Gator-mounted vacuum excavator and boring equipment help Midwest Mole maintain a solid railroad division

Having the auger boring equipment, it only made sense for Midwest Mole to look into working for railroad companies.

The company, based in Greenfield, Indiana, has offered railroad drainage installation since it was founded in 1982. That work ranges from repairing or replacing drainage structures to installing new stormwater systems.

“For the most part it’s replacing culverts that are failing, or have a need for increased capacity,” says senior project manager David Howell. “We do quite a bit of boring with the railroads and a lot of that work is done either with auger bores or conventional hand mining, where crews are hand digging and hand excavating the crossings.”

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Boring reduces track time and the disruption of services to the rail traffic.

Midwest Mole also uses a small vacuum trailer (Vermeer) installed on the back of a heavy-duty John Deere Gator utility vehicle for its railroad work. The unit has a 3,000-pound payload capacity and is used for potholing along the tracks.

“We take that along the railroad on the Gator, or set the whole unit on a piece of high-rail equipment and take it back down the tracks so that we can pothole any utilities along the track where a new culvert is being installed,” Howell says. “That way the designers can work around that utility or we can coordinate with that utility to have it relocated if need be prior to the crews showing up to perform the work.”

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The company has pushed that vacuum excavation service for the railroad companies even more in the past year.

“That’s been a very good service and a very good result for them, having less potential delays instead of finding utilities after work has started and then waiting to have those removed,” Howell says.

Howell says the railroad industry, much like the oil and gas, is like a rollercoaster. Some years the company does many railroad projects and other years only a handful.

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“You might have a boom where they’re investing a lot of money to expand or there might be a time like in the Appalachian area where they’ve decided to pull back and not invest as much money because coal’s down and that was a large product they were carrying. You just have to go with the flow as it’s happening.”

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