CARE AND MAINTENANCE OF TRACK.
SPRING TRACK WORK.
1621. At the first break up of winter the spring track
work begins. The section foreman should plan his work so as to
take advantage of each day as the season advances. As soon as
the snow has disappeared from the track, which will always be
a few days earlier than from less exposed places, he should set
his men to work at cleaning up the station grounds and yard. All
scattering track material should be collected and neatly piled
at a place convenient to the hand-car house. All rubbish which
may have accumulated during the winter must be removed and used
either to fill up low places in the right of way, or burned, if
All switches should be thoroughly repaired and put in perfect
line. Battered rails should be replaced by good ones; guard-rails
and frogs examined and defects in them remedied, and all ties
collected, loaded on cars, and distributed along the section,
where they will be ready at hand when needed to put in the track.
All breaks in fences should be repaired at the earliest opportunity.
The approaches to highway crossings should be made safe, and everything
done in the way of repairs which the season will permit of. As
the frost begins to leave the track, settlement commences, and
the track should be carefully watched, thick shims being replaced
by thinner ones as the settlement goes on, and all shims removed
as soon as it is possible to spike the rails to their proper surface.
Every joint throughout the section should be examined; all
loose bolts tightened; nut-locks or washers supplied where needed,
and broken bolts replaced by new ones. As the frost leaves the
track, especially in wet cuts, soft places will appear. These
must be reported to the train dispatcher at once. By keeping the
side ditches clear and deepening them as the frost leaves the
ground, soft places can usually be made safe until the ground
settles, when thorough repairs should be made. Ifthe place becomes
dangerous the fact
must be reported by telegraph to the roadmaster, who will furnish
the necessary men and materials to make the track safe.
1622. Washouts.The melting snow together
with the spring rains greatly increase the volume of surface water,
and as the frost comes out of the ground but slowly, ditches and
natural water channels are taxed to their utmost capacity. It
is at this season of the year that washouts and landslides are
chiefly to be feared. All ditches, culverts, and bridges must
be kept clear of obstructions, and the track watched night and
day so long as danger is to be apprehended. In case of a severe
storm, the section foreman should send a responsible man to one
end of the section with the proper signals to stop trains in case
of danger, while he goes to the other end of the section, leaving
a man to guard any dangerous spot until the section is entirely
covered. In case he lacks the means to repair any damage done,
he must report the fact by telegraph to both the train dispatcher
and roadmaster, in order that the former may hold trains at convenient
points while the latter can rush a construction train through
to the point of danger. The foreman should include in his report
the location of the break or washout, the number of the bridge
or culvert, the length of the break, the number of missing bents,
and any information which will aid the roadmaster in making a
correct estimate of the men and materials necessary to repair
the damage. He can then set to work with his men, making such
repairs as his limited force will permit of, and being ready to
render every assistance in his power to the roadmaster, who assumes
charge on his arrival. A foreman should never attempt any repairs
of track until he has inspected his entire section, as two or
more breaks may occur simultaneously, and while repairing one
break an accident is liable to occur at another.
1623. Repairs of Track.As soon as the frost
has left the track and all shims have been removed, bringing the
rails down to the surface of the ties, the section foreman should
go rapidly over his section, making such repairs as will render
the track safe and reasonably smooth. If the
track is well ballasted with gravel or broken stone these repairs
will be quickly made, as such track will hold a good line and
surface after the severest winter. If, however, the ballast is
clay, the track will show many low places and an uneven line.
The track jack, shovels, and picks are all the tools needed for
the first repairs. A man is set to dig block holes for the jack
at the lowest points in the sags. The track is then raised until
it is in average surface with the track at either end of the sag.
Dirt is then shoveled under the ties, care being taken to throw
it well back to the middle of the tie. No attempt should be made
to tamp the ties other than to fill up the cavities formed by
raising them. A part of the force will follow, dressing up the
track and filling block holes. The foreman should stop raising
track about two hours before quitting time, taking with him sufficient
hands to line up and gauge the track surfaced during the day.
The line side of the track is then given a perfect line.
Either rail may be taken as the line side, but the same rail should
always be used for lining. A part of the force take the gauge
and spike maul and spike the track to gauge, while the rest follow,
dressing up the track. This work will put the track in perfect
line and fair surface, and by the time the entire section is covered
the ground will be thoroughly settled and the track in shape for
1624. Lining Track.When lining track the foreman
should stand with his back to the sun and as far from the piece
of track which he is to line up as his eyesight will permit. This
gives him a better view of the straight portions on each side
of the crooked portion, all three of which are to be brought into
the same straight line. A simple device, much practiced by trackmen
when lining track, is to place small lumps of dirt on the top
of the rail to be straightened. These lumps show plainly in contrast
to the bright, unbroken surface of the rail, and when brought
into range insure a good line.
With a strong section gang the foreman can readily perform
any of the tasks which confront him; but when from
necessity his force is reduced to a minimum, he is obliged
to resort to every expedient within his knowledge. He must not
only direct the work, but lead in its execution. Frequently a
foreman will have charge of ten miles of track, and have but four
hands besides himself wherewith to maintain it. It is under such
circumstances that ingenuity and energy count at their full value.
