September 29, 2007
Track Crew Work Party
The new feature of the day was use of the steel battering ram constructed earlier. This short section of I beam was gripped in the jaws of the Tie Inserter. After the spikes had been pulled, the battering ram was used to start the ties out from under the track by pushing on the end. Then the battering ram was released, the machine was turned around, and the ties gripped in the normal way to pull them the rest of the way out from under the track. This turned out to be a good way of getting the ties out, with only a few suffering from the end of the tie breaking off while being pulled out. These few required extra hand work to get the old ties out, but all of the others were extracted and inserted without special effort. This was a major victory, since the overall job has much higher productivity with much less physical effort when the machine works as intended.
After the track was buttoned up and turned back over to normal train operations, the Track Crew reconvened at the South Shop Switch to replace a few more ties safely out of the way of the trains. These ties were complicated to change due to the close clearances between the adjacent tracks and the Car House Two building.
The most difficult were two ties holding the switch stand. Fortunately, these two were so thoroughly deteriorated that they easily broke apart for removal. The replacement ties required significant excavation a bit of jacking of the track in order to coax them into place.
September 25, 2007
A "Battering Ram" for Tie Replacement
A search of miscellaneous materials lying around the shop yielded appropriate pieces of steel, including a short section of stout I beam, that would make a good battering ram. Joel C cut the pieces to length, cleaned them up with a grinder, and welded them together to make the tool. The next step will be to try it out with the Tie Inserter, and see how well it works.
September 15, 2007
Track Crew work party - more tie replacement
Today’s work involved a number of switch ties at the South Park switch, and these are always more complicated. To begin with, a switch tie always has about twice as many spikes as a normal tie, so it is more complicated right from the start. Then it frequently works out that the tie plates are messed up for some reason, and this turnout was no exception. It seems that in several places where there should have been
large tie plates with multiple spike holes (locations where the two
rails are close together and there isn’t room for two normal tie
plates), the turnout had been constructed with normal tie plates cut
with a torch. This isn’t as strong as using the right plates,
so more appropriate plates were selected from our collection and used. All
of these things take extra time, so the overall productivity was lower. However,
it was a pleasant day with sunny skies and a cooling breeze, so no one
was complaining. The work crew this day was Jerry A., Joel C.,
Robert M., Bob P., Robert P., and Pete W.
One persistent problem relates to using the Tie Inserter to extract old ties. The machine does this by gripping the tie by its end, and pulling it out. However, with the deteriorated old ties which are being changed, it frequently occurs that the end of the tie will disintegrate and then the machine can’t do its work. One solution that seems to work is to use a new tie or just a section of a tie as a battering ram, gripped in the jaws of the Tie Inserter, to push on the end of the tie to get it started. Then the machine is turned around and works by gripping the tie at the other end. While this is effective, it is relatively hard on the battering ram. It seems like it is time to make a suitable battering ram out of steel, which will be more hardy.
Repairs to the Tie Inserter
A number of hydraulic hoses had been identified that were on their last legs, so this seemed like it would be a good time to get those changed. Also, there was a part of the system where the previous owner had made some repairs using pipe fittings rated at 150 psi. This didn’t seem to be a very good choice for a system that operates at 2,000 psi, so the appropriate hoses and high-pressure fittings were ordered.
The task sounds simple – unscrew the defective or incorrect hoses and fittings, and screw on the new ones. As with everything about railroad maintenance machines, nothing is ever that easy. The fittings and hose couplings are frequently difficult to reach with a wrench, and as soon as the hydraulic fluid begins to drip out of the open joint, the new fitting becomes very difficult to grip tightly enough with the fingers to get it started back together. In the end, Joel C. was able to get everything together using a certain amount of persistence and plenty of carefully selected “words of encouragement.”
Finally, with everything hooked up, the tank was filled with new hydraulic fluid and the engine was started to test the system. True to form, several leaky fittings were discovered. Some of them were corrected by tightening them, but one needed to be replaced with a new fitting to get a good seal. Finally, the machine was ready to replace ties again
September 7, 2007
Repairs to Tie Inserter
A few months ago, a replacement cylinder for the turntable center jack was ordered. The money to replace all of the damaged cylinders was not immediately available, so at this time only the most important one was purchased. The remainder of the replacement cylinders will be ordered later when the money is available. With the new cylinder on hand, it was time to begin the process of draining and flushing the hydraulic system.
Joel C. brought the machine into the shop, and placed it over the pit. An empty drum was selected and placed under the machine, and the oil was drained into it by removing the plug from the bottom of the hydraulic tank. Meanwhile, other parts were removed for replacement or service. The old turntable center jack was removed by lowering it into the pit. The hydraulic return-oil filter was removed for replacement, and many hoses disconnected or removed to gain access to the tank for cleaning. The head of the hydraulic tank was removed to flush out the interior.
One pleasant surprise was to see how clean the hydraulic tank and filters were. To be sure, there were some metal flakes and bits of dirt, but nothing too serious. There was evidence that the previous owners must have drained and flushed the system before, so perhaps they had made some attempt to address this situation. With the oil drained, the tank was flushed with solvent and wiped clean. The suction strainers in the tank were removed and washed clean, as well as the magnet inside the tank. Finally, the liquid level sight gauge, which was almost unreadable due to age and deterioration, was replaced with a new one.
August 18, 2007
Track Crew work party day
The first order of business for the day was to replace some switch ties in the yard lead. Over the past month, the Track Crew has strengthened these turnouts significantly by replacing many switch ties. This day’s work finished up that work by replacing the remaining marked ties in the Branchline switch. The Crew worked quickly to finish this work, in order to allow the Operations Department to get back to the business of running trains. In fact, the Crew was ready to let the operations return to normal by the time they broke for lunch.
The remainder of the day was spent replacing ties on the Branchline. While this track is not in regular service, it does see some operation and therefore needed some attention. By the end of the day, the Crew had changed all of the marked ties to the end of the Branchline near the Del Paso substation. The Track Crew for this day was Jerry A., Mike C., Joel C., Mal E., Robert M., Bob P., Robert P., and Pete W.With the completion of the work of this day, the Track Crew is more than half way towards the annual goal of replacing 400 ties. Also, the ties replaced so far are without a doubt the most challenging ones of this program – the most difficult to access, the poorest condition, and the greatest number of switch ties. This means that the tie replacement work is well over half complete for the year. The remaining work will extend down the open track to the west of the museum, and so should be easier to complete.
August 16, 2007
Repairs to Tamper
Also serviced at the same time were the batteries, which were filled with distilled water. The machine was greased at its working points, and everything checked to make sure it would continue to work well.
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