Rail milling marks North America debut in a New York rail yard

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NEW YORK — What weighs 68 tons, is almost 40 feet long, arrives in its own container, and could revolutionize railhead maintenance in North America? A rail milling machine, of course.

More than 20 rail transit and rail commuter line operations staff from coast to coast had a brief inaugural look on Tuesday at one of these machines and its operation, demonstrated by representatives of Austria-based rail milling machine maker, Linsinger.

Rail milling developed more than 20 years ago in Europe where noise levels and concern about sparks generating fires by rail-grinding created a demand for milling. The use of carbide-tooth wheels to shave rails to remove small cracks and other problems generated by wheel impact on the rails makes for better maintenance practices. Grinders use abrasive stones to grind away rail, generating heat and sparks. Sparking is minimal in milling.

The attendees, both transit and commuter rail had varying opinions of this new technology and how it might work for their systems, but most were impressed by the low noise level of this new technology.

The Linsinger MG11 rail milling and grinding machine stopped and previewed at a New York rail yard on Tuesday. One of six different models in the Linsinger catalogue, it made a stop in New York on its way to an Asian customer. The model presented was the smallest model of the six machines, especially suited for tight tunnels and small radii curves. Top speed for this machine is 31 mph when not working. It is 39 feet long, 7 feet wide, and 8 feet high — about the size of two Mercedes Sprinter vans, back to back. It was shipped to the U.S. in a standard 40-foot container.

With regard to operation, the MG11 is potent. It is capable of milling the rail top up to 3/100ths of an inch as it travels at the rate of about 1/3 mph, capable of grades up to 4 percent, using an EPA Tier 4 emissions compliant John Deere engine for power. It does not use water as it mills and the rail chips and dust are vacuumed into a 16-cubic-foot holding tank. The machine can also be used for switches and turnouts. Noise generated by the machine in operation is 80-decibels, about the same as a dishwasher.

The key to this milling process is a 130-pound milling and grinding wheel, which gently scrapes and grinds the railhead at the same time. Depending on the track involved, the wheel will work for 6 to 8 hours before it needs to be replaced. Behind this wheel is a polishing wheel to smooth the top of the railhead.

An on-board crane can lift the milling wheel on and off. Borrowing from automotive technology, lug nuts and an on-board drill can loosen the old wheel and tighten the new one. For the demonstration, a two-man crew manually lifted the new wheel down and the old one back up, which took fewer than ten minutes. Linsinger demonstrated a single and a double-milling pass. The before and after sections were evident by the newly shiny silvered rails after the MG11 rolled by.

This machine has an operator and a conductor; the double cabs are equipped for two people when not milling. While milling, the conductor, walking alongside, and engineer are connected by headsets as the MG11 rolls to insure that there is nothing that will impede forward movement. Direction of milling is always forward.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the sponsor of the New York rail milling demonstration. It was Austria-based Linsinger. Aug. 10, 2018, 10:44 a.m. Central time.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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