Title:
Actuating system for automatic operation of hopper doors of a railroad car
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A system for operating the hopper doors of a railroad car as the car is in motion. The system includes an actuating device which is mounted on the surface adjacent the railroad tracks, and a mechanism mounted on the railcar which is contacted by the actuating device as the railcar rolls past the device. A first lever of the mechanism contacts an arm of the actuating device to open the hopper doors, while a second lever contacts the arm to close the hopper doors. The operation is accomplished without the use of powered cylinders or valves. The system can be used with railcars having either transverse hopper doors or longitudinal hopper doors.



Inventors:
Taylor, Fred J. (Burlington, KY, US)
Application Number:
11/158240
Publication Date:
01/05/2006
Filing Date:
06/21/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B61D3/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MCCARRY JR, ROBERT J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NEAL O. WILLMANN (CINCINNATI, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A system for operating hopper doors of a railroad car while the car is in motion, comprising: at least one first drive lever, shiftable between a first inactive position and a second active position; an actuating beam, coupled to at least one hopper door opening mechanism, shiftable between a first position wherein said hopper door opening mechanism is inactive and the hopper doors are closed and a second position wherein said hopper door opening mechanism is activated to open the hopper doors; a first drive shaft, coupling said first drive lever to said actuating beam; at least one second drive lever, shiftable between a first inactive position and a second active position; a second drive shaft, coupling said second drive lever to said actuating beam; and an activating device, affixed to a surface adjacent the railroad car, said device comprising an actuator arm having a first engaged position and a second disengaged position; wherein when said actuator arm of said activating device is in the engaged position and the railroad car is set in motion past said activating device, said actuator arm shifts said first drive lever from said first inactive position to said second active position, whereby shifting said actuating beam from said first position to said second position to activate said hopper door mechanism and open the hopper doors of the railroad car while also shifting said second drive lever to said second active position, whereby continued travel of the railroad car past said activating device causes said actuator arm to shift said second drive lever back to said first inactive position, shifting said actuating beam back to said first position, closing the hopper doors.

2. The system of claim 1, further comprising a center sill extending longitudinally along the underside of the railroad car for containing said actuating beam.

3. The system of claim 1, wherein said hopper doors are oriented in the longitudinal direction with respect to the centerline of the railroad car.

4. The system of claim 1, wherein said hopper doors are oriented in the transverse direction with respect to the centerline of the railroad car.

5. The system of claim 1, further comprising a pair of first drive levers, with a first drive lever rigidly coupled on each end of said first drive shaft extending from both sides of the railroad car.

6. The system of claim 1, further comprising a pair of second drive levers, with a second drive lever rigidly coupled on each end of said second drive shaft extending from both sides of the railroad car.

7. The system of claim 1, further comprising a first link, rigidly affixed to said first drive shaft at one end and rotatably coupled to said actuating beam at its other end, for coupling said first drive shaft to said actuating beam.

8. The system of claim 1, further comprising a second link, rigidly affixed to said second drive shaft at one end and rotatably coupled to said actuating beam at its other end, for coupling said second drive shaft to said actuating beam.

9. The system of claim 7, wherein said first link is affixed on said first drive shaft at the same angular orientation as said first drive lever.

10. The system of claim 8, wherein said second link is affixed on said second drive shaft at an angular orientation of about 180° from said second drive lever.

11. The system of claim 1, wherein said actuator arm of said activating device is shiftable between its inactive position and its active position in a plane perpendicular to the direction of travel of the railroad car when said car is in motion.

12. The system of claim 1, wherein said actuator arm contains an idler for contacting said first and second drive levers.

