Railcar War Machine

You can tell it’s fall when the crazy looking LORAM devices start showing up on tracks in my part of the world. Last October we saw a rail grinder working the steel west of the CSX East Syracuse yards. This time we have shoulder ballast cleaner sitting on siding that places host to plenty of weird loads and other equipment. I didn’t have my normal camera with me so my cell phone had to fill the gap. It did OK in the fast approaching twilight.


So what are we looking at with this Rube Goldberg device? I’ll let LORAM tell us.

Loram HP Shoulder Ballast Cleaners are selfpropelled and use twin 30-inch wide digging buckets to clean ballast from the tie ends outward to the edge of the ballast section, digging as deep as 16-inches below the top of tie. Scarifier teeth undercut the tie ends to 5-inches, breaking up mud pockets and restoring drainage. A conveyor transfers the fouled ballast to a series of vibrating screens where fines are separated and discharged up to 29 feet from the centerline of track. The screen is set at an optimum angle for proper separation of fines and ballast. Screen level is adjustable to compensate for super elevation and to transfer ballast from side-to-side as required. The Loram HP then distributes the cleaned ballast along either or both shoulders and regulates to the shape specified by the railroad. Any ballast that may have come to rest on top of the tie ends is then broomed into the ballast section. When the job is done, the Loram HP moves efficiently to the next work site at speeds of up to 48 mph.

This setup has been slightly modified as the fouled ballast is not shot off into the weeds but into a vintage Cheesie System hopper. It’s amazing how complex the modern world is. I never thought that so much effort had to be placed into keeping the stones underneath railroad track in good shape but that is the sole purpose of this machine. It digs along the track helping to release water that has become trapped in the ballast. Over time this water causes frost heaves and all other kinds of issues.


It would be fun to see this whole setup at work.


I shot a video of this train as I walked along taking in the details. Warning: Slightly shaky video ahead. Stop by the LORAM site to see more photos of this machine along with a more detailed explanation of its specifications and job duties.


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