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

Monday, August 10, 2009


The maintenance of way (MOW) crews who came through Rensselaer at the end of July and the beginning of August caught my attention (as you can probably tell). They parked their machines in Rensselaer for several nights, so I got a chance to take some pictures of the ones I did not see in action. Below you can see some spike removers. They were near the front of the pack and pulled the spikes from the ties marked for replacement.
I am not 100% positive on these, but I think they are anchor spreaders. They push the rail anchors away from the ties that are going to be replaced.
I am not sure what these machines were. They might be anchor squeezers, machines that squeeze the anchors so they are snug with the ties, or they maybe be some kind of tamper. Like many of the machines, they have a lot of hydraulics.
I saw the work crews arrive on a couple of mornings. Many came in a bus. I assume they stayed in a local motel. Before they showed up, a truck had stopped and delivered a bag of ice to each of the machines. They have had pretty good weather to work in lately, but I imagine that when it gets into the 90s, the job is pretty miserable. And the machines themselves probably generate a lot of heat.
Of the machines that were parked in Rensselaer, the ones I found most intriguing were the tampers. I did not know what a tamper was before the tie guys came to town, but Internet helped a lot.

Below is a Plasser Dyna CAT, a dynamic continuous action tamper.
From the little I was able to learn from the Internet, these machines level the track by picking it up and stuffing ballast under the ties. Some of them use lasers in determining how much the track has to be raised. The result is a smoother ride for the trains and less wear on the tracks.
They had lots of stuff sticking out below that I did not understand. Now I know that part of what is pictured above is used to lift the tracks. The appendage below thrusts into the ballast and moves it around.

I was disappointed that I had not been able to see them in action, but almost a week after the crew had come through Rensselaer, the tampers and some other equipment was still parked in Rensselear. On my morning jog, I saw the crews arrive (by van, not by the bus), and I thought I might at least get some video of them leaving. I took the opportunity to ask about the machines. They were using two tampers which were different models, and there was a third one that they were not using. I asked why two, and was told that they needed two to keep up with the other crews. I also overheard someone say that after the Amtrak train came through, they had to wait for a freight train.

The freight train, pulling just one car, came through and still they did not move. Finally I discovered that the train had dropped its car down the track, and then backed up on the siding to get several gondola cars that had been sitting in Rensselaer for a couple weeks. I noticed that they were full of old ties. So that is where the old ties went.
In the picture above you can see a strange rail car just above and in front of the truck stopped at the crossing. Below is a close-up. I wonder if it was used to move old ties to the gondola cars.I kept waiting on Melville for the tampers to get going, but although they had moved, they did not come down the track. I walked over to see what the delay was, and I heard strange noises. The crossing on Webster street had finally been ripped up and work had been done on the switch just to its east, and one of the tampers was tamping. Here is what it looked like.

These crews are going all the way to Crawfordsville at three miles a day.

No comments: