Rail Construction Equipment Co., Rockford, Ill., builds a wide variety of equipment that serves the railroad industry. One of the never-ending chores for railroad operators is keeping vegetation a safe distance from rail lines. One reason is for safety, so engineers can see if anything is too close to the tracks ahead. Another is to provide access alongside the tracks for maintenance trucks and other vehicles.

An innovative machine that RCE came up with for this task is its BC-120D on-track brush cutter. This machine offers higher productivity than other types of machines. Unlike track or wheel driven machines, the BC-120C can work both sides of a track. And unlike conventional rail mounted cutters, it does not need a locomotive to move from one location to another.

The BC-120D is also more fuel efficient than conventional rail mounted cutters because its propulsion drive has much lower fuel consumption than a locomotive. The BC-120D also weighs much less than a locomotive and cutter combination. All these features add up to substantial cost savings for operators.

Why re-invent the wheel?

RCE’s innovative approach to railroad vegetation management starts with self-propelled rail car chassis with a John Deere 120D excavator mounted on top. The hydraulic motors that would normally power track drives instead drive the wheels of the rail car chassis. This presents another advantage over other machines because the hydraulic wheel drive eliminates the need for chain drives and their associated maintenance.

The BC-120D’s hydrostatic drive is also more compact than chain-drive units, which allows a lower profile and higher ground clearance. Furthermore, the hydraulic motors feature integral dynamic braking and spring-applied, hydraulically released brakes for fail-safe operation. So if a hydraulic line is severed or system pressure is otherwise lost, the fail-safe brake will prevent the machine from rolling.

The machine is topped off with a 42-in. tree grinding head or 96-in. brush clearing head.
Integral hydraulic quick couplers allow switching from one cutting head to another on site.

The cutter head requires an auxiliary hydraulic power unit, which is driven by a Deere 4045T diesel engine rated 120 hp at 2200 rpm. A Deere 6066T diesel, rated 175 hp at 2200 rpm, is offered as an option. The machine also has the advantage of worldwide support from John Deere dealers.

Versatility to the max
Dennis Hanke, railroad specialist for RCE offered, “Our customers want equipment that is more versatile than previous machines available to the railroad industry — equipment that enables them to clear vegetation in the short work windows they face every day with the increasing number of trains on their systems.

Hanke also explained that “Customers want equipment that can perform other tasks other than just brush cutting. This allows higher usage of the equipment and a nationwide support network for routine parts and service.” To this end, the BC-120D can be used for more than just clearing vegetation. For example, substituting the cutter with a grapple, material handling can be performed. Or switch out the cutter for a bucket, and the machine becomes a rail mounted excavator.