State-of-the-art tamper reports for duty

When a machine costs more than a million dollars, you don’t just have it delivered. That’s why Roadmaster Tony Balich, Equipment Maintenance Supervisor John Oliver and Terminal Engineer Alex Kurec visited Harsco Rail’s Ludington, Mich., facility to perform a product review of its new 6700SJ2 PD Production/Switch Tamper.

“It was an educational, and enjoyable experience,“ Kurec said. “We’re already using the new tamper, and it’s been phenomenal.”

While the older tamper, manufactured in 1998, isn’t going anywhere, the new machine will take a primary role. 

“We got our money’s worth out of the old one,” he said. 

The new machine will be more reliable from a maintenance perspective and more efficient and productive as well, Kurec said. He notes it tamps track significantly faster than the old machine. 

“We will get more bang for our buck,” Kurec said. 

It’s presently being used mostly in the yard, but it will inevitably be used all over the Belt, including mainline track. He explained that properly tamped track is more stable, which eliminates metal fatigue and slow orders, and offers crews a better ride quality. 

While Machine Operator Aaron Okon is the first to use the machine to tamp BRC track, Balich had the honor of being the first employee to run it. He fired it up on Harsco’s test track, which is adjacent to the manufacturing facility. The test lasted three hours and included some training. Afterward, Harsco performed final system tests, calibrations and paint touch-ups. Oliver then arranged transport of the machine to the Belt, which was delivered March 7. 

A Harsco systems trainer then visited the Belt for two weeks to help onboard employees. The service came with the purchase price, but it was hardly superfluous. The new tamper is significantly more technologically advanced than the old tamper, which is still mostly manually operated. Kurec believes the Belt also should consider participating in an advanced training seminar in South Carolina. 

The trip to Harsco included a detailed tour of the facility. Kurec found it interesting that Harsco makes all of its components in house with the exception of rail wheels. Harsco employees use as many as 13 computer numeric control (CNC) machines to do the work. They also bend all the sheet steel and perform all welding on each fabricated piece, Kurec said. All wiring harnesses as well as hydraulics are made at the facility as well.

“We were able to see various states of assembled 6700 tampers that are being fabricated for Union Pacific, BNSF and other railroad contractors,” he said.