Cyclonaire’s QuickSanders provided the efficiency the Belt Railway of Chicago needed, installed with minimal impact to their operations.

belt railway of chic. 3The Belt Railway Company of Chicago is the largest switching terminal railroad in the United States. Operational since 1882, it services the nation’s largest rail hub—nearly every freight car making a transcontinental trip passes through the Railway.

Today, the Belt Railway is jointly owned by six railroads—Union Pacific Railroad, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Corporation, Canadian National, and Canadian Pacific Railway. It operates well over 800 miles of track, including over 300 miles of switching track, over 250 miles in the Clearing Yards, and 28 miles of mainline through track.

Connected to every major railway in the Chicago area and integral to roughly 100 different industries, Belt Railway is not only the largest switching terminal, but also the busiest. More than 8,000 trains are assembled by their fleet of switchover locomotives and dispatched daily, and the Clearing Yards can classify as many as 50 miles worth of railcars in any given 24 hour period. Additionally, they offer on-site facilities and locomotive maintenance.

The Problem

Locomotives store sand in on-board sandboxes. During harsh weather conditions, the sand stored in these on-board boxes is propelled onto the track in front of each locomotive wheel to increase traction and reduce slippage.

Because Belt Railway’s pneumatic system is used to distribute sand to the locomotive sandboxes, it is imperative that the system operates properly at all times and can be repaired quickly. However, although their existing system was fairly new, it required frequent maintenance and replacement parts. Furthermore, it was difficult for Belt Railway to obtain spare parts, which only exacerbated the issue.

The Belt Railway hoped for a pneumatic system that was reliable and efficient. Cyclonaire was honored to be approached by the Belt Railway with the prospect of updating their existing pneumatic sand distribution system.

Cyclonaire’s Solution

Cyclonaire sent a team of our engineers to the Belt Railway for an on-site visit. Their conclusion, contrary to Belt Railway’s original request, was that a system upgrade would not sufficiently alleviate their recurring need for spare parts. Instead, our engineers recommended a full replacement of Belt Railway’s distribution equipment, while retaining the use of their existing sand storage silo.

With the go-ahead from Belt Railway, we set about designing an all-new system, making sure to factor in the layout, size, and turnaround time of the yards. We based our system on their centralized service platform, which can accommodate up to six locomotives at once. The proposed system would also serve the nearby hump yard. After one round of feedback from the Belt Railway regarding the design, we were granted the bid to replace their system.

Working in the middle of the nation’s busiest switchyard, Cyclonaire began the ambitious project by first decommissioning Belt Railway’s existing system. Every component of the pneumatic system was removed, with the exception of the primary sand storage silo. We installed a new conveyor leading from the silo to the service platform, in addition to three QuickSander ST-40-QS—these sand dispensers, designed exclusively for service facilities like Belt Railway, offer various on-platform sand capacities.

We also installed a number of valuable secondary components:belt railway of chic. 2

  • New, fully automated system controls were included to help Belt Railway keep the sanding process running smoothly and efficiently.
  • On the sand storage silo itself, we replaced the aging gauging system, which used indicator lights, with an automated tank gauging system. The new gauging uses an Allen-Bradley designed program logic to track sand percentages and notify operators or even sand suppliers when stock is running low. We also installed a new compressed air dryer system.
  • Cyclonaire equipped the entire sand distribution system with the eWon system. Designed to expedite repairs, the system takes any malfunction alarm created by a QuickSander and automatically locates the exact cause of the problem. This allows staffers to quickly and accurately diagnose problems without having to consult equipment manuals or perform time-consuming inspections.

The Result

Cyclonaire designed a fully customized sand dispensing system for the largest terminal rail operation in the United States; by incorporating new technologies, our team was able to ensure Belt Railway could maximize efficiency and minimize downtime. Cyclonaire was able to successfully decommission Belt Railway’s existing system and install the new one in just four weeks—so there was minimal impact on daily operations.

For more information on our railroad sanding solutions, please contact Cyclonaire today. We look forward to working with you.