Western Rail Road Museum Track Crew News

May 17, 2007

Track gauge adjusting tool
The tie replacement work over the past weekend highlighted the need for a better tool to adjust the track gauge.  Typically, when the gauge needs to be adjusted, the Track Crew uses either a chain with a screw binder to pull the rails in, or two track jacks base-to-base to push the rails out.  Either of these methods is effective, but can be a bit slow to set up.  Joel C. decided to make a new tool using a screw binder that was missing the hooks, and so was not otherwise useful.

Track guage adjusting tool

Gauge adjusting tool, freshly painted

Starting with the screw mechanism of the binder, all that was needed was something to grip the heads of the rails to be moved.  Joel settled on using a piece of heavy steel bar bent to a C shape.  These Cs, attached to the ends of the binder, would drop over the heads of the rails, and then the screw mechanism could be used to move them in or out as appropriate.

The C shapes were made by cutting off two lengths of 5/8 x 4 steel bar, and then bending in the press brake mounted in the hydraulic press.  This size of bar was too heavy to be bent cold, so heat was used to make the bending easier. 

The screws in the binder were extended with round bar so that the Cs would end up at an appropriate distance apart to grip the rail heads.  Finally, all the parts were welded together to make the tool.

After verifying that it worked as intended, Joel cleaned and painted the tool.  Now the Track Crew can look forward to an easier and quicker way to adjust the track gauge as needed!

June 8, 2007

Repairs to Tie Inserter
Having used the tie inserter for one day, several mechanical problems became apparent.  Joel C. decided to tackle the most irritating problem, which was the drifting down of the turntable cylinder.

Repaired turntable cylinder, ready for installation under the tie inserter.  The large square plate presses down into the ballast to lift the machine.  Photo by Joel C

With a machine like this tie inserter, which grips the tie by the end to extract or insert, it is necessary to turn the machine around to grip the appropriate end of the tie.  This is especially necessary for the Association’s track, where it often occurs that one end or the other of the old ties being extracted will break off due to deterioration.  Then the machine has to be turned around to reach the other end of the tie, or some other method must be used to extract the old tie.  The machine is equipped with a center jack (turntable) cylinder to lift itself up off the track, and then it is pushed around to face the opposite direction.  However, due to internal bypassing, this cylinder was drifting down quickly after raising the machine up, making it hard to turn around.  The most likely cause of this problem would be deterioration of the hydraulic cylinder packing.

To renew the packing, it was first necessary to remove the cylinder from the machine.  Using the crane in the shop, the cylinder was unbolted from the frame and lowered into the pit.  Then it was lifted up to the shop floor and dismantled for repairs.

Right away, two problems became apparent.  First, the packing ordered from the manufacturer didn’t fit this cylinder, necessitating a trip to a seal supply store to get the correct seals.  Furthermore, the insides of the cylinder bore were heavily scored, meaning that the new seals wouldn’t last long in service.  Apparently, the hydraulic system on this machine swallowed something unhappy (hard, abrasive) in the past, causing severe damage.  The only recourse for this problem is to replace the cylinder (and probably other parts in the same system), but for now it will have to function with the new packing.

Once the cylinder was dismantled and cleaned, the new seals were snapped into place and the cylinder was reassembled.  The crane was used to lift it back into place under the machine, and it was bolted in place and connected.  Testing out the repaired cylinder, it was found to drift down as before.  This was bad news, meaning that the problem was in the valve, not just the cylinder – which in turn meant that there will be more expensive parts to replace.  Those repairs will have to wait for another day, pending the availability of funds to purchase the needed parts.

June 9, 2007

Tie inserter

Tie inserter at work.  Photo by Jerry A.

Track Crew Work Day
For this day’s work, it was back to replacing ties on the operating track.  The Track Crew picked up where they left off the previous work day.  The work was much the same – pulling spikes by hand, extracting old ties and inserting new ties using the tie inserter, tamping using the tamper, setting spikes by hand and driving using the spiker.  With more experience, the Crew is getting better at using the tie inserter.  This day’s work presented a few new challenges, such as replacing switch ties.

