Trends in ballast management

As Progressive Railroading reported in its 2017 MOW Spending Report in April, maintenance-of-way spending is expected to remain essentially flat this year for Class Is, regionals and short lines.

While total spending on MOW projects may be down at several railroads, plenty still are dedicating funds to ballast maintenance along their rail lines in 2017. For example, among Class Is that have scheduled ballast installations, BNSF Railway Co. plans to install 5.1 million net tons of ballast; CN, 1.4 million tons; Norfolk Southern Railway, 2.3 million tons; CSX, 2.6 million tons; and Ferrocarril Mexicano/Ferrocarril del Sureste S.A. de C.V., 1.02 million tons.

At least one rail-line owner — the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) — made a significant change this year to its ballast management program for 300 miles of state-owned rail lines. In April, the department announced it acquired from FreightCar America Inc. 20 steel hopper cars with electronic gates used to dispense ballast. The purchase ended the department’s previous practice of leasing cars for ballast installation.

To find out more about what's happening in ballast maintenance, I recently asked several suppliers and equipment providers to describe what they're offering customers in the way of ballast delivery, installation, maintenance and service. Ten responded, and provided their responses via email. You can read what they had to say by clicking on this link.

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