The Art and Science of Rail Grinding, by Allan M. Zarembski
Book review by Bob Tuzik • March, 2006
If you’re like me, your filing cabinet is stuffed with articles from various publications. If you’re organized, you may have a specific folder or binder with articles on rail grinding clipped from magazines or copied from conferences. There are also printed copies of the electronic files downloaded and stored on your computer. If you’re lucky, you can find them when you need them. But even if you can, chances are you won’t find what you’re looking for. You’ll find a paper on the use of grinding to eliminate corrugation in Australia, another on preventive approaches to rail profile grinding in North America, a brief article on transit grinding in Europe. What you won’t find is a comprehensive, one-stop shop that covers the A – Z of rail grinding.
Not to worry.
Allan Zarembski’s The Art and Science of Rail Grinding, has pulled together the what, where, why and how of rail grinding into one text for you. The book, published by Simmons Boardman Books, Inc., one of the largest publishing houses of railway-related books and training materials, looks at the evolution of rail grinding from the early 20th century to today.
The Art and Science of Rail Grinding draws extensively on a series of “Technical Notes” and seminars that Zarembski, President of ZETA-TECH Associates, Inc., compiled while Director of Research and Development of Speno Rail Services and later as a consultant to Pandrol Jackson, Inc. As such, there is plenty of good information in the chapters on the history and evolution of rail grinding equipment. This information has been annotated and updated, incorporating information on current grinding technology and practices in North America and other parts of the world.
While not all of the information is new, it’s current. Even those who have been exposed to rail grinding throughout their careers will learn much about the mechanics of rail grinding equipment and programs, the nuts and bolts of their configuration, profiles and patterns, and the composition of the grinding stones — their structure, bond, grade and grit, and the surface conditions that they leave.
As a good resource should, The Art and Science of Rail Grindingdevotes a chapter to “Rail and Rail Problems,” good information on the types and causes of rail defects, and the surface and profile conditions that make rail grinding necessary. The chapter covers the evolving load environment and the wheel/rail stresses associated with it. The chapter also examines internal and surface defects, their manifestations, such surface batter and flow, corrugation and shelling, and the grinding techniques used to combat them.
Zarembski charts the evolution from defect-elimination grinding to maintenance grinding and how the concurrent use of profile control has resulted in a significant broadening of the use of rail maintenance grinding techniques to increase the service life and reduce the overall cost of maintaining and replacing rail in track. He points out how rail profile grinding has led to improvements in wheel/rail dynamic interaction behavior, and the reduction of wheel/rail forces in both the vertical and horizontal planes.
Other chapters examine the railway operating environment, wheel/rail contact-related stresses and the types of defects and anomalies that dictate the need for rail grinding. Zarembski characterizes dynamic operating conditions, including wheel tread conicity, wheelset steering and overall wheel/rail contact as well as their effect on track and track maintenance requirements. He points out, for example, that “while bending and longitudinal stresses play an important factor in the rail design process, the contact stresses are most important in the maintenance engineering activity, where in-track maintenance policies and practices are strongly affected by these stresses and the resulting failure modes that they generate.” He goes on to say that while rail grinding cannot completely eliminate all ills, it has been shown to reduce the rate of defect development and, therefore, extend the life of rail in service.
Over the years, rail grinding has shown to be an effective method of maintaining rail and extending the life of rail in track. Grinding has also extended tie and ballast life. While railroad engineers are aware of the benefits of grinding, they have not always been able to quantify the benefits to the budget and finance managers. Let’s face it. No program, no matter how well considered, no matter how beneficial, is likely to be planned and implemented unless an economic case can be made for it.
The final chapter on the “Economics of Rail Grinding” addresses these and other economic issues. The chapter includes information from a few of the programs and models in use, and the return on investment that rail grinding can generate. It captures the cost of grinding per pass mile, but also provides information on the savings per mile relating to defect removal and elimination, reduced surfacing costs, fewer derailments and extended rail life associated with grinding.
The Art and Science of Rail Grinding offers a detailed yet succinct look at rail profile grinding — what it is and what it does. It provides good information on metal removal versus defect removal and the need to control the amount and extent of metal removal to ensure that the objectives of the program are being met. More than 300 photos and illustrations, graphs and charts are used to illustrate the text.
Readers of this book will invariably come away with a better understanding of how grinders work. They’ll learn about the design and application of rail profiles and the patterns used to achieve them. They’ll understand the importance of managing and monitoring the grinding operation, and become better versed in the ever-important economic means of justifying a grinding program.
The Art and Science of Rail Grinding represents an effective all-in-one resource. While many readers may use the book as a reference tool, I found it an interesting cover-to-cover read on where we’ve been and how we’ve come to where we are in the realm of rail grinding. Like much of what railway engineers have done for centuries, there’s a mix of art and science in rail grinding. Much of both are captured in Zarembski’s book.
And if you’re like me, you’ll find this information to be more accessible bound in a text on the shelf, than in loose sheets hidden away in the filing cabinet.
The Art and Science of Rail Grinding, by Allan M. Zarembski, is available from Simmons-Boardman Books, Inc. (ISBN: 0911382488; 420 pages; $110.00)