For replacing the switch ties, the tie inserter was able to reach in between the diverging rails of the turnout and grip the tie to slide it out.  However several of the old ties were wedged in place under the rails, and the ends broke off while attempting to extract, leaving nothing for the machine to grip. For those ties, it was necessary to use a hand operated tie extractor to push the old ones out.  Then the machine could be used to insert the new one. 

Ratchet tie extractor

Ratchet tie extractor.  Photo by Jerry A.

In the first photo, Joel C. can be seen operating the machine while Mal E., Robert P., and Bob P. help out inserting a new tie.  Jerry A. also helped out with this work.  In spite of the mechanical shortcomings of the machine, it does help out by making what would otherwise be the most difficult part of tie replacement much less labor intensive.  The Track Crew is certainly happy about that!

In the second photo, Robert P. and Joel C. work together with the hand operated ratchet tie extractor to remove a stubborn switch tie.  Out of the photo to the right, the end of the tie had broken off while being extracted using the tie inserter. 


Tamping up the new ties. Photo by Jerry A.

In the third photo, Robert P. is operating the tamper to tamp up the new ties.  After the new ties were tamped up, the crew set and drove spikes to hold the rails.  As needed, the gauge was adjusted using the new gauge-adjusting tool.  This turned out to be quite convenient and easy to use.  Spikes were set by hand and then driven using the Association’s spike driving machine.

So far this year, the Track Crew has replaced about 80 ties, against the goal of 400.  There is plenty of work left to do, so this will remain the task of the Crew for the near future.

June 21, 2007

Repairs to Tamper
It seems that all the hard work done by the tamper building the new track in the Car House Three yard had taken a toll on the machine.  Recently, it had sprouted various leaks in the hydraulic system, so that it was leaving a trail of drippings wherever it went.  Aside from being rather wasteful of hydraulic fluid, all the leaks were making the machine very dirty to work on, so Joel C. decided to find and repair the leaks.

Dual hydraulic pumps
Dual hydraulic pumps in the rear of the tamper. These are driven by the engine. Phot by Joel C.

The most obvious leak was from the workhead lift cylinder.  This was the identical twin of the cylinder that broke and was repaired a few months back (there are two on the machine).  When the other workhead lift cylinder broke, a new one was ordered, and it had just recently arrived.  The task, then, was to remove the leaking cylinder and replace it with the new one.

The first step in this work was to clean off the machine a little.  So much fluid had been leaking out of the cylinder that the whole side of the machine was slippery and very dirty.  In order to make it a bit safer and a good deal more pleasant to work on, the machine was scrubbed off with solvent to remove the worst of the oily dirt.  Next the workhead had to be supported with chains so that the cylinder could be removed.  Finally, the hoses were disconnected, the supports were unbolted, and the cylinder was removed.  Installation was the reverse procedure. With all the connections made up and the chains removed, the new cylinder was tested and found to work well.

tamper Valves
Solenoid hydraulic valves above the cab of the tamper. All the hoses make for plenty of opportunities for leaks. Photo by Joel C.

Other leaks were known to be coming from the general areas of the hydraulic pumps in the rear of the machine, and the valves above the cab.  However, these areas were so oily that it was not possible to pinpoint the leaks.  So again the machine was scrubbed with solvent and dried off so that the leaks could be found.  They turned out to be due to a few leaky fittings and several deteriorated hoses.  One fitting was removed and reinstalled with fresh thread sealant, and others were replaced with new ones.  New hoses were purchased and fitted to replace the leaky ones.  With everything connected the way it should be, the machine was started to test the hydraulic system.  No more leaks!

One final maintenance task was to replace the vibrator motor oil filters.  Each vibrator motor has two oil reservoirs that feed the motor bearings.  At the bottom of each reservoir is a filter (a small piece of felt).  According to the instructions, the reservoirs need to be filled for each day of use, and if the motor isn’t using any oil, the problem is that the filter is plugged.  Indeed, several of the reservoirs were always full, indicating a problem.  For these ones, the filters were removed, the reservoirs flushed to remove any dirt, and new filters installed.  All the reservoirs were filled and the working components greased, so now the machine was ready for another day of work.

June 23, 2007

Track Crew Work Party Day

Replacing rail

Joel C. and Bob P. bolting up a replacement rail.  Photo by Jerry A.

