Western Rail Road Museum Track Crew News

Welcome to the News from the Track Crew!

- - Written by Joel Cox

March 5, 2007

Tool Cart
Checking the rackJoel C. went back to the tool rack fabrication work.  He finalized the layout of tools on the cross bar, and began welding the pins in place that will hold the hanging tools.  The pins are set at an angle, so that the tools won’t fall off as the pushcar bounces down the track.  He used a jig to hold the pins for welding, to make sure that they were all at the same angle.  With the pins in place, he hung some tools on the rack to see what it will look like (another reality check, making sure everything fits right).  Still to go are the two extensions to hold the long-handled shovels and then the tubes that hold the cross bar above the deck.  Also still needed are the torch rack, a holder for the ice water jug, and some lifting eyes.  Soon, it will be time for paint!

March 3, 2007

Track Crew Work Party
Tamping track 32This day’s work was to continue tamping the new track in front of the Car House Three.  The hardest part of the work was to raise the track on hand jacks.  Because the Association’s Jackson 2800 tamper doesn’t do that by itself, it was necessary to dig holes in the ballast, place jacks, and raise the track by hand.  In the turnouts, this was especially difficult because the track was heavy enough that raising one jack at a time didn’t work.  Instead, the jack just punched down into the dirt under the ballast.  So it was necessary to raise the track on two, three, or sometimes four jacks simultaneously in order to actually get the track to come up.  Fortunately, today’s work only included one turnout.  The rest of the plain track came up easily, one jack at a time.

Mike WOn this day, the Track Crew was Buzz B., Joel C., Mike D., and Mike W.  Everyone worked together to set the jacks and raise the track, and then Joel ran the tamper to squeeze the ballast under the ties.  Fortunately, our tamping machine is pretty versatile.  The workheads traverse side to side, and are well suited to tamping turnouts and other complicated track work.  It is a powerful machine, and does a good job.  Unfortunately, like most of the other maintenance machines at the museum, it is an older hand-me-down, and is subject to mechanical problems from time to time.  This day, we made it until the home stretch after lunch, when one of the workheads went down but refused to come back up.  With some testing and head scratching, and after checking various electrical and hydraulic circuits, it was determined that the solenoid-operated hydraulic valve that controls the workhead cylinder is the likely checking switchculprit.  This ended the work for the day, since we don’t have a spare for this device.  We’ll have to order a new one.

While waiting for the mechanic (Joel C.) to diagnose the problem with the tamper, Mike W. went to work cleaning out one of the switches.  The points of the switch got filled with ballast when we dumped rock on the track, so they need to be cleaned out before they will operate.  In the photo, we see Mike cleaning out the rock using a pick, shovel, broom, and compressed air to move the offending rocks.  Sometimes, they can be difficult to remove!

March 1, 2007

Tool Cart
Today, Joel C. continued welded fabrication of the tool rack.   The top deck needs drain holes just like the bottom, so he got out the portable drill press again and made more ¾” holes around the edges.  Then he used the forklift to take the rack outside and flip it over, so that it would be easier to make some of the welds that were on the underside.  With those welds complete, he flipped it back upright and put it back down on the set up table as before.

cross bar holds hanging toolsThe cross bar at the top which will hold the pins to hang the tools is made from two channels welded back-to-back.  The space between the channels, now a tube, will be used as a safe-haven for the track level.  That is really the only delicate tool in the Track Crew’s collection, and it deserves a heavy metal box to store it safely.  Once the channels were welded together, Joel set out some examples of tools to see exactly how they would fit together on the rack.  You see, just because he drew the whole rack on a computer, Joel don’t necessarily trust his design.  It needs frequent checking with actual items to be sure that the dimensions are right.  In fact, after completing the design, Joel decided to add a rack to hold oxygen and acetylene bottles, so everything had to shift a little to accommodate the addition.  In any event, the final dimensions are worked out on the actual rack, rather than working just from the drawing.  In the photo, the cross bar is lying on its side, ready for the installation of the pins that will hold the hanging tools.  Below it is the completed 2-deck portion of the rack sitting on the set-up table.

