as part of a follow-on effort for FRA, ENSCO is developing a hybrid approach that combines both point- and segment-based forecasting to maxi -

computational time. These efforts are aimed at the near–real time deployment of these methods in the future by railroads.

FRA’s Transportation Technology Center (TTC), operated by ENSCO, provides a scalable means to validate and improve these track geometry forecasting models without impacting revenue service operations. Specifically, the High Tonnage Loop (HTL) (Figure 4) is designed to produce rapid deterioration of track by way of daily accumulation of one million gross tons (MGT) of traffic. Furthermore, the HTL has a designated location that allows researchers to introduce measurable moisture conditions to evaluate their effects on overall track deterioration and, in turn, the resulting track geometry conditions. When combined with an ATGMS, the HTL can be a valuable resource for improving safety and maintenance efficiency through improved track geometry forecasting.


1. https://www.railjournal.com/in_ depth/autonomous-track-inspectionis-already-here/

Figure 3. Prophet Forecast Model including effects of track maintenance.
STAY IN GEAR WITH RAIL GROUP NEWS ROUND-UP of NEWS STORIES RAILWAY A RAIL GROUP NEWS From Railway Age, RT&S and IRJ https://railwayage.com/newsletters RA_RailGroupNews_1-6Vertical_InGear_2022.indd 1 1/10/22 12:55 PM
March 2023 // Railway Track & Structures 7 rtands.com TTC OPERATED BY ENSCO
Fast Efficient Holes RAIL DRILL Two Speed 866-245-3745 www.trak-star.com Hydraulic & Gas Rail Drills • Hydraulic & Gas Rail Saws • Twister Bits ™ • Gas Impacts • Rail Accessories • Compact size • Two speed gear box • Honda 4-Stroke motor • Quill feed arbor • Carbide or HSS Twister Bits™ • Pressurized coolant • 10 point clamping • High torque gearing • Weighs only 49 lbs Hou-758 RTS.indd 1 1/17/23 8:37 AM
Figure 4. Overview of TTC’s High Tonnage Loop (HTL) used for accelerated track deterioration testing.

Important Stories We’re Following, and Believe You Should, Too

to help other transportation modes like highways and transit recover from disasters, there is no such program for small freight railroads.

In December 2022, Congressman Byron Donalds (R-FL) issued the following statement regarding the introduction of the Short Line Railroad Relief Act. “This bill authorizes the establishment of a disaster relief program to provide much-needed immediate financial assistance to our nation’s short line railroads.”

“Hurricane Ian devastated various areas of Southwest Florida and among one of the hardest hit entities was the catastrophic damage to Seminole Gulf Railway. When a storm of this magnitude and destruction hits any area of our nation, it is the federal government’s responsibility to make available the necessary resources to rebuild and restore vital components of a community. The Short Line Railroad Relief Act isn’t a measure to rubberstamp reckless spending; this bill establishes a means for critical relief for American short line railroads in the event of catastrophic damage following a natural disaster.”

Background from the Congressman’s statement: “The United States is home to more than 600 small business short-line freight railroads that have a vital role in transporting materials from various economic sectors, such as: industrial manufacturing, agriculture, energy, chemicals, minerals, metals, timber, and much more. Currently, federal programs fail to provide short line railroads with immediate financial relief after natural disasters.”

Short Line Disaster Relief

RAILWAY TRACK & STRUCTURES’ cover story for the November 2022 issue focused on the severe damage to the Seminole Gulf Railway in southwest Florida by Hurricane Ian. The storm impacted the railroad and the service it provides to the community after a natural disaster, especially moving building materials along its lines to support rebuilding efforts.

Surprisingly, disaster relief funds from the federal government are not currently available to short lines. The severe weather events the nation has experienced of late have

hammered short lines. The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association is advocating that Congress enact legislation that will provide financial support to the damaged/devastated lines so they can rebuild and resume service to their shipper communities.

In December, Representative Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) introduced the Short Line Railroad Relief Act. The bill would authorize emergency relief funding for short line railroads through the U.S. Department of Transportation. While similar funding exists

Obviously, short line disasters can occur in places outside of Florida. As Donalds’ statement mentions, the short line industry has become increasingly important to the U.S. economy. Developed as a result of the Staggers Act, most short lines were originally branch lines on Class I railroads that Staggers allowed them to abandon. Railroad entrepreneurs invested a lot of money and sweat equity in these lines. Most have been successful, and many have been very successful. Some have even developed into regional railroads, such as the Indiana Rail Road and the Iowa Interstate Railroad. To see vital economic lifelines completely blown away by hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters is sickening. This legislation would protect these vital economic interests, as well as the local and national economies that depend upon them.

8 Railway Track & Structures // March 2023 rtands.com NEWSWATCH
Photo Credit: Seminole Gulf Railway

Norfolk Southern Derailment in East Palestine, Ohio

RAILWAY TRACK & STRUCTURES and our big sister magazine, Railway Age, have reported extensively on the derailment of Norfolk Southern train 32N in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3, 2023. Everyone agrees that the impact of the derailment on this community has been significant, and our hearts go out to those who are filled with fear and uncertainty around the effects of the hazardous materials on the derailed train.

It is not our place to speculate on the causes and depth of impact of this accident. The National Transportation Safety Board, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are the primary government agencies charged with investigating these questions, and we will continue to report the facts associated with their investigations as soon as they’re released.

We know this story will be one to watch in the coming months, and that’s why we’ve

Train Crew Size

THE DEBATE OVER CREW SIZE on freight trains continues after several years. The Association of American Railroads, along with the senior leadership of Class I railroads, are in favor of having a crew of one in the cab–the engineer–while a conductor rides in a vehicle near the track in order to address any problems with one or more trains along a given line. The justification for this, according to the railroads, is the

included it in this month’s NewsWatch. We encourage everyone to look at the facts

while continuing to express empathy for residents of this proud community.

tremendous investment they’ve made in Positive Train Control (PTC) over the past 20 years and continue to make today. PTC, along with other technology in the train, the railroads say, enables a train to be safely operated with only one crew member.

Class I railroads, though, presently have two individuals in the cab–the engineer and the conductor. This staffing model has been negotiated through collective bargaining

agreements, and not through legislation. However, there are some who would like to see this become law. The Federal Railroad Administration and the rail unions are among them. Their argument is that something as big and heavy as a freight train needs more than one set of eyes in the cab to ensure safe operation and the ability to respond more effectively to an unplanned event.

This story is one we’ll be following closely.

March 2023 // Railway Track & Structures 9 rtands.com NEWSWATCH
Photo Credit: (Top) NTSB; (Bottom) David C. Lester

It’s Time to Clear Up Some Misconceptions About the NRC Railroad Equipment Auction

The NRC’s 19th Annual Railroad Equipment Auction on April 27 is shaping up to be big. That seems appropriate since we are holding it in Texas for the first time. This year we are fortunate that Maintenance of Way Equipment Services will host the event at its expansive facility in Rosenberg, about 35 miles southwest of Houston.

