Author Topic: Another way to lay track.  (Read 2145 times)

Ed Lecuyer

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Another way to lay track.
« on: December 13, 2008, 05:39:14 PM »
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Another way to lay track. has been converted from the pre-July 2008 WW&F Discussion Forum.
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fjknight wrote:
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Just getting caught up on my reading I came across and article in the Nov/Dec issue of the NG&SL Gazette on laying track for the Kauai Plantation Railway. What caught my eye is that they were laying the ties on an 8" bed of ballast. Found a website here:
http://www.kauaiplantationrailway.com/build.htm

It shows even more detail about how they did it. They cheated and brought in road building equipment to help with the work. A modified paving machine was used to evenly spread the 8" ballast base. Boy that sure looks easier than raising the track and using jack hammers to force ballast under the ties. They also say that a crew of six to eight were laying over 300 feet of track in an 8 hour day.

No pictures but they talk about a special ballast spreader:
"To place the ballast a unique car was designed and constructed. Based on an old fertilizer spreader bin, with a steel frame and two pairs of wheels at least 80 years old, this unique little car neatly spreads just the right amount of rock between the rails - but the crew still had to go back and tamp it into place by hand."

Perhaps we could use a couple of their ideas.

Frank Knight

Mike Fox replied:
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Frank,
That would be a great idea. Working in the paving industry, I can tell you it can be done. We have put out several different kinds of materials through our pavers. The only problem we would have is getting the material to the machine. The subgrade is not solid enough in some places to hold up the weight of a truck.
But looking at those photos, I like the idea of the tie spacer. When we lay out ties at the museum, we use a tape measure and put everything 2 foot on center. We could definately build one of those to keep everything even. I think a good used lawnmower handle, a couple of brackets and spacers and you'd have it. I have something to build now. Get it done and try it out before a work weekend.
Mike

Josh Botting replied:
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Ya Mike,

In the past, I have seen lots of gravel, and RAP laid down with a paiver.  The trick would be to lay the track imeaditly behind the paver, and shovel balast off the flat car into the paiver, or at least enough for 30' at a time.
Or we could always do the wheel barrow train.

Stewart Rhine replied:
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Frank,  That's a good site, thanks for posting the link.

Ira Schreiber replied:
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Back in the days of when I was building amusement park railroads, I made a simple tie spacer from aluminum angles and conduit.
The angles centered and aligned the ties at the same time.
Cost less than $10 and weighed about a pound.
The tool fit between the ties and hung over one end to keep the ties parallel and aligned on the ends.
Being lazy, it had a long handle (conduit) so I did not have to bend over to use it.

Wayne Laepple replied:
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No one has said anything yet about how much it would cost to use a paver to make a base for building track. I have built track on a a bed of 2B stone tailgated out of a 10-wheeler or tri-axle, but I think in our case, there are access issues to contend with. It sure is nice to lay out  ties on a smooth surface and then put the rail on them.

I just read an article in "Railway Age" about the Union Pacific actually laying a base of blacktop under switches in boggy areas. They lay down the blacktop, then put subballast down on top of it and build the switch. The blacktop keeps water from pumping up through the ballast.

A spacer for ties is a great idea, as is a spacer to mark the tie for placing the first spike. Either can be easily created with a few pieces of angle and a few minutes with a welder.

Ira Schreiber replied:
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If you can wait, I will be glad to build a tie spacer , aligner and spike hole indicator when I get back to Maine in about 12 weeks.
Off topic, the entire storage for Denver's newest light rail favility, over a 100 car capacity, is built on an asphalt base with ballast and ties on top.

James Patten replied:
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"Back in the old days" when we were first starting to build track from Sheepscot, we had a small dump truck at our disposal (it was probably Les Fossell's), which had a shallow wooden bed in it.  We'd load up the dump, and it would back all the way down the roadbed and start dumping while driving forward.  We got a couple of inches down that way, all the way from the first curve south.  Then we'd lay our ties out on the sub ballast and start building track.  Of course it then took us another whole year to ballast that first 700 feet of new track.

