The following is the exact text from EarthMovers magazine issue 60 April 2009
(Words and pictures by EarthMovers magazine, all information correct at time of print, April 2009)
Rail work is a highly specialised activity and requires major commitment for a fleet of appropriate machinery.
As one of the most progressive Irish plant hire companies specialising in the needs of rail work, Co Louth based Seamus Duffy Plant Hire is reaping the rewards of diversification into this sector of the industry.
Having established his business in 1986, Seamus Duffy initially concentrated on site clearance, excavations and earthmoving with a large fleet of dedicated plant. However, his foresight suggested a need for diversification, which resulted in a gradual transition into rail services in 1992. Initially this provided the ideal accompaniment to general muck shifting work, but soon expanded to become the company’s’ principal revenue-earner.
In contrast to the equipment required for conventional muck-shifting projects, rail equipment called for a much greater level of commitment due to the specialist nature of the work and the considerable expense involved. However Seamus was undeterred by the considerable financial burden this involved and saw the growing potential in this area as sufficient justification for the move.
Having signalled his intent to serve this growing sector, Seamus required his first machine- a Case 688 road-rail excavator, which was typical of the plant operated by many other rail service providers at the time. However later additions went beyond that of most competitors in the sector as the company showed an innovative streak to serve a number of specialist niches.
Continual development is important to any business and Seamus believes it is vitally important to the long-term viability of the operation. He said, “From our starting point with a single rail machine, we were constantly looking for ways to provide the complete service. This led us to our present position with a range of machines and attachments for every rail related activity.”
The increased level of activity in rail projects in Ireland provided the basis for much of the expansion in machinery and accounts for their present deployment on a number of prominent schemes throughout the country. Despite being located on the Cooley Peninsula in the north-east at Jenkinstown, near Dundalk, Co Louth, the company maintains a national presence. This is considered crucial in retaining continuity of work for an extensive range of specialist plant and attachments.
Unlike fellow rail equipment hirers, Seamus Duffy offers a complete range of plant, which focuses standard road-rail excavators, tracked rail excavators, heavy lift rail excavators, rail dumpers and a line-up of road-rail 4x4s for personnel transport. These are complemented by a number of standard machines, including excavators and ADTs (Articulated Dump Trucks), which are predominantly employed of rail related projects.
Even though maintenance work provides a large amount of activity for the fleet, considerable upgrading works currently underway on major commuter lines has provided additional work
The most notable of these projects is the laying of complete new track on the Glounthaune to Middleton route, which is scheduled to reopen during 2009. In addition to this substantial undertaking, a large number of the company’s plant is operational on additional line developments on the Hazelhatch to Heuston line in Kildare and Dublin, as well as considerable upgrading works of the DART suburban rail network.
Seamus said, “Rail maintenance accounts for a large percentage of our work and since this is continuous, is very important to us. A big part of our expansion has been to cater for new rail developments and the kind of equipment we run now allows for high output while being compliant with the necessary safety standards.”
On sites were new rail line development is being carried out, a wide variety of equipment is needed for hauling supplies and their subsequent installation. As the line extends, it provides access for the haulers that bring more materials to the advancing track-laying operation. To this end, Seamus offers a line-up of flat-bed rail trailers drawn by tracked excavators to draw the necessary concrete rail sleepers. Additional rail ballast is in turn hauled by specialist rail dumpers, which can be coupled to two multi-directional discharge ballast trailers, creating a train effect and providing a 50-tonne rail ballast capacity.
Seamus said, “The Deici dumpers can be linked to two rail skips that give the combination a 50-tonne payload capacity. With this combination, it is possible to handle 600 tonnes in an eight hour shift. The rail skips have the benefit of failsafe braking, which results in the application of the brakes in the event of the trailer being disconnected from the dumper.”
While most other rail plant hirers utilise Hydrema dump trucks adapted for rail applications, Seamus believes the Italian manufactured Deici units are a far more practical solution. Rated as having a 12 tonne payload, the dumpers have proved effective over long-term use. This is confirmed by the many repeated purchases, currently resulting in a total fleet of seven units.
Deici dumpers are ideally suited to rail applications and are easily modified in-house by Seamus’s engineering shop personnel. In standard trim they are fitted with regular dumper bodies, although one machine features a flatbed arrangement for general utility work.
While the Italian manufacturer may be better known for its rotary and conventional telescopic handlers, its extensive dumper range has also proved a success. The largest Deici DP4200 models are chosen for this rail application due to their carrying capacity and ability to cope with multiple trailer arrangement. Deici machines mainly feature Italian components, the DP4200 being powered by an Iveco four Cylinder turbo diesel said to develop a maximum power rating of 74kW at 2300rpm and regarded as being economical in operation.
