Nebraska Patent of the Month – November 2022

Stone ballast, or crushed rock, are commonly used underneath railway tracks. These stones offer drainage and vibration dampening which ultimately extend the railway’s lifespan. Despite the great drainage, the ballast can fill with dirt and debris overtime, clogging this drainage route. When this happens, water builds up, turning the packed dirt to mud which hardens into a concrete-like consistency. This cemented ballast can lead to problems with the railway like buckling or flooding.

Diversified Products, LLC has designed a cribber capable of removing and even preventing this cementing process. This dual ballast cribber design is designed with two pivoting arms equipped with cribber buckets. The central body fits on a railway, using wheels to move along the length. The arms are hydraulically controlled and can be positioned just below or next to the railway tracks. Once in position, a vibrating motor is turned on, causing the buckets to vibrate. Between this vibration and digging motions, the fouled and cemented ballast is scooped and removed. The vibration also shakes loose debris, preventing the ballast from re-cementing soon. This design achieves a complete digging cycle in 2 minutes or less. The digging cycle is automated, ensuring the buckets refrain from contacting the railway directly so that neither the ties nor the rails are damaged.

Other attempts at breaking apart this cemented ballast have been tested. Some solutions included undercutting the cement ballast with a chainsaw-like device. Others have used cribbing buckets but have been limited to single side designs. As such, the railway would need to be passed over twice. Diversified Products’ design effectively tackles both sides of the railway at once, with minimal preparation required. The machine can also be easily operated, thanks to the automated digging cycles.

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