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Federal Government Announces New Railroad Safety Rule

We came across a piece of news recently that we think is of interest to anyone in the railroad construction field.

Late in August, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced it had updated its rules to allow railroads to use ultrasonic inspection technology — augmented with GPS — for continuous rail testing.

These updated rules will make it easier for railroads to test their rails more often and identify flaws, thus improving safety.

“This rule will allow railroads to use the latest technology to continually monitor safety, which is a big step forward in strengthening safety and reliability on our nation’s railroads,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in an FRA news release.

Thanks to this rule, rail testing vehicles can move without stopping along the track, thereby reducing the number of freight and passenger delays typically connected to inspections.

“Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao is a strong advocate for safety through innovation, and these modernized standards will allow railroads to implement innovative inspection methods without the burden of applying for individual waivers with well-established safety records,” FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory said in the news release.

Over the past decade, the FRA has issued waivers to railroad engineering experts at larger companies to use this technology. It has led to a 27-percent decline in broken rail-caused train accidents between May 2019 and May 2020.

Giving all railroads the chance to use this technology can improve the safety record of the entire railroad industry.

These new regulations focus more on performance-based outcoming instead of dictating how companies carry out effective testing.

According to the FRA, railroads will be expected to use established methods for required rail inspections but will also have the freedom to use new technologies and methods once they’re proven effective and safe.

Continuous rail testing uses cars outfitted with GPS and ultrasonic technologies examining rails internally and without stopping.

As they move along the track, these cars collect imaging and location data, which they then transmit to monitoring sites so analysts can identify internal rail defects. Depending on how serious the defect is, carriers have 36-84 hours to send out an on-site railroad inspector.

If the railroad inspector verifies the defect, federal regulations call for immediate action, whether that’s repairing or replacing the rail, slowing trains over the defect or taking the track out of service until repairs are made.

The original regulations required vehicles conducting ultrasonic rail tests to repeatedly stop and manually inspect possible defects within four hours.

These frequent starts and stops can slow down train traffic and delay passenger and freight lines and only allows for 20 miles of testing per day. With continuous rail testing, a railroad inspector can test four to eight times as many miles of track per day.

The FRA estimates that one rail car using continuous testing could replace as many as five stop-and verify cars, saving the industry nearly $122 million in 10 years.

Midwest railroad contractor

Have you identified problem areas on your track? R & S Track can help. We pride ourselves on track maintenance and rehab for a variety of industries. Contact us today to learn more or to receive a price estimate.

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Constructing New Tracks? Which Railroad Ties to Use

Whether you are constructing new railroad tracks to replace old and worn tracks, or you’re doing maintenance on current tracks, the most essential part of having a stable track line is what ties you choose to use. There is always a question of what the situation demands, what budget allows for, and what is available and in what quantities. For this reason, there are several different materials that are used depending on the circumstances.

Wooden Railroad Ties

A variety of wood types were used when creating wooden rail ties such as hardwood and softwood timbers. The main benefit to using wood is that it is relatively inexpensive and can be obtained in greater quantities—which is important when you’re laying down track, the miles add up. However, these benefits have been fading as the years draw on as timber becomes much more difficult to acquire.

 The drawback to using wooden ties is that wood is susceptible to rotting due to moisture. Splitting is another issue that compromises the integrity of that particular railway track. Not as common, but dangerous nonetheless, is that wood ties can catch fire.

Overall, wood has a good balance of longevity and cost which makes it a solid option for using in your railway ties. It’s also the most commonly used tie—according to the RTA, which states that roughly 15 million of the 17 million installed ties are wood. That’s over 90%!

Concrete Railroad Ties

Concrete rail ties benefit from being very inexpensive to purchase and can at times be easier to acquire compared to timber. Concrete rail ties are also excellent for carrying heavier weights and are very stable, thus allowing for higher rail speeds.

Steel Railroad Ties

Steel ties have in the past been badly abused due to rapidly changing conditions and technology imposed on them. Many of these old steel ties are actually still faithfully in service today globally which is a testament to steel despite being outdated in design.

Modern steel ties can handle significantly heavier loads and environmental conditions. Creosote-treated wood ties and concrete ties are more impractical to install compared to steel. One of the reasons is that steel can be neatly stacked and transported more easily, it’s also lighter and can be more easily installed onto the existing track ballast than other materials.

Railroad Tie Installation

R&S Track is a premier railroad contractor in the Midwest United States. We have proudly been in business for over 27 years and have had the confidence of numerous companies seeking a variety of solutions including but not limited to:

  • Consulting
  • Surveying
  • Project Design
  • Railroad Tie Installation/Track Maintenance
  • New Track Construction

We have a 100% track record of customer satisfaction. Don’t believe us? Drop us a line and references will be available on request. Call us now at (402)-564-1801 for any service inquiries or price estimates!

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What Does a Railroad Track Contractor Do?

The Importance of the Railway System

While many people might consider railroads a thing of a bygone era, they still offer an incredibly means of transport for a variety of raw materials and goods that must make their way across the contiguous United States. Steel, lumber, and all manner of incredibly important industrial necessities make their way en masse through railroads. Without these materials, many industries would come to a screeching halt as their means of production has been stifled. As you might imagine, this means that the railroad system in the United States serves an incredible important function as part of the backbone of the economic growth of the country.

What Services do Railroad Track Contractors Offer?

In the aforementioned paragraph, we talked about how important the railway system is to economic growth and for the function of many critical industries. Because of how important the railway system is, it means that there must always be talented people who can maintain the integrity of the railroads to ensure their proper functioning.

Railroad Track Consulting

How many people do you know have intimate knowledge of how railroad tracks work? Like all industries a compliant and certified railroad track contractor can offer professional counsel on how to lay tracks, repair them, maintain them, and most importantly understand what to look for when performing an inspection.

Railroad Track Rehabilitation

Track rehabilitation provides the bulk of services for many railroad contractors. Many existing railways have been around for several decades. From rain to snow to sunshine the elements beat on these tracks every single day. Spanning hundreds of miles it isn’t unusual that many parts of tracks become exceedingly worn over time and are in need of serious repair lest they risk derailments, loss of cargo, and other impediments to business as well as passenger safety.

Track maintenance and rehabilitation go hand in hand. Remember it’s not just the tracks themselves that require touch ups but also the more intricate parts such as the switches, bolts, fasteners.

New Rail Construction

We’ve already observed how critical the railway system is to industry, so it makes sense that laying new tracks is important after project design and surveying efforts have brought forth the best solutions for current pathing needs. As companies grow and expand, naturally they will need to be a part of a new line or connected to a current track line so that they can transport their goods as efficiently as possible.

Midwest Railroad Contractor

R&S Track has been servicing the track maintenance needs of the Midwest since 1987! We have an excellent—no pun intended, track record of getting the job done. We are OSHA safety compliant, DOT safety compliant, as well as ISNET certified.

Servicing railways is a job that has a level of danger that comes with it. It is crucial that you partner with a railroad contractor that not only can get the job done, but also respects the rails.

Contact us today for all of your railway servicing needs and we’ll be happy to answer your call as well as any questions you may have.