Once we were ready to lay track onto the curve, we tried laying out the panel track on the bare ground, then bringing up the side dump car and dumping stone to the side.  While the dump car returned to Sheepscot we'd rake out the stone and get it underneath the panels, eventually lifting the panels to the level of the ties.  This method proved to be pretty cumbersome, and with only one small dump car it wasn't worth the effort, so we gave that up once we got out of the "bog" that was Davis Curve.

Since then we haven't tried prelaying ballast at all, simply because it's easier to deliver it by railroad.  Especially now, there's no easy way to get anything up past the railhead.

gordon cook replied:
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Gawd! Why would we want make this easy?!! What would be the fun??

Seriously, though, IMHO I think that the method we use is pretty good.
(I'd send more kudos to Dana, but his head is big enough:)) Granted, tamping is a pain in the back, but if we can better parcel out that workload then even that would be OK. I also think the uneven tie spacing  looks good, as in used and old.
We typically lay 1000 to 1200 feet of track ballasted and tamped each year over the two work weekends, or almost 200 feet a day (I'm counting about 3 full days per session). I believe that we are pretty well balanced right now in terms of grading, buying ties and rail, laying ties out, prepping and spiking rail, and spreading and tamping ballast. We do it essentially the way the original railroad was built, which is a big consideration. Also balanced is the amount of human energy and money available.
Mechanizing one area is tempting, but probably wouldn't increase the rate of track building unless other areas can keep up. And it's another piece of machinery to cover and maintain.

Allan Fisher replied:
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Gordon has it right.  We have a good system that matches our financial and volunteer abilities - and allows all who wish to participate.

Who is in a hurry to get to Head Tide and beyond? Getting there is most of the fun.

Oh yes, we could go out and get big grants and modernize our techniques - but there goes the heart and soul of the WW&F.

Just think about what makes us different from all the other operating steam railroad museums. Remember our mission statement. Reread our long range plan. And savor our slow but steady progress!

John McNamara replied:
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As James pointed out, we did unload ballast from a truck at one point and lay the ties on the completed bed of ballast. The net result is shown in the photo below, taken October 12th, 1996, between Sheepscot and Davis. However, as soon as we got more than a short distance from Sheepscot station there were access issues, as Wayne suggests.

Dave Buczkowski replied:
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All;
Allan hit the spike on the head so to speak with his comments. I enjoy the journey of cutting the trees and spiking the rails. When I see how quick and mechanized other museums/tourist railroads are in building their track I'm not envious at all. I feel sorry that they miss the comraderie of spiking, carrying rail, laying out ties (but not tamping), of seeing progress at the end of the day and knowing you had a part in rebuilding part of history. That's what makes the mighty WW&F Ry different from every place else. That's why I hope we never finish.
John, thanks for the picture from the "old days" when Jason was young and James was beardless. Time does indeed march on.
Dave

Mike Fox replied:
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I'm glad our work weekends have a few more people now then what was pictured then. And I also agree that the way we are doing it now is the only way to do it. But as our track grows, we are going to have to come up with some creative ways to keep up with the maintenance. 3 hours in the morning before train time won't be enough. Maybe we will have to do like they used to. By hand between trains. No compressor.
Mike

Josh Botting replied:
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While shoveling this evening, I had a thought.  We could, in theory pre balast.  We would only need an access ahead of where we are currently laying track.  Than we could just back trucks up grade, and load into a paver.  We could than pre pack it with a vibrateing roller....

Mike,  think you could take a wrong turn with a paver and a roller??

John McNamara replied:
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There's another angle to all this, to which I think Allan alluded in his post, and that is money. There is a limit to how much ballast we can afford in any given year. A modern paver could lay done all of the ballast that we could afford in a matter of moments 

Mike Fox replied:
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If we tried to do it with equipment and trucks, you would have to build a road first. The railroad grade is very soft in places and like John said, you could use up your ballast budget in a hurry.
Mike

Joe Fox replied:
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If somebody brings an ATV and trailer, we can dump ballast in front of the ties, so that the track doesnt have to be jacked. For those who can't quite picture what I am getting at, it would look like the picture about by John McNamara. That could make our lives a lot easier. Talk to you later.