When a sag in the track has caused a crook in the line, and
there is not sufficient force to throw the track to line, the
following scheme will enable the foreman to straighten the track
and hold it in place. He can only straighten one rail length at
a time, and to do that he should remove the spikes from three
or four of the ties under the rail. The ties so detached from
the rail are called dead ties. The lining bars are then
placed under the rail upon the dead ties, which afford a far firmer
foundation and leverage than ordinary ground. The track is then
thrown to line, after which the dead ties are shifted to their
proper position. If the track has a tendency to slip back out
of the line, the rails can be temporarily spiked to the dead ties,
which, being securely bedded, will hold the rails permanently
1625. Straining of Track Bolts.Reference has already
been made to this serious fault, which is almost universal among
trackmen and generally due to ignorance on their part. The rail
splices on most American roads are fitted with nut locks of either
metal or fiber, the object of which is to lock the nut and at
the same time permit of the expansion and contraction of the rail.
In order that expansion and contraction may take place, the nut
should only be brought to a snug bearing on the nut-lock, whereas,
the common practice is to screw on the nuts as far as the strength
of the trackman will permit. This places the bolt, nut- lock,
and nut under a severe strain, with the result that the rail can
not freely expand and contract; the nut-lock is deprived of all
power to act, and at the first abrupt change of temperature the
nuts are liable to snap off on account of the sudden strain. One
of the first duties of the section foreman is to explain to his
men the object of the slots in the
rails, expansion shims, and nut-locks. In putting in track
bolts, first bring the nut to a bearing, after which a half turn
with the wrench is sufficient. Track wrenches should not be longer
than 16 inches for ¾-inch bolts. Spike slots should always
be made in the angle splice. These prevent the creeping of the
rails and at the same time permit the free expansion and contraction
of the rails.
1626. Removing Old Track Bolts.In removing old
track bolts they should never be battered with either hammer or
wrench. The nut should not be entirely removed from the bolt until
the bolt is loosened in the splice. When the nut is nearly off
the bolt, give it a slight tap with the track wrench. This will
loosen the bolt without injuring the thread. The thread of the
old bolts should be oiled and the nuts well screwed on so that
they will be complete and in readiness for service when needed.
1627. Loose Track Bolts.Changes of temperature
often cause the loosening of track bolts. These are most noticeable
in the spring and fall of the year. Trackmen should watch for
and promptly tighten all loose track bolts, as they are one of
the main causes of low joints.
1628. Line and Surface of Bridge Approaches.Special
care should be taken to make the line and surface of the track
on bridge approaches as nearly perfect as possible. Pile bridges
are liable to heave, especially when the ice surrounding them
is lifted by a spring freshet. Section men should not attempt
to repair bridges unless circumstances require it. They have neither
the experience nor tools for such work.
Bank sills (those resting upon the embankment and supporting
bridge stringers) are continually settling, and cause a bump,
or lift, in the track at the bridge, line. The sills should be
raised and kept in perfect surface by hard tamping, and all bank
ties kept well tamped. If possible, avoid placing a rail joint
over a bank sill. It is almost certain to be low at times; but
rather arrange the track so as to bring the center, of the rail
at that point.
SUMMER TRACK WORK.
1629. General Repairs.On Northern railroads, general
track work commences with the month of May. By that time all frost
has left the track and settlement has taken place generally.
The section foreman should go to the end of his section to
commence track repairs, and work towards home, finishing as he
goes, raising all small sags and low joints to a proper surface,
tightening all loose bolts, relining the track, and correcting
all defects in gauge. He should fill in the middle of the track
and dress it down to the track shoulder. He should allow nothing
short of actual compulsion to call him from his work until the
entire section is covered. He will then be in readiness to put
in new ties, lay new steel, surface track, or cut weeds according
as the work demands. In going over the track, the foreman can
correctly estimate the number of new ties needed and make early
requisition for them in order that they may be on hand when needed.
He should keep a record of the places where new ties are needed
and distribute them accordingly.
1630. Track Ties.Track ties constitute one of
the most important items in the initial cost and maintenance of
a railroad. The company should provide the best ties within their
means, and, if possible, have them well seasoned before being
placed in the track. Ties made from logs split in two parts should
be laid with the sap side up. This brings the wide or heart side
of the tie underneath, which is the position it would naturally
take. Pole ties, those made from young trees, are more lasting
than those made from large logs, as the older the tree, the more
open and brittle the timber. Sawed ties are usually smaller than
hewn ties. They are Also often cross-grained, and hence more easily
broken. Tie specifications should always require uniformity in
length and thickness and the removal of A bark. Tie inspectors
should strictly enforce these specifications. Tie contractors
are quick to note any
laxness in the enforcement of specifications and always ready
to take advantage of it.
Ties in the roadbed should be not less than 8 feet in length,
7 inches in thickness, and show at least 7 inches of face and
be hewn to a uniform thickness throughout their entire length.
Winding ties should be promptly rejected. They are dear as a gift.
The life of a tie depends not only upon the kind and quality
of its timber, but also upon the weight of the rails, condition
of the roadbed, and much upon the climate. In Northern latitudes,
decay is almost entirely suspended during the late fall and winter
months, while in Southern latitudes decay goes on almost uninterruptedly
throughout the year. The yellow pine ties of the South are best
fitted to withstand the effects of the climate, and when of sound
heart timber they are fairly lasting.
The loss sustained from the use of inferior ties is apparent
when one considers the cost of repairs and renewals. A track laid
on ties with an average life of 8 years, and costing 60 cents
each, is vastly more economical than a track laid on ties with
an average life of 5 years and costing 40 cents each. The track
laid on the more expensive ties will be superior from the start
to that laid on cheaper ones, and, besides requiring far less
repairs, it will be in good condition when the cheap track must
be entirely rebuilt. The breakage of spikes and angle splices
is much greater where cheap ties are used, and accidents more
frequent and severe.
