Title:
Articulated rail car string with railbed transport surface
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A rail car apparatus includes a bridge mechanism pivotally attached to a middle rail wheel assembly. A front deck has a rear end pivotally attached to a front of the bridge mechanism, and a rear deck has a front end thereof pivotally attached to a rear of the bridge mechanism. A set of front rails is fixed to a top surface of the front deck, and a set of rear rails is fixed to a top surface of the rear deck. A set of bridge rails is fixed to the bridge mechanism between the front and rear rails and aligned therewith when the front and rear rails are aligned. The bridge mechanism, front rails, rear rails, and bridge rails are configured such that a rail vehicle can move along the front, bridge, and rear rails when the front and rear rails are oriented at an angle.



Inventors:
Burt, Barry (Regina, CA)
Marcotte, Neil (Regina, CA)
Application Number:
11/192814
Publication Date:
02/01/2007
Filing Date:
07/29/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B61F13/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
LE, MARK T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FROST BROWN TODD LLC (Cincinnati, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A rail car apparatus comprising: a middle rail wheel assembly; a bridge mechanism pivotally attached to the middle rail wheel assembly; a front deck having a rear end thereof pivotally attached to a front portion of the bridge mechanism, and having a front end supported by a front rail wheel assembly; a rear deck having a front end thereof pivotally attached to a rear portion of the bridge mechanism, and having a rear end supported by a rear rail wheel assembly; a set of front rails fixed to a top surface of the front deck, and a set of rear rails fixed to a top surface of the rear deck such that when the front and rear decks are aligned, the front and rear rails are aligned; a set of bridge rails fixed to the bridge mechanism between the front and rear rails and aligned therewith when the front and rear rails are aligned; wherein the bridge mechanism, front rails, rear rails, and bridge rails are configured such that a rail vehicle can move along the front, bridge, and rear rails when the front and rear rails are aligned, and when the front and rear rails are laterally oriented with respect to each other at a rail angle greater than zero.

2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the rail angle is between zero and substantially ten degrees right and left of zero.

3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the bridge mechanism comprises a bridge plate oriented in a substantially horizontal plane above the middle rail wheel assembly and pivotally attached to the middle rail wheel assembly about a substantially vertical plate axis located substantially at a center of the middle rail wheel assembly.

4. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein the rear end of the front deck is pivotally attached to a front portion of the bridge plate about a substantially vertical front deck axis, and the front end of the rear deck is pivotally attached to a rear portion of the bridge plate about a substantially vertical rear deck axis.

5. The apparatus of claim 4 wherein a distance between the plate axis and the front deck axis is substantially equal to a distance between the plate axis and the rear deck axis.

6. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein rear end portions of the bridge rails and front rails, and front end portions of the bridge rails and rear rails are tapered along substantially vertical taper planes such that corresponding end portions of the bridge rails and front rails, and corresponding end portions of the bridge rails and rear rails overlap to allow top surfaces of the rails to substantially align.

7. The apparatus of claim 6 wherein the taper planes at rear end portions of the front rails and front end portions of the rear rails are oriented sloping outward from inner edges of the front and rear rails to corresponding ends thereof, and the taper planes at end portions of the bridge rails are oriented sloping inward from outer edges of the bridge rails to corresponding ends thereof and are located laterally inward of the taper planes of the corresponding front and rear rails.

8. The apparatus of claim 7 wherein front and rear deck axes are laterally located substantially in a center of the bridge plate and at fore and aft locations in proximity to a line drawn between centers of the taper planes of the corresponding front and rear end portions of the bridge rails.

9. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein the bridge plate comprises right and left central portions extending outward from central portions of corresponding right and left bridge rails and substantially covering a gap between the rear end of the front deck and the front end of the rear deck.

10. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the rear end of the front deck is oriented in a substantially horizontal plane under the bridge plate, and wherein the pivotal attachment thereof to the bridge plate is by a front deck pin.

11. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the front end of the rear deck is oriented in a substantially horizontal plane under the bridge plate, and wherein the pivotal attachment thereof to the bridge plate is by a rear deck pin.

