Serving the Track Maintenance needs of the Midwest since 1987

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Why the Battle Still Rages Between Rail and Road Freight

For as long as we’ve produced goods to trade with one another, we’ve needed to send them to each other over varying distances. Nowadays we have four main freight options, road (trucks), rail (trains), air (planes), and sea/ocean (ship).

For the sake of discussion we’ll forgo freight by air and sea, instead focusing on the land-based shipping options, specifically domestically.

While it’s true that road transport is the most commonly used freight, there are good reasons as to why rail continues to be used. The differences between rail and road freight may seem nominal, but when put side-by-side there are some striking strengths and weaknesses to each side.

Road Freight

As previously mentioned, road freight is the most common form of shipping in the world. Although just because it’s common doesn’t make it the best way of doing things.

All kinds of goods are shipped this way, especially to and from Distribution Centers which service particular areas. As we all know, if it weren’t for the many truckers on the road, we wouldn’t have many of the modern conveniences we enjoy.

Pros

  • Road freight can be more efficient and economical especially over shorter distances.

Depending on the roads between point A and point B, road freight may make more sense when the distance is less as a more direct route can be chosen.

  • It can be used for cross-country long haul shipments.

Many border crossings are prepared for and used to trucks carrying shipments in and out of their respective countries. Depending on the country, roads may be the only viable option for moving goods to the outer regions.

  • Easier to track cargo movement through GPS and satellite tracking.

Many companies today rely heavily on GPS to ensure their goods will arrive on the predetermined date. Tracking via road freight may be easier due to the nature of the infrastructure built around roads.

Cons

  • There are various limitations to the size of the vehicle, the size of the load, and the road weight varies in different places. 

Depending on the size of the good you’re sending, a truck may not be big enough to move the amount you’re trying to ship.There are also a number of different road weight restrictions in different parts of the States, which may limit you from shipping through those areas.

  • Limited by the conditions of the road: weather, maintenance, accidents, etc.

Shipping times can be heavily affected by weather conditions such as snow, hail, rain, storms; as well as road maintenance work; and sadly inevitable accidents that do occur.

  • Currently not a typically environmentally friendly option.

Although there are efforts being made by some of the major vehicle manufacturers to produce electric trucks, we’re not there yet. As it stands shipping by road creates unnecessarily high amounts of emissions when compared with other options. 

Rail Freight

Most popular in countries and continents with long transit times such as China, Russia, India, and parts of the USA and Europe. Rail freight has long been relied on for shipping for such industries as forestry, agriculture, military, and mining. 

Pros

  • Rail freight is a more environmentally-friendly shipping option.

Studies have shown that trains burn less fuel per ton mile than road vehicles, and without traffic or other obstacles the journeys are often done efficiently.

  • Freight trains are capable of carrying much larger loads than typical freight trucks.

By being substantially larger they have the capacity to be loaded much more than trucks, and usually don’t have such limiting weight restrictions in the train or on the rail.

  • Long distance freight works out cheaper and faster on rail.

Considering the many things that can go wrong on the road, rail has the benefit of being straightforward (literally and figurative). This can lead to savings in both time and money for those sending and those receiving the goods. 

Cons

  • Rail freight is limited to exactly where the rails are.

For shorter distances there may be no station in which the freight can be unloaded. In many cases the final leg of a rail freight is done by road to get the goods where they need to be.

  • Potential delays when crossing borders into other countries.

Depending on the border and the country, rail freight can be heavily affected by the bureaucracy. Especially in those circumstances which require a different rail operator to continue. 

  • Fragile or abnormal cargoes cannot be shipped by rail freight.

Some goods are simply unsuitable to be loaded into the back of a train to be shipped across the country. 

Wrap

As you can see both sides have their ups and downs, and many people find a combination of the two to be most effective. If you’re looking for a Midwest railroad contractor, or just looking for more information, get in contact with us.