Each year the auction draws more participants and is more consequential in helping railway contractors operate safer and more efficiently. That’s a big claim. Let me elaborate while I clear up some misconceptions about this worthwhile event.

Misconception #1 – The Auction is only for mechanics, operators, and equipment managers. While there are plenty of equipment personnel on site, the event also draws professionals from across organizations, including finance, purchasing, operations, and sales. That’s a big reason why it has evolved into quite a networking event.

It starts the evening before with Happy Hour. We are expecting a big crowd on April 26 at the Houston Marriott Sugar Land. Join us for the camaraderie plus some new and fun surprises that will make the evening more memorable than ever.

Misconception #2 – You are either a buyer or a seller. Not true. Railroads and contractors take advantage of this opportunity to both sell and buy equipment to optimize their fleets. In some instances, that means consigning or donating excess or unneeded equipment, perhaps originally acquired to perform a specific job or project. It also presents an opportunity to find equipment to fill the gaps, whether it’s put into operation immediately or repaired for future use. Contractors tell us it’s been a valuable venue to find specialized or hard-to-find equipment and parts too.

Misconception #3 – You must be present to participate. This year’s auction will once again accommodate virtual and in-person participants, but you must go to the NRC website and register. Blackmon Auctions will administer the traditional equipment auction, which

begins at 9 a.m. CDT at Maintenance of Way Equipment Services’ yard in Rosenberg. Registered buyers can bid on equipment in person or on line.

Misconception #4 – Sellers must ship equipment to the auction site. Equipment is not required to be at the auction site, but it certainly helps. Whether you ship or not, your chances of drawing top dollar improve when you provide all the relevant details when you list your equipment with Blackmon Auctions.

Misconception #5 – Auction proceeds fund the Chairman’s golf and fishing outings. All auction proceeds go toward safety training resources, including the NRC’s highquality safety training videos and FRA Part 243 templates. Our 18 prior auctions have raised more than $1.5 million that has been invested to improve contractor safety across the industry.

Thanks to the great work by the NRC Auction Committee, led by Chairman Danny Brown, this year’s auction will be big on all levels. Everything you need to know is on the NRC website, from the schedule to hotels discounts, directions, how to register, and equipment consignment and donation details. Find it here: http://bit.ly/3XrRqL3

We’re expecting a big time. I hope you will join us.

“Building a Safer and Stronger Railway Construction Industry Together!”

Maintenance Association (NRC)
NRC CHAIRMAN’S COLUMN 10 Railway Track & Structures // March 2023 rtands.com

AREMA Railway Roadbed and Ballast Symposium

Streetcar, the group also toured the new Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise and Research Center at UMKC. The labs within the Plaster Center contain a 3D printing and fabrication studio to build prototypes, high-performance computing and analytics equipment and software, an FAA-approved flight simulator, a two-story drone flight-testing bay, and $3 million of augmented and virtual reality equipment.

The American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-ofWay Association (AREMA) held a three-day symposium on railway roadbed and ballast in Kansas City, Mo., from Feb. 6–8.

The symposium featured railroad industry leaders, practitioners, and researchers devoted to examining challenges and solutions related to railway track ballast, roadbed, and drainage. There were over 20 presentations by subject matter experts, and the keynote speaker was Ed Boyle, VP of Engineering for Norfolk Southern and RT&S’s 2020 Engineer of the Year.

The meeting began on Monday, Feb. 6, when attendees could choose from one of two field trips. The first option was visiting the BSNF Technical Research and Development laboratory in Topeka, Kan. This is the center for BNSF’s ballast, ties, rail, and accident investigation research. The tour included visiting the site and becoming familiar with the full suite of capabilities at the lab. BNSF offered demonstrations and discussions of selected portions of the work

currently underway.

The second tour option was the Kansas City Streetcar (KCSC) South Extension Project, which extends the current 2.1-mile “Starter Line” an additional 3.5 miles south from Union Station to the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC). Areas of interest

On Tuesday, Vice President of Engineering at Norfolk Southern, Ed Boyle, was the keynote speaker and started the event with a discussion on rail engineering and maintenance of way. He pointed out that while each railroad has its approach to MOW, the rail engineering teams among Class Is, short lines, and transits are one big team, including the industry suppliers, consultants, and the academic community. Boyle added that the only way the industry will succeed is to realize that it is one team and must share critical knowledge and advances among all team members. Boyle reported that Norfolk Southern is looking for 2023 to be even better than 2022 and that the most vital aspect of engineering and MOW success at Norfolk Southern is the teamwork among the railroad’s many MOW employees. The rest of Tuesday and Wednesday were devoted to technical presentations.

The topics discussed in the presentations included ballast maintenance and crosstie interaction, research and innovation solutions, international experiences and perspectives, roadbed and ballast management, and inspection and condition assessment.

to AREMA members included streetcar planning, utility management, track slab construction, power systems, and operations. The tour began in the KC Streetcar Constructor’s office, followed by a route tour. After time on the KC

Trent Hudak, the president of AREMA for 2022-2023, said, “It was great to see the strong participation in the 2023 RRBS. AREMA was pleased to provide this opportunity for the industry experts to share their expertise and the latest developments in managing roadbed and ballast assets. I want to thank the Organizing Committee which helped make this event a success, and the sponsors who supported it. Through symposiums such as this, AREMA strives to provide a forum to dive deeper into technical areas that interest our industry.”

March 2023 // Railway Track & Structures 11 rtands.com SPECIAL REPORT
Photo Credit: David C. Lester

Creating a Stable Foundation e use of ballast along railways is an essential part of maintaining safe and reliable service. e railway industry’s suppliers understand the critical role ballast plays in providing a base that supports the tracks and keeps them aligned.

Additionally, ballast provides stability and good drainage needed along the tracks, protecting them from extreme weather, such as the heavy rains and mudslides throughout the western U.S. in recent months.

As suppliers aim for increasingly e cient and cost-e ective ballast maintenance strategies, RT&S reports on the industry’s latest o erings in ballast distribution tools and ditching and excavating equipment.


Clearing the Path for Smooth Service

Cribbing buckets are a conventional attachment between railroad ties to move materials such as fouled ballast and mud out of the way. However, they can be time-consuming and ine cient when removing fouled ballast.

Ballast Tools Equipment has worked to ease the cribbing process by introducing the new BTE CRIB CUTTER attachment for their Hi-Rail excavators.

“Typically, ballast and mud are removed by using a traditional cribbing bucket that is very slow and tedious. e BTE Crib Cutter allows for continuous mechanical removal of this material by utilizing an innovative design,” Matt Weyand, BTE Sales Engineer, told RT&S. A trencher-style undercutter bar allows for vertical trenching of the crib to quickly and

e ciently remove fouled ballast between ties. e process signi cantly reduces the time to clean out fouled cribs over traditional methods, Weyand said.

He explained that the BTE Crib Cutter, when paired with BTE’s TiltRotator system, allows for fast attachment placement at the most optimal angle of attack to the crib. e Crib Cutter also has a guard system to protect the ties and rails during cutting. e system can be implemented on a wide variety of BTE Hi-Rail machines.

