Title:
Movable crawler system for railroad equipment
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A movable crawler system that moves a crawler of railroad equipment from a first position to a second position is disclosed. The crawler system includes a crawler and a positioning system that moves the crawler. The positioning system includes a horizontal positioner and may include a vertical positioner, which move the crawler horizontally and vertically, respectively. The crawler system may be used in railroad equipment for rail change-out processes. When used in this manner, the crawler system enables the crawler to be moved between a position on a guard timber and a position on or above the railroad ties. Because the crawler can be moved to a position on the guard timber, when the equipment is operated on a track suspended by a bridge, which has one rail missing, the need for workers to work outside the rails to raise the equipment above the guard timber is eliminated.



Inventors:
Delmonico, Doug (Broomfield, CO, US)
Application Number:
11/999699
Publication Date:
06/11/2009
Filing Date:
12/06/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
104/306
International Classes:
E01B29/02; B61B12/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LE, MARK T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Brian J. Lum (Chicago, IL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A positioning system for railroad equipment that includes a crawler, the positioning system comprising: a vertical positioner connected with the crawler and configured to move the crawler vertically; and a horizontal positioner connected with the crawler and configured to move the crawler horizontally; wherein the vertical and horizontal positioners are further configured to move the crawler from a first position to a second position.

2. A crawler system for railroad equipment, the crawler system comprising: a crawler; and a positioning system connected with the crawler and configured to move the crawler from a first position to a second position, the positioning system including: a horizontal positioner connected with the crawler and configured to move the crawler horizontally; and a vertical positioner connected with the crawler and configured to move the crawler vertically.

3. A crawler system for railroad equipment, the crawler system comprising: a crawler; and horizontal positioner connected with crawler and configured to move the crawler horizontally.

4. The crawler system of claim 3, wherein the crawler includes a crawler frame and one or more crawler wheels rotationally connected with the crawler frame.

5. The crawler system of claim 3, wherein the horizontal positioner includes a first horizontal member configured to move the crawler horizontally.

6. The crawler system of claim 5, wherein the first horizontal member is a hydraulic member.

7. The crawler system of claim 5, wherein the horizontal positioner further includes: a second horizontal member parallel to the first horizontal member and connected with the crawler; and a third horizontal member connected with the railroad equipment, wherein the second horizontal member is within the third horizontal member; and wherein the first horizontal member is connected with the second horizontal member and the third horizontal member.

8. The crawler system of claim 3 further comprising a vertical positioner connected with the crawler and configured to move the crawler vertically.

9. The crawler system of claim 8, wherein the vertical positioner includes a first vertical member configured to move the crawler vertically.

10. The crawler system of claim 9, wherein the first vertical member is a hydraulic member.

11. The crawler system of claim 9, wherein the vertical positioner further includes: a second vertical member parallel with the first vertical member and connected with the crawler; and a third vertical member connected with the railroad equipment, wherein the second vertical member is within the third horizontal member; and wherein the first vertical member is connected with the second vertical member and the third vertical member.

12. The crawler system of claim 3, wherein the first position is located on or above a railroad tie and the second position is located on a guard timber of a timber bridge.

13. The crawler system of claim 3, wherein the first position is located on a guard timber of a timber bridge and the second position is located on or above a railroad tie.

14. A means for moving a crawler for railroad equipment from a first position to a second position: means for moving the crawler vertically; and means for moving the crawler horizontally.

15. Railroad equipment comprising: a frame; a first crawler system connected with the frame, wherein the first crawler system includes: a first crawler; and a first positioning system connected with the first crawler and the frame and configured to move the first crawler horizontally; and a second crawler system connected with the frame, wherein the second crawler system includes: a second crawler; and a second positioning system connected with the second crawler and the frame and configured to move the first crawler horizontally.

16. The railroad equipment frame of claim 15, wherein the first and second positioning systems are further configured to move the first and second crawlers, respectively, vertically.

17. A method for moving a crawler for railroad equipment from a first position to a second position, the method comprising: performing a first vertical movement of the crawler; performing a horizontal movement of the crawler; and performing a second vertical movement of the crawler.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein performing the first vertical movement of the crawler includes lifting the crawler vertically higher than the second position.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein performing the horizontal movement of the crawler includes moving the crawler to above the second position.

20. The method of claim 19, wherein performing the second vertical movement of the crawler includes lowering the crawler to the second position.