13. A system for operating hopper door sets of a railroad car while the car is in motion to empty the contents of the hoppers, comprising: an actuating device, comprising: a support, affixed to the surface adjacent the railroad car; and an actuator arm, mounted on said support in a plane perpendicular to the direction of movement of the railroad car, having a first engaged position adjacent the railroad car, and a second disengaged position away from the railroad car, and also containing a rotatable idler positioned at the end of said actuator arm closest to said railroad car; and an operating mechanism, mounted on the railroad car, said mechanism comprising: a first drive lever, shiftable between a first inactive position and a second active position; a second drive lever, shiftable between a first inactive position and a second active position; an actuating beam, coupled to at least one hopper door set activating mechanism for opening and closing the doors of a hopper, said beam shiftable between a first hopper door closed position wherein said door set activating mechanism is inactive and a second hopper door open position wherein said door set activating mechanism is activated to empty the contents of the hopper; a first drive shaft, coupling said first drive lever to said actuating beam; and a second drive shaft, coupling said second drive lever to said actuating beam; wherein when said actuator arm of said activating device is in the engaged position and the railroad car is set in motion past said activating device, said idler contacts said first drive lever, shifting said first drive lever from the first inactive position to said second active position, thereby shifting said actuating beam from said first hopper door closed position to said second hopper door open position to activate said door set activating mechanism, emptying the contents of the hopper while shifting said second drive lever to said second active position, whereby continued travel of the railroad car past said activating device causes said idler to contact said second drive lever, shifting said second drive lever from said second active position back to said first inactive position, shifting said actuating beam from said second hopper door open position to said first hopper door closed position, thus shifting said door set activating mechanism back to said inactive position, closing the hopper door set and returning said first drive lever back to said first inactive position.

14. The system of claim 13, further comprising a center sill extending longitudinally along the underside of the railroad car for containing said actuating beam.

15. The system of claim 13, wherein said hopper doors are oriented in the longitudinal direction with respect to the centerline of the railroad car.

16. The system of claim 13, wherein said hopper doors are oriented in the transverse direction with respect to the centerline of the railroad car.

17. The system of claim 13, further comprising a pair of first drive levers, with a first drive lever rigidly coupled on each end of said first drive shaft extending from both sides of the railroad car.

18. The system of claim 13, further comprising a pair of second drive levers, with a second drive lever rigidly coupled on each end of said second drive shaft extending from both sides of the railroad car.

19. The system of claim 13, further comprising a first link, rigidly affixed to said first drive shaft at one end and rotatably coupled to said actuating beam at its other end, for coupling said first drive shaft to said actuating beam.

20. The system of claim 13, further comprising a second link, rigidly affixed to said second drive shaft at one end and rotatably coupled to said actuating beam at its other end, for coupling said second drive shaft to said actuating beam.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims benefit from U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/582,048, filed Jun. 22, 2004, which application is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention is directed in general to a device for opening the hopper doors of a railroad car, and, in particular, to a system for automatically opening and closing the hopper doors of a railroad car without the use of cylinders or valves.

2. Description of the Related Art

A common type of railroad freight car in use today is the freight car of the type wherein the load is discharged through hoppers in the underside of the body. Such cars are generally referred to as hopper cars and are used to haul coal, phosphate and other commodities.

After hopper cars are spotted over an unloading pit, the doors of the hoppers are opened, allowing the material within the hopper to be emptied into the pit.

Hopper cars, which may be covered, are usually found with one of two hopper configurations: transverse, in which the doors closing the hoppers are oriented perpendicular to the center line of the car; or longitudinal, in which the doors closing the hoppers are oriented parallel to the center line of the car. An example of a hopper car with transverse doors is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 5,249,531, while an example of a hopper car with longitudinal doors is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 4,224,877.

Prior art references which teach operating mechanisms for opening and closing hopper doors include U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,596,609; 4,741,274; 3,187,684; 3,611,947; 3,786,764; 3,815,514; 3,818,842; 3,949,681; 4,222,334; 4,366,757; 4,601,244; 5,823,118; and 5,249,531. There are several disadvantages to the hopper door operating mechanisms described in some of the aforementioned patents. One problem is that some of the prior art mechanisms are designed such that each actuating mechanism is connected to doors from two separate hoppers. Thus, if the mechanism fails, it effects the operation of two hoppers. Another disadvantage of some of the above described hopper door mechanisms is that the operating mechanisms limit the distance of the door motion, thus limiting the open area of the car's bottom. This arrangement slows the unloading process and causes additional costs and potential damage to the car due to increased periods in thaw sheds. However, many of these systems usually require automatic operation of the doors, which requires an operating cylinder and valving.