Industry-Railway Suppliers, founded in 1966, is the distribution representative of Supertrak machines and a North American distributor of AREMA track tools, abrasives, heavy railroad equipment, work equipment wear parts, and mechanical shop tools.

12 Railway Track & Structures // March 2023 rtands.com
Photo Credit: Mecalac
Properly maintaining ballast is good for the railroad
Mecalac 136MRail.

Supertrak is a 30-year CAT-authorized OEM building custom machines for ballast maintenance and several other types of railway equipment. Supertrak specializes in small footprint yet high-performance, up tted machines, the company said.

e Supertrak SK170RR Hi-Rail Excavator is based on a CAT313 Hi-Rail platform. It has a single 170-horsepower engine, dedicated high ow, reversing fans, and multi-functionality. e Hi-Rail is equipped with 4-wheel drive and 4-wheel brakes. Due to its compact size, the SK170RR maintains huge power in a small package with zero permit required for transportation, making it well-suited for ballast maintenance tasks in remote places. is excavator meets national railroad safety speci cations.

When the SK170RR is up tted with the heavy-duty, hydraulic-powered SK10RR undercutter bar, it becomes a powerful ballast and mud regulator. e machine’s 10-foot bar is designed to quickly remove mud and fouled ballast from beneath the track with its replaceable teeth. e chain o ers a variable-controlled reverse for easy cleanout, and it also comes equipped with a direct coupler mounted to use with or without a rotator option. e undercutter bar ts 8-ton to 15-ton class machines.

In 2023, Loram started pairing their Badger Ditcher’s productivity with their slot trains’ versatility.

“ is delivers customers an equipment solution capable of managing any ditching and excavating needs in a single piece of equipment,” Loram said.

e self-powered machine can travel track at speeds up to 45 miles per hour, excavating material from ditches at a rate of 1,000 tons per hour and storing up to 250 tons of material on the machine when necessary.

Loram o ers a complete line of material handling products to support delivering product where and when customers need it. When material delivery is required, the company said that Loram’s DumpTrains can deliver 1,500 tons of material to washout locations, work sites, or stockpiles and unload a full consist in under an hour.

O oading is done up to 45 feet from the track centerline. e DumpTrain for Curves® o ers all of the same features as the traditional DumpTrain and can operate while in curves and along tangent track. e DumpTrain and DumpTrain for Curves® can deliver both subballast and ballast.

e SlotMachine® eet continues to experience strong demand from customers who rely on the exibility of the machines to support almost any material handling demand. e

SlotMachine® consists of overlapping gondola cars carrying an excavator that can traverse the 378-foot length. is arrangement allows for quick and e cient loading and o oading of ties, ballast, spoils, and almost anything in the right-of-way within the excavator’s reach.

e Self-Powered Slot has the same features as the traditional SlotMachine® while also including a traction car, so the entire consist is self-propelled to and from the worksite.

e MHC60 material handling car continues to excel at storing spoils of excavating equipment and extending work windows in areas where discharging adjacent to the track is not an option. With e cient o oad rates and casting distances, Loram said the MHC60 is an ideal tool to complement undercutting, shoulder ballast cleaning, and vacuum excavation equipment.

Mecalac, an international manufacturer of compact construction equipment for urban sites, o ers compact performance and versatility with its 136MRail railroad excavator.

e 136MRail, a crawler-based excavator with factory-integrated Hi-Rail, combines stateof-the-art excavator functions with li ing, towing, and loading capabilities. With its rail gear raised, the 136MRail can be operated as an excavator on regular terrain, o ering operators maximum versatility with a single machine.

At 13 tons with a 75hp engine, it is ideal for light to medium service and maintenance jobs. e 136MRail’s patented boom makes it ideal for use in con ned areas, such as subway tunnels. e boom incorporates an o set feature for applications such as ditch-cleaning alongside the tracks.

“ is model was designed to be the go-to machine for Class 1 railroads, light rail, and

industrial rail operations,” said Peter Bigwood, general manager of Mecalac North America.

“ e 136MRail is unrivaled in its compactnessto-performance ratio, speed, and versatility.”

e 136MRail is based on Mecalac’s compact skid excavator concept. ese multifunction machines are excavators, loaders, and material handlers in one. Attachments such as grapple buckets, tie-removers, power brooms, and trenching buckets allow users to accomplish various tasks around rail systems.

e 136MRail provides heightened versatility by o ering all these functions on and o the rail.

Equipped with an optional pneumatic brake system, the 136MRail can tow up to 14-ton trailers, Mecalac said. e 136MRail’s travel speed on rail is 12.4 mph (20 kph), and o rail is 5.6 mph (9.6 kph). e machine can easily move on and o the rail, allowing e cient access to job sites anywhere along the track.

e 136MRail joins the 10-ton 106MRail as the second of two tracked models in Mecalac’s four-model MRail series. Unlike traditional machines, Mecalac’s MRail series o ers an articulated two-piece boom on the side of the cab. is allows the operator to angle the rst part of the boom back to increase stability during li ing, which enhances safety and productivity overall, especially for those operators working in con ned areas such as tunnels.

e 136MRail also drives productivity for its users through an innovative one-yd., three-skid loader bucket that provides 72% more capacity compared to other machines of its size. Similar to the 106MRail but with added capacity, the 136MRail can scoop and load ballast or unload and spread ballast on the track.

March 2023 // Railway Track & Structures 13 rtands.com
Photo Credit: Loram
Loram ditcher in operation.

“We set out to revolutionize railroad excavators with our MRail Series,” Bigwood said.

“ rough its agility, li ing capacity, short rear and front radius, and outstanding visibility

all around, we truly believe our 136MRail is accomplishing that. As these machines are brought to the North American market, we are excited to hear about their positive impact on our customers’ operations and con dent they will prove a valuable addition to their equipment eet.”

Along with the 136MRail, Mecalac’s MRail Series also includes the tracked 106MRail and two-wheeled models, the 156MRail and 216MRail, which are based on Mecalac’s wheeled excavators. e series is designed to meet all railway needs, ranging from maintenance to new track construction.

Providing Even Distribution

Herzog said its Automated Conveyor TrainSM (ACT) demonstrated its versatile capabilities to repair and prevent storm damage following mudslides in California. Union Paci c railroad used the train to e ciently distribute more than four consists of ballast from the end of a bridge to redirect water ow along the Paci c Coast. ACTs were also deployed to repair washouts from Hurricane Ian last fall and are currently in use across North America.

14 Railway Track & Structures // March 2023 rtands.com BALLAST MAINTENANCE
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With patented automated programming, the ACT can unload more than 2,900 tons of material in a 30-car consist. Designed and built to meet the demand for stockpiling in curves and S-curves, the ACT is used for routine maintenance or emergency tasks and o ers around-the-clock eld support. e train can unload in curves of up to 13 degrees and use its 35-foot boom to unload material up to 50 feet from the track center. e company said that individual conveyors under each car can distribute various materials in one consist, at multiple job sites, and in any order. e ACT can also instantly pause dumping and move to the next location without additional setup time. An automated plow on the front of the discharge car strikes o material o loaded directly in front of the machine in the center of the track.

