Western Rail Road Museum Track Crew News

May 12, 2007

Track Crew work party day
The project for this day was to begin this year’s tie replacement program.  With the things prepared by Joel C. earlier in the week, the Crew was ready to begin work right away.  The tie replacement work began at South Park and continued towards the Blakemore Warehouse around the trolley loop.

The first step was to pull the spikes out of the ties to be replaced.  This was done by hand, using a claw bar.  The Association owns a machine that pulls spikes, but usually it isn’t worth the effort to set up the machine.  Generally speaking, the ties that are selected for replacement are really tired, and give up the spikes easily.  So the hand tool is the method of choice.

The next step was to remove the old tie.  The recently acquired tie inserter machine was used for this step.  It works by gripping the tie at its end and pulling it out to the side.  However, this frequently didn’t work, since the ties to be replaced often were very rotten.  Many times, pulling on the end of the tie simply removed the end of the tie, with the remainder still left under the track.  So a technique was developed where the extraction step was skipped.  The new tie was simply inserted using the machine, so that the new tie shoved the old tie out the other side of the track.  This method was a good deal more satisfying, and worked in many cases.  There were a few old ties, however, that simply splintered and had to be removed from the track by hand.

In the places where the old tie could be removed, the new on was lined up by hand and slid under the track using the tie inserter.  Then the tie plates were installed between the rail and the tie, and the ballast was tamped with the Association’s tamper.  Finally, new spikes were set and driven using the spiking machine.  All of this work was done by Jerry A., Joel C., Bob P., and Mike W.

In the end, 38 ties were replaced in the day’s work.  This was good productivity for a small crew, and also considering the relative difficulty of removing the old ties and the fact that the crew was learning how to use the new inserter machine effectively.  Hopefully, as the Track Crew works on the tie replacement program, the work will become easier.

May 10, 2007

Preparing for tie replacement
Happy Gold Spike day! May 10 1869 was the day Union Pacific and Central Pacific celebrated the joining of the transcontinental railroad at Promentory Summit, Utah.

For the work party this weekend, the Track Crew will be replacing ties on the loop track, so some things were needed to prepare for this project. The first order of business was to mark ties for replacement. Joel C. walked around the loop track, starting at South Park Junction, marking deteriorated ties to be replaced. Including switch ties, this amounted to about 200 ties marked. This represents half of the goal for replacement this year.

Pushcar with one freshly painted wheel set

The next job was to check out the Jackson 125 tie inserter. The Association purchased this machine in December from a shortline in Pennsylvania, but so far the Track Crew has not had a reason to use it. Joel C. lifted it onto the track using a forklift, and then filled the fuel and hydraulic fluid tanks and exercised it to check out the different functions. It was necessary to adjust the workhead to compensate for the small size of rail on the tracks where we will be changing ties. To do this, two of the four bolts that hold the workhead in place had to be replaced, and then the workhead was shifted to the required height and tightened in place. All the features appeared to work OK, so the next step will be to use the machine and see if it functions well.

The next step was to replace one wheel set of a pushcar that is regularly used for the Track Crew projects. One wheel set of this car was damaged several years ago, and to get the car back in service, a light-duty wheel set was installed in place of the damaged one. In the mean time, a replacement was made up from parts in the Association’s collection. For some time, this repaired wheel set was kicking around in the shop, but finally Fred K. offered to paint it so that it could be installed. Then it was only a matter of lifting the car slightly, unbolting the light-duty wheel set, and bolting on the freshly painted one. In the photo, the freshly painted wheel set shines next to it’s older cousin. No doubt, with a little time and hard work on the Track Crew, it will be much less shiny and will begin to look just like its neighbors.

Tamper with train of new ties

Tie replacement means that lots of new ties are needed, so four bundles of ties were selected and loaded on pushcars. These loaded cars make up quite a train, but the Association’s big tamper is up to the task of safely moving them around. Also, the required switch ties for the first turnout to be tackled (the interchange switch near the Blakemore Warehouse) were selected and loaded as well. All together, the cars were loaded with 150 ties, which should be more than enough to keep the Track Crew busy for more than the first day.

Finally, whenever ties are replaced, extra tie plates are needed. Sometimes the plates removed from the track can’t be reused because of damage or deterioration, or sometimes they just get lost in the shuffle. Working around the loop track is especially challenging, because the track has many different rail sizes in different areas, and each different rail size requires a unique size of tie plate. Joel C. spent some time with a tape measure going through the Association’s pile of “miscellaneous” tie plates, sorting out by size. This way, it won’t be necessary to go hunting every time a particular tie plate is needed.