Finally, it is often desirable to empty the contents of a railcar while the car is in motion, thus allowing the car to be emptied quicker. This method of operation also normally requires the use of expensive air cylinders and valving.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide an actuating mechanism which allows the discharge doors of a hopper car to open and close automatically without the use of cylinders or valves.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a simple automatic mechanism for actuating the discharge doors of a hopper car which can quickly empty the contents.

It is a still further object of the present invention to provide an actuating mechanism for a hopper car which can be used on either transverse doors or on longitudinal doors.

These and other objects of the present invention will be more readily apparent from the descriptions and drawings which follow.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an elevational view of a standard three pocket hopper car having a single transverse door associated with each hopper which is capable of using the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an elevational view of hopper car having a longitudinal door set which is capable of using the present invention;

FIG. 3 is an elevational view of a standard four pocket hopper car having transverse doors which is capable of using the present invention;

FIG. 4 is an elevational view of a section of the system of the present invention which is mounted on the ground;

FIG. 5 is a top view of the section shown in FIG. 4;

FIGS. 6A-C, taken together, show a fragmentary elevational view, partly in phantom, of a section of the system of the present invention which is mounted on the railcar; and

FIGS. 7A-C, taken together, show a fragmentary top view of the system shown in FIGS. 6A-C.

DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

FIGS. 1-3 display three different major types of hopper cars. FIGS. 1 and 3 show hopper cars using transverse doors, while FIG. 2 shows a car using longitudinal doors.

Referring now to FIG. 1, there is shown a typical three pocket railway hopper car, generally designated at 2, which may be equipped with a preferred embodiment of the present invention. Car 2 is provided with a plurality of hopper units 4, a plurality of wheels 5, and a longitudinally extending center sill 6. Wheels 5 are mounted on a series of truck axles 7. Each hopper unit 4 is provided with a door 9 which is moveable to open and close each hopper unit 4. An actuating system for this type of car is taught in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/863,887, filed Jun. 8, 2004, which application is incorporated herein by reference.

Referring now to FIG. 2, there is shown a typical hopper railcar, generally indicated at 10, having longitudinal doors which may be equipped with a preferred embodiment of the present invention. Car 10 is provided with a longitudinal door set 12, a plurality of wheels 14, and a longitudinally extending center sill 16. An operating system for this type of hopper car is taught in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/977,008, filed Oct. 29, 2004, which application is incorporated herein by reference. Although the system taught in this application teaches the operation of a single pair of doors, the mechanism can be used to open multiple sets of longitudinal doors.

Referring now to FIG. 3, there is shown a typical four pocket hopper car, generally designated at 20, which may be equipped with a preferred embodiment of the present invention. Car 20 is provided with a plurality of hopper units 22, a plurality of wheels 23, and a longitudinally extending center sill 24. Each of hopper units 22 are covered by a pair of doors 26a and 26b. The actuating mechanism for this type of car is taught in U.S. Pat. No. 5,249,501, which issued Oct. 5, 1993, which patent is incorporated herein by reference.

The actuating device of the present invention can be most clearly seen in FIGS. 4 and 5. Referring now to FIG. 4, an actuating device support, indicated at 40, contains an upstanding member 42 having a beam 44 connected thereto for strengthening support 40. A channel 46 is coupled to member 42 perpendicular to the plane of member 42. An actuator arm 48 is slidably located within channel 46. Actuator arm 48 is preferably tubular shaped, and contains a handle 50 extending from actuator arm 48 away from channel 46 such that actuator arm 48 can be shifted in the directions shown by arrow A, which places arm 48 in its engaged position, and arrow B, which places arm 48 in its disengaged position. (FIG. 5). Handle 50 can be rotated into slots within channel 46 to lock support 40 in its engaged or disengaged position, similar to the manner in which a deadbolt lock operates. Actuator arm 48 contains a rotatable idler wheel 52 at its end opposite handle 50. Idler 52 contacts the levers on the railcar to operate the mechanism of the present invention. Support 40 is preferably affixed to a level surface outside of a set of rails 54 at a distance from a railcar traveling on rails 54.