“Herzog o ers a full range of ballast unloading solutions that help clients safely and eciently place the right amount of material where it’s needed when it’s needed,” the company said.

Herzog‘s equipment optimizes ballast operations for varying distances, quantities, and locations regardless of environmental

conditions. Additional Herzog tools available for ballast distribution include patented GPS ballast trains, solar-powered ballast cars, and the specialized and versatile Multi-Purpose Machine® and CarTopper®.

Knox Kershaw Inc. is on track to roll out a hybrid version of the company’s well-known KBR 925 Ballast Regulator in early 2024. From its recent experience converting existing straddle li cranes to hybrid technology, the manufacturer said this technology’s advantages are immense for current and future maintenanceof-way equipment.

Knox Kershaw said that the new Hybrid KBR 925 brings 7-9 gallons/per hour fuel savings and a smaller engine package for increased visibility. e hybrid machine also promises lower noise emissions, electric HVAC for operator comfort, and battery-powered operations such as the A/C and motors.

Knox Kershaw also highlights upgrades the manufacturer has made to the KBR 925, including a hydraulic tank relocated to the front of the machine for improved weight distribution and an increased tank capacity to 130 gallons. e company said that the machine is designed

with sloped fuel tanks with integral steps to improve cab entry and exit. e ballast wing utilizes the same grader blade throughout use, as well.

e KBR 925 Ballast Regulator, redesigned for 2019, is a robust machine designed for ballast work on all track types. Knox Kershaw said that enhanced visibility, especially in the wing areas, makes it the ideal machine for nal pro ling. e 925’s plow and wing work together to transfer ballast from shoulder to shoulder in one pass while leaving one shoulder pro led. e insulated broom box has excellent service life, and the standard reversing valve allows the ballast to be swept away from switches and road crossings.

New features for the KBR 925 include a Danfoss Plus One control system, frontmounted Visionaire hydraulically driven AC with high capacity pressurization, and increased fuel and hydraulic uid capacities.

e Plus One controller includes a 12-inch color touchscreen monitor to display machine functions and diagnostics. e controller aids operators in joystick functions, transmission shi ing, and self-diagnosing

16 Railway Track & Structures // March 2023 rtands.com

The Autonomous Stabilizer

ThePlasserDynamic Track Stabilizer PTS90C is designed for easy transportto wor ks ites via road truck. The machine applies controlled, accuratestabilizingforces into the track structure at speeds of up to 1.2mph .D ue to homogeneous compaction, the PTS90 C saves costs, leadstolonge r maintenance inte r vals, and reduces slow orders after outofface trackmaintenance work. A ne w upgra d e kit allows you to operate thestabilizer unmanned following an independent lead vehicle. Theautonomousstabilizer k ee p s you r headc o unt low and your performancehigh,whilera d ar safety solutions ensure the safe operati o n ontrack.

plasseramerican.com ”Plasser & Theurer“, ”Plasser“ and ”P&T“ are internationally registered trademarks

performance issues.

e new design increased fuel tank capacity by placing dual tanks on either side of the cab and moving the hydraulic tank to the front of the machine for added weight and balance. Side

access steps are con gured for easy and safe access to the cab, and all maintenance points are easily accessible from the ground.

Knox Kershaw said that these new features are designed to improve productivity by

increasing capacity and decreasing machine downtime.

Knox Kershaw’s KBR 860 Ballast Regulator is a track dressing machine that comes standard with a one-pass type plow, reversible side wings, and a broom attachment. e machine features a sturdy, comfortable cab with unique window placement for optimum visibility. e overall length is designed to be shorter to facilitate transport to and from the work site.

e clean roof design promotes safety by eliminating the need to climb on top of the cab. Features of the 860 include a hydraulically driven AC with pressurizer, joystick controls on an ergonomic operator’s seat with easy access to all controls, tinted windows, additional riders seating, and a 6-speed, powershi transmission, the company said.

In 2022, railroads continued to invest in their number one asset—their track system— and Bill O’Donnell, executive director of global sales for Miner Enterprises, said 2023 will be no exception. “Miner will continue to collaborate with the railroads in providing ballast unloading systems that best meet their individual needs,” O’Donnell said.

18 Railway Track & Structures // March 2023 rtands.com BALLAST MAINTENANCE
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O’Donnell added that the ballast maintenance market in early 2023 is proving to be very active for Miner. “Our stand-alone Electric AggreGate® ballast outlet gates, featuring new LED work lighting systems, continue to garner new car orders, retro ts, and eet applications,” he said.

e Electric AggreGate’s LED lights are solar-powered and battery-operated, and attach to the car’s underside, enabling more e cient and safer night-time ballasting operations. e AggreGate ballast discharge outlets are available in either manual, air-operated, electric, and remote control models to meet any ballast unloading need. e company said the system is designed to be easy to apply to new or existing hopper cars.

Regarding challenges to manage today, O’Donnell said the window for conducting maintenance-of-way operations continues to shrink.

“ e challenge is for railroads to utilize products and systems that enable more track to be ballasted in less time,” he said. “To meet this challenge, Miner AggreGate rapid discharge systems have been engineered to simultaneously e ciently and e ectively

ballast inside, outside, and on both sides of the rail.”

Easy to operate and equipped with tapered doors, O’Donnell said the AggreGate systems improve ballast shuto at switches, crossovers, and bridges, and large guillotine door openings stop ballast ow with minimum e ort. is equipment can deliver ballast to critical areas, the center of rails, and at the end of ties, leaving tie plates and spikes free of ballast.

e stand-alone electric AggreGate is designed to enable independent operation of the car from anywhere within the ballast train, thus eliminating the need for grouping manual and automatic cars, and can ultimately be operated without connection to another car for power.

Rhomberg Sersa Rail Group (RSRG) continues to grow its track construction and maintenance business in North America.

Michael Match, Rhomberg Sersa’s CEO in North America, told RT&S, “Ballast maintenance is the core component of RSRG’s operations across the globe, with customers approaching us to develop and implement new ideas and solutions to optimize the entire maintenance process.”

Match said that “RSRG operates the largest and newest eet of RM80 and RM76 production undercutters in North America and provides switch undercutting and yard cleaner machines to support our growing maintenance service. We o er trackbed inspection solutions with our long-term technology partner Zetica Ltd. Our inspection solution combines ground penetrating radar (GPR), mobile terrestrial laser scanning, 2D and 3D vision, and track geometry. ese address the requirement for condition-based and predictive maintenance planning and QC of maintenance and new build. We can provide clients with a powerful end-to-end solution in ballast and trackbed life cycle management.