1631. Placing New Ties in Track.When renewing
ties, no more material should be removed from the track than is
necessary to allow the new tie to go into its proper place. Where
the track is mud-ballasted, remove the dirt from the sides and
from the ends of the tie to, a depth a little below its bed, but
without disturbing the bed of the old tie. If two ties side by
side need renewal, a single trench between them will serve for
removing both. Remove the spikes and spring the rail up from adjoining
ties, slipping a spike under it. Then knock, an old tie into
the trench and pull it out. Pull the new tie into the trench
from the opposite side of the track and have two men slide it
into place, keeping it well up against the rail until it is in
place. If the track is low, throw some fine dirt under the tie
and spike the tie to the rail. The ballast removed in putting
in additional ties should be thrown into the trenches made when
removing the first ties. When all the rotten ties are removed
from one rail length, fill in and dress the track before beginning
on another rail length. If, after the ties are in place, the track
proves to be a trifle high, the defect will disappear after the
passage of a loaded train. This method of putting in new ties
does away with most of the labor of tamping, and the work is better
done. A gang can put in from one-quarter to one-third more ties
in this way than by any other method, but it is restricted to
a mud-ballasted track alone. If the ballast is gravel or
broken stone, all new ties must be tamped. The tie must .be held
up against the rail with a bar while it is spiked, and the ballast
thoroughly tamped with a tamping bar. All new ties must be placed
square across the track, and if the old ones are too widely spaced,
additional ties must be put in the track with selected ones at
the joints. Never spring the rails off the ties on stone or gravel-ballasted
tracks, as the ballast collects under the base of the rail and
prevents its proper bearing upon the ties.
The prime object of track repairs is to make the track safe,
and if some parts of the section are more needy than others, the
foreman should first make those places safe and then go ahead
with continuous repairs.
1632. Estimating New Ties for Repairs.The proper time
for estimating the number of new ties needed for repairs is in
the fall of the year. In the Northern States the winter is the
proper season for manufacturing ties, and most tie contracts are
let in that season. If the estimates are made up and sent in to
the roadmaster in the fall, he can make more favorable contracts
and be sure of having a supply when needed.
In making his estimate, the foreman should walk over his entire
section, testing every tie of which he is in doubt and reporting
the actual number needed, and no more. The renewing of ties is
one of the great items of cost in the maintenance of a railroad,
and a careful foreman can do much towards prolonging their life.
1633. Disposition of Old Ties.All labor spent
in handling old ties is unremunerative, but they must be disposed
of. In sections where timber is scarce they can usually be sold
for fuel. If, however, fuel is abundant and cheap, the best way
to dispose of them is to burn them.
1634. Tie, Account.The foreman should keep an
accurate tie account, which will show at once the number of ties
received, put in the track, and on hand. The following
is a good form for tie accounts:
1635. Cutting Weeds.On all mud-ballasted roads
the cutting of weeds is an important item in the cost of track
repairs. All weeds within a distance of 3½ feet from the
rail should be kept cut clean to the surface of the ground. It
is important to prevent their getting an early start; hence, when
making track repairs early in the spring the surface of the ground
should be shaved over either with a shovel or weed cutter. This
will increase the labor of early track repairs, but it will save
much subsequent labor and loss of time.
A heavy growth of weeds seriously checks the speed and efficiency
of a train, especially on heavy grades, besides promoting decay
of ties. For cutting weeds the blades of shovels or Weed cutters
should be ground to an edge, and a file kept handy for resharpening.
The men should be distributed one to each rail length to prevent
crowding and insure an equal share of work from each.
The weed cutter shown in Fig.
511 does more effective work, and is less severe upon the
men than the shovel.
The handle of the weed cutter is considerably longer and the
blade lighter than that of the ordinary track shovel. In using
the weed cutter, men are not compelled to keep their backs continually
bent as when using the shovel, and they can cover from one-sixth
to one-fourth more ground in a day.
1636. Mowing Weeds, Grass, and Brush.If the
section force will admit of it, all weeds, grass, and brush should
be cut from the right of way. This work should be commenced by
July 20th, mowing first the grass and weeds about all wooden structures
and burning them as soon as they are dry enough. This forms a
barrier against fire, and insures the safety of these structures
while burning other brush or weeds along the right of way. If
possible, mow the entire right of way, burning the grass and brush
as fast as they are dry enough. With the right of way clear of
combustible matter there is comparatively small danger of fire
being communicated to adjoining property. This assurance is well
worth the cost of the work, and it is well known that by keeping
the right of way clear of weeds and brush, grass is induced to
grow, which is far easier to keep in order than brush or weeds.
WORK ON OLD TRACK.
1637. Combination Ballast.A track can be better
ballasted with a combination of stone and gravel than with either
of these materials separately. Each material has advantages peculiar
to itself. Stone is more solid, more open, and heavier than gravel,
and, hence, better suited to form the foundation of the track
where solidity and drainage are of first importance. Gravel is
more abundant, more elastic, and much easier handled than stone.
It does not wear the ties, rails, and rolling stock like stone,
and is comparatively free from weeds, and, hence, is well suited
to form the top course of ballast. Where stone is used only for
the foundation of the ballast, it need not be broken so finely
as when composing the entire roadbed.
Two carloads of gravel to a 30-foot rail length will make a
first-class track where there is a foundation of stone 12 inches
1638. Preparing Old Track for Ballasting.When
old track is to be newly ballasted with stone, gravel, or cinders,
all dirt should be removed from between and from the ends of the
ties down to the base of ties and placed on
the shoulder of the roadbed. This will considerably strengthen
the roadbed and afford a support to the ballast.
The engineer should set grade stakes 50 feet apart, giving
the elevation of top of rail for the finished, track. Where sags
occur, if it is intended to fill them, the material necessary
for raising the track should be delivered, and the track raised
to the required grade before the ballasting is begun.