Description:

BACKGROUND

Railroads tracks generally include two parallel rails, which are supported by a series of ties perpendicular to the rails. The rails are attached to the ties via plates and spikes. The plates are located on the tops of the ties and provide a secure housing for the rails. The rails are attached to the ties by driving spikes through the plates into the ties so that the heads of the spikes clamp the rails to plates. As the tracks age, the tracks, portions of the tracks and/or components of the tracks may need to be repaired or replaced. In order to perform repairs and replacements, a variety of railroad equipment has been developed, such as, mechanized gangs with automatic spiking machines, spike removal machines and tie replacement equipment.

When making repairs, the railroad equipment may be supported by and ride along one or both of the rails. For example, during a rail change-out process, one of the rails may be removed at some time. The rail change-out process includes removing the fasteners (such as spikes), rail and tie plates from the railroad ties, installing new rail and fastening the new rail to the ties using tie plates and fasteners, such as spikes. The railroad equipment used for a rail change out process may ride on both rails to reach the location at which the repair is to be made (the “job site”). However, at the job site, the railroad equipment rides along one rail where the other rail is missing. Thus, the railroad equipment used for such repairs must include some mechanism for supporting the equipment on the side of the missing rail and which enables the equipment to move along the track. For example, the equipment may include a crawler system. Thus, the equipment can ride on the existing rail on one side and on the ties on the side of the missing rail. An example of such railroad equipment, a ride-on tie plugger, is described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,832,558, which is herein incorporated by reference in its entirety. However, if such railroad equipment is used to repair a track with one rail removed over a bridge, additional equipment, steps and/or safety precautions need to be used.

FIG. 2 (prior art) shows a cross-sectional view of an exemplary track supported by a bridge 200. The bridge 200 generally includes a support 204, a cap 206, a pair of stringers 208 and a track 224. The track 224 includes ties 210 (only one is visible), first and second rails 216, 218 and first and second guard timbers 212, 214. The first end of the bridge support 201 is secured to the ground 202 and the second end of the bridge support 201 supports a cap 206. Secured to the cap 206 are the stringers 208 that support the track 224. The rails 216, 218 are secured to the ties 210, which maintain a consistent distance between rails 216, 218, via spikes (not shown). The guard timbers 212, 214 run perpendicular to the ties 210 and maintain a consistent distance between each tie 210.

When railroad equipment travels across a bridge 200 that is missing one rail (for example, the first rail 216 is missing), it is possible for the equipment to derail if the equipment comes in contact with the guard timber 212. Therefore, tie plates or timbers need to be placed in front of the equipment in order to raise the equipment high enough to clear the guard timber. This procedure requires workers to be located on the bridge 200, which creates a dangerous situation. Therefore, the relevant Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards require that any workers working outside the rails of a railroad bridge must use fall protection if the bridge does not have a walkway or side restraints.

SUMMARY

A movable crawler system that moves a crawler of railroad equipment from a first position to a second position is disclosed. The crawler system includes a crawler and a positioning system that moves the crawler. The positioning system includes a horizontal positioner that moves the crawler in a direction parallel or approximately parallel to the ground (horizontally) and may include a vertical positioner that moves the crawler in a direction perpendicular or approximately perpendicular to the ground (vertically).

In general, the horizontal positioner includes a horizontal hydraulic member, an inner horizontal member and an outer horizontal member. The inner and outer horizontal members are hollow and coaxial with each other and the inner horizontal member is positioned within the outer horizontal member. The horizontal hydraulic member may be positioned along the outside of and parallel to the inner and outer horizontal members.

The horizontal positioner is secured to the crawler and the railroad equipment. More specifically, the second end of the outer horizontal member is secured to the railroad equipment, and the second end of the inner horizontal positioner is secured to the crawler. The first end of the horizontal hydraulic member is secured to the first end of the inner horizontal member via a first connector. The second end of the horizontal hydraulic member is secured to the outer horizontal member via a second connector. To move the crawler in an approximately horizontal direction, the pressure is increased or decreased in the horizontal hydraulic member depending on the direction desired.

In general, the vertical positioner includes a vertical hydraulic member, an inner vertical member and an outer vertical member. These vertical members are coaxial with each other. The inner and outer vertical members are hollow, and the vertical hydraulic member is positioned within the inner vertical member and the inner vertical member is positioned within the outer vertical member.

The vertical positioner is connected with the crawler and the railroad equipment. More specifically, the first end of the outer vertical member is secured to the railroad equipment and the second end of the vertical hydraulic member, and the second end of the inner vertical member are secured to the crawler. The first end of the vertical hydraulic member is secured to the first end of the outer vertical member via a first connector. The second end of the vertical hydraulic member is secured to the crawler frame via a second connector. To move the crawler in an approximately vertical direction, the pressure in the vertical hydraulic member is increased or decreased depending on the direction desired.