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7 Common Causes of Railroad Accidents

Railroad accidents aren’t as common as accidents on the highway, but they still happen. It’s something we’re well aware of as a midwest railroad track inspection service.

In this blog post, we’re going to examine some of the most common causes of railway accidents and how you can avoid them.

  1. Negligence

Negligence comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s the fault of the railroad itself, or a contractor, or an equipment manufacturer.

One common contributor to this issue is the use of outdated technology. While adding this tech typically involves a significant investment, it’s hard to put a price on public/employee safety.

  1. Human error

Accidents can happen if a conductor is inexperienced, but also if they’ve been working too long and feel fatigued. From lack of judgement to lack of experience to imparied reactions, human error is a regular factor in train accidents.

  1. Speeding

Just high speed is often a factor in serious or fatal car crashes, speeding can also play a role in train accidents. Evidence from a number of recent train crashes suggest the higher the speed of the train, the worst the crash and the greater chance of derailment.

  1. Reckless drivers, careless pedestrians

Some train accidents have more to do with what happens off the tracks than the train itself. Reckless or distracted pedestrians can cause a collision by walking on or too close to the track. And drivers can cause train crashes by having their vehicles too close to the train or trying to cross the tracks before the train comes.

  1. Mechanical failure

Even with everyone operating the train doing everything right, accidents can still happen when mechanical failure occurs. Trains are complex machines, with several intendpendt systems needed to power the train. If one piece of equipment fails, it can lead to a serious — if not deadly — train accident.

  1. Obstructions

Foreign objects left on or near train tracks can have deadly consequences, including derailment. Conductors must be aware of their surroundings to deal with dangerous situations quickly, but in some cases, they may not be able to see obstructions on the tracks, leading to serious or even deadly crashes.

  1. Crossing issues

A majority of railroad accidents happen at railroad crossings with improper warning devices like gates or lights. They are typically caused by lack of visibility, impaired or distracted drivers, or drivers trying to outrun the train.

Preventing derailments

While conductors can’t control what other drivers do around trains, you can control the state of your tracks to prevent derailment. This means taking steps such as:

  • Scheduling a quarterly inspection by a Nebraska railroad contractor who is qualified to perform inspections.
  • Instructing your team how to look for defects and hazards along the tracks.
  • Maintaining the proper width between rails — 56.5 inches. Loose or missing bolts and joint bars can indicate the gauge, or width, is too wide.
  • Looking for broken railroad ties, loose or missing spikes and tie plates that have cut into the ties.
  • Inspecting for broken switch points, which can put a gap between the point and rail and cause the wheels of a car to travel along the wrong track.
  • Search for signs of fading structural integrity that could lead to a buckled or rolled rail.

R&S Track Maintenance: Expert Nebraska railroad contractor

Since 1987, companies in search of safe and efficient rail services have turned to R&S Track Maintenance, a Nebraska railroad contractor specializing in rail maintenance and railroad construction, as well as surveying, consulting, track maintenance and repair, and inspections.

Our experts know what warning signs to look for and can recommend the strategies for helping your operators avoid accidents. Contact us today to learn more.

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The Benefits of Moving Freight by Rail

While people may not travel by train the way they used to, we still move a lot of goods by rail.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, nearly 30 percent of freight cargo transported in the United States reached its destination using trains, helped along by midwest rail contractors like us.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of shipping goods using the rail system.

  1. It’s cost effective

Switching from road to rail shipping can save you anywhere from 10 to 40 percent, as you cut down on the cost of fuel — particularly for high volume shipments — and the cost of drivers.

  1. It’s reliable and efficient

Trains run on set schedules and don’t have to share tracks with other vehicles in the way trucks do with other drivers. Your shipments won’t be delayed by things like weather or construction or traffic jams. And in many cases, the average transport time for a train is similar to road transit. It’s not a good fit for time-sensitive deliveries, but a more-than-viable option for longer hauls.

