Title:
Railcar Support Beam System and Method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A railcar system includes a railcar bed and a beam structure positioned on the railcar bed. The beam structure comprises a plurality of support beams spaced apart vertically and positioned on the railcar bed such that a longitudinal axis of each support beam is generally parallel to a longitudinal axis of the railcar bed. Each support beam comprises a first side and a second side opposite the first side. The beam structure includes a first set of support sheets each coupled to the first side of at least one respective support beam and a second set of support sheets each coupled to the second side of at least one respective support beam.



Inventors:
Vande Sande, Jerry W. (Dallas, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/756463
Publication Date:
12/04/2008
Filing Date:
05/31/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B61D17/04
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20080035015SHIELD ASSEMBLY FOR RAILROAD TANK CARFebruary, 2008Simpson et al.
20020035417Locomotive wreck repairMarch, 2002Badger et al.
20020029720Road-rail adaptive vehicle transit systemMarch, 2002Esposito et al.
20090126597Propulsion mechanismMay, 2009Kereth
20070256589Container for oversized cargoNovember, 2007Bell
20060090667Model railroad systemMay, 2006Liebman et al.
20050098060Trolley system for a railway boxcar doorMay, 2005Bigda et al.
20080173210Railway hydraulic stabilizerJuly, 2008Kennedy et al.
20090133601Electronic Pneumatic Spring Controller for Reducing Air Consumption and Rapidly Adjusting the Setpoint LevelMay, 2009Kitzmuller et al.
20020066390Bridge drive diagnostic systemJune, 2002Davis
20090255437Railway vehicle carriage facilitating access for passengers with reduced mobilityOctober, 2009Hachet et al.



Primary Examiner:
SMITH, JASON C
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BAKER BOTTS L.L.P. (Dallas, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A railcar beam support apparatus, comprising: a plurality of support beams spaced apart vertically and positioned on a railcar such that a longitudinal axis of each support beam is generally parallel to a longitudinal axis of the railcar, each support beam comprising a first side and a second side opposite the first side; a first set of support sheets each coupled to the first side of at least one respective support beam; and a second set of support sheets each coupled to the second side of at least one respective support beam.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the first set of support sheets and the second set of support sheets each form a generally planar surface area to support railcar lading.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the plurality of support beams are positioned at approximately the center of the railcar.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein a formation formed by the first set of support sheets and the second set of support sheets comprises an A-frame formation.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein each of the support sheets includes at least one hole in the sheet.

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein each of the support sheets comprise a flange surrounding the at least one hole in the sheet.

7. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the support sheets comprise plate steel.

8. A railcar system, comprising: a railcar bed; and a beam structure positioned on the railcar bed, the beam structure comprising: a plurality of support beams spaced apart vertically and positioned on the railcar bed such that a longitudinal axis of each support beam is generally parallel to a longitudinal axis of the railcar bed, each support beam comprising a first side and a second side opposite the first side; a first set of support sheets each coupled to the first side of at least one respective support beam; and a second set of support sheets each coupled to the second side of at least one respective support beam.

9. The system of claim 8, wherein the first set of support sheets and the second set of support sheets each form a generally planar surface area to support railcar lading.

10. The system of claim 8, wherein the beam structure is positioned at approximately the center of the railcar bed.

11. The system of claim 8, wherein a formation formed by the first set of support sheets and the second set of support sheets comprises an A-frame formation.

12. The system of claim 8, wherein each of the support sheets includes at least one hole in the sheet.

13. The system of claim 12, wherein each of the support sheets comprises a flange surrounding the at least one hole in the sheet.

14. The system of claim 8, wherein the support sheets comprise plate steel.

15. A method for manufacturing a railcar system, comprising: positioning on a railcar bed a plurality of support beams spaced apart vertically such that a longitudinal axis of each support beam is generally parallel to a longitudinal axis of the railcar bed, each support beam comprising a first side and a second side opposite the first side; coupling each of a first set of support sheets to the first side of at least one respective support beam; and coupling each of a second set of support sheets to the second side of at least one respective support beam.

16. The method of claim 15, wherein the first set of support sheets and the second set of support sheets each form a generally planar surface area to support railcar lading.

17. The method of claim 15, wherein positioning on a railcar bed a plurality of support beams comprises positioning the plurality of support beams at approximately the center of the railcar bed.

18. The method of claim 15, wherein a formation formed by the first set of support sheets and the second set of support sheets comprises an A-frame formation.

19. The method of claim 15, wherein each of the support sheets includes at least one hole in the sheet.

20. The method of claim 19, further comprising forming the at least one hole in each of the support sheets through a punching process such that each of the support sheets comprises a flange surrounding the at least one hole in the sheet.

