Smoothing the Wheel/Rail Interface – Railway Age

Written by

Marybeth Luczak, Editor-in-Chief

Shell & Whitmore Reliability Solutions: Measuring the coefficient of friction with a hand-held tribometer can help determine the performance of the friction modifier and lubricant entrainment.

RAILWAY AGE, JULY 2022 EDITION: Reducing rail wear and dampening noise in tight turns are among the benefits of lubrication and its high-tech equivalent, friction management.

SSuppliers help freight railways and transit agencies maximize safety and performance through lubrication/friction management programs, while reducing costs. Below, they share how, along with their latest products and market insights.

LB Foster

Today, freight railroads are increasingly turning to their friction management programs to maximize fuel savings, according to John Cotter, general manager of Friction Management-Americas. “An efficient program, where we lubricate the wheel/rail interface, can reduce train resistance, which leads to an overall reduction in fuel consumption,” he explains. The age of the railway. “So in today’s inflationary environment and with fuel being one of the biggest expenses for the railroads, they want to make sure they’re getting value from their programs. On the transit side, I think we are seeing a slow return to normal. We’re not there yet in terms of traffic, which influences what we see in terms of consumables spend and friction management in general, but we’re seeing a trend in the right direction towards where we were before the pandemic.

All customers are looking for value, improved efficiency and reduced downtime, says Cotter. This is why interest in remote monitoring of lubrication and friction management equipment is on the rise. Some major railroads take the raw data and analyze it themselves to determine unit performance, while others turn to LB Foster to convert that data into something meaningful, like program availability.

Now in the pipeline at LB Foster are pole mounted units for transit applications. “We have a design that’s been successful in the European market that we’re looking to bring to North America for applications where there are space constraints, like subway tunnels,” says Cotter. “We are also making design improvements to our MC-4 Application Bar to reduce clogging. On the freight side, we are developing an automated switch plate lubrication unit for use on the mainline with possible deployment next year.

Loram Technologies, Inc.

Railroads of all sizes continue to see the benefits of friction management, reports Director of Product Management Bruce Wise. “Class Is tend to install their systems ‘outside’, where shortline and regional railways tend to focus on specific curves or difficult areas where rail damage or track integrity are particularly important.

To ensure system availability, the use of remote monitoring is growing, he says. “Our latest generations are very reliable and require very little energy. Traditionally, many of the remote monitoring systems available were less reliable than the equipment they monitored, and this is changing. »

New to Loram is an updated 25-gallon/200-pound wayside tank and a modular version that can hold up to 200 gallons/1,600 pounds. “Our R&D focus has always been to continue to optimize our existing product lines and design them to be more robust, reliable and easier to install and maintain,” says Wise.

RBL Inc./Robolube

“Rapid response, reliability and simplicity, with the need for more technology embedded in rail equipment,” says Christian Pieper of RBL, Inc./Robolube. Pictured: R2KE-heated switch cabinet at the wayside.

Current market conditions are strong, “as it seems there is more emphasis on friction management to minimize rail wear and all related issues,” said Christian Pieper, rail sales manager. The age of the railway. And with “limited manpower for ‘boots in the field’, remote monitoring capabilities are more in demand,” he notes.

RBL Inc./Robolube is currently working on a towed lubricator that allows transit agencies and streetcar systems to grease rail without using a hi-rail vehicle. Additionally, “with our new wireless remote control for our Hyrail lubricators, we are looking to put all current functions as well as fault and data checks in the palm of your hand with a small, portable LCD device,” reports Pieper. “It will eliminate our control panel in the cabin.”

Shell & Whitmore Reliability Solutions, LLC (SWRS)

The Whitmore® LubriCurve™ PD50 is intended for the application of rail curve grease in light traffic areas and industrial tracks.