“ e recent introduction of our new material handling train in North America o ers an environmentally friendly method for delivering and distributing ballast and handling track spoil material. e system allows users to perform maintenance in challenging but highly critical infrastructure, including highly populated areas, environmentally sensitive locations, and ‘traditionally di cult’ to maintain locations such as tunnels.”


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March 2023 // Railway Track & Structures 19 rtands.com BALLAST MAINTENANCE
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Louisville & Indiana Railroad Tackles Ohio River Bridge

The Louisville & Indiana Railroad (LIRC) is an Anacostia property that runs between Louisville and Indianapolis, with approximately 110 miles of track. One of the distinguishing features of the road is its massive mile-long bridge over the Ohio River. e original bridge in this spot was built in 1869 and replaced in 1918 with the current Warren truss bridge.

Ryan Barbato, Roadmaster, joined the LIRC in 2021 as a major project to refurbish parts of the bridge was already underway. However, Barbato told RT&S, “We essentially started from scratch, which ended up being a good thing.” He arrived on the scene around the same time as the engineering rm Design9, and they quickly developed a good working relationship, planning and executing a refurbishment plan. e project timeline was originally six years, but ve years became the new timeline because of a particularly productive 2022. Barbato points out, “we got two years’ worth of work done in one year, which has put us ahead on our timeline.” is project’s scope is to replace the ties on the bridge, deck the pedestrian walkway, install new handrails, replace the electrical system, run conduit through the length of the bridge for electrical and ber optic cable, and install junction boxes. e bridge has a total of 25 spans, and each year, the team works on a speci c group of spans that are in the budget for that year. “We don’t have the dollars the Class Is do, so we have to spread the work out over time,” Barbato told RT&S Design9 is represented on the project by engineers Kyle Czapla and Glenn Hay, who provided RT&S with some technical details about the timeline:

e bridge has a li span on the southern end, and refurbishment of it is part of the project. However, Czapla points out, “ e li span doesn’t have a number designation because it is a span. ink of the li span as span ‘zero.’”

Barbato serves as the bridge work’s project manager and quickly learned what he needed to do, particularly in procuring materials. “Ryan talked to vendors across America and was able to get materials with plenty of lead time, which was not easy to do,” notes Glenn Hay.

is bridge originally served the Pennsylvania Railroad and Conrail and is a two-track structure. Since the LIRC only uses one track on the bridge, it will last much longer, as the annual tonnage rolling over the structure is much less than its load design.

e bridge remains in service while electrical and some other work is done. However, when tie replacement work begins, LIRC takes the bridge out of service to complete a section.

“We began this project because the bridge’s tie life is about

March 2023 // Railway Track & Structures 21 rtands.com
SHORT LINE PROJECT Year 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 17-24 12-16 9-11 5-8 Lift & 1-4 1,465 1,223 824 780 822 1,129 930 614 ? ? Spans Length (ft.) Ties
LIRC bridge over Ohio River. Note only one track is used on this bridge, lightening the load significantly. Photo by Kyle Czapla.

over, and based on the bridge’s age, the walkways were usable but not entirely safe. You could walk on the bridge, but parts of the walkway were higher or lower than others, creating a significant trip hazard,” Barbato notes. “They’re strong, but there are new standards for walkway safety,” he adds. In addition, the conduits sat next to the track, where they could be damaged, and part of the work entailed relocating to the bridge spans so they would be safe from harm.

Strong walkways on this bridge are particularly important because the Army Corp of Engineers uses the bridge to access their workplace, “Army Corps Island,” which is under the bridge and is reached by a staircase joined to the walkway. “ is workplace is used exclusively by the Corp of Engineers, and the new walkway will ensure their safety as they traverse the bridge daily,” Barbato said.

“ is year, we’ll begin work on spans 12-16,” Barbato told RT&S. However, the next two years will be pretty mundane as the crew will continue the walkway, handrail, electrical, tie replacement, and conduit work. “Our big challenge will be working with the li span,” Czapla said. Water tra c has priority over rail tra c, so the crew must contend with passing barge tra c while working on the li span.

Barbato told RT&S that the project’s primary purpose is to improve the bridge’s safety. In addition to safety, this work is

also an infrastructure project that will signi cantly prolong the bridge’s life and its service on the LIRC. And Barbato said that “we had zero safety incidents during last year’s work on the bridge, and we aim to nish the project with zero incidents, as the safety of the bridge workers is paramount.” e LIRC is also installing new refuge bays, and they will be located in spots where they’ll provide more safety if one is stuck on the bridge and a train is coming by.

“We work on our engineering bid packages a year in advance of when the work is needed,” Hay told RT&S. “ is enables us to get all the precise planning out of the way, so when contractors arrive on the scene, they know what to do and how to do it.” Indeed, the LIRC is ordering ties for its 2024 work now.

When asked about the overall structural integrity of the bridge, Barbato said, “what we’re doing in this project is just one phase of our bridge maintenance.” He pointed out that Design9 is engaged in this project, but LIRC hired Collins Engineers to cover the rest of the bridge. “They thoroughly inspected the entire bridge in 2022,” Barbato said. “Between the two projects, we’ve inspected this bridge with a fine-toothed comb,” he added. In addition, there is ongoing steel and concrete maintenance, so Barbato expects the bridge to last for at least 24 years from now when he reaches

retirement age. Hay noted that the only thing that would require the replacement of the bridge (assuming a barge or other calamity does not severely damage it) is steel fatigue. “The Merchants Bridge over the Mississippi River in St. Louis required replacement due to steel fatigue, and it cost several hundred million dollars to do this,” he added.

Barbato notes that LIRC does monthly maintenance on the li span and is ordering another complete inspection of the bridge for next year to ensure it remains in good shape. He adds that Collins uses infrared scanning to evaluate the integrity of the bridge and the underwater support.

“Completing our current project will help us not to have to inspect individual ties as o en as we would with a spot inspection program,” Barbato said. Czapla added that Design9 tries to custom- t every tie on the bridge instead of using the “best” t. is prolongs the life of the ties and integrity of the bridge.

LIRC has a joint facilities arrangement with CSX, and CSX funds a lot of LIRC maintenance because the two railroads interchange a lot of tra c. And several CSX trains run over the LIRC.

RT&S asked Hay about scope creep. “We really haven’t had scope creep because of good planning with the contractors beforehand.” e team will be slightly less than halfway through the bridge work by the end of this year.

22 Railway Track & Structures // March 2023 rtands.com SHORT LINE PROJECT
Louisville & Indiana bridge over the Ohio River. Note the “Army Corp Island” at the bottom right of picture. Photo by Ryan Barbato. LIRC bridge looking north. Photo by Kyle Czapla. Auto rack train rolling over bridge. Photo by Ryan Barbato.


A Conversation with Doc Claussen of the Gulf & Ohio Railways

Gulf & Ohio Railways is a short line company comprised of four short lines and a tourist train.

e G&O is headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., and two of the operations, the Knoxville & Holston River Railroad and the tourist train, the ree Rivers Rambler operate in the Knoxville area. e tourist train is powered by several locomotives, including the notable ex-Southern Railway #154 steam locomotive. is locomotive

was delivered in 1890 to the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad, and later became Southern Railway 154 a er the ETV&G merged with the Richmond and Danville to form the Southern.