  1. You can move large loads

Do you need to move high volumes of freight? Use a train. A double-stacked train can transport the same amount of goods as 280 trucks.

This is especially important at a time when over-the-road capacity is tight and finding drivers can be difficult. Rail transport doesn’t have the limitations you’ll find with trucking, meaning it’s a good solution for shippers seeking capacity.

Why shipping by rail is a green solution

Shipping by rail not only benefits your company, it benefits the planet. Here’s how:

  1. It’s like carpooling without cars.

When you transport your goods by train, you’re sharing cargo space with other businesses. Just as carpooling takes cars off the road and uses less fuel, rail transit provides a similar function.

  1. It uses less fuel

Rail transit is four times more fuel efficient than using trucks. Experts estimate that taking just 10 percent of truck freight off of the highways and moving it to the rail system would save 800 million gallons of fuel a year.

  1. Emissions are lower

And with less fuel being used, you’re lowering emissions into the atmosphere. Gas emissions drop by 75 percent from going from truck to rail, meaning fewer greenhouse gases in the air.

With fewer trucks on the road, highways start to look better, leading to fewer costly repairs, less reason to use machinery that is itself a greenhouse gas contributor. Less truck traffic means less traffic congestion, which wastes billions of gallons of fuel each year.

Midwest railroad contractor

Rail has a bright future in the U.S., and R&S Track, an expert midwest railroad contractor, is excited to be a part of it, just as we’re proud to have played a role in its history.

We are approved for bidding on all projects by servicing railroads and are OSHA and DOT compliant and ISNET certified.

R&S Track is adept at railroad track construction, railroad repair and railroad maintenance, with nearly 35 years of experience. Contact us today to learn more.

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The Basics of Railway Safety

When you work in the railroad construction or railroad maintenance industry, you learn very quickly the importance of Nebraska Railroad Construction and Maintenance.

It’s something that the general public might not think much about, which is why we wanted to share these safety tips from the American Association of Railroads. It’s useful information for pedestrians, drivers, or really anyone who spends time around trains.

On Foot

  • The only safe place to cross railroad tracks is at a designated public crossing with a gate, crossbuck or flashing lights. Crossing anywhere else can lead to a citation or fine for trespassing.
  • Railroad tracks, rail yards, trestles and equipment are private property, meaning you could face criminal prosecution if caught trespassing, to say nothing at the risks to your physical safety.
  • Trains can take up to a mile to stop, making it nearly impossible for a locomotive operator who sees someone appear suddenly on the tracks to stop on time.
  • Trains can overhang tracks by up to three feet on either side, with loose straps extending even further. This means if you’re in the right-of-way near the tracks, you run the risk of being hit by the train.
  • Never cross tracks as soon as a train passes. There could be another train approaching from the other direction. Wait until you have a clear sight line in both directions before crossing at a safe place.
  • If you see flashing red lights, a train is on its way. Never walk around or behind the gates once they’ve lowered and wait until lights have stopped blinking to cross.
  • Recreational activities and railroad trestles are a bad combination. There’s not enough clearance for people to fish, bungee jump, walk or ride ATVs in these spaces.
  • Never attempt to hop onto a train or other railroad equipment. One wrong step could cause you to lose a limb, or your life.
  • A good rule for pedestrians and motorists alike: Remember that trains don’t follow a set schedule. One could come along at any moment.

Behind the wheel

  • It is both illegal and dangerous to drive around lowered gates at a railroad crossing. Wait until they’ve lifted and the lights have stopped blinking to pass.
  • If your vehicle stalls on the tracks at a railroad crossing, get out right away and move away from the tracks — even if there’s no train coming. Find the Emergency Notification System sign nearby and call the number to inform them about your vehicle.
  • If you’re waiting at a multiple-track crossing, watch for a second train approaching from either direction and wait until things are clear to cross.
  • Trains are moving faster than they appear. As with pedestrians, remember that they cannot stop quickly. It can take more than a mile for them to break if they see you.
  • Cross train tracks at designated crossings, look both ways and cross quickly without stopping. It’s not safe to stop your car within 15 feet of the rails.

