What began as a humble provider of rail plant maintenance services has evolved into an institution in the Hunter Valley of NSW. Read more
What began as a humble provider of rail plant maintenance services has evolved into an institution in the Hunter Valley of NSW. Read more
Caterpillar’s purpose-built M323F road-rail (RR) excavators are now at work in Australia, providing access to the first true AS7502 Type 1: Self-powered rail wheeled excavator designed specifically for on-rail work in Australasia while delivering a new level of safety and performance for the industry.
Four dedicated two-speed drive motors provide drive directly to the rail wheels, eliminating wear and tear on the machine’s road powertrain, axles, and tyres while providing unmatched on rail performance including operator adjustable hydrostatic deceleration. Dynamic braking performance is easily adjusted by the operator based on total load, speed, grade, or traction conditions and is complimented by large external dry disc caliper brakes on each rail wheel and inboard wet disc parking/emergency brakes. By braking the actual rail wheel any rocking motion induced by friction drive systems is eliminated providing a more stable, comfortable working platform for the operator. While the self- powered rail wheel system is more expensive, its performance is second to none, both in terms of drive torque and braking performance. Such performance cannot be replicated with friction systems traditionally used in Australia
Independently controlled, each dedicated rail axle is housed in a custom high strength cast cradle, incorporating oscillation suspension to absorb energy during travel and ensuring maximum rail contact even when experiencing rail cant. Each axle features a full width derail bar and guide and has been approved for both broad and standard track gauges in Australia, with a simple spacer kit to switch between gauges in the field.
Performance also comes from the custom- built upper structure. This is not simply a modified wheel excavator frame, although it does benefit from component commonality with the Cat M316F Wheel Excavator. At first glance, the full height compact radius counterweight confirms that this machine is designed for purpose, maximising lifting performance while maintaining a tight swing radius to avoid the many hazards that exist within the rail corridor.
A purpose-built factory secondary cab provides certified protection for a spotter or signal person and opens up to also allow full access to the centre and upper service access points of the machine. With open access to the main cabin, this is a perfect environment for a trainer to work with new operators live and on rail.
Safety is a priority and features throughout the M323F RR with double redundancy Rated Capacity Indicator (RCI) and Rated Capacity Limiter (RCL) systems using a proprietary, integrated Cat SMART control system. No more aftermarket, third party systems or suppliers, the M323F RR is truly purpose built from the ground up. A 360° LED beacon system ensures visibility at four metres from any angle and incorporates a unique blue LED lamp to indicate to bystanders and site supervisors when the operator has the RCI/RCL active.
Factory side and rear cameras integrated into the single 12-inch SMART screen along with an extensive LED lighting kit ensure visibility from the spacious full-size operators cabin during the day or night. Intuitive systems ensure the same pedals and controls used when roading the machine are used when on rail and no compromises are made in terms of operator comfort to accommodate the additional functionality of the rail excavator.
Recently independently certified to AS7502 for use on V/Line assets, the M323F features regionalised customisation by Cat dealer William Adams.
“It is very rewarding to see the culmination of several year’s work behind the scenes to take such an impressive purpose-built Caterpillar product now certified for use on rail here in Victoria. It will certainly complement the Elphinstone Railmax track excavator products and the traditional range of Caterpillar construction equipment we offer today, along with our industry leading product support footprint and capabilities,” concluded Glen Slocombe – product manager, William Adams.
Aries Rail have made a name for themselves by providing the Australian market with unique solutions, backed up by engineering expertise.
The professionalisation of railway engineering has come a long way in the past two decades. What was once a disparate and unregulated area with apocryphal stories of bush- mechanics has become a national field with clear standards and precise guidelines. Ewan McAllister, managing director of Aries Rail, has seen the sector move forward in leaps and bounds.
“When we first started out in this industry, there was basically no rules or regulations for hi-rail vehicles. You could just come up with a concept in your head and go and make it and put it on track,” he said.
This first began to change when contractors and customers began requiring sign off from certified engineering.
“There began to be requests for engineering,” said Ewan. “That would just involve a consulting engineer giving you a one-page report saying that he looked at something and liked it and that it was ok to go to work.”
Seeing where the industry was headed, and looking to lead when it came to higher standards for hi-rail vehicles, Aries Rail were one of the first companies to employ a mechanical engineer.
“Not long after that, we employed our second mechanical engineer and we haven’t looked back since, in terms of what we do. Once we started engineering things properly, it significantly improved the quality of work.”
The formalisation of these trends occurred in 2016, with the release of AS 7502, the Australian Standard for Road Rail Vehicles. Ewan was part of the team that developed the standard over three years, which has since been adopted by rail infrastructure managers (RIMs) around the country.
Today, on top of the requirements of AS 7502, RIMs are adding their own, stringent requirements, something that Aries Rail are only too happy to meet, due to their in-house engineering expertise, said Nathan Bender, director at Aries Rail.
“Every project we work on goes through a controlled engineering design process before releasing into manufacture and then again through various ITP, certification, compliance, and accreditation processes.”
One area that Aries Rail have specialised is in the conversion of heavy trucks for working on rail.