However the effectiveness of these machines would be of little benefit without a large fleet of road rail excavators. To this end, Duffy Plant Hire runs an impressive line-up, which presently totals some 24 units. Though mainly comprising conventional wheeled road-rail machines, tracked rail excavators are becoming increasingly popular. This has led to the addition of two such machines to the fleet, which are seen to offer a number of worthwhile benefits. Like many of the road-railers, these units are based of Case machines and centre on reduced swing radius CX135 units.
Sourced from the UK, the machines were originally converted by Rexquotte and are perceived to be of extremely high specification. Since many of the road rail and conventional excavators deployed on general plant are from Case, Seamus admits to having a strong allegiance towards equipment from this manufacturer, even though the fleet retains a relatively varied structure.
While operating a CX135 reduced swing-radius model as a conventional excavator, its potential as a base for tracked rail excavators was by no means in doubt. The machines power and precise control, shared with standard counter balance Case excavators, were believed to be major factors in performing the strict tolerance work necessary in rail applications. In addition, the machines are seen to offer a high degree of work stability and are favoured from a system perspective. Seamus continued, “The crawler-railer are very versatile and ideal where an amount of excavation work is involved. Compared to a wheeled road-railer, they come into their own because of the better floatation they offer.” “We bought two six month old machines in the UK and had them modified by Rexquotte to suit the wider rail gauge in Ireland. They are very safe because of the reduced tail swing since there are always people in or around the machines during track laying work. Overall we are very impressed with what they have to offer.
Dedicated attachments form the basis of most rail specialists’ fleets and Seamus Duffy has taken this to an even higher level than most. This degree of commitment is obvious on new line developments, where such dedicated equipment comes into its own when laying sleepers and rail track on a large scale in a fast, safe and efficient manner. Among the best examples are the sleeper layers run by the company. To date they remain unique to Duffys fleet in Ireland and are seen as being central to securing much long-term work. The Sl400 attachments are imported from Sweden, where they are produced by Rosenqvist. They are currently deployed on the Glounthaune to Middleton line development, where they are proving to be particularly effective. Offering the sleepers to the attachment in the correct way enables them to complete the task quickly and accurately. Preparatory work involves positioning groups of four sleepers on skids along the edge of the advancing line. With the Rosenqvist attachment mounted on a Case/Rexquotte CX135, each group of four sleepers is lifted by a series of hydraulic clamping arms that encase each of the four sleepers. They are then slewed across to the point of installation, where the attachment demonstrated its ability to perform what used to be a laborious task. Before laying the sleepers on the rail ballast base, the attachment expands hydraulically to achieve the required spacing between each sleeper. The complete set is simultaneously laid in an accurate fashion, under the watch of a banks man to ensure compliance with the required standards.
Alongside these unique attachments, Duffy plant hire runs the usual catalogue of rail ballast compaction tampers, as well as ballast brooms and a wide range of sleeper and standard rail grabs. All road rail machines are fitted with tilt rotators, which are almost mandatory in such an application and are sourced from Engcon, their manufacturer of choice. However the same degree of commonality does not apply to the fleet’s conventional road-rail excavators, which feature a variety of units.
Wheeled road-railers come from Case and Komatsu, the two manufacturers favoured in this area. Despite the tendency to run relatively recent plant across the fleet, in the interest of greater reliability a number of exceptions remain within the rail road fleet. With some users reporting electrical difficulties with the WX series Case machines, Seamus continues to favour the earlier models and has built up a considerably big fleet of the machines. They are dominated by the 988 models, which offer impressive capacity and, despite their scale, remain extremely versatile thanks to the boom configuration fitted to the machines. Two-piece booms on a number of machines help reach the level of versatility required in most working environments.
However the added advantage of a sliding boom alignment is seen as a major plus in other applications, as Seamus observed: “We have a sliding boom on two of our 988s and it is a great design over a standard two piece boom since you get the maximum lifting capacity in close to the machine”
As with a number of their competitors, heavy-lift rail excavators form a vital part of the fleet. Presently totalling four units, two specific types from the line-up. Longest serving of these are two Philmore rail conversions based on Doosan DX160W rubber ducks. The other two are Atlas Based Machines, which have been converted by fellow rail specialist Rexquotte. While all machines perform heavy lifting in an efficient and safe manner, they are of very individual design, each company having stamped its distinct identity on each concept. In the case of the Doosan based Philmore conversion, the standard DX160Ws have been substantially altered by this rail specialist, which has a long tradition in machine modification. Among the most noticeable adaptations is the incorporation of extra ballast weights to maximise the machines lifting ability. From starting out as standard 16 tonne rubber duck, the machines are turned into 30 tonne heavy lift machines thanks to Philmores’ efforts.