In addition to the Knoxville & Holston River Railroad, the G&O owns and operates three other short lines–the Yadkin Valley Railroad, operating northwest of Winston-Salem, the Lancaster and Chester, operating in north central South Carolina, and the Laurinburg

and Southern, operating east of Charlotte. e G&O operates on approximately 200 miles of track, with 30 locomotives, 50 full and parttime employees, and around 30 locomotives. Each railroad connects with either CSX or Norfolk Southern.

Like all short line railroads, careful management of maintenance-of-way needs and budgets is required. While lower tonnage on short lines reduces the need for heavy maintenance, these lines don’t have

March 2023 // Railway Track & Structures 23 rtands.com
Photo Credit: Gulf & Ohio Railways

the large MOW budgets the Class Is do. So, there are types of maintenance that the short lines either don’t perform at all, do it infrequently, or must nd workarounds for to keep their physical plants in good shape.

Doc Claussen is the Vice President of G&O and Pete, his father, is Chairman. Besides running a strong operation, the company has grown through the purchase and sale of various short lines. Doc Claussen told RT&S that “we don’t buy railroads with the thought of improving them and selling them, but when opportunities have come along for us to improve our book of business, we may sell one or two to fund the purchase of another.” However, the G&O is not in the business of “ ipping” railroad properties, but like many companies, this has been part of the G&O’s business model.

“One of the rst things we do is try to get our people as much education as we can,” Claussen told RT&S. “ e University of Tennessee holds a track inspection course every six months and we send our new MOW people to that. We also use educational videos from the ASLRRA and encourage our folks to learn from those.”

Claussen added “Since short lines do not have the maintenance budgets the Class Is do, we don’t do things like massive tie

projects where we replace nearly all the ties on the railroad. We inspect our ties and keep them in good shape and replace the ones that have reached the end of useful life. And as our inspectors mature and become more experienced, they become familiar with groups of ties on the railroad that are starting to deteriorate and address the situation before they become trouble spots. Anything you can do to increase the frequency of inspections is always helpful. For example, the FRA has used their geometry car on the Yadkin Valley, and we found it to be a really good tool for nding things that it’s hard for someone to eyeball. One thing that was reassuring was that the results of the track quality review by the geometry car closely matched the evaluation our inspector did, but whenever a short line can have the FRA track geometry car run on their line, they should seize the opportunity.”

Claussen told RT&S that the company has an ultrasonic test done on all of its mainline track once per year, and it tests the Yadkin Valley twice per year due to the wide temperature extremes and other climate conditions in the northwest corner of North Carolina. “When we started doing ultrasonic testing, we found around 200 defects, and as we used the information to correct

and maintain those areas, the annual defect count dropped to around 30 to 40,” Claussen said. e G&O also runs a gauge testing device over its roads once or twice a year, depending on the amount of tra c on a given railroad. One of the company’s vendors is modeling stress on the fasteners and rail under a load. Claussen said that the company does not use tie plugging material because it does everything humanly possible to avoid re-spiking a tie. “If we did plug a hole, we would be concerned about how well the material would hold up in freeze/thaw cycles,” Claussen added.

e Gulf & Ohio has its ties doubledipped for protection–copper naphthenate and creosote. “Adding copper naphthenate does not add much to the cost of preparing a tie for installation and it penetrates the tie more e ectively than creosote, going right to the core of the tie.”

Claussen said “we are fortunate that our railroads that operate in Tennessee and North Carolina receive signi cant support for maintenance-of-way activity from those states, and we’re able to do things that you may not otherwise do.” Because of having funding available, the G&O has been able to complete several extra projects. “Our key cost saving maneuver is to simply stay ahead

24 Railway Track & Structures // March 2023 rtands.com
Knoxville’s Western Avenue, facing North (Photo courtesy Gulf & Ohio Railways)

of things. If you get behind in maintenance, you can get in a hole and nd it di cult to crawl your way out of it,” Claussen adds.

Another thing that helps with maintenance is to ensure that locomotives are well maintained, keeping sanders in good working order so wheel slip won’t tear up the railroad. “We also must mitigate the e ects of any oil that can collect on the rails and track. Moreover, we train our engineers in train handling to avoid situations where the locomotives could damage the railroad,” Claussen said.

e G&O told RT&S that it does not do rail lubrication or grinding. “Regarding lubrication, we haven’t found a product that we like, and we haven’t had any demonstrable success with lubrication.” Other considerations include that the G&O roads have lower gross tonnage per year than Class Is, and much of its track is tangent instead of curved. “On the Yadkin, if rail has excessive wear, we just replace it. We also transpose rails on curves if needed, Claussen added.

e G&O pointed out that it does very little MOW using its own crews. Claussen said, “We outsource most of it because we believe that it’s more e ciently done by folks who do it every day, as opposed to our crews, who would only do it periodically.”

ere is one section of the Knoxville

railroad that goes under water every time it rains anywhere near three inches. And, Norfolk Southern’s line is on a bridge right above where the water accumulation takes place. When this happens, Claussen says, “Norfolk Southern has been very good about addressing this for us, as they have an interest, too, in not having their bridge supports under water. ey depend on us to keep an eye on it, and we rely on them to take care of it when it happens.”

A complex crossing water issue was eliminated on Western Avenue by building new rail and the state built (federal funds) a new overpass. e crossing included a complex set of rail lines, and an at-grade highway crossing complicated matters further. “With our funding and work, along with that of the federal government, the rail crossing was completely re-worked and the highway crossing was elevated above the rails. We now have a “beautiful” network that shows the power of what private and federal funding can accomplish, Claussen said.

e Laurinburg and Southern is on the North Carolina–South Carolina border about 90 miles from the coast, and the railroad has had some signi cant ooding and washouts from hurricanes, as the land is low and marshy anyway. Claussen said “We had to address this

ourselves, plus we hired third-parties to help us get the water out and rebuild the railroad.”

Claussen pointed out that the short line disaster relief bill needs to be passed, and mentioned the severe damage the Seminole Gulf went through. “It’s not as easy to persuade legislatures to fund this if there is not an example of damage. Sadly enough, the Seminole Gulf has given that example to point to.” One of their Florida congressmen introduced a bill to address this.

Sometimes, wildlife in the area can cause problems. Claussen said “for example, we had an issue with a beaver dam at Laurinburg–we would take the dam out, and the beavers would be back six months later.” Beavers build dams near places where they can hear owing water, and if you put a pipe under the dam, it helps eliminate that sound and they’ll be less likely to build there. “Also, the pipe will drain water so it doesn’t back up on the railroad as easily. It doesn’t work every time, but it helps,” Claussen added.

Short line railroads must be more familiar with the intimate details of the railroad and we must trust our inspectors when they tell us there is something that is going and address the problem quickly because we can’t do like the Class Is and just go in and deck the railroad periodically.