12. A method of providing a rail bed surface over a gap between front and rear decks supported on rail wheel assemblies, the method comprising: providing a middle rail wheel assembly and pivotally attaching a bridge mechanism to the middle rail wheel assembly; pivotally attaching a rear end of the front deck to a front portion of the bridge mechanism, and supporting a front end of the front deck on a front rail wheel assembly; pivotally attaching a front end of the rear deck to a rear portion of the bridge mechanism, and supporting a rear end of the rear deck on a rear rail wheel assembly; fixing a set of front rails to a top surface of the front deck, and a set of rear rails to a top surface of the rear deck such that when the front and rear decks are aligned, the front and rear rails are aligned; fixing a set of bridge rails to the bridge mechanism between the front and rear rails and aligned therewith when the front and rear rails are aligned; configuring the bridge mechanism, front rails, rear rails, and bridge rails such that a rail vehicle can move along the front, bridge, and rear rails when the front and rear rails are aligned, and when the front and rear rails are laterally oriented with respect to each other at a rail angle greater than zero.

13. The method of claim 12 wherein the rail angle is between zero and substantially ten degrees right and left of zero.

14. The method of claim 12 wherein the bridge mechanism comprises a bridge plate oriented in a substantially horizontal plane above the middle rail wheel assembly and pivotally attached to the middle rail wheel assembly about a substantially vertical plate axis located substantially at a center of the middle rail wheel assembly.

15. The method of claim 14 wherein the rear end of the front deck is pivotally attached to a front portion of the bridge plate about a substantially vertical front deck axis, and the front end of the rear deck is pivotally attached to a rear portion of the bridge plate about a substantially vertical rear deck axis.

16. The method of claim 15 wherein a distance between the plate axis and the front deck axis is substantially equal to a distance between the plate axis and the rear deck axis.

17. The method of claim 16 wherein rear end portions of the bridge rails and front rails, and front end portions of the bridge rails and rear rails are tapered along substantially vertical taper planes such that corresponding ends of the bridge rails and front rails, and corresponding end portions of the bridge rails and rear rails overlap to allow top surfaces of the rails to substantially align.

18. The method of claim 17 wherein the taper planes at rear end portions of the front rails and front end portions of the rear rails are oriented sloping outward from inner edges of the front and rear rails to corresponding ends thereof, and the taper planes at end portions of the bridge rails are oriented sloping inward from outer edges of the bridge rails to corresponding ends thereof and are located laterally inward of the taper planes of the corresponding front and rear rails.

19. The method of claim 18 wherein front and rear deck axes are laterally located substantially in a center of the bridge plate and at fore and aft locations in proximity to a line drawn between centers of the taper planes of the corresponding front and rear end portions of the bridge rails.

20. The method of claim 14 comprising covering a gap between the rear end of the front deck and the front end of the rear deck by providing the bridge plate with right and left central portions extending outward from central portions of corresponding right and left bridge rails.

21. The method of claim 12 wherein the rear end of the front deck is oriented in a substantially horizontal plane under the bridge plate, and wherein the pivotal attachment thereof to the bridge plate is by a front deck pin.

22. The method of claim 12 wherein the front end of the rear deck is oriented in a substantially horizontal plane under the bridge plate, and wherein the pivotal attachment thereof to the bridge plate is by a rear deck pin.

Description:

This invention is in the field of railroad equipment, and in particular rail car decks with rails thereon for transporting rail vehicles.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Trains are known that provide a continuous surface along a string of rails cars, bridging the gaps between the cars so that a ground vehicle, such as a truck, loading machine or the like, can travel along the string from one car to the next.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,129,327 to Snead for example provides such a string of gondola cars. Conventionally rail cars each have a wheel set under each end of the car, such that the cars can stand alone, and be shifted individually as required. In contrast, the string of gondola cars disclosed by Snead comprises a series of wheel sets with a gondola body pivotally attached between each wheel set.

