Sonic Drill Buzzes Through Buried Railway Track

Over the years, sonic drilling has been used for many fascinating projects but none more so than drilling inside a building and through hidden railway track.


Despite the numerous advance preparations required, Sonic Drilling Ltd. didn’t shy away from the special challenge of drilling inside a heritage building that was originally constructed sometime during the 1890s. Originally, the building had been a coal-fired generating station although its last tenant was actually a steel mill and, since then, the building had been vacant for the past 20 years. Because there were no environmental regulations back at the beginning of the 20th century, the new owner now wanted to find out what was under the building’s 4 ft. thick concrete floors.


Although the project only required two holes to be drilled to a depth of 30 ft., the safety efforts were immense to ensure that there was adequate venting of exhaust, enough light to see properly and enough space in which to operate. Unfortunately, the weather caused some delays as it began to snow heavily once the crew was ready. On the positive side, the building offered a large hanger-like door so that the SDC-450 drill rig could be moved easily inside, despite the cramped quarters once it was in there. Once the drilling commenced, all seemed to be going smoothly until the rig suddenly took a lengthy 10 minutes to drill only six inches. Unbelievably, the sonic drill had hit a buried railway track!


Keeps on Drilling

After slowing down considerably, it buzzed through the thick regular gauge steel and kept right on going. In the end, thanks to extensive planning, the project was completed without incident. For the crew, though, finding a buried railway track made it an especially memorable one. However, this project still had one more surprise in store! During drilling, a once-in-a-lifetime photo was captured of the drill pipe glowing red, due to a rare and specific frequency of vibration. Ray Roussy, patent holder and developer of modern day sonic drilling technology, always thought that, under just the right conditions, it might be possible for the drill pipe to glow. Still, it took 30 years and a particular set of conditions for his theory to actually be realized.


Roussy is president of the contracting company, Sonic Drilling Ltd., and the US-based Sonic Drill Corporation. He is also co-owner of the manufacturing company, Sonic Drill Systems, which produces the now-famous Sonic Drill Corporation (SDC) model of sonic drill rigs. Unlike a traditional drill rig, the SDC sonic drill uses high-frequency mechanical vibrations to easily cut through earth formations and bedrock.


Not only is the SDC sonic drill at least three to five times faster, it can also bore through tough terrain that typically stops other rigs. As a result, it is often used as a rescue rig (where traditional drill rigs have failed) or as an eco-sensitive rig for challenging drilling projects.