The crawler systems may be used in a variety of railroad equipment, such as equipment used in rail change-out processes. An example of such equipment is an RTP. In general, at least two crawler systems are attached to the frame on one side of the RTP or other railroad equipment. In this implementation, the crawler systems enable, for example, the crawlers (and thus one side of the RTP or other railroad equipment) to be moved between a position on or above the railroad ties and a position on the guard timber. Because the crawlers can be moved so that they are positioned on the guard timber, when the equipment is operated on a track suspended by a bridge, which has one rail missing, there is no need to place tie plates or timbers in front of the equipment in order to raise the equipment high enough to clear the guard timber. This eliminates the need for workers to work outside the rails and thus, the need for fall protection.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION THE DRAWINGS

The invention can be better understood with reference to the following drawings and description. The components in the figures are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon illustrating the principles of the invention. In the drawings:

FIG. 1. An isometric view of a ride-on tie plugger.

FIG. 2. A front cross-sectional view of a timber bridge (prior art).

FIG. 3. A simplified left side view of the ride-on tie plugger of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4. A top view of a frame of the ride-on tie plugger of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5. An isometric view of an adjustable crawler of FIG. 1 shown positioned on the railroad ties.

FIG. 6. An isometric view of the adjustable crawler of FIG. 1 positioned on a guard timber of a timber bridge.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 shows an example of first and second crawler systems 114, 116 as implemented in a ride-on tie plugger (RTP) 100. However, crawler systems may be used with and/or implemented in a variety of railroad equipment, such as equipment used in a rail change-out process. The RTP 100 is used in railroad repair to enable workers 160, 162 to plug holes in the railroad ties 210 that are too large to securely hold the spikes that are used to attach the rails 216, 218 (FIG. 1) to the ties 210. The RTP 100 includes a frame 108 to which vertical supports 112, 113, 140 are attached. The vertical supports 112, 113, 140 support a top 110.

The frame 108, vertical supports 112, 113, 140 and top 110 define a worker area 106 in which the workers 160, 162 operate the RTP 100 via control panels 132, 144 and perform the tie plugging operation. The worker area 106 may also include two seats 150, 152 on which the worker 160, 162 may sit. The workers 160, 162 plug the holes in the ties 210 by injecting one or more chemicals into the holes with a hand-held device (not shown).

The RTP 100 also includes a motor 142, first, second, third and fourth rail wheels 134, 136, 138, 140, respectively (see FIG. 4) and first and second crawler systems 114, 116, respectively. If both rails are present (such as rails 216, 218 in FIG. 2), the first and second rail wheels 134, 136, respectively, are positioned on top of one rail (such as rail 218 in FIG. 2) and the third and fourth rail wheels 138, 140, respectively, are positioned on top of the other rail (such as rail 216 in FIG. 2). The crawler systems 114, 116 are positioned on the same side of the RTP 100 as the third and fourth rail wheels 138, 140, respectively and on or above the ties 210. The rail wheels 134, 136, 138, 140, along with the motor 142, propel the RTP 100 along the rails 216, 218. Alternately, if one of the rails is missing (such as rail 216 in FIG. 2), the crawler systems 114, 116 are moved so that they are positioned on top of the railroad ties 210 or a guard timber (such as guard timber 212 in FIG. 2) located on the same side of the track 224 as the missing rail. Together with the motor 142, the crawler systems 114, 116 propel the RTP 100 along the guard timber (such as guard timber 214 in FIG. 2).

The crawler systems 114, 116 each include a positioning system 170, 172, respectively, and a crawler 122, 124, respectively. The positioning systems 170, 172 move the crawlers 122, 124, respectively, from a first position (such as, on or above the ties 104 shown in FIG. 5) to a second position (such as, on the guard timber 218 shown in FIG. 6). Each positioning system 170, 172 includes a vertical positioner 370, 372, respectively, (shown in FIG. 3) and a horizontal positioner 420, 422, respectively, (shown in FIG. 4). As the crawler systems 114 and 116 are virtually identical, the following will describe crawler system 116. However, the description also applies to crawler system 114.

FIG. 3 is a simplified side view of the RTP 100 in which the vertical positioners 370, 372 are shown more clearly. The vertical positioners 370, 372 move the crawlers 188, 120, respectively, vertically in a line parallel to the vertical support 113 of the RTP 100. As the vertical positioners 370, 372 are virtually identical, the following will describe vertical positioner 372. However, the description of vertical positioner 372 also applies to vertical positioner 370.

