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Rail News Home Union Pacific Railroad

November 2006



Rail News: Union Pacific Railroad

Class I MOW Executives: In Their Own Words



VERN GRAHAM
Vern Graham is Vice President, engineering operations for Canadian Pacific Railway. His rail career, which began in 1973 as an MOW extra gang laborer, includes stints at the Milwaukee and Soo Line railroads. Graham joined CPR in 1999 as General Manager, Field Operations. He was appointed AVP, Engineering Operations, in 2001, and promoted to his current post in 2003.
What new techniques, technology or equipment are you employing to help complete this year's MOW work?
To maximize our equipment utilization and optimize our crew costs, we have endeavored to focus on high-speed production equipment, and balanced our crew sizes to optimize this equipment. This has enabled us to focus on key equipment. For instance, tie crew equipment has had a step function improvement based on improved reliability and productivity from our TRIPP tie extractors/inserters and Nordco CX Spikers. To allow the main crew to function at maximum capacity, the surfacing component was redesigned utilizing the Plasser Dynacat to minimize and or eliminate any 10 mph slow orders behind the "Super" tie crews and keep pace with the main crew.

Within our steel crews, we have used the puller lite system to reduce closure weld time for our electric flash-butt welding

operation. This has allowed us to improve productivity by up to one additional site in a curve patch crew or up to 10 percent production improvement per block. This process has also nearly eliminated any joints to be welded being left behind our production rail crews. We also have developed a process to recondition all relay rail that comes out of the track from a rail program. We cut out all pre-existing thermite welds and any joints that are in the strings before we load the rail onto our rail trains. This reduces the time required to load a rail train and improves the laying of the rail once unloaded since the rail crew laying the rail does not have to perform those tasks during the laying process. We have seen at least a 10 percent improvement in production rates in these crews, as well.

We have also enhanced our Capacity Management Work Block Planning team by including in this group the team responsible for the handling of company material. They have co-located within the team a member of the Strategic Sourcing group who is in direct contact with suppliers and our production crews performing the work. They can avert any unexpected shortages of material that may impact production. The team has proven their worth many times this year in that we did not have one crew fall short of material.

Lastly, we utilize the GPS PLUS train to distribute ballast for all of our production crews. This year, in six months, we unloaded more than 320,000 tons with our one train and enjoyed cycle times of 81 hours.

What's garnering the most attention this year in the MOW department — such as bridges, ties or track — and why?
Our tie crews are our most critical component within our track programs for 2006. We increased our tie program to nearly 1 million ties this year and this has increased the number of track blocks required to install these ties, thus consuming corridor capacity.

The Capacity Management Workblock Planning team is accountable for ensuring that both transportation and engineering can achieve their objectives, enabling work to be performed and still enable our railway to operate the same number of trains on a daily basis. In the West, we adopted offsetting work schedules with our tie crews in order that we would only have one major track block from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and Vancouver, British Columbia. This enabled us to accomplish the planned work within the schedule and still handle the projected volume of traffic.

What are you doing to ensure your railroad has enough manpower — and experienced workers — to carry out this year's projects?
We did some creative hiring in 2006. We spent more time in the smaller communities targeting people that may not have been aware in the past that the railway was hiring. This helped maintain greater stability to our crews in 2006.

We also have a two-week orientation for all new hires to show them what their job is all about and build up their confidence so that when the crew starts, they are familiar with the work to be performed, the tools to be used and the equipment they will be working around. The turnover rate for new hires has been much better than in the past. We also have a mentor program for all new hires while they are on the crew. The purpose is to ensure they are trained on the work to be done, and that they can do that work in a safe and efficient manner. As a result, we have seen nearly a 40 percent improvement in safety with our production crews this year.

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DON BAGLEY
Don Bagley is Vice President-Engineering for CSX Transportation. From 1968 through 2000, he served in various engineering department capacities with Norfolk Southern Railway and NS predecessor, the Southern Railway. Bagley joined CSXT as VP-Engineering in 2004.
What new techniques, technology or equipment are you employing to help complete this year's MOW work?
Two new high-production rail grinders were built and placed in service this year for CSXT by Harsco Track Technologies. These 120-stone machines are designed to optimize metal removal per grinding pass, and operate at higher track speeds, maximizing use of track time. In addition, these machines are equipped to grind highway-rail crossings in the same pass while performing the out-of-face grinding. New techniques and computer software are being employed for evaluating and rating rail conditions to identify where grinding should be performed and at what frequency.

