Engineering Partnership, Local First Nations to Mitigate Wetland Geotechnical Issues

Written by Kyra Senese, Managing Editor
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With roughly 86,486,883 acres of wetland in Ontario, officials face unique issues when managing the operation and maintenance of railway lines.

Supercom Industries LP and TBT Engineering, which recently collaborated on projects connected to the East-West Tie Transmission Line, have announced a licensing deal that could have far-reaching implications for North America’s more than 186,411 miles of railway: the Spring Drain, or S Drain.

The S Drain is a product that can be built in phases between standard railway train operations, preserving the wetland ecology while avoiding the need for backfill stone or cement to sustain the embankment.

“The commercialization of Spring Drains has a global potential for implementation and will revolutionize how railroads deal with geotechnical issues related to peat and rail substructure,” said Robert Starr, business development manager at Supercom. “Working collectively with our partners, we can make this product successful and continue to achieve results to benefit our communities.” 

Starr said the project is expected to provide financial returns to the communities involved in addition to creating career paths for individuals and opportunities for local contractors.

Wetland regions such as bogs, fens, and swamps produce spongy, acidic partially degraded organic matter known as peat. Because of the weight and length of trains, this soil type can liquify under portions of track, causing pressure to rise and eject through the tracks, eventually contributing to railbed instability, maintenance concerns, and traffic disruption from delays or derailments, a release said. 

“The Spring Drain improves the performance of the peat subgrade,” said Gord Maki, geotechnical engineer and inventor of the Spring Drain, “by reducing the risk of peat liquefaction while improving the stiness and stability of the rail embankment.”

Observations have revealed a 90%+ reduction in peat boils since the first major installation project in 2020, according to a release. Supercom Industries LP has teamed with TBT Engineering to provide manufacturing, sales, installation and training services for the S Drain system.

“As a First Nations collective committed to responsible land stewardship, Supercom particularly values this intersection of innovation meeting conservation,” a release said.