1639. Reserve the Best Ballast for Cuts.When gravel
is the best available ballast, and that of inferior quality, select
the cleanest gravel for the cuts, where drainage is most difficult
and the track most affected by the frost. All mud ballast removed
from the roadbed in cuts should be deposited upon the adjacent
embankments, which are constantly being reduced in width by the
action of rain and frost. If the ballast is a mixture of gravel,
sand, and loam, it should be raised a full 3 inches above the
tie at the center of the track and carried out flush with the
tops of the ends of the ties. All gravel beds contain streaks
of clear gravel. With a little care and calculation the clean
gravel can be loaded on separate cars and the train made up with
the selected cars by themselves. The inferior ballast should be
unloaded on the embankment and the selected ballast deposited
in the adjacent cuts. Make the track shoulders of equal weight.
Track with unequal shoulders is sure to work out of line.
Embankments, should be made at least 14 feet in width at the
top before depositing the gravel ballast, and .16 feet in width
if the means of the company will permit. With a 16-foot embankment
there is no loss of ballast from its being crowded over the shoulder.
1640. Ballast Required for a Mile of Track.Allowing
an average length of 33 feet per car, 160 cars will cover 1 mile
of track. If the trains average 8 cubic yards per car, they will
form a continuous bed 12½ feet in width at bottom, 12 feet
in width at top, and 6 inches in thickness. Of this amount it
will require about one-half to fill in between the ties and dress
the middle of the track. This will leave
a bed of 3 inches beneath the ties. By unloading two cars in
a place, the depth of the ballast under the ties is increased
to 8½ inches, which will make a first-class track, providing
the subgrade is compact and thoroughly drained.
Gravel may be loaded at the pit for 75 cents per car, making
the cost per mile, 2 cars to a rail length, about $250. Under
favorable conditions, gravel can be loaded with a steam excavator
for considerably less than the above figures.
1641. Gravel Pits.The cost of loading gravel at
the pit depends largely upon the manner in which the excavation
is conducted. The prerequisite for cheap loading is a long, high,
and regular working face. In laying out a track to a gravel pit,
the ground should be well considered and the track placed so as
to meet the above conditions for loading. The switch should be
so placed that the turn-out curve is passed before the gravel
pit is reached. If the face of the gravel bed is uneven at the
start, commence loading at the projecting points and continue
until the face is uniform. With each movement of the track, excavate
deeper if the depth of the gravel will permit, and so increase
the height of the working face. Gravel is generally overlaid with
a layer of earth. This earth mixes with the gravel in loading,
and the proportion of earth grows less as the height of the working
face increases. The grade of the track should be made as uniform
as possible, and the track maintained in such order that an engine
may draw a full train load from the pit. Under fair conditions,
10 loaded cars constitute a train. If a steam excavator is being
used, there should be enough cars on hand to keep the machine
constantly employed. The empty cars should be placed on a spur
track, connecting with the track leading to the pit, and shifted
by teams as they are needed. When a train of empty cars is returned
to the pit, the cars are switched to the spur track, and, the
loaded train hauled out.
1642. Raising Track.When raising a track to a
surface, the following method is recommended: Take a piece of
board 1 by 4 inches and 5 feet in length. Cut two
notches, each 3 inches deep, to fit over the rails,
the space between the notches being equal to the gauge
of the track. Place this sighting board at a high place
in the track, from 8 to 10 rail lengths ahead of the point where
you intend to commence track raising. Shim up the sighting board
to a perfect level, giving it the same height to which the top
of the rail is to be brought in the raising. Then, go to the point
where you intend to commence track raising and lift the track
to a proper height, bringing both rails to the same level. The
spirit level is then laid aside and the intervening track brought
to a surface by sighting. When sighting, stand from 50
to 75 feet from the track being raised. Raise and tamp each joint
about ¼ inch higher than the actual surface. In
raising, two jacks, a heavy and a light one, should be used, the
heavy one to raise the joints, and the light one to raise the
centers of the rails. Do not attempt to raise a rail center until
the jack is in place at the next joint, and then raise together.
This prevents the springing of the rails and insures a smooth
By sighting in the rails, a more uniform surface is obtained,
and the delay occasioned by the repeated use of the spirit level
is avoided. When the sighting board is reached, it is removed,
and the track brought up to the proper surface by sighting.
In sighting in a curved track, sight along the inside of the
rails. This permits of longer and better sights. The foreman should
know the time when each regular train is due, and have the track
safe for its passage. This is accomplished by a run off,
extending from the new to the old surface. This should be 30 feet
in length for each 6 inches of difference of elevation between
the old and new track surface.
The amount and quality of work done will depend much upon the
organization of the force. A good foreman will soon learn the
good points of his men and distribute them accordingly. A gang
of 14 or 16 men should be distributed as follows: Two with jacks;
two to tamp the ends of the ties; four to tamp the centers, and
the remaining men
equally divided, one-half to be employed in filling in ahead
of the tampers and the other half in dressing up the track behind
them. By dividing up the men equally, placing one-half the force
on each side of the track, competition, both in amount and quality
of work, naturally follows. With such an organization, a foreman
can effectively employ a force within comparatively small limits,
enabling him to give thorough inspection to all work, and to give
directions wherever needed.
In raising track, both sides should be lifted together. The
common custom of raising and tamping one side of the track at
a time should not be permitted, as ties can not be given a uniform
The centers of track ties should not be hard tamped. The greater
part of the train load comes upon the ends of the ties, and if
their centers are hard tamped there is great danger of the ties
being broken, especially if they are sawed ties. The ties should
be hard tamped only 18 inches inside the rails. This will insure
a firm bed and prevent all danger of breaking.