CSXT has implemented its computer-based track inspector system called “ITIS” (Integrated Track Inspection System). Phase 1 integrated the automatic inspection performed by the geometry cars with the visual field inspection by track inspectors. Geometry exceptions found by the geometry cars are tagged with a GPS location and entered into field inspectors’ laptop computers. As the field inspector traverses the track during normal inspections, the computer uses the GPS location of the exception and provides an audible alert when a location is attained. Phase 2 uses the computer as a tool for inspection and management purposes by monitoring tracks traversed, physical assets inspected, and compliance to inspection schedules; and for providing electronic recording and filing of reports.

What's garnering the most attention this year in the MOW department — such as bridges, ties or track — and why?
CSXT is continuing its focus on addressing rail conditions through its curve patch, out-of-face rail, and aggressive rail grinding programs. The benefits of these programs are starting to be realized from the reduced number of service failures being experienced.

To aid in the prioritization of what types of projects should garner the most attention, CSXT has recently completed a technology project that selects tie, rail and surfacing projects based on multiple criteria. This risk-based system is called Track Structure Capitalization Request Management System (TSCRMS). For tie and surfacing projects, the program searches a database to select candidate locations based on age and tonnage. For out-of-face rail projects, the program searches for locations of high defect density. Patch rail projects are pre-selected based on wear measurements from the laser data derived from geometry cars. Once candidate areas are found, division officers perform field checks and submit jobs that are appropriate. The proposed projects are entered into a database and ranked according to criteria related to the performance and demands of that specific route. Criteria include tonnage, slow order history, simple track geometry and track structure performance data. This tool enables CSXT to invest capital dollars in the areas of greater risk. This uniform method of evaluating and selecting capital projects is expected to enhance track reliability and provide a greater return on investment dollars.

What are you doing to ensure your railroad has enough manpower — and experienced workers — to carry out this year's projects?
During the past two years, CSXT has hired 675 new MOW employees, which dramatically exceeds our attrition of 378 employees during 2005 and 2006 year to date. Each of these new employees has been sent to our new centralized training center in Atlanta, called the REDI Center (Railroad Education and Development Institute), for a one-week intensive orientation and training class prior to being assigned to a field location. After their initial assignment, each employee is identified with an armband to aid in observation and training by co-workers and managers during their first year.

With the implementation of the REDI Center, we have provided training classes for over 200 track inspectors, as well as foremen, bridge and signal employees, while an extensive training program for welders is being developed.

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WAYNE E. RUSSELL
Wayne E. Russell is Vice President & Chief Engineer for Florida East Coast Railway L.L.C. He began his railway career in 1964 as a chainman for the Santa Fe Railway, where he served in various engineering capacities for the next 35 years. He retired from BNSF (as Assistant Vice President of Maintenance) in 1999 and joined FEC in 2000.
What new techniques, technology or equipment are you employing to help complete this year's MOW work?
Here, as with most roads, new technology does not move with lightning speed but rather with caution and steadfastness. However, we are doing, trying and succeeding with a few things that will add life to our physical plant, improve efficiencies and control cost.

This year, we adopted the standard of using dual-treated ties. Field testing done by the Norfolk Southern in conjunction with the Railway Tie Association has convinced us that the dual treating process will definitely improve tie life in areas where we operate.

On the technology/efficiency front, we are equipping our line of road personnel with wireless “tool-bags” loaded with all the programming they need to take care of their administrative duties, such as payroll, production

reports, human resource requirements and, of course, the ever-expanding use of email. The most intriguing “tool” in the wireless tool bag is the DigiCon traffic control package. This package allows our field people to see where the trains are across the territory, which in turn helps them better prioritize their work schedules and maximize on-track time. Not only does this package help the field personnel — it cuts down the calls and waiting time to and from the control operators.