In general, the vertical positioner 372 includes a vertical hydraulic member 306, an inner vertical member 326 and an outer vertical member 324. These vertical members 306, 326 and 324 are coaxial with each other. The inner and outer vertical members 326, 325, respectively, are hollow and the vertical hydraulic member 306 is positioned within the inner vertical member 326 and the inner vertical member 326 is positioned within the outer vertical member 324.

The vertical positioner 372 is connected with the crawler 120 and the RTP 100. More specifically, the first end of the outer vertical member 314 is secured to the second vertical support 113 of the RTP 100, and the second end of the vertical hydraulic member 310 and the second end of the inner vertical member 316 are secured to the crawler frame 124. The first end of the vertical hydraulic member 308 is secured to the first end of the outer vertical member 314 via a first connector 325. For example, the first connector 325 may include a pin and bushing made from a material such as, steel. The second end of the vertical hydraulic member 310 is secured to the crawler frame 124 via a connector, such as a pivot connector 340. The pivot connector 340 enables the crawler 120 to adjust to height variations in the guard timber 502 (shown in FIG. 5).

To move the crawler 120 upward, the pressure in the vertical hydraulic member 306 is decreased. This pulls the second end of the inner vertical member 336 further into the outer vertical member 324 and thus, raises the crawler 120. To move the crawler 120 downward, the pressure in the vertical hydraulic member 306 is increased. This extends the second end of the inner vertical member 336 from the outer vertical member 324 and thus, lowers the crawler 120.

In order to prevent wear between the inner and outer vertical members 326, 324, respectively, the vertical positioner 372 may include a buffer 382 located between the inner and outer vertical members 326, 324, respectively. The buffer 328 may include a metal plate, such as a brass plate. The vertical positioner 372 may also include one or more slack adjusting mechanisms 330. These adjusting mechanisms 330 protrude through the outer vertical member 324 to contact the buffer 328 and hold it in place between the inner and outer vertical members 326, 324, respectively. As the buffer is worn down by movement between the inner and outer vertical members 326, 324, respectively, the adjusting mechanism 330 may be tightened so that the buffer 328 remains in place.

FIG. 4 is a top view of the frame 108 of the RTP 100 in which the horizontal positioner 422 is more clearly shown. The frame 108 includes first, second, third and fourth frame members 402, 404, 406 and 408, respectively, which are secured together to form a generally rectangular structure. The frame 108 also includes first, second, third and fourth rail wheels 134, 136, 138, 140, respectively. The first and third rail wheel 134, 138, respectively, are connected with each other and with the first and second frame members 402, 404, respectively, via a first axel 410. The second and third rail wheels 136, 140, respectively, are connected with each other and with the first and second frame members 402, 404, respectively, via a second axel 410.

The frame 108 also includes first and second horizontal positioners 420, 422, respectively, and crawlers 118, 120. The first and second horizontal positioners 420, 422, respectively, move the crawlers 118, 120, respectively, horizontally in a line perpendicular to the horizontal support 113 of the RTP 100. As the horizontal positioners 420, 422 are virtually identical, the following will describe horizontal positioner 422. However, the description of horizontal positioner 422 also applies to horizontal positioner 420.

In general, the horizontal positioner 422 includes a horizontal hydraulic member 424, an inner horizontal member 446 and an outer horizontal member 436. The inner and outer horizontal members 446, 436, respectively, are coaxial with each other. The inner and outer horizontal members 446, 436, respectively, are hollow and the inner horizontal member 446 is positioned within the outer horizontal member 436. The horizontal hydraulic member 424 may be positioned to be along the outside of and parallel to the inner and outer horizontal members 446, 436, respectively.

The horizontal positioner 422 is secured to the crawler 120 and the RTP 100 via a series of pins, such as steel pins, and weldments on the crawler frame 124. More specifically, the second end of the outer horizontal member 440 is secured to the first frame member 402, and the first end of the inner horizontal positioner 444 is secured to the crawler frame 124. The first end of the horizontal hydraulic member 426 is secured to the first end of the inner horizontal member 444 via a first connector 460, such as a pivot connector. The second end of the horizontal hydraulic member 426 is secured to the outer horizontal member 436 via a second connector 462, such as a pivot connector. The pivot connectors 460, 462 enable the crawler 120 to adjust to variations in the horizontal movement of the RTP 100.

