Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Rehabilitation

Culvert Repair Along the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway

Privately-owned Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co. (W&LE) 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.

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Many of its 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 and continue to perform as originally designed. 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 Medina, 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 not the preferred solution.

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Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Rehabilitation
Each segment was properly aligned and honed for a tight fit prior to backfilling.

Bridge and culvert replacements are a common reality for all owners of drainage infrastructure and a routine part of maintenance and expansion projects on federal lands, roadways and railroads; state department of transportation (DOT) roadways; and at the local level with county, township and municipality owned transportation corridors. Fortunately, culvert rehabilitation via relining has gained momentum as a viable alternative to culvert replacement when dealing with aging drainage infrastructure.

RELATED: Culvert Rehab Success in Pennsylvania

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Whether an owner of a culvert wants to take a traditional design and delivery approach or conduct the work themselves, the construction methods of many reline options can be performed by parties whose normal work activities don’t include reline construction. In addition, most methods can be performed by in-house maintenance teams or entities who do more traditional open cut drainage work.

W&LE engineers evaluated the site and concluded that a 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 standards that are approved by the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) for both direct-bury and reline applications. DuroMaxx utilizes 80 ksi steel reinforcement ribs to provide structural strength, while the pressure rated polyethylene pipe wall and rib encapsulation provides durability. Combined, these materials result in an extraordinarily strong and durable pipe.

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Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Rehabilitation
Three 20 LF segments of 120-inch DuroMaxx were needed to reline the existing train trestle.

It was determined that the reline of the existing trestle could occur over a single weekend. A local contractor, Cocklin Trenching Inc., was chosen to facilitate the onsite installation. Contech Engineered Solutions was also onsite to provide assistance and to ensure the success of the project.

Due to the unique, efficient, and lightweight design of the SRPE pipe, the contractor was able to use a small track hoe to transport the pipe. The pipe was carried along the rail above the installation location, and then set below and pulled into place under the existing bridge. Three 20-lf segments of 120-in. DuroMaxx were needed to reline the existing train trestle. This was a key aspect for the installer in choosing DuroMaxx as the reline material.

RELATED: Working for the Railroad – Pipe Ramming Job Takes LTL Directional Drilling to Remote Locale

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 ASTM F2562 standards while the high-performance (HP) bell and spigot gasketed joints met the requirements of ASTM D3212. All three segments were set in place and installed in just one day.

Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Rehabilitation
Converting the original trestle to a buried DuroMaxx SRPE culvert brought even greater efficiencies to the railway including minimal maintenance.

“We installed a 120-in. DuroMaxx pipe under an existing bridge for Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway in Medina, Ohio,” said Mark Cocklin, of Cocklin Trenching Inc. “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 finished grade. From this point, the timbers and older girders were removed, and the new rails and ties were set in place to reinforce the train tracks for an additional, estimated service life of 100-plus years.

This particular project was a unique reline in that no grout was necessary. Given the hydraulic efficiencies provide by the DuroMaxx SRPE liner pipe, capable of Manning’s “n” of 0.012, a 120-in. diameter pipe was perfectly sized and easily fit beneath the existing girders. Converting the original trestle to a buried culvert brought even greater efficiencies to the railway including minimal maintenance which lowers overall life cycle cost as well as increased safety with no freeze concerns and deck maintenance.
The development of DuroMaxx SR

E pipe has provided the civil engineering industry with a long history of success across the country for use in sewer, belowground storage and segmental relining applications. Due to the unique design using high performance materials, SRPE provides a lightweight, strong and durable pipe technology for a wide variety of infrastructure challenges. This SRPE pipe is considered a flexible pipe type with a profile wall. However, with the incorporation of steel, it is no longer a traditional flexible thermoplastic pipe. Instead, it acts more like a steel or metal flexible pipe when buried.

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 while maintaining structural integrity.

Andrew Jenkins is the Pipe Division regional area manager for Great Lakes and Atlantic Regions at Contech Engineered Solutions.