A busy agribusiness storage facility in the heart of Ontario’s feed production zone is saving time and money with a powerful pneumatic railcar opener, expediting the opening and closing of stubborn railcar gates while reducing the risk of injury. The versatile design features an adjustable capstan and handle to compensate for variations in cars, unloading platforms and operator preferences, with pivoting wheels to facilitate maneuvering in tight locations. It delivers 2700 pounds of torque at 90 PSI to open even the toughest gates efficiently, without excessive manual labor or damage to cars.
Seaforth Elevators and Expediting specializes in storing and shipping agricultural products such as grain, seed, micronutrients and by-products. The company maintains three main receiving elevators, with two serving truck and rail lines and one dedicated to trucks. Although throughput is seasonal, the facility averages more than ten rail cars per month, with the tallest elevator capable of receiving as much as 5000 bushels per hour. Rail cars are typically unloaded in about three hours, with contents destined for packaging, storage in silos or bins, or loaded directly from railcar to truck.
“Our customers include farmers and commodity traders that merchandise and distribute their products throughout the region,” explained Co-Owner Jason Oud. “Like most facilities, we had been using manual labor to open each railcar gate. That sometimes included pry bars, chains or even blow torches for extreme cases. We’ve had three people at a time trying to free up a stuck gate, spending as much as an hour just to open one car,” he recalled.
“Opening the gates manually was costing us time, as well as causing a great deal of frustration and fatigue,” Oud continued. “It also exposed us to possible injuries if a tool slipped or someone lost their grip. We knew there had to be a better way.”
Oud said that older, leased cars in particular don’t see much routine maintenance, and little attention is paid to how well the gates operate. Exacerbating the problem was the fact that some of the facilities that load the incoming hoppers use railcar openers, and at times they would over-torque the gates upon closing.
After doing some research on the Internet and evaluating several types of railcar openers, Oud contacted Martin Vibration Systems (Marine City, MI). “We liked the fact that the Martin design was driven by plant air rather than electricity, which made it less expensive,” he explained. “Adjustability was also important to accommodate the different railcar configurations and the condition they’re in.”
The Martin Railcar Gate Opener is built on a wheeled carriage that can be positioned by one worker, and its 10"x4" pneumatic wheels maneuver easily over rough rail side conditions. The unit delivers smooth, non-impacting force to open gates without damage, and the heavy-duty construction delivers a long service life under real-world service conditions.
Engineered to operate on 90-120 PSI of compressed air (6.2 to 8.2 bar), the design consumes 18.5-20.5 CFM (8.7 to 9.7 liters/second) during normal use. Seaforth employs a twin piston compressor with a 100-gallon tank.
“This opener saves us significant time and effort, which means we can be more productive,” Oud concluded. “With less worker fatigue and a reduced risk of injury, it also helps us comply with stringent health and safety protocols. We’re a hands-on operation, and I can say from personal experience that the benefits are unmistakable. We use it on every railcar.”
Seaforth Elevators and Expediting is a family-owned and operated business, including two facilities specializing in loading/unloading, storage and product packaging. With more than 2500 metric tonnes of storage available, the company is located on a well-maintained daily short rail line, near major border crossings and highways. The rail siding from the Goderich/Exeter Rail Line can handle up to five cars at a time, and flexible storage options include bin capacities from 15-500 metric tonnes.