Uniformity of work is the secret of a smooth track, and the
more alike the men work, the better will be the results.
1643. Yard Work.All yard tracks should be uniformly
surfaced throughout their entire length. The grade for all yard
tracks should be given by the company's engineer, and should practically
conform to that of the main line. If possible, yard tracks should
be level. Cars are then much more manageable and easier handled.
Where the yard and main tracks are of the same level, the main
line should be put in perfect surface first. The adjoining yard
track may then be given an equal height by a level and straight-edge.
In the same way, any number of side tracks can be brought to the
level of the main track. It is, however, much the better practice
to have all elevations given with an instrument.
1644. Gravel as a Destroyer of Weeds.One of the
great advantages of gravel ballast is the saving in the
cost of weed cutting. Although ballasting with gravel is a
heavy initial expense; the outlay ceases when the work is complete.
Weed cutting, on the other hand, is a constant and heavy expense,
and one of the great arguments in favor of gravel ballast is that
gravel discourages the growth of weeds and thereby saves to the
company a large annual expense. A railroad company should commence
ballasting with gravel at the earliest possible moment, even though
it is done in a fragmentary way, as every rail length of gravel
is clear gain.
1645. A Day's Work.Two rail lengths, or 60 feet
of finished track, ballasted and dressed, per man, is considered
a fair day's work. Foremen should stop raising track long enough
before quitting time to line up, fill in, and dress all the track
raised during the day. Track left without the ties being filled
in and the shoulders properly dressed is easily thrown out of
line. A heavy shower failing upon track which has not been properly
filled in and dressed is certain to do great injury. In all cases,
track should be left in a finished condition.
FALL TRACK WORK.
1646. Importance of Fall Work.On Northern
railroads, the prime object of fall track work is to prepare for
the ensuing winter. One day's work in the fall expended in intelligent
track work is worth an entire week of repairs in winter. The section
foreman should lay out his work according to the needs of his
section, and, as far as possible, adhere to his program.
1647. Surfacing and Lining Track.The most important
part of the fall work is the surfacing and lining of track. In
addition, the track must be put in perfect gauge and dressed down.
In dressing the track, give as much strength to the shoulders
as the available material will permit. With drainage provided
for, the heavier the shoulder, the longer the track will hold
its line and withstand frost.
1648. Seeding and Repairing Embankments.It is
the severe frosts of winter, followed by heavy spring and summer
rains, which destroy embankments. After a heavy spring freshet,
embankments are furrowed with deep gulleys, though the usual effect
is the gradual wasting of the slopes. The only protection against
these destructive agents is a good sod, and foremen should be
supplied with grass seed of suitable variety to seed embankments
whenever the conditions are favorable.
Until embankments are protected by grass they must be repaired
from time to time, Narrow embankments give insufficient support
to the track, and sags are the result. The fall of the year is
the best time to repair embankments. All the material obtained
from cleaning ditches, widening cuts, or from any other source,
should be deposited upon the embankments where there is greatest
need of repair. This material the section men can transport on
a push car, which should be fitted with sideboards so as
to carry a full load. A section foreman can do much towards keeping
his embankments in proper shape, especially if he be well provided
with men. If there are bad sags on his section, he should not
attempt to take them out until he knows how much material is required
for raising the roadbed to the proper height. He can determine
the necessary amount of filling by the following approximate method
(see Fig. 512).
Drive a stake at C against the rail at the middle point
of the sag until its top is on line with the track surface at
A and B. Measure the height C D of the stake
above the rail. Multiply one-half the distance A B by the
top width of the embankment and by the height C D of
the stake above the rail; divide the product by 27. The quotient
is the number of cubic yards of material required.
EXAMPLE.A B is 200 ft., C D is 1
ft., and the top of the embankment is 14 ft. in
width; how many cubic yards of material are necessary to take
out the sag?
SOLUTION.Number of cubic yards = 200/2 x 14 x 1 divided
by 27 = 52, nearly.
A push car with sideboards will carry 1 cubic yard of material.
If the men and material are at hand, commence by raising the sag
near the middle, extending the raising on both sides until the
ends are reached. Raise the track at the middle of the sag about
A higher than the total depth of the sag, to allow for shrinkage
of the material.
1649. General Repairs.Carefully examine all joints,
tightening loose nuts and renewing bolts where they are broken
or stripped of their thread. See that proper provision is made
for expansion, and that all ties are full spiked. Rotten ties
left over from the work of the previous spring should be replaced
with new ones. If new steel is required, see to it that it is
laid early in the fall and the track well settled before winter
Thoroughly repair the right of way and snow fences. The winter
season puts all fences to the test, and they should be in thorough
repair if they are to do service the following summer.
1650. Building New Fence.Though the spring is
the most favorable season of the year for building fence, the
more urgent track repairs fully occupy the time of every section
man. Consequently, fence building is deferred until the late summer
or fall. The one disadvantage to building fence when the season
is well advanced is the hardness of the ground, which makes the
digging of post holes much more laborious than in the early spring,
when the ground is soft and yielding. There are, however, the
following advantages in favor of building fence in the fall season.
Posts and lumber are usually much better seasoned in the fall
than in the spring; streams are low, and swampy places are either
entirely dry or at least accessible. It is
important that posts should be peeled and well seasoned before
setting; and as they are usually cut in the winter season, by
delivering them at the section house in the winter or early spring,
the section men can peel and pile them on stormy days; they will
thus be thoroughly seasoned when needed the following fall.
The most effective fence is of barb wire with one board at
the top, as shown in Fig.
