Super Air Knife Used for Rail Car Sill Cleaning


Our Australian distributor, Compressed Air Australia, was working recently with one of their engineering firm customers to provide a solution for a problem of material being left on rail car sills. This specific issue was for cars that carried iron ore, but the solution can be applied to any load trimming / sill cleaning application that involves filling of open top rail cars with solid materials. In many cases such filling is accomplished by front end loaders which can leave debris along the top sill of the cars. The sill is usually about 8” wide, so a lot of material can collect there.

The problem that can occur is that if this material is not properly cleaned from the tops of the car sills, it can become dislodged during motion of the car during transit. And if this occurs while the train is at speed, the results can be very destructive if not deadly for people and property that might be along-side the track area. Another issue that is being addressed by insuring clean sills is the possibility that the material can fall down onto the track head itself and cause damage to the track as well as be potential problem for derailment. The damage that can occur would obviously carry pretty severe consequences. And so a simple solution to these possible issues is what the developer was looking for.

Initial solutions included operators working off of temporary platforms to blast the sills with high-pressure water. That proved labor intensive and inefficient use of manpower.

The engineering firm then developed a special, modified excavator that could trim the load and perform the needed sill cleaning. Above is a sketch of the idea. The cab of the excavator is elevated to give the operator clear view of the contents of the car, regardless of the type of car being handled. The excavator was also outfitted with a hydraulically powered air compressor to provide the desired airflow to power the Super Air Knife. The compressed air line was run up the length of the boom to a special, rotating head that allowed for manipulation of the material during trimming process and deployment of the Super Air Knife during the sill blowing process. A few photos of an earlier generation of the head are shown below.

Unfortunately, we were unable to receive a photo with the Super Air Knife installed. But I can tell you that the large, air bag and spring loaded version the customer made on their own became un-necessary when they applied the Super Air Knife as they found they could exert the necessary blowing force from the protection of the head itself. That meant they did not need to extend and retract the blowing head as shown below. So it simplified installation as well as operation with less moving parts.

Load Trimming / Blowing Head Unit


Rail Car Sill Blowing Head

Beyond the simplified installation, the engineering firm also found that the Super Air Knife was able to produce better results and use less compressed air which allowed them to dial back the performance of the on-board compressors to a more suitable level (less energy).

I have to admit that when I first heard about this kind of solution, I was amazed at the ingenuity that the engineering firm working with our distributor displayed was quite incredible. It is our hope to get some updated photos showing the Super Air Knife in place of the one shown above.

Neal Raker, International Sales Manager

Leave a Reply