A 240-pound composite railroad tie encased in 80 pounds of ground scrap tires and recycled plastic soon will be available to rail systems for self-testing. Marc Shea, president and chief executive officer of Atwood, Ind.-based Primix Corp., invented the high-tech railroad tie, which, he said, will offer greater strength and durability than traditional concrete or wooden ties.
The Primix tie's core is a steel box beam of two parallel channels filled with concrete. The beam is encapsulated in a composite shell of extruded recycled plastic and granulated 10-mesh car-tire rubber.
Wooden ties last an average of 10 years and concrete 15 years, according to studies done by Primix. The composite tie has a life expectancy of three times that, regardless of service or weather conditions, the company claims.
The core of concrete-filled steel is what gives the Primix tie its strength. "Concrete is stronger, but it is not protected from brittle failure and wood rots," Shea said.
He came up with the idea for a rot- and deterioration-resistant railroad tie seven years ago. Four years later, Shea placed ties at a large rail-switching site owned by Brunk Corp., an international bulk transport facility in Goshen, Ind.
"In addition to the savings of our natural resources with these ties, it seems to us that these ties will hold out and will not be affected by the elements," said Brunk Vice President Tracy Bartow. The area of greatest growth in the railroad-tie market is in replacement ties because of the short life of current tie options.
Primix expects to begin full operation this summer with a single manufacturing line producing 300,000 composite ties a year, enough to supply interested railroads with test ties. The extrusion operations will be located in a 30,000-square-foot facility on a 7-acre site.
The company's initial marketing efforts will target Class 1 railroad systems — those with at least $250 million in annual sales.
"But there are also 600 additional smaller railroads, including subways," Shea said.
Within two years, he expects to have two manufacturing lines running, producing more than 528,000 railroad ties a year. This would be equal to recycling 28 million pounds each of rubber and plastic goods annually, Shea said. Meanwhile, the company is developing new products, including ties for high-capacity and high-speed rail markets.