Western Rail Road Museum Track Crew News

August 9, 2007

Repairs to Tie Inserter
Through the recent use of the Association’s Tie Inserter, it has become apparent just how worn-out it is.  There are many parts of the machine that need attention to make the machine a reliable performer.  Little by little, however, the repairs done are beginning to add up and pay off.

Tie Jaws

Tie jaws ready to be repaired by welding.  Photo by Joel C.

The latest repair task was to build up the tie gripper jaws where they were worn.  These jaws spend their operating life sliding in and out of the ballast and dirt, meaning that the steel is worn down from use.  Also, the surface that grips the ties becomes smooth from wear, while it should be dimpled in order to properly grip the wood without slipping.  The repair method selected was to build up the worn surfaces with welding.  For this purpose, Joel C. removed the tie jaws and took them to the welding shop.

In the photo, the two jaws are shown with strips of steel that will be used to replace that lost to wear.  The material used for replacing the worn steel was 1/2" abrasion-resistant steel plate.  This material was flame cut to the wedge shape needed to fill out the jaws.  Once clamped in alignment, the joint between the plate and the jaw was grooved out with an arc torch, and the plate was welded in place. 

Also in the photo, the gripping surface of the tie jaw can be seen.  The original surface was a waffle-grid for maximum gripping power.  Over the years, as the original grid was worn away, a random pattern of bumps had been built up on the surface to give it more gripping power.  After the new 1/2" steel plates had been welded in place, a series of new bumps were welded in place.  This was done using a hard-facing welding electrode, in order for the bumps to last as long as possible.

With the tie jaws repaired, they were installed with new bolts onto the workhead of the Tie Inserter.  Hopefully, the repaired jaws will give many years of use before they wear away to this extent again.

August 7, 2007

Repairs to the Tamper
Keeping up with maintenance and repairs of the equipment used by the Track Crew is a constant effort.  On this day, Joel C. worked on one item of preventative maintenance for the Tamper. 

Limit Switches
Limit switches installation on the side of the Tamper. Photo by Joel C.

The Tamper uses solenoid operated hydraulic valves, and has limit switches that trigger certain actions of the machine as the workheads do their job.  These limit switches are located on the exterior of the machine, and are exposed to the weather.  This has caused problems in the past.  In fact, almost every winter, one or more of the limit switches will have a problem due to water leaking into the switch and causing corrosion of the electrical and mechanical parts.  The problem here is that the body gaskets of the switch are old and no longer hold out the weather they way they were designed.  Replacing the gaskets was not an option since in the thirty years since the machine was made, the manufacturer of the limit switches has moved on to another design that uses a different gasket.  The solution, then, was to replace the limit switches with new ones.

Six new limit switches were purchased for this project.  The old ones were unscrewed from their mounting bases, and the wires disconnected.  The new ones fortunately fit the same footprint, so installation was easy.  In the photo, the upper limit switch is one of the old ones ready to be removed.  In the middle, the new limit switch base is installed, ready for the wires to be connected.  The lower limit switch is the new one complete.  With the new wires connected, the operating head of each switch was screwed into place, and the replacement was complete.   Hopefully, the coming wet season will be free of limit-switch problems.


August 4, 2007

Track Crew work party day
Once again, the Track Crew has been working at changing ties.  For this day, the Crew tackled the switch ties of two turnouts in the Car House One yard.  These ties turned out to be difficult for two reasons – not only were they switch ties, meaning that they were longer, had more spikes, etc., but they also were so deteriorated that most could only be removed by hand.  For the cases where the Tie Inserter was unable to remove the tie, it was broken up with picks and shovels, and the pieces were removed by hand.  Fortunately, the machine was able to insert all of the new ties with a minimum amount of effort.  The Association’s Tamper and Spike Driver machines finished off the job by performing their intended tasks.  Finally, the Crew picked up the tie splinters and other detritus from the work area, so that this relatively public area would have a good appearance.  The Track Crew for this day was Joel C., Mal Evett., Robert M., and Bob P.

July 26, 2007

Tie Inserter Repairs

Rough cut hooks for travel safety latch
Rough cut hooks for the travel safety latch. In the background is the double hook used for a pattern. Photo by Joel C.

One of the items that was missing from the Tie Inserter when we got it was the travel safety latch for the inserter workhead.  Instead, a chain was looped over the front of the machine to support the workhead while traveling.  While this was functional, it wasn’t very easy to use, and tended to encourage the unsafe practice of not latching the workhead for travel.  In order to improve the machine safety, Joel C. decided to make a new latch.