513. Posts are spaced 8 feet between centers and set 2 feet
6 inches into the ground. At intervals of 500 feet on straight
lines, and at every angle, braces A B should be built into
the fence. The brace is mortised into the post at the top and
gained into the post at the bottom. The wires are spaced as follows,
beginning at the bottom wire, which is 9 inches above the ground:
The first and second wires are 9 inches apart; the second and
third, 10 inches; the third and fourth, 10 inches apart, and the
fourth is spaced 10 inches from the top board or rail, which is
6 inches in width. This makes the total height of the fence 4
feet 6 inches, which is a lawful fence in most of the States,
and the total length of the posts 7 feet. In laying out a fence,
measure from the center line of the track, one-half the width
of the right of way, and set a temporary post. Place these posts
from 50 to 80 rods apart on tangents and from 50 to 100 feet apart
on curves. Then stretch a light wire between these posts, with
tags at intervals of 8 feet for spacing and lining the posts.
A man then takes a lining bar and spade and plumbs down from each
tag with the bar, making a mark with the point of the bar. He
then removes the sod from around the hole made with the bar.
The hole marks the center of a post and guides the men who
dig the post holes. The wire is removed while the holes are being
dug, and replaced to give line for setting the posts. The diggers
should be provided with a gauge giving the proper depth of hole.
Those nailing on either boards or wire must be provided with a
gauge giving top of fence and the spacing of each strand of wire.
A handy gauge for spacing wires is shown in Fig. 514. It consists of a foot piece
of pine 2 feet in length, 6 inches in width, and 1 inch in thickness.
Another piece of pine 3 inches wide and 4 feet 6 inches in length,
equal to the height of the fence, is nailed to the foot piece
at its middle, as shown in the figure. The spacing of each wire
from the ground is marked by a notch cut into the edge of the
upright piece. The foot piece, besides giving the height from
the average surface of the ground, helps to keep the gauge in
an upright position.
In building the fence described above, judgment should be used
in distributing the force if first-rate progress is to be made.
With a force of a dozen men, the following distribution is recommended:
Two men to lay out the work, four digging holes, three setting
posts, and three nailing on boards and stringing wires.
A wire stretcher is necessary to first-class work and progress,
though good work at stretching wire can be done with a crowbar
if sufficient care and strength is used.
At highway bridges and culverts, the fence usually returns
to the ends of the abutments. The angles made in the fence by
these returns must be thoroughly braced. Effective braces for
such returns are shown in Figs.
515 and 516.
In Fig. 515 the angle of the return
is 90 degrees, and a brace in each panel abutting on the angle
is sufficient, but in Fig. 516, where
the angle contains 150 degrees, an inside brace is added.
This brace abuts against a short post set in the ground to
receive the thrust of the brace.
Braces must be placed at each opening, such as farm and road
crossings, and at all points where changes in direction require
At streams crossed by pile bridges, it is customary to make
a return in the fence on both sides of the stream, and to string
the wires across the stream, fastening them to the piles.
On tangents, and on the outside of curves, place boards and
wire on the farmers' side of the posts, but on the inside of curves
place them on the track side of the line of posts.
1651. Material for One Mile of Fence.It will
require 661 posts spaced 8 feet between centers to build one mile
of fence. One fence board 16 ft. long, 6 in. wide, and 1¼
in. thick contains 10 sq. ft. of lumber, and 330, the number of
boards required for 1 mile of fence, will contain 330 x 10 = 3,300
Barb wire, of average weight, weighs 1 lb. per rod of single
wire or 4 lb. per rod of finished fence. Hence, for 1 mile, or
320 rods, it will require 320 x 4 = 1,280 lb. Adding 10 lb. for
splices, we have 1,280 + 10 = 1,290 lb., the amount of barb wire
required for 1 mile of fence. It will require one-eighth lb. of
staples for 1 rod of fence, and for 1 mile, or 320 rods, it will
require 320 x 40 lb., and we have the following:
When barb-wire fences were first introduced, the posts and
braces were the only wood material used, but they proved very
injurious to live stock, which, failing to see the wire, continually
came in hurtful contact with the barbs. This objection is removed
by placing a single board for the top rail. This board clearly
marks the fence line, and, together with the barb wire, makes
the most effective fence known.
1652. A Day's Work at Fence Building.From
12 to 14 rods per man is a fair day's work at fence building,
though much depends upon the hardness of the ground, the quality
of the work, and the skill and industry of the workmen. Fence
building requires intelligent industry. A poorly built fence is
little better than no fence.
1653. Distributing Emergency Material.In the late
fall, but before any snow falls, place at each mile post, and
well up from the ground, a number of rails and joint splices to
be used in case of emergency, and known as emergency material.
Such supplies are available when most needed, and are constantly
near at hand.
All track material lying about the yard should be collected
and piled well off the ground. Piles of ties must be placed far
enough apart to avoid catching fire from one another in case of
fire. All loose spikes, splices, bolts, and nuts should be collected
and placed under cover, and everything about the station made
snug and safe for the winter.
WINTER TRACK WORK.
1654. General Repairs.As winter approaches, the
entire section should be gone over carefully, tightening up all
loose splices, correcting defects in gauge, and closing up joints
which the contraction of the rails has left too open.
The joints of switches are most liable to be open and the rails
battered. Close up these joints and renew the rails if necessary.
See that switch joints, rods, and frogs are in proper order, and
that guard-rails are properly spaced and well spiked.
Keep all spikes driven home, clear the snow from yard tracks
and switches, flange out the main track after every snow storm,
and remove ice from the ditches.
1655. Shimming Track.There is no work connected
with track repairs requiring more care and judgment than shimming.