“Large trucks have been a specialty of ours,” said Nathan. “8x4s are large trucks with heavy payloads. As with everything in the design of railways, everything has become bigger and heavier, so the trucks have moved to reflect that.”
To ensure that these larger vehicles were fit for purpose when working in a rail environment, Aries Rail have designed and manufactured their own coil springs to match the spring rate of the parent vehicle, which enable the vehicles to reach a higher load share percentage without overloading.
Another specialty has been the development of air-bagged hi-rail suspensions which is the only safe way to convert an air-bagged truck, something not widely understood in the industry.
Ewan explained that the benefit of designing and manufacturing these kinds of specialist equipment in house means that Aries Rail vehicles can provide a superior and more efficient service.
“Without doing that,” added Nathan, “large trucks on rail payload was severely restricted.”
Meeting this requirement has enabled Aries Rail to supply vehicles that can carry greater loads, maximising their productivity and making large trucks a viable plant and equipment tool.
In addition to the larger vehicles, Aries Rail is also a supplier of light hi-rail vehicles, such as its system for Toyota LandCruisers, has been independently certified for use with driver and passenger airbags.
CERTIFICATION AND SERVICING EXPERTS
In addition to their base in Perth, Aries Rail recently expanded its footprint to Melbourne, to be able to provide 24-hour response to the east coast market.
“We made a strategic decision to base ourselves in Melbourne and move up from there,” said Nathan.
“It gives us that direct after sales support and the comfort that brings for customers making the choice to choose Aries as their fleet provider. Even if it’s Sydney, we can be there with the service truck and a set of tools within 24 hours if need be.”
Having first-hand knowledge of their own equipment allows Aries Rail to know exactly the issues facing any piece of kit.
“Particularly for our own equipment, we’re the designer, the engineer, and the certifier, so we do understand it better than somebody else who may not know the intricacies,” said Nathan.
In addition, with their experience in the design and certification process, Aries Rail can provide ongoing certification services for equipment to be used on every network.
“With our strong engineering background, we’re able to offer that certification process for every network. Then with our eastern states presence and a mobile service truck and a workshop we’re able to offer a recertification and a structured planned service program,” said Nathan.
In addition to engineering, Aries have invested in technical and trade knowledge. “We have our own team of mechanical engineers, we recently employed our own compliance engineer, we have a full time PLC programmer, and we have a full-time welding supervisor so that we comply with AS1554 Structural steel welding, which is required under AS7502,” said Ewan.
“All of our weld designs are tested and our staff are coded against them, to certify we fully conform to industry standards.”
Looking to where the industry is moving in the future, Aries Rail have partnered with Holland Co, the largest mobile flash-butt welding service provider in the world to bring the same dedicated, specialist flash-butt welding service model to Australia. Providing these unique solutions is how Aries will continue to service the Australasian rail industry, said Ewan.
“We’ll continue to evolve and deliver the solutions that the market looks for. It’s hard to see what 15 years ahead will be, but we’ve looked to add complimentary products from around the world to what we can offer the Australian market.”
The new Sentinel Safety product range from PRM Engineering Services includes the latest generation Height and Slew Limiters to allow safe operation around powerlines and within confined spaces. Already in use by rail operators around Australia, the Sentinel Height & Slew range of products can be configured for height only, slew only or height and slew operation to suit your machine or site requirements.
The Sentinel Height and Slew limiters are perfect for the safe operation of excavators, loaders, skid steers and backhoes when working under overhead powerlines, in and around bridges and inside tunnels and can be installed on new and old machines alike. The Sentinel Height and Slew limiters have also been designed with rail operators in mind, with rail specific systems that meet the machine safety requirements of multiple rail authorities.
The Sentinel Height and Slew limiters have been used by rail authorities Australia wide for a several years and can be retrofitted to any machine with articulated booms. Based on these years of experience PRM Engineering Services has developed several features such as predictive height stopping to prevent overshoot, fail to safe motion stop valving, blade and offset boom stops to ensure the operator cannot inadvertently go over height or slew limits and optional password protected menus for supervisor restricted control of limiter related settings.
PRM has also recently released two new optional features; HV Powerline Detection and Automatic Attachment Recognition. By combining the functionality of our widely used Sentinel Height and Slew limiters with a patented Sentinel HV Aerial Module, the system can ensure safe operation around powerlines from the moment the machine is turned on. The system prevents the machine moving within the exclusion zone around powerlines and motion-cut valving prevents the machine from moving closer while allowing the operator to direct the machine away from the electricity source.
Automatic attachment recognition allows the system to recognise up to seven attachments and automatically adjust height settings for the system without operator input. Automatic attachment recognition reduces the risk of incorrect attachment selection and can be used with or without supervisor approval as required.
Brisbane-based PRM Engineering Services are passionate about safety and have a long-standing heritage of safety system design and installation since 2002. With experience in the rail and earthmoving industries, PRM Engineering Services have become integrators and developers of a number of unique safety and control systems that meet customer requirements. These projects have ranged in scope from customisations of height or slew systems through to full redesign of control systems for on-track rail vehicles. Ongoing local support has been provided by the PRM Engineering team during the testing, installation, and operational phases of the technology.