Fortunately, there was an identical latch on the machine at the other end, supporting the scarifier workhead.  Joel removed the double hook of the latch to use it as a pattern for the missing one.  The double hook was made from two flame-cut pieces of 3/4 inch steel plate, separated by a section of pipe.  This weldment was in turn was supported by a steel pin made from round bar, and two eyes also made from 3/4 steel plate.

Travel safety latch
Completed travel safety latch. Photo by Joel C.

After the hooks were roughed out by flame cutting from the plate, holes were drilled in them for the pin and the hook.  In the first photo, the old hook used for a pattern is shown with the rough-cut hooks ready for drilling.  Once the holes were drilled, the hooks were finished by grinding.  When the various pieces were prepared, the hooks were welded together with the pipe spacer to form the double hook.  Then the eyes were welded to the frame of the tie inserter, and the latch assembled.

The second photo shows the completed latch in place on the front of the machine.  The round bar below the double hook is the part on the inserter that engages the hooks to hold it up for traveling.  With the latch complete, it became apparent that some system was needed to conveniently disengage it from the workhead when the machine goes to work.  While there was no evidence that such a thing existed before, it was decided to make an operating handle for the latch.  A piece of 1/2" round bar was formed to an appropriate shape, and welded onto one of the hooks.  This is easily reached from the operator’s position, and keeps the hands away from potential pinch points while operating the latch.

July 7, 2007

Track Crew work day
For this day, the Track Crew was back to replacing ties.   The challenge for this day was to replace ties on one track of the Car House One where age and deterioration had caught up with the old ties.  The hard part was that the ties were buried in dirt (no ballast) with an even larger ridge of dirt next to the track on the side where the ties would be extracted and inserted. 

Being inside the Car House, the track is used to store streetcars.  The first task, then, was to get the track cleared out so the crew could go to work.  The Operations Department stepped up to the task, helping by moving all the cars out of the way first thing in the morning.  Then the Track Crew marshaled their equipment and went to work.

Installing ties in car house
Track Crew installing ties in the Car House One. Photo by Jerry A.

Trying out the new digger flap on the Tie Inserter for the first time, it proved to be quite useful in excavating a slot in the dirt next to the track for extracting and inserting the ties.  As it turned out, most of the ties were so deteriorated that they were extracted in small pieces, by breaking the old tie with picks and shovels, and picking out the pieces.  Once the old ties were removed, the scarifier attachment of the Tie Inserter machine was used to clean out the old tie hole, making space for the new tie to be inserted.  With everything prepared, the new ties were lined up and inserted using the Tie Inserter.  In the photo, the Track Crew is using the Tie Inserter to install the new ties, while the Tamper waits in the background to tamp them up after insertion.  Finally, the Crew installed tie plates, and drove the spikes to hold the track.  With all these new ties, this track in the Car House has a new lease on life and should serve well.  The Track Crew for this day was Jerry A., Joel C., Robert M., and Pete W.

With the tie work complete inside the Car House, the Crew continued on to replace ties in the turnout just outside.  All the ties marked for replacement in this turnout were replaced, making good progress on this work.  Of course, there are lots of ties yet to be replaced, so the Track Crew will continue with this work for some time to come.  The work of completed on this day represented some of the most difficult and complicated work to be done, so it was satisfying to see it completed.

July 5 , 2007

Repairs to the tie inserter
Continuing the work from last time, Joel C. worked on welded repairs to the Tie Inserter.  The parts that had been roughed out previously were finished and welded together.  The hinge pin was drilled at the ends and retainer pins were installed, making the hinge complete.  Now it was ready to be installed on the Tie Inserter workhead.

repairs to tie inserter
Tie inserter workhead dismantled and ready for installation of wear plate/digger flap. Photo by Joel C.

Before installing the new piece, the remains of the old one had to be removed.  The machine was brought into the shop, and the workhead tie clamps were removed to provide working space.  The old welds were cut and ground to remove them.  Finally, the remainder of the old plate was pried loose.  It was quite thin, about 1/16 inch in thickness where it started life at 1/2 inch.  All that wear was due to many, many ties removed and inserted.  Next the new piece was positioned on the workhead and held in place using a small bottle jack.  When it was accurately positioned, it was welded all around.  The photo shows the workhead, partly dismantled for access, ready to receive the new slide plate with hinged flap.  With the welding completed, the workhead was reassembled.  Now the machine will be ready to excavate slots in the ballast shoulder for inserting the new ties.  The Track Crew will try this out on the next work party day.

With a little time left in the day, Joel C. continued by replacing the turntable valve.  This was a matter of removing the bolts holding it in place, transferring the hoses to the new valve, and bolting it up.  This was very satisfying, since once replaced, the machine functioned properly by holding itself up on the center jack.  This will make using the turntable much easier.

Back to the Track Crew news archive