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Overhead Crane Company Gets Innovative Coal Rail Car Project On Track

Coal dust is a murky problem. Open rail cars carry coal from mines to power companies throughout the country and coal dust blows from the cars, gathering on and around the rail tracks. As the demand for this cheap and plentiful energy source increases, more coal, more coal dust. That much is clear, but what's less obvious is the effect of coal dust on the tracks and who's responsible for it. Two train derailments in May 2005 in the coal-rich Powder River Basin in Wyoming pushed coal dust into the limelight. BNSF, a major railway company in the western United States, maintains that coal dust buildup prevents water from draining from track beds and pushes steel rails out of gauge, causing detrailments. Railways, shippers, power companies and the federal Surface Transportation Board are now involved in investigating the impact of coal dust, determining who is responsible for cleaning it off the tracks, finding containment solutions, and getting the bills paid for the solutions. The last point isn't much of a question. The costs will trickle down to consumers of electrical energy”all of us.

One solution is coming from two Indiana companies. Structural Composites of Indiana (SCI) has designed fiberglass covers for coal rail cars with several advantages over uncovered rail cars: The covers protect the coal from the elements, a covered car is aerodynamic thereby increasing the fuel efficiency of the train, and covers prevent coal dust from polluting the air and falling on rail tracks. SCI also designed an innovative system to open and close the covers' sliding doors called the Wedge and Funnel, system. SCI needed a company to manufacture the Wedge and Funnel and they chose Hoosier Crane Service Company in Elkhart, Indiana.

Hoosier Crane Service Company designs, fabricates, installs, and services overhead cranes. "Hoosier Crane has a good reputation. They're a vendor for railroad freight car manufacturer that specializes in coal-carrying rail cars so they were familiar with the industry," said Ken Baranowski, President of SCI. The Wedge and Funnel systems have component and structural commonalities with overhead cranes and Hoosier Crane's engineering expertise made the company the ideal choice to build the unique structures. "Working with Hoosier Crane has been a good experience, they're responsive and they know what they're doing," said Mr. Baranowski.

A coal carrier will need two Wedge and Funnel systems: One at the loading station at the mine and one at the power plant's unloading station. Each system has two components”a retractable wedge actuator bridge to open the cover and a retractable funnel actuator bridge to close the cover. The systems don't need a motor as the momentum of the rail cars activates the actuators, thus providing an energy-savings for the carrier. At the mine, the wedge actuator opens the cover so coal can be loaded. Located about 150 feet from the wedge bridge, the funnel actuator closes the cap as the car moves down the track. At the utility, the wedge actuator opens the cover to relieve pressure before the coal is unloaded in the bottom-discharged cars and the funnel actuator closes the cover, again as the coal car moves down the track. The empty, covered rail cars are more aerodynamic than open cars and the carriers will realize another fuel savings when the cars travel back to the loading stations.

"The Hoosier Crane team is pleased to be working with SCI. We're confident that their rail car covers and Wedge and Funnel systems will revolutionize the coal transportation industry and keep coal as a viable solution to our energy needs," said Tom Schmidt, President of Hoosier Crane.

Structural Composites of Indiana and Hoosier Crane have provided covers and a Wedge and Funnel system for a rail carrier with 80 cars and a power plant in North Dakota. While the outcome over the coal dust debates hasn't settled, the Wedge and Funnel has many benefits to the railroad industry and Hoosier Crane anticipates adding staff and factory space to meet the demand. "We've already had several discussions on expanding our fabrication area. We also have plenty of room to expand our manufacturing facility," added Mr. Schmidt. - See more at: http://www.free-press-release.com/news-overhead-crane-company-gets-innov...