21. The method of claim 15, wherein the support sheets comprise plate steel.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to railcars and, more particularly, to a railcar support beam system and method.

BACKGROUND

Center beam railcars are used to transport various types of materials, including lumber, plywood, wallboards and other materials. Typical center beam railcars include a center beam structure consisting of a series of vertical support beams. These beams may provide support of lading for the length of the railcar.

Over time, these beams may become unaligned with each other and reduce the support surface area. This also increases point loads on the lading. As a result of normal train action, the lading can shift back and forth. This movement, together with the high point loads, may damage the lading (e.g., in the form of chaffing). Individual vertical support beams have typically provided only a minimal amount of contact area with the lading, thus adding to the problem of high point loads. These problems may worsen when the high point load surfaces are rotated out of plane with the lading surface.

SUMMARY

The present invention provides a railcar support beam system and method that substantially eliminates or reduces at least some of the disadvantages and problems associated with previous railcar systems and methods.

In accordance with a particular embodiment of the present invention, a railcar system includes a railcar bed and a beam structure positioned on the railcar bed. The beam structure comprises a plurality of support beams spaced apart vertically and positioned on the railcar bed such that a longitudinal axis of each support beam is generally parallel to a longitudinal axis of the railcar bed. Each support beam comprises a first side and a second side opposite the first side. The beam structure includes a first set of support sheets each coupled to the first side of at least one respective support beam and a second set of support sheets each coupled to the second side of at least one respective support beam.

The first set of support sheets and the second set of support sheets may each form a generally planar surface area to support railcar lading. The beam structure may be positioned at approximately the center of the railcar bed. A formation formed by the first set of support sheets and the second set of support sheets may comprise an A-frame formation. Each of the support sheets may include at least one hole in the sheet. The support sheets may comprise plate steel.

In accordance with another embodiment, a method for manufacturing a railcar system includes positioning on a railcar bed a plurality of support beams spaced apart vertically such that a longitudinal axis of each support beam is generally parallel to a longitudinal axis of the railcar bed. Each support beam comprises a first side and a second side opposite the first side. The method includes coupling each of a first set of support sheets to the first side of at least one respective support beam and coupling each of a second set of support sheets to the second side of at least one respective support beam.

Technical advantages of particular embodiments of the present invention include a railcar beam support apparatus with support beams that run generally parallel to a longitudinal axis the railcar. If the support beams become misaligned during railcar operation, then they are less likely to produce a high point load on the lading as a result of such misalignment. Moreover, support sheets are coupled to the support beams to provide a generally planar surface upon which the lading may rest.

Other technical advantages will be readily apparent to one skilled in the art from the following figures, descriptions and claims. Moreover, while specific advantages have been enumerated above, various embodiments may include all, some or none of the enumerated advantages.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a more complete understanding of particular embodiments of the invention and their advantages, reference is now made to the following descriptions, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 illustrates a conventional center beam railcar having a center beam structure with a series of vertical support beams;

FIG. 2 illustrates a railcar with a center beam structure, in accordance with a particular embodiment;

FIG. 3 illustrates another view of the center beam structure of FIG. 2;

FIGS. 4A and 4B illustrate the configuration of an example type of hole that may be used in a support sheet in particular embodiments;

FIG. 5 illustrates a cross-sectional view of a railcar with a center beam structure, in accordance with a particular embodiment; and

FIG. 6 is a close-up illustration of an example coupling between a horizontal support beam and two support sheets, in accordance with a particular embodiment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 illustrates a conventional center beam railcar 10 having a center beam structure 12 with a series of vertical support beams 14. Vertical support beams 14 are coupled to a top beam 16 and railcar bed 18. Other components such as diagonal beams 22 provide additional support for center beam structure 12. In addition, cables 20 help to keep the lading in place.

Center beam railcar 10 may carry a lading that includes lumber, plywood, wallboard or any other suitable material. As a result of wear and tear and aging of railcar 10, vertical support beams 14 may become misaligned with one another. Such misalignment may result in increased point loads against the lading. In addition, the lading may shift back and forth resulting in chafing and other damage to the lading as it contacts the high point loads from the misaligned vertical support beams 14. Moreover, vertical support beams 14 may rotate out of plane with the lading surface further increasing point loading and other damage to the lading.