The last thing I want to talk about is a piece of equipment we introduced to our property last year: the Mud Mantis. A team from Harsco Track Technologies, and FEC roadway equipment and track people developed this machine jointly. Like all roads, we are in a constant battle with fouled ballast. Prior to the Mud Mantis, we were fighting the smaller mud locations with a “spot” undercutter and wasting all the material, the salvageable ballast and the waste. In this “waste all” scenario, we were unloading about two-and-one-half cars of ballast every work day to restore the track surface. Since we don’t have a quality ballast source and must pay the going freight rates to and from our ballast source, the cost of ballast is very important.

What's garnering the most attention this year in the MOW department — such as bridges, ties or track — and why?
2006 has been and continues to be a busy year in all areas of MOW, but our biggest emphasis has been on capacity expansion programs. We started out the year completing construction of a new yard near Miami and then rolled right into a double-track project near the center of our property. The double-track project is just like other expansion projects going on within the industry: You have to minimize the time delays for meets and passes, pickups and setouts. This is what was happening near the center of our property. The northbound and southbound fleets were getting hit with traffic delays, and we needed a relief valve to keep traffic fluid.

What are you doing to ensure your railroad has enough manpower — and experienced workers — to carry out this year's projects?
Historically, FEC did almost everything with its own resources — including grading, new track construction, all of the usual programmed maintenance, as well as the day-to-day maintenance.

As technology advanced over the years, it became increasingly difficult to justify spending capital on resources that might not be fully utilized. Since we have more flexibility than Class Is with our labor resources, we look to companies that provide services with state-of-the-art equipment and the needed labor resources. In many cases, these service providers become specialists in one or two areas of MOW work; they realize that if they want to continue providing their services, they must continue to invest in quality equipment and training. Our biggest challenge becomes getting materials on the ground for the service provider at a time when he is within a reasonable distance of our property. This minimizes mobilization cost and helps maximize the use of the provider’s resources.

As for experienced workers: We are in the same boat as some of the other roads. Our all-around experienced workers are beginning to hit retirement age. The remaining people are either way down on the seniority roster or satisfied with their existing jobs. What we are going to do is establish a training program that will focus on the basics of track maintenance.

Since our forces focus on the day-to-day maintenance, they need a good knowledge of turnout maintenance, spot surfacing, the do’s and don’ts in maintaining CWR, track inspection, administrative duties, and so on. We want to give those who want to move up the opportunity to participate and succeed. To apply, they will have to meet some basic educational qualifications, and then go through an interview process before being admitted into the program. Prior to entering the program, they must agree to stay with the program for a definite period of time; during the program, they must reach certain milestones within a given period of time. Training will be a combination of class work and related field experiences.

Once they have completed the course, they will be considered a qualified foreman and will take their place as roster allows. We want to establish a similar program for our welding personnel.

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GARY W. WOODS
Gary W. Woods has been Vice President Engineering for Norfolk Southern Railway since 2000. Before that, he served as Assistant Vice President MW&S, Region Chief Engineer, Division Engineer and in other positions. Woods started with the Norfolk and Western Railway in 1967.
What new techniques, technology or equipment are you employing to help complete this year's MOW work?
Our planned work for 2006 is on schedule due to technology that combines our track work schedule with train schedules and provides the best work window to do our work. Even though we have higher volumes of traffic, train delays this year have been less than last year. We work closely with the transportation and marketing departments to schedule our work. On some heavily used line segments, we will have several production gangs working to get the job done quickly in order to return train traffic to normal as fast as possible.

Since track time is our most important need, we must be very productive when given the time. This year, we have increased the size of our timber and surfacing gangs by adding an additional tie remover/inserter, anchor spreader, tie crane and anchor adjusting machine to each gang to increase our productivity. As always, we continue to look for opportunities with our equipment to increase productivity and reduce personnel. We continue to upgrade our tampers, spikers and plate jacks with the latest technology to increase maintenance cycles and increase production.

Wherever a large production gang works, we take advantage of that track time to schedule other maintenance forces, such as thermite welders, our super jack flash-butt welding trucks and our bridge forces, into the area to be more productive.