Changing the standard excavator counterweight on heavy lift rail roaders is one of the most obvious external indicators that this is no longer just a digger. However addition ballast is also added at less conspicuous locations, including two large counterweights on each side of the machine, as well as a third aft of the slewing ring. While this may seem a simplistic approach, the extent of the conversion far exceeds these measures and involves a total of 1000 man hours to complete. All the modifications are performed in close consultation with Doosan and in no way affect machine warranty.
Another area altered in the conversion process is the chassis, which is strengthened to cope with the new demands of a heavy lifting role. A shorter than standard 2.1m dipper is specified for the machine while the boom itself, engine and hydraulic pumps remain unaffected by the conversion.
A lot of work is involved in modifying the cab to provide a two-man design with independent passenger access. To facilitate this, the air conditioning unit and electrics are relocated and the rear window is extended outwards to create greater interior space. There is, however much more to creating a heavy lifting machine than physical changes. At the heart of the whole conversion is the GKD lift limiting and monitoring system, which is designed around the application. It is seen as being among the best, having been produced by personnel with past experience with the UK industry standard system from Prolec. Unlike others the GKD system is said to quantify and calibrate the weight of a suspended load and machine movements in a much faster manner. This makes its intervention far more rapid and helps optimise the machines operating abilities to a greater degree.
Thanks to the GKD system combined with the level of lifting performance and stability offered, the ultimate 260 is quoted as being able to lift 14 tonnes over the fixed axle end of the unit. Furthermore, a four tonne lift is feasible with the upper structure slewed 45 degrees over the side at a reach of 4.5m and a lift height of 2m. These capabilities are typical requirements for the placements of rail panels and make the machine very compatible with such demanding work.
The Rexquotte Giga-railers are more recent additions compared to the Philmore Ultimate 260 heavy lifters, which have been in service for some time. Compared to the Philmore conversions, the ballast fitted to the Rexquotte machines is far less obvious, even though both have the same capabilities. Though both are classed as 30 tonne machines, the Rexquotte Giga-railer is based on a Terex Atlas 1604 ZW road rail excavator.
Unlike Philmore, Rexquotte has far greater involvement in the modification of the Giga-railer. Having worked with Terex for two years on development, Rexquotte takes the machine without a boom or counterweight and begins the transformation process. A purpose built boom is constructed for the machine and because of its light weight does not compromise its lifting capability. The combination of light weight and durability is achieved through the use of Weldox steel, which offers a good combination of these properties. Boom geometry is also said to be totally in line with optimising the machines lifting ability, while the amount of counter balance incorporated makes it extremely stable and allows it to perform to a maximum level. Further Aids to stability centre on the foam filled, heavy duty tyres which run on 30 tonne capacity road axles.
The wealth of features designed to ensure total compatibility with heavy lifting operations, means the Giga-Railers design does have a certain degree of compromise, as Seamus comments, “Compared to the Philmore machines, the Giga-railer is more limited. A typical job for a heavy lifter on maintenance needs to lift out panels, excavate, place and grade ballast and reinstate panels. The standard boom Doosan based Philmore machine suits this very well while the Giga-Railers boom geometry makes excavation and grading more difficult. The hydraulics are not that fast for such work and the breakout force at the bucket is also poor. While the Giga-railer is very good as a heavy lifter, the Philmore Ultimate 260 is far more of an all-rounder, which makes it more attractive in certain jobs for us.”
Despite the considerable investment in specialised rail equipment, there are applications for standard plant on rail projects. This has provided a welcome outlet for plant used on ground works projects and the Duffy plant hire fleet includes a fleet of excavators and ADTs (Articulated Dump Trucks) from O&K and Volvo. Furthermore, A Volvo L120C Wheeled loader is used to load rail ballast.
Seamus Duffy also runs a sizeable line up of support equipment. While most of this is relatively standard from a rail perspective, the use of specialised road rail 4x4s remains unique to the company.
Having obtained rail possession, they provide a welcome means of ferrying personnel to work areas. The largest, an 11 seater land rover defender equipped with a dedicated rail kit is easily and rapidly deployed.
Further evidence that the self-sufficient theme of Duffy’s operation is the in-house fleet of low-loaders. As much of the rail work is performed at night, they play a central role in the movement of machines to sites on time for rail possession, which would not be possible if outside sources were relied upon. A further service provided by these trucks is the transport of supplies to work areas, for instance the haulage of concrete sleepers.
Looking back, Seamus Duffy’s 1992 decision to diversify away from muck-shifting and into railway maintenance, with the appropriate investment looks inspired.