Western Rail Road Museum Track Crew News

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

September 2010

The Association's Joint Straightener at work straightening the rail joints along the Sacramento Northern main line. Photo by Jerry Azzaro
The Association's Wheel Loader shows its stuff. Photo by Jerry Azzaro

The work of raising the South Shop Lead continued since the last report. In order to facilitate the movement of cars in and out of the shop, it was necessary to raise the second shop track to a more uniform profile. This required replacement of a number of ties, and then raising the track on hand jacks followed by tamping using the Association's Tamper. Further work will be required to complete the raise on these tracks, but this interim work has produced an acceptable profile.

The most significant track repair project every year is to replace deteriorated railroad ties. The Track Crew has a goal of replacing at least 400 ties in our operating track annually. Usually, the Track Crew tries to schedule this work for the cooler months of the year, since the work is labor intensive. However, a cool workday presented itself in August, so the Track Crew went to work replacing ties on that day. The Crew is on the downward stretch, having replaced more than half their annual goal so far this year. A couple more days of tie replacement should complete that work - then its on to next year's goal!

One very interesting machine in the Track Crew's arsenal is the Joint Straightener. This machine grips the rail at a joint and pulls upward with a giant hydraulic cylinder to straighten the rail. As it turns out, this is just what is needed for the Sacramento Northern main track, which suffers from numerous dipped joints. After this machine does its work, and followed by tamping the ties supporting the rail joint, the track is dramatically straighter and gives a much smoother ride for the museum's historic vehicles. Dovetailing nicely with the tie replacement, this work is best done in the hot summer months. The Crew worked this machine on two workdays in July and August, and completed nearly a mile of track. Further work with this machine will continue in the coming years, until the entire main line is rehabilitated.

The Track Crew has a small fleet of equipment used to maintain the track, and since it has all been acquired second hand, it always needs work to keep it functional. The latest piece of machinery restored to active status is the Dresser Wheel Loader. This machine was acquired about two years ago through the government surplus system, and had several major problems. When acquired, it was lacking a bucket. Finding one of the right size, with the right coupler system, proved to be a tough nut to crack. However, one was located recently (also through the surplus system) and was rehabilitated for use with the Loader. The next major problem was repair of the brakes. This was a major job involving removal of the axles and complete disassembly, since the brakes are buried inside the planetary gear mechanism attached to the differentials. Every part of this machine is heavy! Now that it is working, the Loader promises to be a very useful addition to the maintenance equipment fleet.

The Track Crew meets every second and fourth Saturday of each month through the year. They work on restoring and maintaining the track and related infrastructure for the museum operations. The work is mostly outside, in the wide-open fields of rural Solano County. The Crew has a good time enjoying each other's company and the great outdoors. If you think you would like to join this group of volunteers, please email the museum or contact Joel Cox on any Track Crew workday. The Track Crew is open to all who come - no experience is necessary, and even one day would a great help.

Track Crew News Archive