For a bit of variety, on this day the Track Crew started off by replacing a rail.  The rail at this location is

scheduled to be paved into a new crossing as part of the Car House Three project, but it was discovered to have cracks starting at some old bolt holes.  Once the crossing is paved, it would be much more difficult to change if those cracks grew enough to break the rail.  So before the rail became captured in a paved crossing, it was decided to change it out.

Some time back, Joel C. selected a replacement rail and delivered it to the site.  For the first job of the day, the Track Crew removed the bolts and spikes holding the old rail, and rolled it out of the way. Then the new rail was rolled into place.  Before it could be bolted to its neighbors, however, it was discovered to be just a tiny bit longer than the rail that it was replacing, so it didn’t fit.  To overcome this problem, the crew used the gauge adjusting tool to flex the middle of the rail inward, while jacks were used to push the end out.  The result was that the new rail could be snapped into place and bolted up.  In the photo, Joel C. and Bob P. are making up the rail joint with the rail flexed to fit.  With the joints tightened, the rail was pushed back out to the proper place, the spikes were replaced and the bond wires welded to the new rail.  Mission accomplished!

Inserting ties

Bob P. and Mal E. assist with tie replacement while Joel C. operates the tie inserter.  Photo by Jerry A.

Having completed the first task of the day, it was on to tie replacement.  The Track Crew is getting into a groove about tie replacement, and the work is beginning to go a bit easier.  For the work of this day, they picked up where they left off last time, on the loop track.

The Crew for this day was Jerry A., Joel C., Mike D., Mal E., and Bob P.  The work was the same as before – pull the spikes by hand, extract the old tie and insert the new one using the tie inserter, tamp using the tamper, and set spikes by hand and drive using the spiker.  By the end of the day, the Crew had replaced 38 ties, good productivity given that part of the day was spent replacing a rail.  This brings the total for the year up to 119 against a goal of 400 – a good start!

June 27, 2007

Equipment repairs
The equipment repairs go on and on.  The Geismar PSD-2 Spike Driver had been leaking hydraulic oil from the hydraulic pump since we began using it.  Joel C. decided to dismantle the pump to replace the seals.

The first step was to use the forklift to move the spiker from the storage warehouse up to the shop.  However, the ignition switch of the forklift had been left in the on position, and the battery was completely flat.  So the battery charger was brought out, and with a bit of patience, the battery was charged sufficiently to coax the engine to turn over and start.  With the spiker in the shop, the pump was removed and dismantled.

The inner workings of the pump appeared to be in good shape, but the seals were sufficiently complicated that it would be necessary to order them from the manufacturer (Salami – in Italy) instead of getting them locally.  With a bit of calling around, the seal kit was located, but the air freight to get it here from Italy will cost more than the kit itself.  So reassembly will have to wait until the seal kit arrives.

New Cylinder and valve
New center jack cylinder and valve for the tie inserter. Photo by Joel C.

The next project was to make some repairs to the Jackson 125 Tie Inserter.  The new center jack cylinder and control valve that have arrived, but it was not practical to install these parts right away.  What is desired at this time would be to make some welded repairs to the tie inserter workhead. 

When the tie inserter was new, it had a wear plate on the underside of the tie gripper workhead that slides across the tops of the ties.  This plate was connected via a hinge to a plate that folded down in front of the tie gripper jaws.  This plate could be used to plow out a slot in the ballast next to the track for the purpose of installing a new tie.  However, the wear plate (made from half-inch steel plate) had been worn completely through, causing the hinged plate to fall off.  Joel C. decided to make new parts to replace these.

The hinge was made from round steel bar.  First the tubular parts were made from 1 1/2 inch round bar by drilling a large hole in the center, and then parting off the required lengths of the resulting tube.  This was done in a lathe.  Then the hinge pin was made by cutting off the required length of a 1 inch round bar.  These parts will be converted into a hinge by welding them to the flat plates.

The flat plates were made from 1/2 inch abrasion-resistant steel plate.  They were cut out with a torch.  The next step will be to bend them to the required shape, and weld them together to form the hinge and flap.  However, this will have to wait for another day to complete the work.

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