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Overcoming Hidden Hazards for KCS

RailWorks Track Systems rehabilitated the track on Kansas City Southern Railway’s Bonnet Carré Spillway Bridge near Norco, LA. The bridge spans an overflow area between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain located about 10 miles west of the New Orleans airport.

Over two weeks one December, a RailWorks production crew completed a rehabilitation project on the Kansas City Southern Railway (KCS) Bonnet Carré Spillway Bridge in Louisiana, replacing jointed rail with continuous-welded rail (CWR) to allow for faster train speeds.
Workers installed 20,000 feet of new 136 lb. CWR. They installed 1,600-foot strings on one side of the entire length of the bridge and then repeated the process on the other side. KCS redirected trains daily to accommodate the work. After completing its work each day in a 7- or 8-hour window, RailWorks put the track back in service each evening.
RailWorks crews always plan for project challenges and this bridge – about 1.8 miles long, with its deck from 10 feet to 20 feet above ground – was no exception. Fall protection was paramount, and all 34 RailWorks Track Systems employees on the bridge, including those operating equipment, stayed safe wearing personal fall-arrest equipment. Project Manager Scott Collins, Mechanic Joe Hunt and on-site HSE Technician Greg Schreiner were on the ground throughout the project, maneuvering three 30-foot ladders and a man lift to constantly reposition people. 
While fall hazards were at the top of the list initially, what turned out to be the unique challenges on this project were fire hazards – specifically, flammable yet hidden homes of birds, raccoons and opossums. Scott says employees engaged in fire suppression “all day long and non-stop” to keep the timber trestles safe as they heated the new rail to de-stress it. “You’d heat the rail, and a spark would fly,” so you continually guarded against igniting a nest or den concealed under the bridge. 
Each morning, RailWorks set in motion an effective fire-suppression process that began by using a hi-rail water truck to completely soak the bridge. The operator would then come off the bridge, reload and patrol the road below the bridge. At end of the day, he would get back on the bridge and soak it again. In addition, Scott notes, “we had two, 300-gallon water tanks with the heater on the track, manned the whole time, and a 1,500-gallon water tank down below” to use with hoses from the ground on any fires that re-sparked. 
These safety efforts worked well, contributing to completion of the project on time and without any fire or safety-related incidents.