We have initiated a five-year program to chemically spray brush along our right of way and eliminate the need for mechanical brush control.

What's garnering the most attention this year in the MOW department — such as bridges, ties or track — and why?
Our focus on all these items has stayed the same. Each is important and requires a great deal of attention. Management has given us the capital to take care of these items sufficiently.

We have focused a lot of effort and money on track lubrication and top-of-rail lubricators in order to reduce rail wear, loss of gauge and lateral forces. Old-style lubricators are being replaced with state-of-the-art, solar-powered lubricators and top-of-rail lubricators. We plan to increase our rail and tie replacement in yards and continue our replacement of defective yard switches with panel turnouts.

Our bridge department's capital and maintenance programs continue to keep our bridges in good shape.

What are you doing to ensure your railroad has enough manpower — and experienced workers — to carry out this year's projects?
This is the most important issue facing our company. We are seeing, and will continue to see, a huge number of retirements over the next several years in agreement and non-agreement ranks. So far, we have been able to keep up with the attrition. Our human resource department has worked hand-in-hand with us to hire the most qualified individuals.

NS has a culture of having the safest railroad employee with a “can-do” attitude and that requires time, training and the help of existing personnel to mold a new employee into that type of employee.

We have training for management trainees and other operating department supervisors to help each one learn as much as possible before taking on supervision responsibilities.

We believe we are well-positioned to absorb the upcoming retirements and replace the retirees with highly qualified and multi-talented individuals.

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BILL WIMMER
Bill Wimmer is Vice President - Engineering for the Union Pacific Railroad. He is responsible for all aspects in engineering, which includes design, construction signal, structures, track programs and maintenance. He began his railroad career in 1957 with the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad.
What new techniques, technology or equipment are you employing to help complete this year's MOW work?
The completion of two significant initiatives in 2006 will aid the effort to complete this year’s MOW work.

First, the TRT909 (track renewal train) is starting to meet our productivity goals. Thanks to new processes like pre-loading the pads and clipping system, and the electric induction rail heating system, we are able to build better quality track with higher productivity than ever before.

Second, we have finalized our ballast management system. We now have the ability to measure our ballast needs with a laser measuring device on our Evaluator car, calculate the exact amount of ballast needed to replace shoulders and support a track raise, and automatically unload the ballast with a Herzog Plus train. The final step in the system is the acquisition of a Ballast Distribution System machine that can regulate and dress ballast in one pass. This process has resulted in higher safety and productivity in unloading ballast, cost savings by using accurate unloading volumes and track time efficiency by one pass ballast regulating.

What's garnering the most attention this year in the MOW department — such as bridges, ties or track — and why?
Most of our attention this year is focused on ties. Tighter “green” tie supplies, fewer treatment plants and increasing demand are issues we are dealing with. We are installing record numbers of wood cross ties across our system to meet the demands of increased traffic.

We are also installing record numbers of concrete ties, in new track construction as well as with our track renewal operation, to accommodate the axle loads associated with increasing heavy-haul traffic. We continue to work with suppliers of alternative material ties in an effort to find ties that are more compatible with our high moisture areas than either wood or concrete.

What are you doing to ensure your railroad has enough manpower — and experienced workers — to carry out this year's projects?
With the baby boomer generation beginning to retire, we are faced with hiring employees to fill this increased attrition, as well as expanding our workforce to accommodate the increased demands for rail transportation.

To ensure we would have enough workers, we started setting up job pools at a variety of locations across our property at the beginning of last year. By continuously recruiting qualified people into these pools, we have been able to bring new hires onto the property to begin training in less than half the time it took a couple years ago. By hiring new employees every year, we not only keep up with attrition, but are moving each class through the experience cycle. This allows us to continue to have a mix of new employees and more seasoned employees.

We are also recruiting significantly more people into our Operating Management Training program. Recognizing that a significant number of our management employees will be retiring in the next 10 years, we are getting the next generation equipped to lead our company.

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Browse articles on Vern Graham Canadian Pacific Don Bagley CSX Wayne Russell Florida East Coast Railway Gary Woods Norfolk Southern Bill Wimmer Union Pacific

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