Welders Are the 'Best in the West'
Customers seek out PNR RailWorks' Pacific Region thermite welders for crane rail welding at a variety of locations, including the Port of Vancouver, BC
Perched on specially designed scaffolding high above the docks at the Port of Vancouver, PNR RailWorks welders do what makes them stand out. They skillfully join together rail sticks suitable for withstanding the giant gantry cranes with massive cargo loads that will travel across the track that they weld. These 10 or so employees work on the cranes at the port and other industrial locations multiple times a year.
Because of their proficiency, these crane rail welders are in demand. They’re the go-to people for crane rail welding at the Port of Vancouver and beyond, and they’ve been steadily refining their skills for years, leading Pacific Region Manager Al Schroeder to term this group the “best in the West.”
Superintendent and longtime welder Randy Ginter agrees that in Canada’s westernmost province, his team is offering a specialty service and is a cut above the competition. “PNR RailWorks performs crane rail installation and repair all over British Columbia,” he says. “We are confident in what we are doing, and we portray that in helping customers fix any problems that they have. We repair and maintain crane rail at all types of facilities: cement plants, lumber facilities, pile-driving facilities, coal, sulfur and potash terminals, container terminals – the list goes on and on. Anywhere there’s a crane running on crane rail.”
The process of producing welds of crane-worthy integrity includes more than completing Thermite welds. PNR RailWorks includes processes for ensuring rail alignment is accurate and securement is solid. The hinged joints are reinforced and the gaps are custom-cut. It takes practice to get it right, but it’s worth it.
Over the years, PNR RailWorks has also influenced the overall safety required to support this process. Fall-protection and fall arrest procedures have been developed to support working 180 feet off the ground. Al explains that “over last 10 or 12 years, we’ve worked with our customers by getting their engineers involved in developing and installing tie-off points and constructing scaffolding to support our workers. All of this is part of our process now, and our clients are very much part of this. It’s been quite an evolution.”
He recalls multiple employees contributing to the cause, including Pacific Region Health & Safety Advisor Helen Aherne. Helen recalls that 10 years ago, engineered restraints like horizontal lifelines, or scaffolding, weren’t in use. “They were anchoring off,” she says, “but maybe not to an engineered anchor. So we met with clients to go over the regulations and what the engineered requirements were.” She says customers like Deltaport immediately started working with engineers to erect scaffolding with guardrails and other proper fall protection systems built for the particular job, so that welders would have greater protection as they accessed their work locations on cranes.
“We have the scaffolding with railings all around us,” says Randy. “We do feel quite safe.”
PNR RailWorks is proud of its safety measures and of its work for customers. “It’s quite a painstaking process to make sure all i’s are dotted and t’s crossed,” Randy says. “There’s double-checking and triple-checking to make sure your work is perfect.” They aim for welds that extend the life of hinge joints that bear much of the strain from 20- to 40-foot containers carrying tons of cargo. And they weld for the comfort and safety of the gantry operator in a cab suspended under the trolley. The better the rail welds, the smoother and safer the ride as the trolley runs across the rails on the boom.
Practice and the experience that have come with it are a dependable combination for customers.
“We’ve learned how to do this and to make the welds last longer,” says Al. “It’s how we prepare and install the rails that gives them better service life. And our turnaround is quick with the product installation or rehabilitation.”
Randy adds that customers come to PNR RailWorks “because of our experience and confidence in what we’re doing up there. Our skills and knowledge have been passed on from generation to generation of employees, making us a very strong and versatile group. We are confident in what we are doing, and we portray that in helping them with installation or with repairing any problems that they have.”