Snead provides a series of wheel sets with a vertical pivot axis located in the center of each wheel set. Typically the wheel sets comprise a pair of wheels on each side, and the vertical pivot axis is thus located at a fore and aft location mid way between the pair of wheels, and at a lateral position midway between the right pair and the left pair. One gondola body is pivotally attached to the vertical axis by a horizontal plate extending rearward from the gondola body and extends forward from the vertical axis, and another gondola body is pivotally attached to the vertical axis by a horizontal plate extending forward from the gondola body under or over the first plate and extends rearward from the vertical axis. The gondola bodies pivot with respect to each other at the vertical axis as the string moves along curves, and the overlapping plates provide a bridge from one gondola body to the next.

The gondola car string of Snead allows a loading machine or the like to move along the string to move material into or out of the gondola bodies as required by the particular maintenance operation being performed. Such railroad maintenance operations often involve a number of various pieces of equipment mounted on rail vehicles following one another in a string along a railway track with each piece of equipment performing its function in turn at any given portion of the rail bed. To facilitate movement of this rail vehicle mounted equipment it would be convenient to place rails on a string of flat decks or the like connected in a fashion similar to the disclosure of Snead so that the rail vehicles could move along a from one flat deck to the next.

Rails could be fixed to the floor of each flat deck body such that when the flat decks were aligned the ends of the rails were close enough to allow a rail vehicle to pass from one rail to the next. Such a configuration appears to be disclosed for example in U.S. Pat. No. 138,476 to Caldwell. Once the string moves around a curve however, the ends of the rails on each flat deck would move with respect to each other and be damaged. Movement of rail vehicle from one deck to the next would also only be possible when the decks are aligned on a straight stretch of track.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to provide a string of rail cars with a railbed transport surface that overcomes problems in the prior art.

The present invention provides, in a first embodiment, a rail car apparatus comprising a middle rail wheel assembly, and a bridge mechanism pivotally attached to the middle rail wheel assembly. A front deck has a rear end thereof pivotally attached to a front portion of the bridge mechanism, and a front end supported by a front rail wheel assembly. A rear deck has a front end thereof pivotally attached to a rear portion of the bridge mechanism, and a rear end supported by a rear rail wheel assembly. A set of front rails is fixed to a top surface of the front deck, and a set of rear rails is fixed to a top surface of the rear deck such that when the front and rear decks are aligned, the front and rear rails are aligned. A set of bridge rails is fixed to the bridge mechanism between the front and rear rails and aligned therewith when the front and rear rails are aligned. The bridge mechanism, front rails, rear rails, and bridge rails are configured such that a rail vehicle can move along the front, bridge, and rear rails when the front and rear rails are aligned, and when the front and rear rails are laterally oriented with respect to each other at a rail angle greater than zero.

The present invention provides, in a second embodiment, a method of providing a rail bed surface over a gap between front and rear decks supported on rail wheel assemblies. The method comprises providing a middle rail wheel assembly and pivotally attaching a bridge mechanism to the middle rail wheel assembly, and pivotally attaching a rear end of the front deck to a front portion of the bridge mechanism, and supporting a front end of the front deck on a front rail wheel assembly; pivotally attaching a front end of the rear deck to a rear portion of the bridge mechanism, and supporting a rear end of the rear deck on a rear rail wheel assembly; fixing a set of front rails to a top surface of the front deck, and a set of rear rails to a top surface of the rear deck such that when the front and rear decks are aligned, the front and rear rails are aligned; fixing a set of bridge rails to the bridge mechanism between the front and rear rails and aligned therewith when the front and rear rails are aligned; configuring the bridge mechanism, front rails, rear rails, and bridge rails such that a rail vehicle can move along the front, bridge, and rear rails when the front and rear rails are aligned, and when the front and rear rails are laterally oriented with respect to each other at a rail angle greater than zero.