March 2023 // Railway Track & Structures 25 rtands.com SHORT LINE MAINTENANCE
Photo Credit: Gulf & Ohio Railways Bridge section strengthened Bridge section needs strengthening

Message From The President

selecting your design and construction partners. e more complete the request for proposals, the fewer the problems will be. If there is uncertainty from your partners, they will price that risk into their costs and change orders could be substantial.

A properly detailed scope is essential to a successful project. If the stakeholders are not in agreement or necessary details are missing, there will be problems later with the schedule and budget. Before nal design proceeds, insist upon a written project scope that is approved by the customer(s).

In January I represented AREMA at the 2023 NRC Annual Conference & NRC-REMSA* Exhibition in Florida where industry contractors and suppliers heard from railroads on their maintenance and expansion plans along with other key focus areas. AREMA appreciated the opportunity to participate.

e event reminded me of the projects and programs I have managed over the years. Project management has been an interest of mine since the beginning of my career. AREMA’s Manual for Railway Engineering is the industry’s premier resource for recommended practices on most technical areas involved in a typical railroad project. One area not fully addressed is project management, a skill that may seem common to many industries. However, good project managers, particularly those that understand the rail industry, can be hard to nd.

Following are a few lessons I have learned about successful project management throughout my career from the perspective of engineering sta who may be managing project development and construction. Typically, this would be for larger, more complex projects such as mainline track, yards, intermodal terminals, or shops. Two principles are foundational to any construction project – safety and minimizing operational impacts. When properly managed, they complement each other, particularly for project portions that are performed by contractors. ey are fundamental and require no further elaboration.

Good project management starts when

Schedules are commonly a driving focus. Generally, railway construction schedules are more compressed than other transportation projects, particularly those of public agencies. Planning for schedule optionality is important and o en done upfront when pricing the work with contractors and throughout construction. It is surprising how little the cost premium can be for an expedited schedule when done in the initial bidding process. is strategy provides for better business value decisions when weighing the cost and time bene ts. It is important to create a dra schedule when the project scope is conceptually established and update it regularly at project milestones through design and construction. e key is to ensure all schedule components are included, their interdependencies are understood, and nothing on the critical path is overlooked that could create a future schedule bust.

Assume there will be scope and schedule changes during the design and construction phases. Plan for this and have a process in place to e ectively manage this dynamic. is way, you will be better positioned to take advantage of opportunities that may develop and react more e ciently to events you cannot control. Every time there is a scope or schedule change, there will likely be a cost change. Be responsive, exible, and accommodating. When something does change, promptly provide an updated scope, schedule, and budget.

Budget management is integral with overall project management. You must have a solid understanding of the project to have accurate budget data. Have a strong cost monitoring process (actual and forecasted) to ensure it re ects the latest changes throughout all stages of the project. is sounds obvious and simple, but it takes

more e ort than one might think. Most projects tend to be very dynamic with scope, schedule, and outside in uences.

O en the railroad project manager has many other railroad departments and public agencies they are dependent upon but cannot directly control. is requires collaboration and agreement with delineation of responsibilities for the associated work and completion dates. Engage internal collaborators involved with the construction work as early as possible so that they may schedule their part with proper lead time. Ask your supporting collaborators to create a matrix to track the necessary information needed for their deliverables. Property acquisitions, utility con icts/relocations, and environmental/construction permits are some typical items that should have a matrix that is regularly updated.

Setting up an appropriate internal communication plan with status reporting is essential for keeping your customers and project collaborators on the same page and well-coordinated. I always aim for “no surprises” for anyone.

My last suggestion is what I call “Proactive Project Management.” Project management is not a spectator sport and requires not only full engagement but actively looking for barriers and mitigating them before they impact the project negatively. It also means seeking opportunities to improve safety, reduce operational impacts, eliminate work, compress the schedule, and reduce costs. “Looking around the corner” to see what is coming is essential to nding barriers and opportunities early. Don’t wait for problems to be brought to you. Instead, monitor key items and inquire about potential problems and opportunities.

ere is certainly a lot more to e ective project management than I can address here, but I hope you nd some of my suggestions useful. Best of luck on your next construction project.

Enjoy your journey until next month.

* National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC)

* e Railway Engineering-Maintenance Supplier Association (REMSA)


AREMA President 2022-2023

26 Railway Track & Structures // March 2023 rtands.com
TRENT M. HUDAK AREMA President 2022-23


Save the dates: October 1-4 as Railway Interchange is back after four years. The AREMA 2023 Annual Conference in conjunction with Railway Interchange will be held in Indianapolis, IN with registration set to open in April. For the latest information about Keynote Speakers, Technical Presentations, Sponsorship, and more, visit www. conference.arema.org.

Did you know we have a wide variety of On Demand education for learning on your time? Browse our most popular webinars, seminars, and Annual Conferences to earn your PDH credits on the go. Visit www.arema.org to start your On Demand learning today.

Is your Library up to date? Order the NEW 2023 Communications & Signals Manual today. With over 35 new, revised, reaffirmed, or extended Manual

Parts, including over 500 pages of updates, it’s the perfect time to get your copy of the 2023 Manual. Order online now at www.arema.org.

Don’t miss out on the conversation happening in AREMA’s Member Forum. The Member Forum connects you with other Members allowing you to send messages, start conversations, and more. See what everyone is talking about today: https://community.arema. org/home.

If you’re looking for a podcast to binge, listen to AREMA’s Platform Chats. It features guests from every aspect of the railway industry. Come ‘roll with AREMA’ available on all of your favorite listening services.

Order the NEW, 2022 edition of the Portfolio of Trackwork Plans. This edition

features new plans and specifications that relate to the design, details, materials and workmanship for switches, frogs, turnouts & crossovers, crossings, rails and other special trackwork. Order online now at www.arema.org or contact publications@arema.org for more details.

Leverage the power of your trusted association’s Railway Careers Network to tap into a talent pool of job candidates with the training and education needed for long-term success. Visit www.arema.org/careers to post your job today.







Committee 35Information Technology Fort Worth, TX

MARCH 19-21

Committee 11Commuter & Intercity Rail Systems Los Angeles, CA

MAY 15-17

Committee 5 - Track Dallas, TX


Committee 38Information, Defect Detection & Energy Systems Fort Worth, TX

MAY 2-3

Committee 37Signal Systems Germantown, WI

MAY 16-17

Committee 15Steel Structures Pueblo, CO


Committee 39Positive Train Control Fort Worth, TX

MAY 2-4

Committee 13Environmental Welaka, FL

JUNE 15-16

Committee 8Concrete Structures & Foundations Washington, DC


Committee 17 - High Speed Rail Systems

Los Angeles, CA

MAY 3-4

Committee 36Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Warning Systems

Germantown, WI

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 30 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 as a guest, please contact Alayne Bell at abell@arema.org.

For a complete list of all committee meetings, visit www.arema.org.

