The Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Company (W&LE), privately owned, is the largest Ohio-based railroad and among the largest regional railroads in the country. Dating back to the 1880s, W&LE has a rich history in the rail industry. Overtime, the railway has continued to service Northern Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland by transporting various goods throughout the region, which include stone, farm, forest, steel, petroleum, and paper products. W&LE continues to move approximately 140,000 carloads annually along their service area of nearly 840 miles of track.
Many of their existing tracks include wrought-iron trestles. These train trestles were developed in the 19th century and were used primarily for the development of the railway network. While the technology, at the time, was revolutionary and allowed for larger loads to be carried over streams and embankments, the age of many of these trestles has warranted regular inspection to ensure that they are structurally sound. W&LE regularly inspects track lines to make certain that they are operating as they should. Along portions of the W&LE track line located in Media, Ohio, an original trestle was identified as in need of repair or replacement. It was quickly determined that whatever type of bridging structure was selected, its installation could not disrupt the normal rail traffic on the line. Ideally, the railway wanted to continue to maintain the line above and avoiding extended track closure was of upmost importance. Therefore, excavation, removal of the existing trestle and track, and replacement was out of the question.
W&LE engineers evaluated the site and determined that are large-diameter DuroMaxx® Steel Reinforced Polyethylene (SRPE) liner pipe, manufactured by Contech® Engineered Solutions LLC, would be ideal. Having had previous experience with this product, they knew that it was more than structurally sufficient to be used in a rail application and were comfortable working with the experienced Contech team. DuroMaxx® is manufactured to exacting standards that are approved by the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) for both direct-bury and reline applications. The eighty (80) ksi steel reinforcing provides the strength, while the pressure rated polyethylene resin provides the durability. Combined, these materials result in an extraordinarily strong and durable pipe.
It was determined that the reline of the existing trestle, backfill and then removal of the bridge once backfill was at grade, could occur over a single weekend. A local contractor, Cocklin Trenching Inc., was used to facilitate the onsite installation. Contech Engineered Solutions was also onsite to provide assistance and to ensure the success of the project. As the SRPE material is lightweight, only three 20 LF segments of 120-inch DuroMaxx were needed to reline the existing train trestle. A small track hoe was used to transport the pipe along the rail above, and then set below and pulled into place under the existing bridge. Each segment was placed, and the bell and spigot joints properly honed to ensure a tight fit. Per the project requirements, the SRPE liner pipe adhered to AASHTO MP 40 standards while the high-performance (HP) bell and spigot gasketed joints met the requirements of ASTM D3212. All three segments were set in placed and installed in just one day. Mark Cocklin from Cocklin Trenching Inc. stated, “We installed a 120-inch DuroMaxx pipe under an existing bridge for Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway in Medina, OH. The pipe was delivered with a short lead time and putting the pipe together was a smooth process. We were able to have it installed and take the bridge out within our time frame to have the track back in service. Contech was great to deal with and very easy to communicate with during the entire process.”
After the successful installation of the new liner pipe, backfill material was placed around the pipe and then properly compacted to at-grade level. From this point, the timbers and older girders were removed, and then new rails and ties were set in place to reinforce the train tracks for a continued service life of 100+ years.
W&LE has begun to convert many of these older train trestle bridges to buried culverts to ensure the lines are operating at their optimal performance levels with no concerns of structural integrity.