A Texas company is spending $10 million to convert scrap carpet materials into rail ties.
Performance Rail Tie Inc. has bought a 113,000-square-foot building in Southmayd, Texas, and is equipping it to be ready for production in early January, said Performance Rail President Gregory Wilson in a recent telephone interview.
Wilson said the company has an exclusive license from ForcePro LLC of Tulsa, Okla., to make plastic railroad ties called Cavity Ties. The ties are based on polypropylene derived from carpet-facing fibers and backing, and nylon from carpet-facing fibers. PP is the binder for a nylon matrix that acts as reinforcement, Wilson said. For added strength, the ties are molded around a metal web insert.
ForcePro supplies Performance Rail with a special extruder equipped with four injection molding stations to make some 250,000 ties per year. Molds are designed to speed up cooling, which usually is a bottleneck in making such large parts. When demand warrants, Performance Rail will add a second production line, for which it already has installed auxiliary equipment.
Wilson said the company is targeting severe-use areas for the ties, ``where other ties don't hold up well, such as in the highest-traffic lines, where climate is bad and where there are severe curves.''
He expects that transportation companies will be willing to buy a premium-priced tie that will last far longer on such stretches than conventional, creosote-soaked wood ties. Performance Rail claims Cavity Ties have a patented cavity design that makes them more laterally stable than wooden ties.
Several railroads' test sites have installed the ties and are subjecting them to field conditions. Testing earlier this year at the University of Illinois showed the ties retained spikes better than oak ties, were harder than oak and outperformed oak in static bend tests.
Performance Rail has tie orders starting in February.
A typical railroad orders 15 million or more ties a year, so capacity expansion will be called for if Cavity Ties become a hit. Wilson hinted that other production locations will be sought as demand grows.
Performance Rail's headquarters will remain in Paris, Texas, Wilson said. The company decided to set up its first major production location in Southmayd because of local incentives. For its part, the company is committed to creating 50 jobs within three years.
Performance Rail is owned by Donald Wilson and his sons Gregory and Grant. The family has a diverse background in manufacturing that includes store fixtures, motorcycles and pharmaceuticals.