Speakers and Topics: Rail Transit Sessions Abstract
Topic: Maintenance of Way: The Feedback Loop for Design
Presenter: Mike McGinley
Traditional large railroad and transit agencies have a comprehensive engineering department that encompasses the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of the infrastructure. Many small railroads and transit agencies cannot support a comprehensive engineering organization and rely upon consultants and contractors to perform these functions. This report examines the role of the maintenance and operation arms of the engineering departments in refining design and assuring quality of constructed work using details of the WRI to illustrate this concept.
Maintenance of Way (MofW) has been deemed a secondary role for engineers compared to the intellectual challenges of designing and building new infrastructure. One design engineer of a major railroad claims “MofW is just like doing the dishes, as soon as you are done, you have to do it again.” Indeed, many of the challenges of a railroad Operating and Maintenance (O&M) area are in leadership and cost control instead of refreshing new technical concepts. While it may appear O&M is not really Professional Engineering, this is not true: all decisions relating to safe, reliable, economical O&M of an enterprise rely of sound Engineering judgment. In many rail systems the largest investment is the track as installed; protecting this asset to assure that it will achieve the planned service life is again the duty of the Engineers in charge. The lessons learned in O&M are extremely valuable in assuring wise design and investment decisions.
All railroad and transit operations are under competitive and political pressure to reduce costs; it is always the duty of the Engineering profession to deliver designs and constructed infrastructure that are the most economical solution to providing the utility needed for the enterprise. There will be some balancing of the need to save costs in construction vs. saving future O&M costs; it is the duty of Engineers to provide the owners with the facts that these choices can be based upon.
This conference on the Wheel/Rail Interface (WRI) gives us an opportunity to examine the way that a complete feedback loop can guide designers to appropriate choices for optimum performance of the WRI of rail systems. Below are some representative issues that can be used to illustrate these concepts.
Our use of the term “design” must include all stages of achieving a completed project:
Alignment of track and special trackwork
Suspension, propulsion, and braking systems of vehicles
Operating speed and stopping locations (which may be constrained by power or braking parameters)
Specifications used in procurement
Inspection and tests used in procurement and/or construction
In appropriate or absent rail friction devices
Inappropriate choice of superelevation vs. speed
Inappropriate choices of special trackwork
Inappropriate details of embedded track
Inappropriate design of wheel/rail interface: wheel profile and rail profiles
Inappropriate rail grinding specification for profiles and finish
Absent guidance on life cycle preservation through maintenance: lubrication, grinding, surfacing, etc.
Peer group reviews of designs and specifications
Peer group visits to similar properties and consultation with maintenance and operating personnel
Consultant consultation with construction, operating and maintenance staff early in design