May 1 , 2007

Completed car house tree yard tracks
Completed Car House Three yard tracks

Car House Three yard
Today’s work was to complete a number of miscellaneous tasks in the new yard. Using the ballast regulator, excess ballast was plowed out and broomed off of the new tracks. Next compressed air was used to blow out ballast from the inside of guard rails, switch points, and various other concealed areas of the turnouts. The switch slide plates were lubricated with graphite, and the switch stands were lubricated with oil. Finally, a number of ties that had been left hanging during the previous tamping operations were tamped up to support the rails. There remains a little bit of work to complete with the ballast and walkways, but at this point the yard is really looking good and working well.

April 28, 2007

tool cart
Complete tool cart in service

Track Crew work day
The first order of business was to put the new tool cart into service. During the past week, Fred K. and Mike D. had painted it a nice, shiny orange, so Joel C. and Mike D. put it on a pushcar and loaded it up with tools. In the photo, the completed cart Is coupled up to the motorcar, and ready for work.

For this day’s work, the Track Crew focused on completing various tasks in the new Car House Three yard. The Crew tackled lowering a portion of Track 36 first. This work had been started when the problem was discovered on the last work day, but more digging was required to make the track level. After about an hour of digging and throwing the ballast out of the track, the track was successfully lowered. Next the ballast was put back around the ties (this time using a machine – much easier!). Then the track was leveled using jacks and tamped using the Association’s tamper. Finally, the track was cleaned off using the broom of the ballast regulator. Done!

tamping track 36
Tamping Track 36

The next job was to complete the installation of a small culvert that had been started the previous time. All that was required was to backfill over the culvert using road rock, and compact. This was done using the skip loader and plate compactor that had been rented for the weekend.

smoothing ballast

Smoothing ballast between tracks in the Car House yard

For the remainder of the work day, the crew turned to cleaning out the excess ballast around the tracks of the Car House Three yard. The rented skip loader, in combination with the Association’s ballast regulator, turned out to be great tools for this work. Some shoveling was required as well, but the Crew tried hard to have the machines do their work where possible, and only do hand shoveling where nothing else would work. In turn, each track of the yard lead was cleaned off, and the spaces between the tracks were leveled. This gave the yard a

finished look, and will also allow the contractor to pave the road where it crosses all the tracks. Jerry A., Joel C., Bob P. and Robert P. worked together on this project.

In the end, some additional cleaning of the ballast will be required, as well as adjusting and lubricating the switches. However, the yard is very nearly done and is really looking good.

April 19, 2007

Tool Cart Fabrication
The weather was cool, cloudy, and trying to be a bit stormy outside, so it seemed like a good day to head inside and work on the tool cart. The first order of business was to make a few miscellaneous brackets and other parts that were needed to complete the project. The first among these was the lifting eyes.

The lifting eyes were made from pieces of 3/8” steel plate, with large holes in them. In order to drill the holes, it was first necessary to prepare the large radial arm drill press for use. Since it hadn’t been used in a long time, it needed to have the dust and grit cleaned off the column and arm, lest the dirt get inside the mechanism. Also, a large rotary table had been left mounted on the drill press table, so that would need to be put away. This was turning into a typical museum project: find the tool, fix the tool, and then use it.

Putting away the rotary table required use of the electric Yale forklift, since it was rather heavy. This also meant clearing a path for the forklift, putting away cords and hoses, and so on. You get the picture. Fortunately, cleaning up the machine was easy: a bit of solvent, a few rags, some fresh oil, and presto! the machine was ready to use.

Completed tool cart
Completed tool cart, waiting for painting

The next step was to sharpen some drill bits. The bit for the required hole size (2 1/2”) was rather dull, as was a smaller bit selected to make a pilot hole. So, with the help of the drill gauge and bench grinder, the pilot bit was sharpened. The 2 1/2” bit was so huge that it was necessary to use the belt grinder and a protractor head on a combination rule to measure the angle. The drill bit by itself was about eighteen inches long!

Finally, one of the pieces of plate was clamped to the drill press table, the drill was centered over the mark for the hole, and the pilot drill and big drill did their job: making big, curly metal chips and lots of smoke from the cutting fluid. Repeating for the other lifting eye, it seemed like a lot of work just for two holes. On the other hand, it was fun to use such a big and powerful tool the way it was designed to be use.

The other pieces to be made included brackets for holding a torch set and hose reel, as well as short steel angle legs for each corner of the cart. These parts were made with a good deal less effort than the lifting eyes. With all the parts made, everything was clamped in place, and Joel C. welded everything in place. Now, the fabrication work was complete.

The next step was to set up the cart for painting. The set-up table was removed from the shop, and the cart was put on supports to facilitate cleaning and painting. In the photo, the completed tool cart is ready for the painting crew to do their magic and transform it from a collection of rusty steel parts into a good looking tool for the Track Crew.

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