Author Topic: Light Rail and Cedar Ties  (Read 7797 times)

Roger Whitney

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Light Rail and Cedar Ties
« on: January 12, 2012, 01:39:30 PM »

        The Monson Railroad was originally built with 30 pound Bessemer rail with a small amount of 35 pound Bessemer relay for some of the yard trackage.  Records don’t say why some of the heavier rail was used for yards and the lighter rail used for the main. Probably the relay was cheaper.
   Bessemer steel started as molten iron which went through the process (invented in 1856 by Henry Bessemer) of having a strong blast of compressed air forced through the molten iron in a crucible, called a Bessemer Converter, thus removing the carbon and silicon impurities making the iron into much stronger steel.  Later, limestone was added to remove still other impurities such as phosphorus, improving on the steel.
   By 1884 wrought iron rails ceased to be made in favor of the new higher strength Bessemer steel.  In that year, over one million tons of Bessemer steel were sold at or around the price of $32 per ton.  A little math results in some interesting figures….
        It took 325 tons of rail to lay Monson’s mainline and 152 tons to lay the sidings, yards and branches.  These added figures comes out to around 477 tons of rail to build the Monson. Cost of $32 per ton comes out to $15,285.
   Now for the ties…..the original Monson ties were hand hewed cedar measuring 5x5x 4 ½ feet long.  They were laid down in the usual fashion, without tie plates, about every two feet for an average of 2662 ties per mile.  In later years when they replaced 1000 ties in 1913 they were probably sawed.  Imagine taking an adz and hand hewing railroad ties……. and for a mere 12 cents each!  But it all adds up.  In 1897 and 98,  2200 cedar ties were replaced. That is $ 264 worth. A small fortune then…..but one heck of a lot of work!


Wayne Laepple

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Re: Light Rail and Cedar Ties
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2012, 06:22:46 PM »
When I lived in western North Carolina in 1981-1983, a number of people told me of hewing oak ties by hand during the Depression. They would cut the trees and hew the ties, then haul them on a wagon or sled drawn by oxen to the railroad. The section foreman would come by and load up the ties he wanted on a push car towed by his motorcar. Some were almost always rejected. The railroad would pay 25 cents each, and these were full size 6 x 8 x 8. Folks had to go to town to the station to get paid cash for their ties.

As recently as two weeks ago, I have seen ties still in track and still effective here in Pennsylvania, with adze marks on them. They must be 70 or 75 years old.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2012, 06:44:31 PM by Wayne Laepple »

Richard "Steam" Symmes

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Re: Light Rail and Cedar Ties
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2012, 10:17:41 PM »
In the end, it all adze up!   (Sorry).

Richard

Roger Whitney

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Re: Light Rail and Cedar Ties
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2012, 09:41:35 AM »
Thanks Richard!  I wish I had thought of that!  Wayne, according to the book mentioned in a previous blog "By Brain and By Brawn", section crews used an adze even in modern times to hew parts of a tie when necessary.

Stewart "Start" Rhine

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Re: Light Rail and Cedar Ties
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2012, 10:03:34 AM »
Roger,  Did the Monson ever use date nails?  I wonder if cedar ties on the MRR would last a bit longer due to the area's shorter "rotting" season and the use of slate ballast.  Some shortlines kept records on the service life of ties so they knew what wood best suited their area.  Of course treated ties lasted a lot longer, especially the steam treated ties.  The steam process expands the grain so the creosote will leach farther into the tie.  Did the Monson ever have treated ties?

Stewart

Wayne Laepple

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Re: Light Rail and Cedar Ties
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2012, 10:30:16 AM »
Roger, I have used an adze to modify  switch ties to accommodate the throw rod or the spacer rods or to notch regular ties to fit wrap-around insulated joints. I used to try to keep mine razor-sharp for those purposes, but I was always giving my trackmen hell for using the adze to cut the steel banding on bundles of ties.

Bill Sample

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Re: Light Rail and Cedar Ties
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2012, 12:51:25 PM »
As I may have posted elsewhere, about 10 - 15 years ago I was walking the r o w north of the Willimantic road out onto a fill that was probably mostly slate waste.  On the side of that fill were a number of old tie remnants, preserved by their retirement life spent on to of the slate.  Grabbed one that still had a spike in for future museum display.  Not too many intact Maine 2 footer ties from the original operation era remain.

Roger Whitney

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Re: Light Rail and Cedar Ties
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2012, 02:11:23 PM »
Stewart, to my knowledge I don't believe the Monson ever used date nails.  I never heard of anyone ever having one.  Since the Monson was a poor road, and  Harold Morrill knew how to pinch pennies, I doubt he would of ever spent money on such an item.
Wayne, an adze man who really knew how to use one was a sight to behold.  I can understand why you gave hell to your crew....a sharp adze is a dangerous tool, but a dull one adze to the danger of using this tool several fold.
Bill, that fill north of the Willimantic Road (Steven's Crossing) was a trestle when the railroad was first built.  See the Monson Railroad forum above this blog.  Cliff Olson talks about it.  Also there are some nice pictures of it in Gary Kohler's new book on the Monson.  It was eventually filled in with waste slate.  In it's day, I believe the Monson was the only railroad in the state which had stone (slate) ballast it's entire length.  That's one reason why you can still see right where the ROW went.  And yes, there's still spikes to be found along the row.