Monday, October 03, 2005

Summary of AREMA Presentations at the 2005 Annual Conference

AREMA Presentations basically fall into three catagories.

One catagory is a review of recently completed and significant projects of Railroad Construction. The second catagory is a projection of upcoming work. The third catagory involves some sort of overview of recent advances in technology.

The 2005 Conference had a good selection from all three catagories. In fact, most with whom I spoke echoed the same idea that almost all presentations were beneficial, and that the Conference exceeded all expectations.

Current and completed projects included a fine presentation by TransSystems about the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program. The Union Pacific Railroad outlined some of their new thinking about Advances in Material Distribution Methods, although theirs was more an update and refinement of previously tried methods. That's OK, I think the Ancient Greeks defined creativity as refinement and improvement of the existing rather than coming up with something entirely new.

TransSystems got another "attaboy" with the award of the Dr. W. W. Hay Award for Excellence, for their participation in the Kansas City Bypass Project.

Mike McGinley and Gordon Bachinsky did not disappoint in their joint presentation concerning SCRRA's Turnkey Rail Maintenance Service Contract. The message that I took away is that a smallish system like Southern California's Metrolink can actually end up with a better program for rail and track geometry maintenance than some of the mungungous Class Ones with their dedicated staff. Very interesting, and very applicable to many other small systems, both public and private.

Future work discussed included a revealing description of what work must be done to double track BNSF's route thru Abo Canyon, east of Belen, New Mexico. This was the sort of presentation that makes you proud to be associated with railroad engineering. Anyone who had been in the Abo Canyon area knew of the challenge of simply adding a track. But Mr. Zucker and Mr. Magistro of HDR Engineering detailed how considerations were given to archeological sites of the Anasazi, as well as to species of animals recently introduced by the New Mexico Game and Fish Department. The design for the much needed second track in this area has evolved from the very serious consideration of many, many inputs.

Typical of presentations concerning updated technology was Dr. Bonaventura of Zeta-Tech Associates, who gave a convincing presentation about how simple modifications to turnout geometry created a measureably smoother ride with less loading on all turnout components. Only problem was addressed by a question from the audience: "Have you or will you publish the specifics of the changes?" Dr. Bonaventura said, simply, no. I recall a presentation done many years ago by Dr. Raymond of Canada, where he noted changes to the AREA (American Railway Engineering Association) Standards used at that time for ballast. His case was convincing. But nothing further has happened because apparently, nothing was published. I hope that the improvements noted by Dr. Bonaventura do not slip into oblivion.

Many other presentations shed light on updates in procedures and thinking. Some of those will be noted in a day or two. It was almost all very worthwhile.


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