Rail services provide fleet management, freight management, rail and railcar maintenance, rail and railcar repairs, and rail flaw detection services to the rail industry. Railroads use fleet management services to track locomotives and railcars, manage daily operations, and provide fleet security and control. Typically, these locomotives are diesel, electric, or diesel-electric. Railcars include boxcars, freight cars, and flat cars; gondolas and hoppers; coal cars and refrigerated cars; and tankers or tank cars. Freight management services for the rail industry provide shippers with improved transit reliability and reduced transit times. Rail and railcar maintenance and repair services are also commonly available. Rail flaw detection services use ultrasonic and electromagnetic test techniques to identify and classify rail flaws that could result in service failures or even derailments.
Some rail services specialize in railway maintenance and repairs. Over times, the spikes in wooden ties become loose. Rotten ties must be replaced with new wooden ties or a concrete substitute. Rail services that lay concrete ties must also check for cracks and splits, however. If soil subsidence causes the rails to settle, specialized machinery may be required to raise the track. Periodically, stone ballast must be replaced to ensure proper drainage. If culverts and other nearby waterways become blocked, rail services may need to clean them to avoid landslips. Railways that run alongside rivers require additional inspection and maintenance because of erosion. Rail services may also inspect railroad bridges for cracks, stresses, and other damage. Occasionally, beams and girders need to be replaced.
Rail services may operate rail-flaw detector cars that are equipped with ultrasonic, vision, infrared, and global positioning system (GPS) technologies. Often, ultrasonic inspection equipment is used to test railroad switches and turnouts. Rail services may also use ultrasonic test methods to ensure that newly-installed rails are free from defects. Some rail-flaw detector cars are equipped with computerized management systems that enable railroads to manage the collected data as well overall rail maintenance programs. Others are used to transport service-failure investigators who can estimate rail flaw growth rates. Rail services that offer personnel training and certification programs for railroads and the rail industry are also available.