Mechanisation of Track Work in Developing Countries

Delegates to the Africa Rail 2013 Conference were given a complimentary copy of this book at registration and the publisher kindly provided me with a review copy for Logistics News. The publisher has indicated that although the first print was done mainly for the delegates to the conference, they intend publishing for the open market, hence the decision to review the title in Logistics News.

I started my professional career as a railway engineer at Transnet Freight Rail (then called SA Transport Services) and the book afforded me many fond memories of my days in departmental maintenance at System Eastern Transvaal. We were doing rail rehabilitation on some of the coal lines on the Eastern Highveld where Plasserail was contracted to do the work with the company’s mechanisation equipment.

This is the first book of its kind that I have found providing a detailed overview of the mechanisation of track work equipment, and how and where it should be used. The content is divided into 18 chapters that covers track maintenance strategy, choosing appropriate maintenance methods, track components, track geometry, infrastructure condition measuring, specific maintenance procedures, dynamic track stabilising, ballast management and cleaning, transport of materials, track maintenance, welding rail handling, formation rehabilitation and overhead electrical maintenance.

The author has included close to 500 colour photographs, schematics and diagrams that make it a pleasure to page through the book and identify the different types of equipment available and recommended for different applications. Of particular value is that the pictures were taken mostly at local or regional railway operations in Africa and not images taken overseas.

The first chapter introduces track maintenance strategy very briefly and includes some diagrams on the condition and design life of the track.

Chapter 2 discusses the choice between mechanised and labourintensive track maintenance and the author concludes that there is a place for both methods to complement each other rather than to be regarded as mutually exclusive.

Chapter 3 covers track components and provides a useful overview of the rail, sleepers, fastening systems, ballast, formation, turnouts and level crossings while Chapter 4 addresses track geometry parameters, curves, rail profile parameters, overhead electrification geometry and clearances.

The next chapter explains the use of infrastructure measuring vehicles and measurement and recording of geometry parameters including rail wear, corrugation and rail flaw detection. It also explains the interpretation of the results. Chapter 6 deals with track lifting, levelling, aligning and tamping with specialised equipment. There are different machines for each application and it is important to choose the right tool for a specific task.

Chapters 8 and 9 cover the function of ballast, the appropriate ballast profile and ballast cleaning machines. This is followed with a chapter on spoil and material conveying and transport systems. Rail maintenance with specific reference to grinding and planing of rails receives attention in Chapter 12 and rail butt welding is covered in Chapter 13.

The next chapter covers the importance of proper turnout transport and installation. Turnouts are very expensive components in the rail line and should be handled with care to prevent unnecessary stresses that could later cause faults in the geometry. Chapter 14 addresses rail handling and transport and explains the use of a rail-carrying train for long welded rails.

It is important to handle these long rails properly to prevent excessive bending and undue stresses induced on the rail. Rail loading and unloading are covered and the correct procedures explained. The next chapter discusses track renewal as all track components have limited life expectancies and have to be replaced at different cycles.

Track relaying or renewal can be done very effectively with labour-intensive and semimechanised methods providing the critical functions such as tamping, ballast regulating and ballast cleaning machines being used.

Chapter 16 deals with formation rehabilitation and why it is needed. Factors that contribute to this need include poor drainage, unstable formation platforms, presence of water and presence of in-situ clays of silts. The last two chapters discuss overhead electrification equipment maintenance and electrification system renewal.

The overhead electrification system generally has a very long life that does not depend on traffic volumes but more on corrosion, vandalism and theft. Appropriate equipment is available to assist with this task in developing countries.

The author has done a good job of covering such a vast amount of information in one volume and the only constructive suggestion that I have for the next edition is that the material could probably be consolidated to reduce the number of chapters and eliminate some perceived repetition. It feels almost as if it is a collection of technical papers or monograms that were joined together in the book.

It is important that the layout should not be seen as trying to cover all mechanical equipment that is available, but rather stick to a structured logical content and to discuss the appropriate technology accordingly.

In conclusion, as mentioned at the start, the book brought many fond memories and I gladly recommend the book for railway engineers, technologists and technicians as a useful reference.

It could also be considered as a text book for an introductory course in railway maintenance for permanent way inspectors and other technical personnel responsible for maintenance of railway lines.

Written by: Leon Zaayman Publisher: Plasser ISBN: 978-0-620-56289-8 Pages: 293

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