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 tie can provide good performance and durability. The ties are made of recycled high density polyethylene and fiberglass.
New testing involves installing 20 consecutive plastic railroad ties, which 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,'' said Alsentzer.
``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.''
The company's operating arm, Earth Care Products, has the worldwide distribution rights to market the new composite railroad tie, and is developing plans for increased manufacturing capacity to produce it 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 added.
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. The life span of a treated wooden tie may be as short as five years under severe loadings or exposures.
On the other hand, recycled plastic composite ties can last as long as 50 years, he said.
Earth Care also manufactures raw plastic lumber stock in standard wood sizes, outdoor benches, picnic tables and trash receptacles.
Earth Care operates three facilities that have a combined capacity for roughly 15 million pounds of plastic lumber per year.
The company reported sales last year of $6.6 million.