Referring now to FIGS. 6A-C, the operating mechanism of the present invention which is mounted on the railcar can be clearly seen. A pair of levers 60 are rigidly affixed on a shaft 62 on each side of the railcar. Shaft 62 is rotatably mounted within a support 64 which is fixed on a center sill 66. A lever 68 is rigidly affixed on shaft 62 at one end at the same angular orientation as lever 60, while the other end of lever 68 is rotatably coupled between a pair of linkages 70 by a pin 72. The opposite ends of linkage 70 are coupled to an extension 74 of an actuating beam 76 by a pin 78. Actuating beam 76 is slidably coupled within center sill 66 by a series of supports 80.

At the opposite end of actuating beam 76, an extension 84 is rigidly affixed to beam 76 and extends upwardly above center sill 66. A pair of linkages 86 are rotatably coupled at the opposite end of extension 84 by a pin 90. The opposite ends of linkages 86 are rotatably coupled on either side of a lever 92 by a pin 94. Lever 92 is rigidly affixed on a shaft 96 which is rotatably mounted within a pair of supports 98. Shaft 96 extends across the width of the railcar and contains a pair of levers 100 rigidly affixed on each end of shaft 96 on each side of the railcar. Lever 92 is rigidly affixed on shaft 96 at an angular orientation of about 180° from lever 96.

The operation of the system of the present invention will now be described. Actuating device support 40 is positioned on the surface alongside railroad tracks 54. Support 40 may be permanently fixed to the surface, or may be removably positioned in the proper location; however, its installation must be stable so that it can adequately operate the system.

Support 40 is positioned such that when idler 52 is in its engaged position, it contacts levers 60 and 100 such that said levers will rotate upon contact when the railcar is set in motion past support 40, thus rotating shafts 62 and 90 to operate the system. Note that as levers 60 and 100 are located on both sides of the railcar, support 40 can be located on either side of tracks 54.

As the railcar travels in the direction indicated by arrow C in FIGS. 6C and 7C, and actuator arm 48 has been shifted to its engagement position as shown by arrow A in FIG. 5, idler 52 contacts lever 60 and rotates it clockwise in the direction indicated by arrow D in FIG. 6C. This action causes lever 68 to also rotate, as it is fixed on shaft 62. This rotation causes linkages 70 to shift extension 74 and actuating beam 76 to the right in the direction indicated by arrow E in FIG. 6C. The movement of actuating beam 76 causes the doors covering the hoppers of the railcar to shift to the open position, as the door actuating system is coupled to actuating beam 76. The door actuating mechanism may be of the type taught in any of the patents and patent applications described with respect to FIGS. 1-3, or it may be any door opening mechanism known to one of ordinary skill in the art in which operation is controlled by the actuating beam.

Referring now to FIG. 6A, the movement of actuating beam 76 has caused levers 92 and 100 to move to the positions indicated in phantom at 92′ and 100′ by virtue of the connections to extension 84 and linkages 86.

Continued movement of the railcar will cause idler 52 to contact lever 100 at the position shown at 100′, causing lever 100 to rotate clockwise in the direction shown by arrow F. This rotation shifts actuating beam 76 in the direction shown by arrow G, closing all of the hopper doors which had been opened, while returning lever 60 to its original unactivated position shown in FIG. 6C.

By using the present invention, the doors of a hopper car can be opened and closed without the need for a power cylinder and the associated valving, thus allowing automatic operation without the expense of extra operating equipment. The present invention can be installed with new car construction, and can also be retrofitted on many existing cars which presently need an air cylinder for automatic operation. In addition, as the actuating device can be made portable, the system can be moved from track to track, and can be installed on either side of the railcar.

In the above description, and in the claims which follow, the use of such words as “clockwise”, “counterclockwise”, “distal”, “proximal”, “forward”, “outward”, “rearward”, “vertical”, “horizontal”, and the like is in conjunction with the drawings for purposes of clarity.

While the invention has been shown and described in terms of a preferred embodiment, it will be understood that this invention is not limited to this particular embodiment, and that many changes and modifications may be made without departing from the true spirit and scope of the invention as defined in the appended claims.