Union Pacific’s new vegetation spray equipment works in tandem with freight operations to keep the supply chain moving.
Developed by the railroad’s own employees, the new spray technology enhances its ability to manage vegetation while resulting in greater efficiency for Union Pacific’s entire 23-state network.
“Clearing vegetation is an important part of track management,” said Antonio Buelna, rail management manager, engineering. “It eliminates potential tripping hazards and helps make signage more visible to employees and communities.”
Union Pacific’s fleet of hyrail trucks previously sprayed vegetation on the rails, typically covering up to 30 miles of track on a productive day. Although the trucks were a valuable tool, spraying from the tracks usually meant the path was closed to trains.
“They can’t both occupy the same lane, so that can lead to network congestion,” Buelna said.
He and other members of the Union Pacific team worked together to find a solution: rather than using a hyrail truck, the new design features equipment pulling five water wagons – and at the rear end, a spray wagon attacking the vegetation.
Since Union Pacific began testing the equipment in May 2021, its standard 12-hour shift has covered approximately 160 miles of trail a day. The system carries 100,000 gallons of water and consumes 25 to 60 gallons per mile.
Spray equipment works in tandem with freight operations to keep the supply chain moving.
“It reduces the impact on the network,” Buelna said. “It’s a win-win situation – there’s less network congestion and we’re more efficient with our resources and moving customers’ goods.”
Buelna said it’s rewarding to see the gear make a difference, and it wouldn’t have happened without so many hands.
“I saw him as my little baby,” he said. “It was great to see him go from the design process to the actual execution and implementation. He gained buy-in from many other departments including Supply Chain, Technology, Engineering, Harriman Dispatch Center and Mechanical. It’s a multi-team success.
Crew quarters will be added to the amenity in July, enabling the service to operate 24/7 and cover approximately 300 miles per day.
This feature is part of Union Pacific’s “Inside Track” series and is used with permission. For more articles in the series, please visit UP website.