February 27, 2007

Tool Cart
Joel C. did more fabrication work on the tool cart.  First order of business was to drill some drain holes in the lower deck sheets.  The Track Crew doesn’t plan on storing the tool cart outside, nor do they like to work in the rain, but it’s still a good idea to have a way for water to get out, should it happen to ever get in.  The holes were made using the magnetic base drill (portable) drill press, and a hole saw.  This made quick work of a series of holes all ¾” in diameter.

Next step was to lay out the pieces for the top deck.  Once the upper deck sheet and the perimeter angles were in place, Joel welded them in place quickly.  Now the rack looks like a giant, very heavy-duty pallet.

February 22, 2007

Tool rackTool Cart
For a long time, the Track Crew has been thinking about improving the way we carry tools to the job sites on the track.  As of now, each day they spend a fair amount of time organizing tools at the beginning of each work day, and putting them away at the day’s end.  The tools are currently stored in a rack at the corner of the shop, so each day they put what we need on a pushcar and carry the whole thing over to the track (using a forklift).  Then at the end of the day, they carry the cart back from the track to the shop, and unload everything.  The latest idea would be to have a rack that can ride around on the pushcar all the time, and at the end of the day they would take the cart, rack, tools and all and put the whole thing in the barn until the next time it is needed.  No more wasting time loading and unloading tools.  And since all the tools will be there all the time, there won’t be any more embarrassing moments when they realize that they forgot to bring some tool or another to the job site.  Actually, that can be more than just a nuisance, since if they are way out on the line somewhere when they realize what was forgotten, there isn’t generally the opportunity to go back and fetch it.  So they either have to go without for the day, or loose the day’s work.

So from his daydreams about a tool rack, Joel C. came up with a design.  The rack will fit on the deck of any of the Association’s pushcars, but will be self-contained so that it can be lifted off in case the car is needed for something else.  The rack will be fabricated from steel for durability.  It will weigh about 700 pounds!  (That’s before you put any tools on it – and since all railroad track tools are heavy, it will be a real sucker when it is loaded.)  It will have a two level deck, with the lower spaces allocated to storing lining bars and similar long steel tools.  The upper deck will hold kegs of spikes, bolts, and other supplies.  The rack in the middle will hold all the wood-handled tools, such as hammers, shovels, as well as other things that tend to get tangled like tie tongs.  They’ll be hanging so they are easy to reach but won’t get tangled.  There will be a safe place to store the track level where it won’t get damaged, as well as a place for an oxy-acetylene torch and a jug of ice water for the crew. 

fabrication beginningJoel designed the tool rack to be mostly made from material that was left over from previous projects, and a few months ago he ordered the remaining material that was needed.  In the past week, he began cutting the pieces to begin the fabrication.  Today’s job was to begin laying out the material, and start welding the pieces together.  The first task was to move the large set-up table into the shop, so that there would be a flat surface to do the fabrication from.  The table is VERY heavy.  It gets the full attention of our 20,000 pound forklift to move it around.  It is made from cast iron, and is very thick.  Of course, that’s why it provides such a stable surface to do projects like this.

Once the table was in place, it was time to form the bends in the sheet steel that forms the bottom deck of the rack.  This was done on the press brake in the shop.  In order to use the machine, first it was necessary to adjust the machine travel.  This determines the total angle of the bend.  This was done using small scraps of the same material that would form the deck.  Test bends were made on the small scraps, which were then measured to see if the angle of the bend was correct.  When everything was set, the large sheets were muscled ino the machine and aligned onto the mark, the foot control was pressed, and presto! Now there are right-angle bends for the sides.

With the lower deck sheets bent, the angles and channels that form the remainder of the lower deck were laid out.  Once everything was in place and adjusted for squareness, Joel began welding.  For this project, he used the Association’s wire feed MIG welder.  With everything set up properly, it is easy to make very nice welds, and it is VERY quick.  There is no more of this stopping, changing electrodes, and chipping welds like with the old-fashioned stick welding.  In the photo, you can see the progress for the day:  lower deck pieces laid out on the set-up table, and welded together.

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