The bridge mechanism conveniently comprises a bridge plate pivotally attached to the middle wheel assembly about a vertical axis, with the front and rear decks pivotally attached to the bridge plate also about vertical axes. The plate provides a convenient platform for mounting bridge rails thereon and attaching the front and rear decks, however it is contemplated that other more open frame configurations or the like would also provide the required structure. Rail vehicle can move over the bridge rails from one deck to the next while the decks are oriented at about ten degrees right or left of an aligned position.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

While the invention is claimed in the concluding portions hereof, preferred embodiments are provided in the accompanying detailed description which may be best understood in conjunction with the accompanying diagrams where like parts in each of the several diagrams are labeled with like numbers, and where:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the rail car apparatus of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a side view of the embodiment of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a top view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 where the front and rear decks are oriented in an aligned position;

FIG. 4 is a top view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 where the front and rear decks are oriented at a rail angle of about 10 degrees with respect to each other;

FIG. 5 is a top view of a string of decks connected together with a bridge mechanism of the invention and in position on a curved portion of a railroad track.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENTS

FIGS. 1-4 illustrate a rail car apparatus 1 of the present invention providing a rail bed surface over a gap 2 between front and rear decks 3, 5 supported on rail wheel assemblies. The apparatus 1 comprises a middle rail wheel assembly 7 and a bridge mechanism 9 pivotally attached to the middle rail wheel assembly 7. The illustrated rear deck 5 has a front end 5A thereof pivotally attached to a rear portion of the bridge mechanism 9, and a rear end 5B supported by a rear rail wheel assembly 11. The front deck 3 has a rear end 3B thereof pivotally attached to a front portion of the bridge mechanism 9, and is similarly supported at a front end thereof by front rail wheel assembly that is not shown.

Also illustrated at the rear end 5B of the rear deck 5 is a ramp 12 that can be lowered to roll rail vehicles up onto the rear deck 5.

A set of front rails 13 is fixed to the top surface of the front deck 3, and a set of rear rails 15 is fixed to the top surface of the rear deck 5. A set of bridge rails 17 is fixed to the bridge mechanism 9 between the front and rear rails 13, 15. The rails 13, 15, 17 are located and configured such that when the front and rear decks 3, 5 are aligned, the front, bridge, and rear rails 13, 17, and 15 are also aligned, as illustrated in FIG. 3, for example as when the decks and wheel assemblies are positioned on a straight stretch of railroad track.

The bridge mechanism 9, front rails 13, rear rails 15, and bridge rails 17 are configured such that a rail vehicle can move along the front, bridge, and rear rails when the front and rear rails are aligned as in FIG. 3, and also when the front and rear rails are laterally oriented with respect to each other at a rail angle RN that is greater than zero, such as illustrated in FIG. 4 where the rail angle RN shown is about ten degrees.

In the illustrated embodiment, the bridge mechanism 9 comprises a bridge plate 21 oriented in a substantially horizontal plane above the middle rail wheel assembly 7. The bridge plate 21 is pivotally attached to the middle rail wheel assembly 7 about a substantially vertical plate axis PA located about at the center of the middle rail wheel assembly 7. Typically the wheel set 7 will comprise, as illustrated, a pair of wheels on each side, and the vertical plate axis PA is thus located at a fore and aft location mid way between the pair of wheels, and at a lateral position midway between the right pair and the left pair. The plate axis PA can be provided by vertically oriented plate pin or like cylindrical member extending through a sleeve.

The rear end 3B of the front deck 3 is pivotally attached to a front portion of the bridge plate 21 about a substantially vertical front deck axis FDA, and the front end 5B of the rear deck 5 is pivotally attached to a rear portion of the bridge plate 21 about a substantially vertical rear deck axis RDA. The distance between the plate axis PA and the front deck axis FDA is substantially equal to the distance between the plate axis PA and the rear deck axis RDA. This configuration then positions the bridge rails 17 at bridge angle with respect to each of the front and rear rails 13, 15 that is one half the angle RN between the front and rear rails 13, 15. Thus only the reduced bridge angle BN must be negotiated by the rail wheels on a rail vehicle moving from the front rails 13 and over the bridge rails 17 to the rear rails 15.

In the illustrated embodiment the rear end 3B of the front deck 3 and the front end 5A of the rear deck 3 are oriented in substantially horizontal planes under the bridge plate 21, and the pivotal attachment thereof to the bridge plate 21 is by a deck pins that are be provided by a cylindrical member rotatable in a sleeve.

As illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 4, rear end portions of the bridge rails 17 and front rails 13, and front end portions of the bridge rails 17 and rear rails 15 are tapered along substantially vertical taper planes 25 such that corresponding end portions of the bridge rails 17 and front rails 13, and corresponding end portions of the bridge rails 17 and rear rails 15 overlap to allow top surfaces of the rails 13, 15, 17 to align vertically and horizontally.

The taper planes 25A at rear end portions of the front rails 13 and front end portions of the rear rails 15 are oriented sloping outward from inner edges 27 of the front and rear rails to corresponding ends 29 thereof, and the taper planes 25B at end portions of the bridge rails 17 are oriented sloping inward from outer edges 31 of the bridge rails to corresponding ends 33 thereof and are located laterally inward of the taper planes 25A of the corresponding front and rear rails.

The bridge rails 17 and front and rear deck axes FDA, RDA are oriented such that the front and rear deck axes FDA, RDA are laterally located substantially in a center of the bridge plate 21 and at fore and aft locations in proximity to a line drawn between centers of the taper planes 25B of the corresponding front and rear end portions of the bridge rails 17. The ends 29 of the front and rear rails 13, 15 are also about in the center of the taper planes 25B of the bridge rails 17 when the front and rear rails 13, 15 are aligned as illustrated in FIG. 3.

Thus for example as the bridge plate 21 pivots laterally with respect to the front deck 3 as illustrated in FIG. 4, the end 29 of the right front rail 13R moves rearward along the taper plane 25B of the right bridge rail 17R, and the end 29 of the left front rail 13L moves forward along the taper plane 25B of the left bridge rail 17L. The top surfaces of the end portions of the rails 13, 17 when at the illustrated rail angle RN of 10 degrees are maintained in sufficient proximity to allow a rail wheel of a rail vehicle to cross over from the front rails 13 to the bridge rails 17. A similar orientation is achieved between the rear rails 15 and the bridge rails 17, and whether the decks 3, 5 pivot to the left or right with respect to each other.

In the illustrated embodiment the bridge plate 21 comprises right and left central portions 35 extending outward from central portions of corresponding right and left bridge rails 17 and substantially covering the gap 2 between the rear end 3B of the front deck 3 and the front end 5A of the rear deck 5.

FIG. 5 schematically illustrates a top view of a string of decks 3, 5 connected by the bridge mechanism 9 of the invention moving along a curve in a railroad track. As the decks 3, 5 move along the curve, the rail angle RN between the front and rear rails on each adjacent deck 31 in the string varies between a maximum of about 10 degrees left and a maximum of about 10 degrees right. It will be seen that when placed in a string, each deck becomes a front deck 3 with respect to an adjacent deck behind it, and a rear deck 5 with respect to an adjacent deck in front of it.

Thus the rail car apparatus 1 of the present invention provides a rail bed surface over a gap 2 between front and rear decks 3, 5 such that rail vehicle can pass over the rails 13, 15, 17 back and forth as desired while the decks 3, 5 are oriented at an angle of up to about 10 degrees, for example when part of a string of decks on a railroad track curve as illustrated in FIG. 5. Rail vehicles may be loaded and unloaded from such a curved portion of track. A ramp mechanism could be provided at the end of the last deck to enable the vehicles to be driven or winched up onto the railbed. A crane could also be provided that could remain stationary and raise the rail vehicles to the railbed on the end deck from where same could then be driven along the decks to a desired location, allowing further vehicles to be raised as required without moving the crane. The string of decks with rail vehicles loaded thereon could then be moved along the railroad as required.

The end car could also be backed up to a raised loading dock having rails at a corresponding vertical location and the rail vehicles could simply be driven from the loading dock onto the deck railbed.

The foregoing is considered as illustrative only of the principles of the invention. Further, since numerous changes and modifications will readily occur to those skilled in the art, it is not desired to limit the invention to the exact construction and operation shown and described, and accordingly, all such suitable changes or modifications in structure or operation which may be resorted to are intended to fall within the scope of the claimed invention.