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Darkness Sheds Light on Scheduling Solution

The unload crew was a key factor in the successful delivery of more than 3 million pounds of continuous welded rail (CWR) to the SunRail commuter rail project site. The RailWorks unload crew (l to r): David Penley, Juan Carvajal, Brad Hurlburt, James Burchfield, Justin Harbin, James Coleman, Clint Hoffman, Jordan Eady. Not pictured: Jerry Logston (L.B. Foster), Matt Schwerin and Rob Chanley (Florida Central Railroad)

In the proverb that says it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, “the darkness” represents a problem.  But for a RailWorks-led unload crew in Orlando, Fla., the darkness actually presented not a problem but a solution. 

RailWorks was tasked with unloading 54 strands of 1600-foot rail for the SunRail commuter rail project.  In the specified 7 a.m.-to-1 p.m. work window, unloading the rail train was simply going to take too long.  Yet unloading in a timely manner would be vital to the first activity for RailWorks and joint-venture partner Archer Western in the initial phase of constructing a 31-mile segment of the line linking DeBary to Orlando.

With that milestone approaching, a proposal was put to customer Florida Department of Transportation:  How about approving unloading at night? 

FDOT wouldn’t agree outright.  They determined that for the first two days, or until they decided otherwise, RailWorks must confine its unloading to the daytime.  “Rail unloading is already a difficult process,” said Project Engineer Clint Hoffman.  “It presents such factors as working on a moving train, and unloading unfastened CWR. Add the facet of darkness, and it makes it that much more difficult.”

Yet just two hours into the unloading, FDOT was so impressed by RailWorks’ skill that they agreed to allow unloading at night.  For four days, from around 3 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., plus utilizing the initial window and extending their time till around 1 p.m., the crew completed the job.  In the end, the eight-person RailWorks team plus an unload operator from L.B. Foster and a train crew from Florida Central Railroad took more than 3 million pounds of continuous-welded rail off the train.

The success drew high praise from FDOT and set the stage for the successful unloading of two more SunRail rail trains within the following six months.