Nebraska Railroad Construction and Maintenance

Railroad safety is a two-way street, so to speak. Pedestrians and drivers need to do their part, and we need to do ours.

R&S Track is committed to helping improve railroad safety with our railroad maintenance services. From surveying to consulting to track maintenance and inspections, our team knows what hazards to look for and can recommend the steps you can take to improve the safety of your rail crews, drivers and pedestrians alike. Contact us today to learn more.

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How to Choose a Railroad Contractor

There’s little room for error for a railroad contractor in the world of railroad construction.

Choosing the wrong midwest railroad contractor puts you at risk for delays, needless expenses or even lackluster safety standards.

Whether you’re looking for someone to construct a new piece of track or repair an existing railway, it’s crucial you look for someone with the expertise and reputation to suit your needs.

Here are five questions you should ask when searching for a midwest railroad contractor.

  1. Are they experienced?

One of the first things to look for is whether the contractor’s experience lines up with the requirements of your project.

Try to get a sense of the methodology they use to manage projects and the type of work they’ve done with companies like yours in the past.

Ask them about their project success rate, their track record for concluding projects on time and within budget. Find out their criteria for communication. Will they provide regular updates and detailed reports? Finally, ask if they have their own specialized equipment.

  1. Are they safe?

Railroad construction and repair can be dangerous, which is why it’s vital to pick a midwest railroad contractor who closely follows industry safety standards and who keeps their workers up to date on safety protocols.

The contractor will be responsible for making sure their employees and work sites are safe, but it’s still in your best interest to see that work is done to the highest safety standards to ensure the project passes inspection.

  1. How is their environmental record?

Like all transportation work, railroad construction projects need to meet the standards set by government environmental policies.

That’s why it’s important to choose a contractor who can effectively deal with possible environmental incidents and perform remedial actions to protect the environment. Look for a provider that has a long record of environmental sustainability.

  1. Can they think on their feet?

In a perfect world, every railroad construction or repair project would go off without a hitch. But there’s no way to predict things like extreme weather events.

What if flash flooding causes a subsidence near one of your bridges? What if a snowstorm closes down construction?

You need a midwest railroad contractor who can respond to these issues when they occur. Look for someone who can offer a range of services, not only construction but also design, maintenance and inspections.

Look for someone with local expertise. A railroad contractor who’s only done work in, say, Arizona may not be familiar with dealing with midwestern winters.

  1. What do other people say about them?

A dependable railroad contractor is one who won’t mind turning over their references. Speaking to their past clients is the simplest way to get a sense of what it will be like to work with them.

Once you’ve made contact with these references, ask them things like: Did they understand your needs? Were you satisfied with their overall work? Were they responsive to questions and requests? Did they meet safety and/or environmental regulations? And perhaps most importantly, would you work with them again?

We like to think our clients would answer yes to those questions. As a premiere midwest railroad contractor, R&S Track has spent nearly 30 years helping businesses who needed:

We have a 100 percent track record of customer satisfaction and are happy to provide references. Contact us at 402-564-1801 for service inquiries and price estimates.

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How to Prevent Train Derailment

If you’re a Nebraska railroad contractor, the idea of a train derailment is frightening, which is why it’s important to know how to prevent train derailment.

When a train derails, it’s the type of thing that makes the news, often with footage of emergency responders, survivors walking around in a daze.

But in truth, train derailments that lead to injuries are very rare, as most trains in America carry freight rather than passengers, and train cars are designed to survive impacts.

Writing in his book Train Wreck: The Foresnics of Rail Disasters, George Bibel says:

Most derailments are relatively benign, and can be compared to a person walking down the street, tripping, getting back up, and continuing on her or his way. Unless derailed cars crash into houses, strike passenger trains, or release hazardous material into a neighborhood, derailments do not normally affect civilians.

In addition, train derailments are becoming less and less common over the past 40 years due to upgrades in track technology.

Still, that doesn’t mean that track safety and efficiency isn’t something Nebraska railroad contractors should ignore.

Here are a few steps you can take to help prevent derailments.

  1. Inspect your tracks

Every inch of track in your facility should undergo a quarterly inspection by a Nebraska railroad contractor who is qualified to perform inspections.

You should perform regular, consistent maintenance on rail infrastructure and instruct your team on how to spot hazards and defects along the tracks.

  1. Wide gauge tracks

Maintaining the correct width between rails — otherwise known as “gauge” — is important to ensuring safe conditions.

The standard gauge is 56.5 inches. Anything beyond this width is known as wide gauge and may lead to derailments. You can inspect your lines for a wide gauge track by looking for loose or missing bolts and joint bars.

In addition, you should keep an eye out for broken railroad ties, spikes that have come loose or gone missing, or tie plates that have cut into the ties.

Check for places where mud is sitting atop the ballas, which could signal a feeble foundation and improper drainage.

Look for broken switch points, as these can put a gap between the rail and point and allow the wheels of a car to move along the wrong track.

Finally, look for signs of flagging structural integrity (poor spike quantity or tie conditions) that could lead to a buckled or rolled rail.

Preventing sideswipes

Stopping sideswipes in your facility can help guard against derailments. Sideswipes can happen when rail cars are allowed to go past their clearance points and workers don’t know the tracks are obstructed.

You can prevent these incidents with clearance cone markers, which indicate where cars can be spotted without blocking an adjacent track. It’s also a good idea to paint two railroad ties 15 feet back along the cones.

R&S Track Maintenance: Expert Nebraska railroad contractor

For more than 30 years, companies seeking safe, efficient rail services have turned to R&S Track Maintenance, a Nebraska railroad contractor who provides far more than rail maintenance and railroad construction.

Our services include surveying, consulting, track maintenance and repair, and inspections. Our experts know what red flags to look for and can recommend the steps you’ll need to take to prevent train derailment. Contact us today to learn more.

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Rail Service Between Seattle and Tacoma Dates Back More Than a Century

Anyone with a working knowledge of local history of rail service will remember that Tacoma outpaced the backwater of Seattle during the 1870s, particularly after the Northern Pacific Railroad selected the City of Destiny as the terminus for its transcontinental railroad in 1873.

Seattle feared that it would be cut off from the rest of the economic boom in the growing West Coast if it didn’t have rail service to bring settlers – and their dollars – to the Emerald City and to shuttle its lumber and products to markets back East. That changed when Henry Villard gained controlling shares of the Northern Pacific and pledge to run rails between Tacoma and Seattle, where he just happened to have significant real estate holdings he was interested in selling.

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Norfolk Southern rail bridge collapses in Missouri flooding

According to the Railway Track and Structures (RT&S) website, Norfolk Southern Rail Bridge has suspended service in Missouri between Moberly and Kansas City. The bridge and track weight capacity on this stretch is 286,000 pounds. The Class 1 railroad issued a service alert saying that it is “working with our interline partners to detour freight traffic over alternative gateways. Customers with traffic operating to and from the Kansas City area should expect a 48- to 72-hour delay.”

Debris and high floodwaters have been issues for the past several days near the Grand River Bridge in Brunswick, Missouri. National Weather Service (NWS) Flood Warnings, housed inside the FreightWaves SONAR Critical Events platform, remain posted along the Missouri River. A Twitter video shows the bridge dropping into the river on the evening of October 2. The NWS Missouri Basin River forecast center tweeted earlier today, October 3, that backwater from debris caused the Brunswick gauge to rise. R&S Track is monitoring the situation with the Norfolk Southern Rail Bridge.