Boca Raton, Fla.-based U.S. Plastic Lumber Corp. donated several railroad ties to be tested at the American Association for Railroads Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colo. The rigorous testing will determine if the plastic composite railroad ties can provide good performance and durability. The ties are made of recycled high density polyethylene and fiberglass.
New testing involves installing 20 consecutive ties that will be monitored and tested repeatedly to determine how well they maintain gauge and resist wear and abrasion under heavy loads.
``We are putting the ties in the most-rigorous environment possible, a steep curve which puts the most stress on the ties,'' Mark Alsentzer, U.S. Plastic Lumber president and chief executive officer, said in a telephone interview.
The high strain and accelerated testing simulates how the ties wear. The seven major railroads in the United States developed, maintain and run the testing facility.
``It's only in the testing phase. Everyone wants to make sure they last the test of time,'' Alsentzer said.
``We are very confident these new tests will confirm the preliminary findings, which show that this product has the potential to save millions of dollars while enhancing safety and contributing to environmental goals,'' he continued.
The firm's operating arm, Earth Care Products, has the worldwide distribution rights for the ties, and is developing plans for increased manufacturing capacity to produce them in large quantities.
``Once the tests are completed, we'll get into mass production, get significant orders and build a big plant to produce the ties,'' he said.
Other test sponsors include Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J., which is handling patent applications for the product; Norfolk Southern Railroad, Conrail and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Construction Engineering Research Laboratories.
According to Alsentzer, railroads in the United States replace more than 14 million ties each year.
Earth Care operates three plants that have a combined capacity of about 15 million pounds per year. It reported sales of $6.6 million last year.