Joe
_________________
“We are extremely proud of our collection of historical railroad equipment, which is the largest of any U. S. railroad, especially our steam locomotives.”
-Steve Lee-

Joe

James Patten replied:
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Even with preballasting you'd have to do some jacking (or digging out) to bring the track up to level.  And remember, the railroads are most efficient at moving bulk loads, like ballast.  Thus a flatcar load of ballast can be delivered more easily, and more efficiently, and more directly, than we can do with ATVs and trailers.  The ATVs will have to find an indirect route to the railhead from where ever we store the ballast, as we're not letting them run down the track or along the sides.  Plus the trailer will likely be a small fraction of the size of the flatcar.

When we get track down to 218, we'll probably be able to bring in a truck and do some preballasting from the trestle to the highway.  But any other place it's too far off the beaten path to be able to do.

Mike Fox replied:
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Seems like a lot of extra work to do it any other way than what we do now. Like James said, we can do more after the track is in place than before it.
Mike

Josh Botting replied:
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It would be nice to start with some balast under the ties, when raising track we always seem to suffer from a lack of balast to sufficiently tamp the track.

James Patten replied:
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I agree that it would be nice to have ballast already down.

Maybe we can have it air dropped in.  Modify one of those tanker airplanes that drop water on fires, instead have fly low and slow and deposit a load of ballast on the right of way.

Josh Botting replied:
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James, I think you are on to something there.  We just get the gaurd to get down with one of those heavy lift helo's, and suspend the paver from the helo..............

Plane would be rather dangerous.   Besides, Low & Slow is for BBQ, planes which fly slow tend to fall from the sky, and I don't think we want to be cleaning that of the ROW, Although the price of aluminium is way up these days.......

BM1455 replied:
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....or maybe we can find a tibetan monestaty to have it's monks come out and cary one stone at a time, each to be perfectly placed, until the entire ROW is fully ballested.

Mike Fox replied:
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They have cement hoppers that can be hooked to a crane or helipcopter. Fill one of those with ballast and have the chopper spread it. Just kidding of course. Gone way out of reality. Just wanted to mention that before someone took me seriously.
Mike

Ira Schreiber replied:
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The better way may be to mount a hopper with the appropiate chute on a flat car.
If fact, let's build a hopper car.
I now think we have come full circle on this.

Dana Deering replied:
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Gentlemen,

I think that we have a very efficient system going right now that allows us to do things more or less "the old way", which for me has a lot of meaning, and which makes our railroad special. It also keeps everyone busy during work weekends. I wouldn't make too many changes to the system that we have except maybe refinements within that system.  I thought that putting piles of ties out at regular intervals like we did last year was one such refinement.  If we had had to haul ties through the work area and drill rail and build a crossing we never would have laid 1000 feet of track.  I truly believe that we can lay a quarter mile of track in a four day work weekend, maybe even more, if we have the rail ready to go with no cropping and drilling, joint bars that match, and ties in piles at the correct intervals, and nothing else to do but lay track.  Oh, and you need some humorless old curmudgeon cracking the whip!
Besides, it will be a much better story to tell in 20 years than one that starts out "remember when we were running the paver..."
Remember how the old boys did it:  grading, ties,rails, ballast, in that order.  Let's try to keep it that way as long as possible.  Oh, and I like marking the rails with chalk to place the spikes. It gives younger, or less agile, folks something to do so they feel like they are contributing. When you eliminate little tasks in the name of going faster you rob some people of a place on the team. It isn't always about speed, sometimes it's about what it means to individuals and about becoming a fraternity at the same time. Besides you can accomplish more by setting a good rythmn and pace than you can with speed.
It's like haying.  You have to pace yourself and get a rythmn going so that you can go the distance.  It takes the same amount of energy to lift the last bale as it does the first.  It takes the same amount of energy to drive the last spike...but I digress.  We have done wonders and will keep doing so if we don't lose sight of what we are about.

