Although railroad companies own the vast majority of overland track in the United States, there are miles and miles of rail line owned by much smaller companies. Private ports, logistics companies, manufacturers, and many other industries all require their own sections of track to deliver goods to main lines without the need for intermodal transport. If your business falls into this category, then you may not consider the inspection and maintenance of your tracks to be a high priority.
Unfortunately, small track issues can become significant problems rapidly. Failing track can impact core business operations, risk the safety of your workers, and even expose your company to severe legal liability. Having a proper inspection and repair plan in place is the best way to avoid these issues.
Performing Regular Inspections
Even if your company is only responsible for a few hundred feet of railroad track, it is still essential to have regular inspections performed by experienced railway contractors. Inspectors must not only consider the condition of the ties and rails but the ballast and foundation as well. Drainage issues can be particularly common in industrial settings, and problems may not be immediately apparent without careful inspection. Significant drainage issues can lead to shifts in the foundation, which will ultimately make it difficult or impossible to maintain a level track surface.
Heavily used rails will also abrade and wear over time, requiring periodic grinding to remain in usable condition. Likewise, ties (or sleepers) can rot, lose their ability to provide proper support, or otherwise fail in ways that can be dangerous to the rolling stock. It is vital to recognize these issues as early as possible to avoid creating potentially hazardous situations.
Dealing With Repairs
When inspectors discover a problem, it is vital to halt track usage immediately. Even minor issues require evaluation to determine how they will impact the overall safety of the track. Once the problem has been thoroughly evaluated, the proper course of action will depend on its type and severity.
For most rail issues, grinding is enough to bring the track back into a usable state. If the problem is severe, or if the rails are particularly old, then replacement may be required. Damaged or worn-out ties can rarely be fixed, so replacement of the affected sleepers is usually the appropriate remedy. Note that failed sleepers are a particularly severe issue, as they can create the potential for derailments.
Foundation or ballast issues (generally caused by drainage problems) often require more involved repairs. These issues can typically affect the overall track geometry or make it impossible to shore up existing ties and correct track level problems. Fixing these issues will usually require identifying the source of the underlying problem before the track can be repaired.
Choosing the Right Contractor
You may not be in the railway business, but your core operations depend on safe, adequately maintained tracks. To keep your lines in good shape, be sure to choose a contractor with experience in both railway inspection and repair. Periodic inspections and timely repairs will guarantee that your tracks stay safe and your goods can be shipped off without incident.
Speak to companies like GTA Rail & Road Services for more information.