1593. There is no department of modern railroad engineering which is receiving so much attention as the care and maintenance of the track. In the great strife for business, freight and passenger rates have been reduced to a minimum, and to meet these conditions speed and train loads have been nearly doubled. These conditions demand a good track.

A track to be good must be laid on sound ties, well ballasted and surfaced, full spiked and bolted, and in perfect line and surface.

1594. New Road.—In America practically all newly constructed railroad is built of new material throughout, though the cross-ties are often cheap and the rails light.


1595. Cross-ties are of wood. Their size and variety of timber will depend upon the locality and financial ability of the railroad company. The best ties are of while oak.

The following list gives in a descending scale the comparative values of woods for cross-ties:

Hard Wood—White Oak, Rock Oak, Burr Oak, Chestnut, Southern Pine, Walnut, Cherry, Red Beech, Red Oak

Soft Wood—Red Cedar, Black Cypress, White Cedar, White Cypress, Tamarack, Butternut, White Pine, Hemlock, Spruce


It is generally accepted that hewn ties are superior to sawed ties. The surface of a well-hewn tie is a series of comparatively smooth surfaces. The effect of the ax is to close the pores as the chip is removed, which tends to exclude the moisture. The effect of the saw is exactly the reverse of the ax. While given an average smoother surface, it tears the fiber of the wood, leaving the pores open. These minute broken fibers which cover the entire surface of the tie act like sponges in attracting and retaining moisture, and eventually hasten decay.

1596. Importance of Seasoning.—Too little attention is paid to the seasoning of cross-ties before they are laid in the track. This is especially true on newly constructed lines where scarcity of capital and the necessity for keeping down expenses compel the use of the cheapest material and methods. Cross-ties thoroughly seasoned will last fully one-quarter longer than those used while green, and they are better in every way. Well-seasoned wood will hold the spikes better and resist the shearing tendency of the rails due to passing load's better than green ties. The most favorable months in Northern latitudes for cutting ties are August, December, January and February. During these months there is comparatively no movement in the sap of the trees. The ties should be hewn to uniform thickness and piled in square piles about 4½ feet in height, as shown in Fig. 488, so as to admit of the free circulation of the air and to hasten the seasoning process.

1597. Specifications for and Inspection of Cross-Ties.—Specifications should include dimensions, and kind and quality of timber. Ties for standard gauge tracks should be from 8 to 9 feet in length, from 6 to 8 inches in thickness, and show not less than 6 inches of face. The


standard tie is 8 feet 6 inches in length, 7 inches in thickness, and shows at least 7 inches of face. In the Northern, Middle, and Western States, log ties, i.e., ties cut from entire trees and showing two rounded sides, are principally used. In the Southern, Atlantic, and Gulf States, yellow pine ties are in almost universal use. They are square hewn and made of heart timber, not more than 1 inch of sap being allowed on the corners. In Southern latitudes, where the process of decay goes on throughout the year, sap timber is almost worthless. The sap timber soon softens, the spikes loosen and the rails cut into the wood, leaving the track in a dangerous state. In those portions of the South where oak is abundant, oak ties are much used. They are generally square hewn. This is a mistake, especially if the ties are cut from young thrifty trees (and no other timber should be used), since a considerable portion of the weight of the tic is sacrificed in squaring. This lost weight is all needed to give stability to the track. The ties should be cut off square and to uniform lengths, and be of a uniform thickness throughout their entire lengths. Before being inspected, they should be delivered along the right-of-way of the railroad and piled in regular piles, each tie showing both ends. Ties are commonly graded as firsts and seconds. The inspector carries a brush and pot of paint, marking each class of ties with a distinctive mark. Firsts are usually marked by a full circle, and seconds by a cross.


1598. It is a rare thing to find a new roadbed in proper condition for track laying. Often it is in poor surface, being left by the contractors in a rough, uneven state. If the track is being laid in heavy, wet weather and the ties are being distributed by teams, the wheels are sure to cut deeply into the roadbed, and unless some precaution is taken to bring the tops of the ties to a uniform surface, there is great danger of the rails being bent by the passage of the construction train.


1599. Track Centers.—Center stakes marking the alinement are driven at intervals of 100 ft. on tangents and 50 ft. on curves, where the degree of curve does not exceed 12 degrees. On curves exceeding 12 degrees, stakes should be driven at intervals of 25 ft. A tack is driven in each stake, marking the center of the track. Grade stakes for surfacing ties should be placed at intervals of 16 ft. A straight edge placed upon these stakes marks the grade for the intervening ties. The ties are bedded with earth taken from the roadbed and tamped with the shovel.

The placing of grade stakes so close together is contrary to common practice, but the increased labor for the engineer is more than compensated for by the saving of the time ordinarily consumed in sighting in ties where grade stakes are set at intervals of 50 or 100 ft. The surface is sure to be better where the straight edge is brought into use, and the danger of kinking rails or bending them out of surface is obviated.

1600. Track-Laying Machines.—Track-laying machines have been used to some extent. The ties, as well as rails and fastenings, are carried on cars. With some machines they are conveyed to the front on rollers; in others, on an endless belt which runs along the sides of the cars. The process of track laying is as follows: Two rail lengths are laid, bolted, and partially spiked, and the ties partially bedded. The cars are then run forwards and the process repeated. The progress of track laying with a machine is limited by the amount of track which can be full bolted, spiked, and made fit for the running of trains, and ranges from 1 to 1½ miles per day, 1 mile being a common average. Economy in the force of track layers and the saving of team work are the principal advantages claimed for track-laying machines. In mountainous country, where the roadbed is difficult of access to teams, the track-laying machine has decided advantages over ordinary methods, but in open country where the roadbed is readily accessible, both ties and rails should be hauled by teams. With


material distributed a considerable distance in advance of the construction train, a much larger force of men may be economically employed. If the track laying is to be rushed, the track-laying machine must take second place.