March 2023 // Railway Track & Structures 27 rtands.com



Committee: Education & Training

The 2020 Dr. William W. Hay Award for Excellence was awarded to Hanson Professional Services Inc. for its work on Norfolk Southern’s Grand River Bridge emergency repairs in Brunswick, Mo.

Get PDHS At Your Own Pace With AREMA’S On Demand Education

Access to important professional development content is just a few clicks away with AREMA Education. Our On Demand content spans many disciplines of PDH accredited courses that allow you to get your PDHs by learning from experts online without leaving your office.


1. Learn More

A dedicated team from Norfolk Southern Corp., Hanson Professional Services Inc. and Massman Construction Co. worked together to help Norfolk Southern rebuild a bridge in 27 days after it collapsed under the pressure of a flooded river and debris.

Studies show that participants learn more while taking On Demand courses as you can skim through the material you understand and take more time in the more challenging areas.

2. Get Instant Access

With AREMA On Demand courses, you don’t have to wait to learn and get your PDH’s as they’re available instantly after purchase.

A buildup of tree limbs and high water had been pushing on the 103-yearold rail bridge over the Grand River near Brunswick, Mo., leading Norfolk Southern to cut the rails the evening of Oct. 1 to relieve pressure and prevent further damage to its rail line. A portion of the bridge was wiped out within minutes. Four spans and three piers—about 267 ft of the 1,110-ft-long bridge—were swept away.

3. Convenient and Flexible

Above all things, On Demand education is meant to take at your own pace and on your time. Study from anywhere in the world, whether from your office or the convenience of your sofa.

4. Course Variety

AREMA On Demand education offers a wide variety of topics for all studies of the railway engineering community.

With the bridge out, up to 14 trains per day had to be detoured, causing delays that affected the area’s economy. Grain is carried out of Chariton County on the tracks, which run through Brunswick. The bridge collapse occurred during harvest season—another blow to farmers who had been set back by severe flooding in the spring. And the longer the bridge was closed, the risk of financial loss increased for Norfolk Southern. The railroad faced an urgent repair.

Register and Start Learning today at www.arema.org.

The next morning, Norfolk Southern contacted its contractor, Massman, and Hanson for assistance.


Not an AREMA member? Join today at www.arema.org and get discounts on all AREMA Educational Offerings, from Virtual Conferences to our Webinars.

Ultimately, the project was completed in 27 days—weeks ahead of the originally estimated 56-day schedule.

Please join AREMA in congratulating Hanson Professional Services Inc. and its partners on their achievement.

1. Why did you decide to choose a career in railway engineering?

When I was graduating from Northwestern University with my bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, I had a chance to interview with the Illinois Central Railroad (IC). The interviewer, Mr. Ronald Ester, explained how working for the railroad would allow me to gain work responsibility early in my career, allow me to get out of the office into the field regularly, and have the opportunity to see a lot of the country that I had not yet seen.

2. How did you get started?

My first job in railroading was working with the Illinois Central Railroad in Homewood, IL as a Track Designer. After doing that for a while, I received a promotion to Field Engineer and the railroad moved me to Jackson, Mississippi.

3. How did you get involved in AREMA and your committee?

When I was working as a Track Designer in Homewood, my Supervisor, Don Gallery, recommended that I join AREMA, as it would help me to learn

28 Railway Track & Structures // March 2023 rtands.com
CHAIR: JOHN G. GREEN, PhD, PE, Part-time Professor and Researcher, California State University-Fresno

railroading, and to make contacts in the industry. Because the purpose of Committee 24 is education and training, I thought it would be a great committee to join to get up to speed in the world of railroading quickly.

4. Outside of your job and the hard work you put into AREMA, what are your hobbies?

I am a leader for my sons’ Trail Life troop, I coach my children’s baseball, football, and basketball teams, we are active at our church, St. Mary’s Parish, and I and my family enjoy visiting National Parks and State Parks.

5. Tell us about your family!

My wife Margaux and I have been married for 12 years, and we have three sons and a daughter.

6. If you could share one interesting fact about yourself with the readers of RT&S, what would it be?

Last summer my family and I were filmed and featured on the NBC Sports

California television broadcast of the baseball game cheering for the Oakland Athletics as we were entering the White Sox Stadium in Chicago.

7. What is your biggest achievement? Marrying Margaux and raising our four wonderful children.

8. What advice would you give to


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someone who is trying to pursue a career in the railway industry?

Be open to relocation and non-traditional working hours, listen patiently to advice freely given whether or not you agree with it, and be open to learning anywhere at any time – some of the best engineering wisdom I have gained did not come from a professor in a classroom, but came from workers on jobsites.



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Swinging In The Wind

Short Line Federal Disaster Relief Legislation Must Be Expedited

The phrase “expedited legislation” may sound like an oxymoron, but this is needed to address the short line industry’s vulnerable state, particularly given the increase in natural disasters we’ve seen over the past decade. Even if we had not seen a rise in natural disasters, this legislation would still be urgently needed.

Some may think we’ve reported too much on this topic, but I don’t see it this way. Although our November 2022 cover story and a piece in this issue’s NewsWatch addressed the challenges faced by the Seminole Gulf Railway, the message is urgent and needs socialization to the hilt. As the November 2022 issue reported, “the damage to the Seminole Gulf was devastating. The railroad is working with federal and state agencies to obtain funding–now [then] pegged at $28 million–for rebuilding the railroad. The total amount needed will come from public and private sources.”

I spoke with Seminole Gulf’s executive vice president Robert Fay a few weeks ago, and he said the railroad was making some repairs with its funds. However, the ability to get the railroad back to full operation is dependent on federal disaster relief.

As we’ve reported, I expect the short line industry has grown in size and quality to the point that Congress may not realize what a vital part of our economy it has become. Of course, suppose an earthquake tears up critical interstate highways or airport infrastructure reaches the end of

customers of each.

useful life, or su ers a calamity. In these cases, the federal government is on the scene immediately with an open checkbook. While these two latter examples would undoubtedly impact the general public more than short line rail disasters, essential supply chains su er with a short line out of service. Business disruption could impact short lines, Class Is, and

To put a ner point on this, the president of the American Association of Short Line and Regional Railroads, Chuck Baker, said in December: “Short lines are the critical rst and last mile of our nation’s freight rail system, connecting small town and rural America to the U.S. and world economies. When a natural disaster strikes, it is critical that transportation infrastructure get back up and running as soon as possible, allowing for relief e orts to ow in and materials to ow out of a ected areas. Short line railroads play a critical transportation role, yet limited federal disaster relief options are available beyond small loans, whereas massive disaster relief resources are available for highways and transit. e Short Line Railroad Relief Act would allow the USDOT to provide speedy and signi cant grant funding to short line railroads following a disaster, so they can help rebuild the local economy instead of being forced to end operations, abandoning customers and the communities they serve.”

Until a quality program for short line disaster relief is in place, this vital sector of the U.S. economy will continue to swing in the wind, hoping the next natural disaster doesn’t blow it away.

32 Railway Track & Structures // March 2023 rtands.com FROM THE DOME
Photo Credit: David C. Lester
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