Dana

Mike Fairburn replied:
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A way that track for narrow gauge railway is laid in the UK is to lay a bed of ballast using dump truck to deliver the stone, then level the stone with a 360degree excavator followed by compaction of the ballast with a vibrating roller.  It is possible to level the grade to within 1/4" using this method.  Whilst stone has to be hauled over the grade, it has proved to be practical to do this for distances up to 3/4 mile and 100 yards of grade can be prepred in one day by one machine and two dumper trucks.

Has anyone considered using electric tools for ballast packing?  The generator, cables and tools are much lighter than a compressor and air hoses and can be hand carried or transported on a small hand trolley.

James Patten replied:
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A couple of years back we were given electric tampers and a generator to power them.  Unfortunately the tampers proved to be unreliable and they didn't last very long.

Stewart Rhine replied:
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Dana said it very well.  As most of us know, the only time we pre-spread and tamped the ballast for a track weekend was in April of 2000 when we built Sutter's crossing.  For the rest of the time (except when the trestle was built in August, 2001) we have been working in the woods, building the railroad and using it to bring in the materials and crew.  Dana is right in that this old fashioned process allows anyone at any ability level to contribute.  As a person with a handicap I appreciate this approach.  The mainline gets extended each year and everyone has a good experience with the project.  That's what the museum is all about - enjoying the work of improving the railroad and friendship of the many volunteers we meet.

Mike Fox replied:
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Stewart,
I really agree with your last statement. We have a great bunch of volunteers. A great combination of leaders, followers and workers.  I like being part of one of the finest organizations I know of.
Mike

Josh Botting replied:
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Dana,

Were you implying that we should be gradeing by hand?????

Dana Deering replied:
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No Josh, I was just pointing out the order of railroad construction in the "old days" but now that you mention it, we could find some horse drawn scrapers and dump wagons, we have enough picks and shovels, oh and there's that rope in the corner of the section house with the hangman's noose... never mind.

I do think we can reasonable make some concessions to time concerns and older backs, like excavators for grading and pneumatic tampers but I think we can make it to 218 using our current method of track laying before the backs give out.

Dana

Josh Botting replied:
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I know Dana,

Just giving you a hard time....

Reuben Bailey replied:
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Just a thought about combining some of the suggestions on this post:  is there a practical, feasible way to lay panel track and have some ballast pre-laid before a work weekend?  This may be a better idea with a hopper than the flats.  I know that it will not eliminate the need for tamping, but it may reduce it.

Allan Fisher replied:
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We are not looking for a faster way to lay track. Laying 1200 feet a year is about all we can afford, and we aren't in any rush to finish the railroad as part of the fun is in the building.

The follow up lining, raising and tamping is where the real work still is - and we never seem to be able to keep up with the track laying.

John McNamara replied:
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Back on page 1 of this topic, I included a picture of an early track-laying process (between Jayne's Way and Davis Curve) in which ties were laid on truck-dumped ballast. In my posting, I said that we stopped doing things that way when we got to parts of the ROW that were truck inaccessable.

Our next idea was to lay panel track and dump ballast from that. The problem there was that we had to lift the panel track through the ballast when we were finished. This was no easy task, as the panel track assemblies were quite heavy, and ballast accumulated on the rather wide metal crossties. We soon gave up on that.

Mike Fox replied:
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Yes as everything is done by hand, pre assembled track would not work well for us. Ties weigh between 60 to 120 pounds a piece, 15 of them per section, 2 rails at 56 to 60 lbs per yard, roughly 600 pounds a piece, equals in the ballpark of 2100 pounds per section. That's a lot to lift.
During any track work weekend the Roadmaster has a plan that has been well thought out and if followed out goes smoothly. Plus doing it this way gives you a feel of "the way it used to be" and at the end of the day a sense of pride as to what has been accomplished. Plus maybe a little tired if you tried to keep pace with the roadmaster.
Mike
Ed Lecuyer
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