In April 2021, Shell and Whitmore formed a 50/50 joint venture, Shell & Whitmore Reliability Solutions, LLC, to provide an integrated portfolio of proprietary products to North American Class I, II and III railroads and mining companies. American (excluding careers). Among them: rail curve greases, top of rail friction modifiers and switch lubricants as well as mining lubricants, as well as locomotive engine oil, traction motor bearing grease and l bearing oil, according to Rail Technical Sales Manager Kevin Adkins.

Shell Gadus (TOR Armor) is applied to the top of the rail by Whitmore® PolyTOR™ Wiper Bars.

“The past year has certainly been a challenge for both railroads and suppliers,” says Adkins. “Rising base oil and additive costs have forced suppliers to pass these increases on to the railroads for friction management products. Supply chain issues have created long lead times for some products. The railways had to scramble to maintain their friction management programs. In terms of services, it appears that more railways are interested in contracting out wayside lubricator filling services and, in some cases, maintenance of these units.

Whitmore® AccuTrack® is designed to help reduce rail wear and noise as well as improve braking. Railways can remotely monitor ground applicators.

As supply chain issues slowly improve, Adkins recounts The Age of the Railroad he is optimistic about the long-term market outlook. “With the steep rise in the cost of steel, it is now more important to extend the life of assets such as rails and train wheels,” he said.

Like LB Foster, SWRS sees the Class I turning to its friction management programs to save fuel. According to Adkins, programs using friction management at the top of the rails, such as Shell Gadus TOR Amor, can help reduce fuel consumption. Another area of ​​interest is all-weather rail curve grease. Using Shell Gadus Rail Armor M and Shell Gadus S3 eliminates the need for seasonal change, and there’s no need to adjust the output for temperature variations, says Adkins.

SWRS is now investigating improved grease thickeners for rail curves which will increase “pumpability”. It also reformulates locomotive engine oils and gear oils to meet AAR specifications and continues testing of a low-temperature top-of-rail friction modifier.


SKF-Lincoln System 200 lbs.

“SKF’s Lincoln roadside system uses precision metering devices, non-contact wheel sensors and a high-pressure pump capable of 5,000 psi,” reports Doug Conger, director of lubrication engineering for the North America. “These elements work together to ensure that the exact amount of lubricant is applied to the face of the gauge at predetermined intervals.”

The system is also capable of lubricating multiple tracks in marshalling yards, for example. “A loop can have three or more concentric tracks where normally multiple tank units would be needed,” Conger points out. “With a Lincoln wayside system, all three lanes can be controlled separately with one tank, pump and controller. This consolidation reduces the overall footprint of the tanks needed for the application.

Remote monitoring has been a feature of SKF Lincoln systems for years, providing instant updates on lubricator status. “Receiving information about grease level, solar power and axle count is extremely valuable data that is used for efficient maintenance planning,” says Conger.

Customers are more often requesting biodegradable lubricants to support environmental efforts, he adds. “Lincoln’s wayside lubrication system can pump NLGI #2 bio grease and can also accept many types of curved greases that are used in the railroad industry,” he says. “The precise application of these greases greatly reduces spillage by allowing the wheels to pick up and transfer the grease to the rail.”

TRAC LLC Lubricants and Coatings

TRAC, based in Yeadon, Pa., has been helping solve lubrication and corrosion problems for the rail freight and transit industry since 1992, said vice president and general manager Rudy Rorer. The Age of the Railroad. The company offers five switch plate lubricants, two of which are biodegradable (Ultra Green and Ultra Glide), and a variety of rail/flange lubricants. Winterized versions – for applications in temperatures down to -30 to -40 degrees F – are also available. “We continue to develop new formulas that are environmentally friendly while using materials that will require less frequent application, thereby reducing labor requirements,” reports Rorer.

TRAC is currently refining a dry film lubricant (molybdenum disulfide) for switch plates and rail ledges to replace grease or other liquid lubricants. “Molybdenum disulfide is an inert material, so it’s environmentally friendly, and once it’s applied it breaks down and browns in the metal, so you’ll get longer wear – something like 30% – and see less wear and tear on your switches,” he explains. switch plates, but also for rail curves, which would mix molybdenum disulphide and water.