All mud-ballasted tracks are bound to heave from the action of
the frost, and heaving spoils the surface of the track. Inequalities
as small as ¼ inch should be corrected by shims placed
beneath the rail. Shims should be made of hard wood, slightly
wedge-shaped, and driven crosswise under the rail. All shims over
¼ inch in thickness should have a hole bored in them to
receive the spike. They are easiest made by boring a hole through
the end of a straight-grained plank and cutting off a piece to
the required length, after which the plank maybe split into shims
of the required thickness. If the rail has cut into the tie, the
edges of the groove must be adzed smooth before placing the shims,
in order that the rails may have a solid bearing. If the track
continues to heave, thin shims must be replaced by thicker ones.
Where a number of ties side by side require shimming, a plank
should be placed lengthwise under the rail and spiked to the ties
with boat spikes and track spikes driven through the plank to
hold the rail. Where shims exceed 1 inch in thickness, spikes
7 or 8 inches in length should be used.
For 4-inch shims use 1-inch shims on top of 3-inch plank, and
for 5inch shims, use 5-inch timber. Where shims exceed I inch
in thickness; old rail splices should be set with one end against
the outside of the rail and the other end spiked to the tie to
serve as rail braces. These braces should be spiked to every second,
third, or fourth tie, according to the height of the shim.
All high-shimmed track should be closely watched, and
as the frost leaves the track and the track settles, thinner
shims must be substituted for the thick ones. The last shim must
not be removed until the frost has left the ground. When the shimmed
rail is higher than the rest of the track by the thickness of
the shim, you may know that the frost has left the track. All
good shims, spikes, and braces should be stored in the tool house,
to be in readiness when needed the following winter.
1656. Heaved Bridges and Culverts.Pile bridges
and pile culverts require careful watching during the winter season,
and whenever they -are found to be heaved out of surface or line,
the bridge carpenters should be promptly notified. Pile foundations,
when heaved by frost, unlike earth foundations, do not resume
their original position after the frost has left the track. Neither
does the frost affect them equally, as one or two piles in a bent
may be heaved out of surface while the others are not stirred.
This places the track in a dangerous condition. To remedy the
evil, either the track must be shimmed to the surface of the heaved
piles or they must be cut down to the original surface. Where
piles are driven in deep water, the ice should be cut away from
them whenever a thaw is imminent, as a sudden rise in the water
may lift the body of ice, and the piles, being frozen fast in
the ice, must rise also.
1657. Its Prevalence and Effects.Nearly all roads
in the Northern States are obliged to contend with snow, and,
in the Northwest especially, the keeping of the track clear of
snow constitutes one of the main items of cost of track maintenance.
Snow, must be contended with in many forms, the most common of
which is drifted snow; but it is almost equally difficult to contend
with it when it fills the flanges of the rails with ice, or in
melting and freezing it fills the track ditches and flows across
the track, covering the rails with ice and threatening derailment
to the first passing train.
1658. Snow Reports.Immediately after every snow
storm, the section foreman should ascertain the condition of his
track, noting which cuts are clear and which are blocked, and
how much snow is in each cut, and the lengths of the drifts. These
facts he should report immediately by telegraph to the roadmaster,
in order that preparations may be made to clear the track. If
the section is clear of snow, it should be so reported.
1659. Preparing Track for Snow Plow.After a storm,
as soon as the condition of the section has been reported to the
roadmaster, the foreman should take all his force and put his
section in shape for the snow plow. In all cuts where the drifts
are over two feet in depth, the track should be cleared of snow
and flanged out to where the snow has a depth of at least IS inches,
leaving a clean face to the drift. Both ends of the cut should
have the same treatment. Snow is most apt to cause derailment
when it is of slight depth and hard, and so ground into the flanges
that the engines mount the rail. By clearing the track of snow
at the commencement and ends of drifts, this danger is avoided.
1660. Clearing Switches and Flanging Track.As
soon as the track is ready for the snow plow, the men should clear
the switches of snow from heel of switch to frog, special care
being taken to clear the switch rails, rods, and switch stand.
The platform, track, and approaches to the station should also
be promptly cleared.
The section foreman should next give his attention to flanging
out the main track, beginning near the summits of the hard grades,
and at all points where the work upon the engines is most severe.
1661. Clearing Ditches and Culverts.If possible,
keep the ditches and culverts clear of snow. If, in the fall,
a tall stake is driven at both ends of a culvert opening, there
will be no trouble in locating it when the culvert is completely
covered with drifted snow. By keeping the ditches open, all snow
water can run off instead of accumulating and flooding the track,
where it is bound to freeze, making
the track not only hard to operate, but a continual menace
to the safety of trains. The ditch for snow water should be fully
6 feet from the rails to insure the safety of the track.
1662. Snow Fences.All railroads exposed
to severe and repeated snow storms should have some protection
against drifting snow. This protection is best provided in
the form of fences. Their efficiency will depend upon their strength,
height, position, and distance from the track. The fence should
be placed at such a distance from the track that, when drifted
full, the snow will not reach within 30 feet of the track. To
effect this, the distance of the fence from the track should be
12 feet for each foot in height of fence. When the fence is placed
too near the track, the snow will be carried to the track before
the fence is drifted full; if, on the other hand, the fence is
placed too far from the track, the wind, after clearing the fence,
will fall and gather up all the snow between the foot of the drift
and the track, and carry it into the cut. Usually but one side
of the track requires protection from snow, viz., that side from
which snow storms most prevail. Most railroads in the snow belt
of the United States run in two general directions, viz., east
and west, and as most of the severe storms prevail from the north,
northwest, and northeast, the north side of most tracks is the
only one requiring protection from snow. At some exceptional points
on the line, the topography of the country may cause complex currents
of air which may produce results at variance with general rules.
