Up and Under

A high-rail package makes this Canadian company’s combination cleaner truck a truly versatile workhorse, on the road or on rails
Up and Under

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Looking to track down new business, the IVIS Inc. in Edmonton, Alberta, decided to go underground. The effort worked: Almost seven years later, the company’s Vac-Con VPD4212LHAE combination truck, equipped with a high-rail system, is a common sight in the tunnels where the city’s light-rail commuter trains run.

The high-rail package, manufactured by Diversified Metal Fabricators, allows the truck to go where other vehicles can’t. The $45,000 system lowers railroad wheels that lift the front end of the truck about an inch above the tracks, while keeping the rear wheels in contact with the rails, says Chad Eaton, project manager for IVIS.


Low profile

“The truck can pretty much go anywhere,” Eaton notes. “It really gives us a competitive edge because it can go into the tunnels. If they need hydrovacuuming or need sand cleared out of drainlines or from the tracks, we can get in there and do the job. The truck’s profile is low enough to clear the overhead electric wires that power the trains.”

The tandem-axle truck, built on a 2004 Sterling chassis, carries a 12-cubic-yard debris tank, a 1,300-gallon water tank, a Roots blower (Dresser) that puts out 4,700 cfm, a pump made by Giant Industries Inc. that generates 3,000 psi/55 gpm, and a front-mounted swiveling hose reel that holds 600 feet of 3/4-inch hose.

After buying it, company representatives made a cold call to the light-rail utility and asked to demonstrate its capabilities. “The next thing we knew, we were doing work for them,” Eaton says. “Our truck offers a good alternative. To do cleaning, the railroad used to put a vacuum tank on a flatbed railcar and use a locomotive to pull it into the tunnels. That gets to be quite expensive because the locomotive burns a lot of fuel.”


Diverse jobs

The truck does plenty of work outside the tunnels, too, with its hydroexcavating and waterjetting capabilities. Hydroexcavating helps crews do everything from locating train-track switches to safely unearthing fiber optic lines. Crews also use the truck for municipal work, such as cleaning sewer lines and catch basins or unclogging large culverts in remote locations.

“Sometimes beavers plug up these big 24- or 36-inch culverts, or they get clogged by years of accumulation of sand and debris from spring thaws and heavy rains,” Eaton says. “The truck definitely puts us out there.

“We’re a more specialized company, so we get a lot of different calls for a lot of different things. A customer may want us to do some hydroexcavating, or clean up a grain spill in a rail yard where a regular truck can’t get in. Sometimes there might be six or seven tracks in a row, and the railroads can’t afford to have a big hose straddling all those tracks.”


Competitive edge

The truck, one of three vehicles the company outfitted with the high-rail package, is especially valuable for jobs that require quick work under tight timeframes. Eaton recalls a job that required crews to clean out accumulated sand (which is used to provide traction for commuter trains), gravel and mud as part of an underground station upgrade.

“We came in at 1 a.m. and had to be out by 5 a.m., so we had six guys and two trucks just motoring,” Eaton notes. “The trucks give us an edge because they can go underground. They help our name stick out a little more because we can offer a service that no one else does in Edmonton.”


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