1601. Track-Laying Outfit.—Before starting out to lay new track on a new road, the boss track layer should make requisition for all the tools necessary for expeditious work. These tools are loaded on a car and shipped to the point where work is to be commenced. Everything should be in readiness for making a good beginning before the men are brought on the ground. Any lack of proper tools is certain to cause awkward and often serious delay, and operations must often be suspended until the lack can be supplied from headquarters. The following list of tools will amply supply a force of 100 track layers, with a reserve for extra men in case they should be needed, and will be sufficient to take the places of tools worn out or broken until a supply can be brought to the front:

Hand cars 1, Covered water barrels 2, Steel cars 3, Track levers 2, Push cars 2, Chalk lines 2, Shovels 150, Spirit levels 6, Picks 50, Tape lines 6, Lining bars 12, Nail hammers 3, Claw bars 12, Monkey wrenches 3,

Tamping bars 12, Lanterns, red 3, Nipping bars 24, Lanterns, white 3, Cold chisels 24, Water pails 6,

Rail punches 6, Tin dippers 6, Chopping axes 6, Oil cans 2, Hand axes 6, Oilers 3, Striking hammers 42, Gallons of oil 2, Bush scythes and snaths, each 3, Pick handles 24, Nails, 10 penny, kegs 1, Hand saws 6,
Nails, 20, 40, 60 penny, kegs of each 1, Adzes 6, Track gauges 12, Cross-cut saws 2,


Adz handles 6, Curving hooks 2, Ax handles 6, Post hole diggers 2, Maul handles 36, Tie poles, 30 ft. long 2,
Red flags 12, Tie lines, 1,000 ft. long 1, Sledges, 16 lb. each 2, Sets double harness 1, Grindstones 1,
Sets single harness 1, Track wrenches 24, Sets double and single-trees, each 1, Iron tongs, pairs 3,
Rail forks 6, Wagon 1, Expansion shims 200, Scraper 1, Switch locks 6,Horses or mules 2, Rail drills 2,
Tool boxes 2, Torpedoes, dozens 4, Files 6, Track jacks 4, 1¼-inch rope, feet 300, Rail benders 2

Car accommodations for track laying should be the following:

One supply and office car. One kitchen car. Two dining cars. Three sleeping cars.

Where track laying is being done a long distance from the base of supplies, a blacksmith with forge and tools should accompany the outfit.

1602. Distributing Ties.—When ties are distributed along the roadbed by teams, they are strung out in proper numbers, so that the labor of carrying them to their place in the track may be as light as possible. The largest of them are reserved for joint ties, the joints being located by measuring from the ends of the rails already in place in the track. By measuring with a 30-foot pole, the joints of rails may be accurately located, a small stake driven marking each joint. This practice admits of the placing of ties several rail lengths in advance of the rail, thus affording working room for a much larger force than could otherwise be handled. A tie line for lining the ends of the ties is spaced at the proper


distance from the center line and stretched taut, being fastened at suitable intervals by well-driven stakes. Joints should not be located at any considerable distance in advance of the rails, as the measurements are likely to vary a little and soon accumulate an error. These inaccuracies are obviated by checking the measurements frequently from the ends of the rails already in place in the track. Care must be taken to place the ties at right angles to the center line. Ties laid askew prevent proper gauging of the track. Ties should be assorted with reference to thickness in order that those of uniform thickness may come together in the track, thus greatly reducing the labor of bedding.

1603. Bedding Ties.—As soon as the ties are distributed and lined they are bedded for the rails. The process

is as follows: The straight edge is placed on the grade stakes and the faces of the ties brought to a uniform surface by first sinking those which are above grade and then raising those remaining to grade by throwing dirt or ballast under them and settling them to the correct level. It has been a general and most pernicious custom to spike the rails to the ties without bedding. Most rails will be found to carry from one to a half dozen swinging ties, some of which are sure to get skewed before the ballast secures them. The track is full of undulations and as the foundation is rough and uncertain, many of the rails are kinked or surface-bent by the passing construction train. Where ties are bedded, the spiking can be better and more expeditiously done, and the construction train can follow at once with entire safety.

If the track is to be ballasted with cinders or broken stone, the ties must not be bedded, in order that the ballast may occupy all the vacant space in the roadway. Nevertheless, the dressing down of uneven places in the roadway before distributing the ties is time and money well spent. The ballasting must be kept well up with the track laying if kinking of the rails is to be avoided.

1604. Organization of Forces.—The foreman in charge of track-layers should thoroughly organize his forces,


placing each man where his work will give the best results. Spikers and iron men are first choice. They should be alert, sober men, and should be paid higher wages than the rest, as upon their efficiency depends the excellence and progress of the work. The prospect of promotion which is thereby held out to the others promotes the industry and discipline of the entire force.

A small surfacing gang immediately follows the track-layers. Any scarcity of men at the front can be supplied from this gang, and any extra men at the front can at any time be profitably added to the surfacing gang.

1605. Locating Joint Ties.—The foreman should detail two trustworthy men to locate the joint ties. They carry a measuring pole of the standard rail length, usually 30 feet, and locate the joints by measuring from the ends of the fixed rails. They also complete the work of spacing the intervening ties, which can not be done until after the joint ties are placed.

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