At all points, fences should be built to meet the existing conditions.
In general, snow fences are built parallel to the track. For fences
of ordinary height, the following rule can be safely followed:
Place the fence 75 feet from the nearest track rail, extending
it parallel to the track the entire length of the cut. Change
the direction of the fence at both ends of the cut, gradually
approaching the track until the ends of the fence are 100 feet
from the ends of the cut and 50 or 60 feet from the track.
If the cut ends abruptly at the beginning of a high embankment,
the turn in the fence must be made before the end of
the cut is reached, in order to protect the cut from head and
quartering winds. Cuts which are lined on the storm side by brush
or heavy timber do not require fencing, as the only snow which
reaches the track is that which falls directly upon it. The brushwood
and timber prevent the blowing of the snow. Cuts made in a side
hill where the ground slopes off abruptly into a valley do not
require fencing. But where there is a long level or gently rolling
stretch of ground on the storm side of the track, the cut is liable
to drift full unless properly fenced. When a fence becomes drifted
full, its height may be readily increased by adding a wall of
blocks of snow taken from the inside face of the drift. So long
as the weather remains cold a snow wall will serve the full purpose
of a fence.
A first-class snow fence, kept in perfect repair, will not
last above 10 years, and it becomes a question whether to build
a snow fence or grade down the cut so that it will not hold snow.
The items of cost to be considered are the first cost of the fence,
the annual repairs, the interest on each charge for the time it
is to serve in the fence, and if these combined items equal or
exceed the cost of grading down the slopes so as to keep the cut
clear of snow, the grading should be done.
1663. Bucking Snow.The clearing of the track of
snow belongs to the Roadmaster's Department, but it is essentially
track work and at times of vital importance to a railroad.
A man should be thoroughly familiar with the best methods of
bucking snow before taking charge of an outfit to open up a road
for traffic after a blockade.
Before starting out on the road, he should be as thoroughly
informed as possible as to the condition of the road, the location,
length, and depth of drifts. He should have strong, live engines
and willing engineers. The snow plow should be of the best make
and able to throw snow out of a 10-foot cut. There should be two
engines in the outfit. The second engine follows closely, with
a car, conductor, train
crew, and shoveling gang. When heavy drifts are encountered
too deep for one engine to successfully buck, the second engine
is coupled to the first, and besides doubling the momentum, serves
to pull out the head engine and plow in case they are stalled.
The pilot should be removed from the second engine, and the coupling
made short and very strong, No car or caboose should ever be placed
between the engines, as they are likely to cause a wreck. When
the drifts are more than 10 feet deep, the top of the drift must
be shoveled out down to that depth, and a space, made wide enough
that effective work may be done by the plow.
When the snow is reported hard, each drift must first be carefully
examined and its length and height noted. If the drift has not
been faced by section men (that is, shoveled out from the end
of the drift to where its depth is from 15 to 18 inches), the
gang of shovelers must do the work before a run is made with the
Unless the drifts are properly faced, the plow is liable to
mount the rails, especially on curved track, and often the engine
is derailed along with the plow. All cars attached to the helper
engine should be left behind while bucking snow. If both engines
are not necessary to buck a drift, it is better to do the work
with one. The helper engine should only be used, where necessary.
If the snow is not too hard, a good, heavy engine will clear a
drift from 3 to 5 feet deep and from 500 to 800 feet in length
at one run. There is comparatively no danger in bucking soft,
deep snow with an engine at top speed.
The engines with a snow-plow outfit should take fuel and water
to their utmost capacity at every point reached where a supply
can be obtained. Unforeseen delays and mishaps may be encountered,
and there must be no risk of a short supply of fuel or water.
When the road is badly blockaded, the helper engine should carry
an extra carload of coal. The water supply can be readily replenished
by shoveling snow into the tank.
Each engine in the outfit should carry a piece of steam hose,
which can be attached to the siphon cock, and reach
from it to the water hole in the tender. When the water supply
needs replenishing, by shoveling snow into the tender and turning
on the steam, a tank full of water can be quickly made. The steam
hose can also be used to thaw the snow and ice from the machinery
and track rails.
In plowing snow the speed of the engine should always be regulated
by the length and depth of the drifts. When the drift is deep
and long, the engine should back up far enough to attain full
speed before striking the drift. An experienced engineer will
so regulate the speed of his engine as to leave but little work
for the shovelers.
The engineer of the plow engine should always sound the whistle
when approaching a cut, in order that section men, if working
there, may be warned in time to get out of the cut. Failure to
sound the whistle has been a frequent cause of accident. When
it is necessary to buck a drift a second time, the engineer must
sound the whistle and be sure that all hands are out of the cut
before entering it. It is almost impossible for men to climb up
out of a snow cut when first opened up.
When the snow drift is of such depth and length that two runs
are likely to not clear it, it is the better policy to shovel
out from both ends until it is certain that two runs will leave
a clear track.
When the snow is both deep and very bard, the crust should
be broken up and shoveled out before any attempt is made with
the plow. Bucking deep, hard snow with the crust unbroken is very
severe work for a locomotive, and is often attended with danger
to trainmen. It is far better to insure safety even at the price
of delay. It is not advisable to start out to clear a track of
snow during a heavy storm, but everything should be in readiness
to start the moment the storm abates.
The invention of the rotary snow plow has practically solved
the snow problem, especially for clearing the track of hard snow.
Many roads which suffer, little from snow do not yet possess rotary
plows, and the old custom of bucking snow is still practiced when
occasion requires it.
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