CASE STUDY: Hi-Rail Maintenance & Repair Solutions

Industry: Heavy Equipment/Rail Maintenance & Repair/Mining
End Users: CSX, BNSF, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern
Solution: Expanded capability of existing rough terrain equipment to work on and off rail


For years, hi-rail maintenance groups have struggled with the ability to efficiently and effectively perform maintenance and repair task – including both access to areas on and around the tracks and transportation of maintenance equipment to and from the area to be repaired/maintained. The same technology has been in place since the 1940s, and dependence on this outdated technology and methodology has cost the industry in financial terms as well as in a lack of consistency and reliability. In many cases, maintenance equipment and machinery are one-of-a-kind and custom-built, so reliability and consistency even among the equipment itself is not a given.

One hi-rail equipment supply company decided there had to be a better way, and Vallmar Engineering was brought into the conversation with the goal of improving quality, increasing safety and decreasing costs when it comes to repair and maintenance in the high rail industry.

The Vallmar Engineering team started with a thorough evaluation of high rail maintenance and repair to gain a full understanding of the existing challenged faced by the industry. Specially, the team was out to discover why this had not been addressed before and what were the costs and other barriers involved in maintenance of the current machines used in high rail repair and maintenance situations.

This discovery process unveiled several major challenges:

1. Everything was custom-built, which meant there was no consistency when these machines needed repair themselves – causing major issues related to both costs and time.
2. Outdated methodology held that the most efficient mode of transporting these machines to the repair/maintenance site was by rail – loading the machine on a flat rail car, transporting it by train to the site, working from the flat bed or utilizing a crane to move it to wherever it was needed, then doing it all over again to get it back home.
3. Because of this outdated methodology, then, the time and costs associated with even minor repair were far greater than they should be.

Vallmar Engineering then invested its years of experience with mechanical, electrical and hydraulic engineering to find a solution to this long-term problem. The team had to create CAD and 3-D drawings based off of original engineering plans of these decades-old machines. Once drafted, these 3-D and CAD

drawings enabled the Vallmar Engineering team to analyze a variety of possible solutions in a virtual setting, answering all the “what-ifs” that came up. This included consideration of the detailed safety and other industry regulations involved in such a project.

All of this was done with the client’s goals in mind: improve quality, increase safety and decrease cost.


The solution was a friction-powered machine that works on both rough terrain and on rail. Powered by its own engine and rotation of the existing tires, this Friction Drive Rail solution allows existing machines to become rail-ready through consistent components and applications. It provides flexibility to adapt to the need – various capabilities and wide accessibility of the equipment and OEM accessories to fit the repair/maintenance need.
In addition, this process also generated several future opportunities, as well, including hydrostatic-powered, hybrid system and all-electric solutions.

– The company obtained three new OEM designs and several new patents after working with Vallmar.
– The company also decreased the machine’s delivery time from 20 weeks to 8 weeks.
– Direct manufacturing costs for the owner decreased 30% because of the custom machine design work done by the Vallmar team.
Vallmar Engineering provides sophisticated engineering and product development services geared to the needs of small and large industrial customers. To meet our customers’ product design goals, we address three interrelated issues: quality, delivery and cost. In some projects, we support in-house engineering staffs. We are also capable of carrying out every step of the product development and management process.

Our innovative engineering services produce solutions such as power subassemblies designed at appropriate tolerances for efficient, cost effective manufacturing. Focusing on production issues throughout the product design and development process, we create production-ready drawings and manufacturing manuals that reduce costs and time while improving quality and safety.

Contact us to learn how our industrial engineering & product development services can increase your productivity and profitability.

By phone: 800.986.0795
By email:

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply