Below Rail Infrastructure, Engineering, Freight Rail, Operations & Maintenance, Passenger Rail, Rollingstock & Manufacturing

Lubrication partnership keeps trains moving


Visitors at the recent AusRAIL PLUS Conference couldn’t help but notice the range of lubrication systems displayed at the stand jointly manned by SKF and JSG. 

But not only were the two companies showing off the merits of their various products, they were also highlighting the benefits of their partnership. 

As SKF key account manager Shayne Halls explains, the strengthened alliance builds on the previous association between the two groups, in which JSG had been a long term distributor for SKF. 

Since its inception in 1968, JSG has been recognised as experts in lubrication solutions for industrial applications, assisting in the ongoing development of innovations through field testing and technical analysis. 

In its early days, JSG had secured the rights to distribute the products of Lincoln Industrial, a lubrication company based in St Louis, USA, eventually becoming the sole distributor for Lincoln in Australia and across Southeast Asia. 

SKF meanwhile, was of course long recognised as a leader in providing bearings and units, seals, lubrication solutions and maintenance services for industries worldwide.  

When SKF acquired the Lincoln organisation in 2010, it effectively took over its international distribution channels, which included JSG. 

JSG and SKF already had, and continue to have, a very good working relationship in their core industry of mining, and the acquisition enabled both companies to move into rail. 

It was clear to the organisations that they would benefit if they utilised their combined strengths to expand the offer in the rail industry. Backed by the existing long-standing collaboration on a supplier/distributor basis, they have now taken it to a new level where they can engage in a true partnership to enhance the awareness of their solutions.

The SKF-JSG partnership means the groups draw on more than 200 years of combined rail friction management experience in providing reliable and innovative ways to reduce maintenance costs, improve productivity, enhance safety and optimise resources. 

Part of the SKF vision for the delivery of lubrication involves moving increasingly into Industry 4.0 principles. Improving the reliability of customer assets and the efficiency of their machinery requires dispensing lubricants in the right way, with the right systems, in the right time and in the right quantity. 

This result is best achieved by automating the process and digitalising monitoring systems, therefore improving machine performance and reducing maintenance costs. 

The basis for the SKF/JSG partnership is the companies’ converging interest in providing the best solution for customers.  

JSG has already started developing its own digital capabilities, complementing SKF’s advancement in this area. 

The collaboration with SKF has brought a great deal of value to the company’s role as a lubrication specialist, with the common goal of customer service and a view of lubrication as fundamental to industrial efficiency and productivity. 


For decades, railroad customers had used SKF and Lincoln lubrication solutions for wayside and on-board applications to increase operating times and lower energy consumption, to improve equipment life and to maximise the return on their investment.  

The lubrication system enables targeted economical application with reduced wastage.

This also helped to reduce noise and provided significant operational benefits by extending the re-profiling and re-grinding intervals of both the rail and wheels.  

Utilising its experience and worldwide availability, SKF works closely with regional and global rolling stock manufacturers, operators and infrastructure owners. 

Rail wear has been a challenge for many years in areas of tight curves or heavy loaded tracks, and, in dry weather, curve screeching or squealing can occur.  

This is because the wear that occurs between the wheel flange and the outer curve (high rail) causes noise if it is not lubricated.  

Noise also occurs as a result of the so-called stick-slip effect, when the longitudinal and lateral micro movements of the wheel on the rail surface cause the wheel to vibrate, resulting in high frequency squealing.  

This takes place predominantly on the inner curve rail (low rail).  

In addition to noise, the stick-slip effect causes slip waves (wear) on the inner curve rail. Lubrication can reduce wear and noise, but requires different solutions for different applications.  

From a tribology point of view, SKF-JSG aims to reduce friction and wear at the gauge face/ wheel flange; therefore greases are required.  

For top of rail (TOR) applications, the goal is to make the longitudinal and lateral sliding more even. To achieve this, the company applies so-called friction modifiers or solid particle pastes to the top of the rail. The impact on traction and braking performance is small and comparable to rainy weather conditions. 

TOR lubrication provides a solution to greatly reduce noise emissions and wear to the running surface of rail occurring on very tight radius curves. 

A TOR applicator used with the systems offers benefits such as consistent application of an even spread of lubrication and spring-mounted bars to withstand false-flange wheel strikes. The metal-to-metal seal means that no parts need replacement. 

JSG-SKF also offers Gauge Face Lubrication (GFL), which significantly reduces wheel flange and rail wear that occurs at the curved section of track.  

The GFL applicator bars feature even placement of grease high on the gauge face to be effectively collected by passing wheels, and brushes which hold excess grease to be picked up by the next train, which minimises grease waste. 

One Gauge Face system can supply several curves in succession, and comes with universal mounting that is easy to adjust.  

In Lincoln’s wayside systems for GFL and TOR conditioning, passing trains are detected by track-mounted wheel sensors.  

The applied lubricant is picked up by passing wheels. High-pressure, low-volume pumps effectively cover the rail with just enough lubricant, minimising waste.  

A wiper bar with an integrated progressive metering device applies the lubricant or friction modifier directly to the gauge face or TOR, while Lincoln’s progressive pump-to-port technology enables exact metering of grease, helping to ensure each lube port receives the same small amount of grease every time, automatically.  

The systems are capable of pumping long distances, as well as high-viscosity lubricants. Dual track systems and customised solutions are available. 

SKF business development for Queensland, NSW & New Zealand, Nigel Herbert, cited as an example Brisbane’s Airport Rail Link (BARL), where the original rail lubrication equipment was significantly upgraded.  

The rolling stock is owned and operated by Queensland Rail, with Ventia being responsible for track maintenance (on behalf of Airtrain). 

A section of the BARL infrastructure passes through a residential area, so eliminating excessive noise from wheel/rail interaction was paramount.  

“Obviously they want to apply it in curved tracks, because that’s where squealing would occur the most, but another benefit is that through the lubrication, the wheel and rail life is extended as well,” Herbert said. 

“So we’re not just cutting down the noise, we’re lubricating the track and through that, getting the lubricant on to the rest of the rail wheels, especially in built up areas.” 

“The system also provides improved grease carry along the rails, and has proven less wastage and environmental impact with reduced spillage onto the ballast and track surrounds.” 


For SKF national manager, rail and defense, Patrick Hofstadler, attending AusRAIL PLUS wasn’t just a way of focussing on the company’s overall railway capabilities, but it offered an opportunity for reconnecting in person once again with the rest of the rail sector after an absence of more than two years.   

“For us of course, we were delighted to catch up again with industry stakeholders and our customers who attended, and also form new connections,” he said. 

“It was a bit risky to even plan for the event due to the COVID pandemic, because we didn’t know if it was going to happen at first ; however, then it was relocated from Brisbane to Sydney, and we decided to go ahead, and we made the right decision. “ 

“We had great response to our various condition monitoring and lubrication products. It was evident there was a lot of digital innovation throughout the Expo, so we definitely had the right products on display to fit in with what customers are interested in.”