Western Rail Road Museum Track Crew News

The Track Crew meets twice per month, on the second and fourth Saturday.

July 2010

Volunteers install a newly rebuilt engine in the high rail truck donated by the Napa Valley Wine Train.
The tamper is a critical part of the group of machines used to replace ties and perform other tasks. Photo by Jerry Azzaro.

The last few months have been full of lots of interesting activity, both repairing the track and repairing the machines that are used for track maintenance. The main track work activities have been rail joint rehabilitation, tie replacement, rehabilitating the south shop lead, and repairing bridge 55.13.

Tie replacement is the single biggest track work activity needed every year. The Track Crew has a goal of replacing 400 ties annually in the operating tracks, which is necessary to keep the tracks safe for continued use. Over the past few years, the Track Crew has assembled a stable of track maintenance machines used for replacing the ties, including a Tie Inserter, a Tamper, and a Spike Driver. A Tie Crane is used to distribute the new ties for replacement and remove the old ones for disposal, and a Ballast Regulator is used to shape the ballast section after the replacement work is done. Even with all this mechanization, there is still plenty of hand work required – pulling spikes, shoveling ballast, setting new spikes, and handling the new ties to get them started under the rail. Seven volunteers helped out with this work.

Earlier this year, an inspection revealed that one critical timber of a trestle near the midpoint of the operating part of the Sacramento Northern main track had deteriorated. It was necessary to impose a temporary weight restriction on the bridge. We ordered timbers needed to make repairs, and the Track Crew went to work to repair Bridge 55.13 as soon as the new timbers arrived. It was necessary to dismantle one bent including the timber sill, all five posts, and the sway braces. The concrete foundation and the pile cap of that bent were reused, and new timbers were used to replace the ones that were removed. The new timbers were cut and drilled to the required dimensions and fit into place. The timbers are heavy, with the largest being 12 inch by 12 inch by 16 feet long. The Tie Crane and a hand crank speeder crane were used to handle the heavy timbers. The work went well and by the end of just one day of work, the 6-person Crew was able to complete the work and remove the restriction.

The Track Crew begins to dismantle Bent #4 of Bridge 55.13. By the end of the day, the work was complete with all the deteriorated timbers replaced. Photo by Jerry Azzaro.

The track leading south from the museum’s Shop building slopes downward away from the Shop, and for some time the Shop Crew has been concerned about the safety of working on cars parked on this sloping track. It was decided that the track should be raised to give one car length of space on the south shop lead that would be level. The first order of business for the 6-person crew was to replace many of the ties on this track, since it was clear that some of the ties wouldn’t survive the raising and tamping needed to do this work. Ballast was ordered and a wheel loader was rented to place it on the track. Hand jacks were used to raise the track, and the Association’s Tamper went to work tamping the track. Multiple lifts were needed to raise the track as much as a foot in places. Some additional work will be required to complete the track raise, but that will have to wait for another day.

All of the equipment used by the Track Crew has been acquired “used,” and all require effort to fix-up and keep them going. For example, the Napa Valley Wine Train recently donated a used high rail truck for track maintenance. In order to pass the emissions test and complete the registration progress, it was necessary to replace the old and tired engine. A newly rebuilt engine and many other small parts were replaced over a two-day period. Five volunteers did the mechanical work. Most gratifying was that the new engine passed the smog test on the first try!