APT 1500 RL: via the highway to the work site

The APT 1500 RL is the first flash-butt welding machine in road/rail truck design to be operated in the USA. Presented at the US trade show Railway Interchange in September 2017, the vehicle has been in regular operation since then.

The APT 1500 RL welding robot in lorry design has already been produced multiple times. For the US edition, the APT 1500 RL was mounted on a typical US truck chassis for the first time. This proves, yet again, the great flexibility of the APT 1500 R welding robot, which can be mounted on different carrier vehicles. 

Similar to many other markets, special requirements had to be met to allow the welding robot to be operated in the USA. The requirements on the US market are different from Europe and Asia. Both during the day and the night, the machine is used by so-called rail gangs. They continuously use several machines to carry out specific tasks. Flash-butt welding is carried out after the exchange of rail pads – during which the rails are cut open and temporarily displaced towards the track axis – or when exchanging rails. This may require correcting differences in profile or height. In addition, it is often necessary to weld in a transition piece when the rails have a different level of wear or when different profiles must be joined.

Plasser American and Plasser & Theurer mounted the APT 1500 R welding robot on an adjusted Kenworth chassis for the infrastructure operator CSX Transportation. It is equipped with two rail wheelsets and rubber tyres for transport by road. Its axle load distribution complies with the US Bridge Laws and allows for transporting the machine, including the welding head, by road without a special permit. Two rail wheelsets of the “Hi-Rail” equipment are used for travel by rail. The rear tandem axle unit of the truck chassis is powered. Acting as a classical friction drive, it ensures the machine’s propulsion on rails. The rail network of CSX covers about 34,000 km in the east of the USA. 

The eye-catching, white-painted APT 1500 RL “Made in USA” is not only the first of its kind, but also the first rail welding machine with automatic welding robot on the US market. Worldwide, more than twenty APT welding machines of the latest generation are in operation. Unlike other known designs for rail and road vehicles, the resting position of the welding unit, which has been adapted to American requirements, is not integrated into the truck. As the APT 1500 RL is capable of performing closure welding, no additional tools or machines are required. Compared to previous methods, this is a significant increase in quality and efficiency.