Along with our team of talented engineers, the PRM Group of companies can also assist with the installation or modification of electrical, hydraulic, and control systems for heavy machinery, enabling PRM Engineering Services to offer end-to end innovative and customised solutions to our wide range of customers.
To find out more follow this link: https://prmengineering.com.au/.
Loram is building upon its history of providing the right services to the rail industry with sophisticated expertise in track and infrastructure monitoring technology.
For over 50 years, Loram has been providing rail grinding and track maintenance services to the Australian market. It has become only natural, then for the company to use its expertise in precision rail management to innovate and provide a comprehensive solution when it comes to the interaction of different rail infrastructure assets.
According to Thomas Smith, director business development, cost and consistency are two major issues that are facing rail networks. Having a rich and understandable picture of the track asset can allow for better decisions to be made when it comes to maintenance.
“Having an advanced diagnostic profile of the current health of your track and identifying trends over time allows our customers to migrate to a preventative maintenance program which can save significant money by extending the life of their assets,” said Smith.
Having provided rail grinding, ballast cleaning, and track maintenance equipment and services for decades around the globe, Loram has seen where the gaps are when infrastructure managers are seeking to optimise the upkeep of their network.
“For decades, Loram has had the equipment for repairing and/or maintaining the rail and drainage, including ballast and ditches. Having the ability to know exactly where and how to apply that equipment has been a development process leading Loram to create or acquire the technology it offers today,” said Smith.
This technology has taken Loram’s knowledge of the dynamics affecting track condition and brought a level of precision engineering. For the past 30 years, Loram has been refining its rail grinding through the use of high-speed measuring and analysis, which uses laser camera technology. To analyse track for substructure maintenance, Loram has deployed cutting- edge technology for the last 15 years.
These developments in inspection services have been crystallised into three major areas. The first is rail inspection services, which use rail inspection vehicles (RIV) to collect rail profile, wear, gauge, and cant data. This data is then used to refine a rail grinding program, said Smith.
“Collected data is mapped to exact track locations to positively match the grind plan and applied to the grinder.”
The second area is Loram’s Aurora Track Inspection services. These use imaging technology to scan and reveal the exact condition of below rail infrastructure. Manual detection methods can only detect so much and are limited in terms of the speed at which they can be conducted.
“Aurora can perform inspections at over 65km/h and plays a critical role in prioritising and streamlining our customers’ capital maintenance programs,” said Smith.
Loram’s third area of inspection services are in the field of geotechnical inspection services. These services use tools such as ground penetrating radar and LiDAR scanning technology to measure and analyse geotechnics and substructure. The equipment that performs these scans can be mounted on the vehicle platform most suited to the task, including geometry cars, rail grinders, hi-rail trucks, or other track vehicles.
Taking the results of these services together, Loram can build a solution for a rail infrastructure owner or manager that includes track maintenance as well as formation analysis and remediation. With experience working in many different environments, Loram’s services are able to be delivered in any circumstance.
“Loram hasn’t found a location yet where we couldn’t deploy and manage our services. We recently conducted a geotechnical survey in South America where there wasn’t even rail infrastructure present, only formation. Our technology is set up to be deployed in many situations and can be customised to help meet our customers’ demands,” said Smith.
With the data collected through a combination of these technologies, the next step is to ensure that it is presented in a way that enables actions to be taken and decision to be made. To simplify this, Loram is working on combining data from its various services into a comprehensive track maintenance platform, said Smith.
“The data we collect is technical, time consuming to analyse, and can be overwhelming. That is why the final output that Loram provides our customers simplifies the information into easy-to-understand reports that are customised to our customer’s specific needs.”
With these insights in hand, maintenance can be conducted in a way that uses resources in the most efficient way possible.
“Having the ability to accurately measure the condition of your track assets allows our customers to intelligently and precisely plan maintenance activities with regards to subgrade, ballast, sleepers, components, and rail,” said Smith. “When our customers understand the conditions of these assets and how they degrade over time, then they can take actionable measures to prevent degradation and truly maximise the life of their investments.”
What makes Loram unique, however, is that not only can it identify and monitor issues related to track and infrastructure management, but it has the ability to fix and remedy the issues.
“With all of these inspection and maintenance solutions provided by one company, we have the experience, expertise and historical data to understand how all of the different rail infrastructure assets and dynamics affect each other,” said Smith.
Loram’s own rail grinding and friction management equipment can be deployed to areas of track where defects have been found by rail inspection vehicles. When ballast maintenance is identified as an issue, Loram has an entire fleet of ballast maintenance equipment and geotechnical services that are designed to manage track drainage and quality, or material handling solutions that can pinpoint where extra ballast is needed.
Sleeper maintenance is another area where inspection technology can be used to determine the quality of individual sleepers and components, with the data management to deliver customised reports to the required specification.
“We have this broad range of track data and knowledge from seeing just about any track issue that allows us to help our customers precisely plan, prioritise, and execute track inspection and maintenance on their networks,” said Smith.