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Harsco Rail advances technology in track maintenance and repair

Track maintenance in North America is similar to the rest of the world, in that many functions can be quite labour intensive and subject to countless variations. Over the past 10 years, track maintenance machines have become increasingly automated, but certain areas still require the strength and attention of trained operators. Chris Larsen, Harsco Rail Product Manager, writes about their progress in track maintenance automation, providing information about their machine vision system; the functions it performs and plans for future development.

Harsco camera sensor track maintenance

Harsco Rail’s camera sensor and Tie Finder probes mounted under a Drone Anchor Spreader

Particular tasks related to track maintenance, such as spike/fastener application or removal, or spot tie removal, are examples of work that still require the trained eye of an operator to accurately find the area to be worked on. Not only does the operator have to move a machine weighing over 20 tonnes from tie to tie, but then they must finely move a workhead to within a fraction of an inch of a spike to be pulled. Such work requires precision, strength and concentration, allowing little room for error and so its automation would be of great benefit to rail companies.

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