This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tie guys do Rensselaer

Tuesday was the day that the Tie Guys, or the CSX work crews, passed through Rensselaer, replacing the ties and tearing up the railroad crossings. Previous posts that mentioned the preparations are here and here, and mention of the crossings is here and here.

If you have been paying attention to the tracks, you could see the preparations for the past month or two. A few days ago even more stuff appeared.
After I noticed the pending road closing signs on Tuesday, I saw the work crew demolishing the Matheson Street crossing. I think the backhoe broke up the asphalt and removed the wooden ties that lie parallel to the track, and then the machine on the track plows and sweeps the debris away. The whole process was quite fast. An hour later they had finished a couple crossings.
It was not until the afternoon that I found the tie crew. I did not know what they were doing at first, so I had to watch the process for a while to figure it out. By the time I had it figured out, the front end was past Melville. The front end marked the ties to be removed, pulled the rail spikes, and slid the spike plate from under the tie. Below are the machines that did these tasks, taken before I realized what they were doing.
The first step of the process that I photographed was the removal of the old ties. This machine did that very quickly. It just grabbed a tie and pulled it out from under the track with its claw.After the old tie had been removed, another machine came along and placed new ties next to the rails. Actually there were two of these machines. In fact, there were duplicates of almost all of the machines. By having two or more machines doing tasks, they could go faster. I asked a worker how many miles they did a day, and he said about three, but it depended on how many ties they had to replace. I asked how the people who marked ties for removal knew which ties needed to be replaced, and he said that they could tell by looking at them. He remarked that they worked as a moving assembly line.Below is what the track looked like after the ties had been placed by the track. You can see where the missing ties are, and you can see the new ties positioned to take their places. It was rather amazing that these ties were placed by the machine above. Certainly the guys who worked these machines were very good at their jobs.
A machine that looked the same as the machines that were removing the ties came along, grabbed a tie, and jammed it under the track. I was impressed with how easily the machine did it.
The next step in the process was to clean the rock from the top of the ties, and a machine that had rotating "brushes" (I am not sure what they were made of) did that. The guys with this machine were also putting down the plates that fit between the rails and the ties.
It was followed by four of these little machines with umbrellas. The little machine would lift the track up a few inches, and the human would slide the spike plate into place. (The worker used the little pole to slide the plate.)In the picture below you can see several of the little umbrella machines. It was followed by a couple of machines. One seemed to be moving the ties just a little to get them lined up just right.

The tracks now looked like what you see below. Notice that there the spike plates have been put under the rails, but in most of them, there are no spikes. The ones that have spikes are old ties that were not removed.
The machine shown below inserted the spikes. It took me a while to figure out what it was doing because the action was hidden behind a screen. It made a lot of noise, though, that sounded as if it was pounding something.Below you can see what how it put spikes in two of the four holes. There were at least two of these machines. The operator was only working one side of the track.
On Wednesday morning I saw the workers loading up the spike machine with a load of spikes. They lifted the spikes with an electromagnet.
The next to last machine had two guys following it and they seemed to be inspecting the work and fixing any problems. They had sledge hammers and would hammer something every few steps.The last machine in the parade, and it was about a mile behind the first machine, moved the stone from the sides closer to the rails. It was sort of a road grader, but for track bed, not roads.

Here are some of the discarded ties.

I have video clips of some of this, and I will try to edit them into something that makes some sense. I do not know when I will have that done, but do not expect them before next week.


Ed said...


Larry Gibson said...

I watched a similar crew work for a week doing about 20 miles between Anderson and Muncie, Indiana in the summer of 2009. Thank yiou for taking the photos and video. Very interesting and informative.

Larry Gibson
Anderson, IN