By Ella Mason | March 26, 2014

The upkeep and maintenance of railcars is a hugely important part of any rail operator’s remit. In most cases, the operator is responsible for ensuring that the railcar is repainted if the exterior coating is damaged or no longer provides adequate metal protection due to wear and tear so it is important for them to have access to facilities where this work can be carried out quickly and efficiently.

2014-03-26-Ella-Mason 1A large Ohio-based rail group has recently installed a $1.4 million facility to repair and maintain their fleet consisting of more than 23,000 types of locomotives and railcars. The facility was installed by Airblast AFC, a joint venture between AFC Finishing Systems and Airblast Eurospray, two companies with extensive experience in surface preparation and finishing equipment.

This facility was specifically designed to accommodate whole railcars and allow up to four operators to work on them simultaneously. It includes a blasting booth, a painting booth and a drying booth all approximately 28ft wide by 90ft long.

The size of the blasting booth meant that the facility would require a highly efficient media recovery system to ensure that all spent abrasive was collected ready for re-use. For this reason, AirblastAFC recommended an Airflex recovery floor which automatically retrieves abrasive rather than operators having to stop and manually recover it.

The Airflex floor covers 100% of the floor space so that all spent abrasive falls into the modular corridors during blasting. The abrasive is then transported along the corridors by flexible scraper blades. These are positioned at pre-set intervals along the corridor and rest against galvanised steel combs so that, when they move backward and forward, the abrasive is shunted along with each alternate stroke.

2014-03-26-Ella-Mason 2The media is eventually transported to an elevator and grit wash where any remaining dust is removed and the spent abrasive and large contaminants are moved to a collection bin. The reusable abrasive is collected in a silo above the blast machine so that the operator can simply refill the blast machine once all the abrasive in the machine has been used. The operator can also specify what size of particle should remain in the system by adjusting the power of the vacuum placed on the abrasive.

Having this technology undoubtedly improves the efficiency of blasting operations like this. The operator spends less time refilling the machine and the flexible scraper blades have a longer service life and require less maintenance than fixed steel blade systems, screw type auger systems or pneumatic floor systems. The system also uses relatively little energy with an operation of this size being powered by just three 1.5HP motors. To learn more about choosing the most efficient systems for your business, please visit

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