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New soy-based grease extends life of railroad tracks

February 25, 2003
Contact: 

Lou Honary, director, UNI ABIL, (319) 352-5218
Susan Terpay, director of public relations, Norfolk Southern, (757) 823-5204
Bruce Wise, vice president for sales and marketing, Portec Rail Products Inc., (412) 782-6000
Gwenne Culpepper, University Marketing & Public Relations, (319) 273-2761

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- A new environmentally friendly rail-curve lubricant made from soybeans is in use on Norfolk Southern Railway, based in Norfolk, Va.

SoyTrakï¾™, a biodegradable soybean oil-based grease developed by the University of Northern Iowa's Ag-Based Industrial Lubricants (ABIL) Research Program, is being used as an alternative to petroleum-based grease for lubricating rails. The grease reduces rail gauge face-wear and wheel-flange wear when trains go around curves. Summer- and winter-grade blends are in use. An all-season blend is being developed.

'SoyTrak decomposes in a matter of weeks after application, so it's beneficial for the environment,' said Don Cregger, Norfolk Southern manager of project engineering. 'It's more efficient than petroleum grease in reducing wear.'

Norfolk Southern's Research and Test Department, ABIL and Portec Rail Products Inc., invested three years of research to ensure the grease's performance meets the demanding requirements of freight-service railroads.

Lou Honary, ABIL director, noted that during the past five years, more than 24 railroads have used SoyTrak ï¾™. 'But Norfolk Southern's approval gives new credibility to bio-based products.'

Norfolk Southern Corp. is one of America's leading transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway Company subsidiary operates approximately 21,500 miles of rail in the United States and Canada. Norfolk Southern operates the East's most extensive intermodal network and is the nation's largest rail carrier of automotive parts and finished vehicles.

Formulated from U.S.-grown soybean oils and additives, SoyTrak is produced by Environmental Lubricants Manufacturing in Waverly, Iowa, and distributed through Portec Rail Products Inc. Portec Rail Products contributed field equipment and developmental support during field-testing with Norfolk Southern.

Portec Rail has signed with Environmental Lubricants Manufacturing Inc. (ELM), in Waverly, Iowa, as the exclusive distributor of SoyTrak ï¾™. ELM is a partner in Portec Rail's 'Friction Force (SM)', an alliance of six rail industry organizations that serve rail and transit operators as a 'one-stop-shop' for wheel/rail interface solutions. SoyTrakï¾™ is now one of the Friction Force(SM) solutions.

Portec Rail has been involved in the development of rail lubrication and friction management technology since the late 1920s, and is the industry leader in this field.

ABIL is recognized nationally as a leader in the development and commercialization of soybean-based industrial lubricants. Established in 1991, the UNI-ABIL research program brings together research and testing to identify soybean oil characteristics and match them to appropriate industrial uses.

This year ABIL is licensing 24 industrial lubricants, greases and base oils made of soybean oil. For more information about ABlL, visit the Web site, www.uni.edu/abil.