To move the crawler 120 outward, away from the second rail wheel 136, the pressure in the hydraulic member 306 is increased. This pushes the first end of the inner horizontal member 444, and thus the crawler 120 away from the second rail wheel 136. To move the crawler 120 inward, towards the second rail wheel 136, the pressure in the hydraulic member 306 is decreased. This pulls the inner horizontal member 446 into the outer horizontal member 436, thus moving the crawler 120 inward, towards the second rail wheel 136. The crawler 120 may be moved horizontally to any number of distances. For example, the crawler 120 may be moved horizontally outward by a distance of twelve (12) inches so that it is horizontally aligned with a guard timber 212 of a bridge 200 (FIG. 2).

The horizontal positioner 422 may also include a mechanism that prevents the horizontal positioner 422 from moving horizontally. One example of such a mechanism is lock bar 452 and a lock bar guide 454. The lock bar 452 includes a plurality of holes and is attached to the inner horizontal member 446. The lock bar guide 454 includes a hole and is attached to the outer horizontal member 436. The lock bar 452 and lock bar guide 454 may be engaged with each other by aligning one of the holes of the lock bar 452 with the hole of the lock bar guide 454 and inserting a pin (not shown) through the aligned holes. In this manner, horizontal movement of crawler 120 is prevented.

In order to prevent wear between the inner and outer horizontal members 446, 436, respectively, the horizontal positioner 422 may include a buffer 456 located between the inner and outer horizontal members 446, 436, respectively. The buffer 456 may include a metal plate, such as a brass plate. The horizontal positioner 422 may also include one or more slack adjusting mechanisms 454. These adjusting mechanisms 454 protrude through the outer horizontal member 436 to contact the buffer 456 and hold it in place between the inner and outer horizontal members 446, 436, respectively. As the buffer 456 is worn down by movement between the inner and outer horizontal members 446, 436, respectively, the adjusting mechanisms 454 may be tightened so that the buffer 456 remains in place.

In one example, the crawler 120 of the RTP 100 may be moved from a first position to a second position via the positioning system 172, which moves the crawler 120 vertically upward so that it is above the first position, horizontally so that it is over the second position and vertically downward into the second position.

An example of the crawler 124 in a first position is shown in FIG. 5 and an example of the crawler in a second position is shown in FIG. 6. In these examples, the first position is on (or alternately, above) the ties 104 of a railroad track 218 and the second position is on the guard timber 218. However, the crawler 124 may be moved from and to a variety of other positions.

As shown in FIG. 5, the crawler 120 is in a position in which the crawler wheels 126 are postponed on (or alternately, above) the ties 104. In this position, the vertical hydraulic member 30 is in an expanded state causing the inner vertical member 326 of the vertical positioner 372 (see FIG. 3) to protrude from the outer vertical member 324. Because the inner vertical member 306 is connected with the crawler frame 124, the crawler 120 is in a position below the top of the guard timber 218. In addition, the horizontal hydraulic member 424 is in a retracted state causing the inner horizontal member 446 to retract into the outer horizontal member 436 further than it was in FIG. 5. Because the inner horizontal member 446 is connected with the other vertical member 324, the crawler 120 is located in a position away from the guard timber 218.

As shown in FIG. 6, the crawler 120 is in a position in which the crawler wheels 126 are located on the guard timber 218. In this position, the vertical hydraulic member 306 is in a retracted position causing the inner vertical member 326 to withdraw into the outer vertical member 324, but not to the extent shown in FIG. 5. This positions the crawler wheels 126 at the level of the top of the guard timber 218. In addition, the horizontal hydraulic member 424 is in an expanded state causing the inner horizontal member 446 to protrude further from the outer horizontal member 436 than it did in FIG. 5. This positions the crawler 120 away from the RTP 100.

To move the crawler 120 from its position in FIG. 5 to its position in FIG. 6, two vertical and one horizontal moves are made. Starting in its position in FIG. 5 (on or above the ties 104), the crawler 120 is moved upward to a position higher than the top of the guard timber 218 by the vertical positioner 372. The crawler 120 is then moved horizontally to a position vertically aligned with the guard timber 218 by the horizontal positioner 422. Then, the crawler 120 is moved vertically downward until it comes into contact with the top of guard timber 218 by the vertical positioner 372. To move the crawler 120 from its position in FIG. 6 to its position in FIG. 5, the previously-described steps may be taken in reverse.

While various embodiments have been described, it will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that many more embodiments and implementations are possible within the scope of the invention. Accordingly, the invention is not to be restricted except in light of the attached claims and their equivalents.