FIG. 2 illustrates a railcar 50 with a center beam structure 52, in accordance with a particular embodiment. Railcar 50 includes railcar bed 65 and center beam structure 52 positioned on the railcar bed. FIG. 3 illustrates another view of center beam structure 52. Center beam structure 52 includes a plurality of support beams 60 running horizontally down the railcar (e.g., generally parallel with longitudinal axis 55 of railcar 50) and support sheets 70 coupled to horizontal support beams 60. Support beams 60 are vertically spaced apart from one another. The illustrated embodiment includes four horizontal support beams; however center beam structures in other embodiments may include fewer or more horizontal support beams. Moreover, while the illustrated embodiment includes support beams having a particular shape and configuration, other embodiments may include beams having other suitable shapes and configuration. Center beam structure 52 is positioned at approximately the center of railcar bed 65 (e.g., at approximately the center of its width).

Support sheets 70 comprise any suitable metal, such as plate steel, or other material. Support sheets 70 include holes 72 which reduce the weight of support sheets 70 and, as a result, the weight of center beam structure 52. Sheets 70 in various embodiments may include any suitable number of holes having any suitable shape or configuration. Sheets in particular embodiments may include holes with a flange (e.g., formed from a punch cut process) as discussed below with respect to FIGS. 4A and 4B. Some embodiments may not include support sheets coupled to support beams of a center beam structure and may instead include other suitable coverings or components for a center beam structure or none at all.

As indicated above, horizontal support beams 60 run longitudinally with railcar 50—generally parallel with longitudinal axis 55. In addition, when railcar 50 is loaded, horizontal support beams 60 run longitudinally with the lading. The lading rests against support sheets 70. Thus, support sheets 70 provide a generally planar, substantial support surface area against which the lading may rest. The horizontal orientation of support beams 60 aids in providing this generally planar support surface area.

Since support beams 60 run longitudinally down the length of the railcar, if they come out of alignment during railcar operation then they are more likely to move vertically. Such vertical misalignment is unlikely to product a high point load on the lading as occurs when conventional vertical support beams become misaligned.

FIGS. 4A and 4B illustrate the configuration of an example type of hole that may be used in a support sheet in particular embodiments. Support sheet 80 includes a hole 82 formed using a punch cut process. As a result of this process, the hole has a deformation or flange 85 around its circumference on the inside of the support sheet (or the side opposite the external side facing the railcar lading). This flange and hole configuration and formation process adds stiffness to support sheet 80 and helps to keep the support sheet from buckling. Particular embodiments may include support sheets having one or more holes formed through this or other similar processes.

FIG. 5 illustrates a cross-sectional view of a railcar with a center beam structure 102, in accordance with a particular embodiment. Center beam structure 102 includes horizontal support beams 110 and support sheets 120 and 122 coupled to the support beams. Support sheets 120 are each coupled to one side of at least one support beam 110, and support sheets 122 are each coupled to the other side of at least one support beam 110. Horizontal support beams 110 run longitudinally down the railcar (e.g., through the page of the figure). Lading 130 is illustrated as resting against center beam structure 102. Support sheets 120 provide a generally planar surface area upon which lading 130 may rest. In this embodiment, lading 130 comprises lumber which runs generally parallel to support beams 110 (e.g., through the page of the figure). Thus, if support beams 110 misalign during railcar operation, then there is a reduced chance of a high point load on the lading resulting from such misalignment.

As illustrated, center beam structure 102 provides a generally A-frame design (e.g., the angle of support sheets 120 from the top support beam to railcar bed 150) adding strength and stability to the beam structure. In addition, railcar bed 150 generally slopes inward thus facilitating the resting of the lading against center beam structure 102 as a result of gravitational forces.

FIG. 6 is a close-up illustration of an example coupling between a horizontal support beam 170 and two support sheets 180 and 182, in accordance with a particular embodiment. Horizontal support beam 170 includes a web 172 and flanges 174a and 174b, each flange on an opposite side of the support beam. Support beams in other embodiments may include a different shape or configuration than that of support beam 170.

Support sheets 180 and 182 are each coupled to flange 174a on one side of support beam 170. The support sheets may be coupled to the support beam using any suitable method, such as welding or by using a coupling member, such as a tie. In particular embodiments, support sheets may be coupled to a support beam such that there is a gap between the support sheets as illustrated.

The illustrated coupling between support sheets 180 and 182 and support beam 170 is just one example of such a coupling. This or another suitable coupling such as fastening (e.g., with a flush fastener) or bonding may be used in various embodiments, such as those illustrated and described herein.

Although the present invention has been described in detail with reference to particular embodiments, it should be understood that various other changes, substitutions, and alterations may be made hereto without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Numerous other changes, substitutions, variations, alterations and modifications may be ascertained by those skilled in the art and it is intended that the present invention encompass all such changes, substitutions, variations, alterations and modifications as falling within the spirit and scope of the appended claims.