The Track Repairmen at Work

Many thousands of men are employed by the railroads to keep the tracks, bridges, tunnels, buildings, telephone and telegraph lines, signal systems and equipment in good condition, so that trains can be operated efficiently and safely.

The job of keeping the railroad tracks, bridges and buildings in good condition is performed by the Maintenance of Way Department. A large railroad is composed of several divisions. Each division is composed of several districts, and each district is composed of several sections. A section may embrace only a few miles of railroad track. To each section is assigned a section foreman. The section foreman must have had years of experience in track work; he must be dependable, and he must know how to handle men. He is in charge of the section crew, or "section gang," as it is sometimes called.

The section foreman and his men keep their section of the railroad in repair. The section foreman or one of his assistants inspects the tracks daily. The section crew keeps busy replacing a few ties here, a rail or two there, a spike or bolt here, shifting the ballast there, and performing many other duties—all for the purpose of keeping the railroad tracks smooth, strong and safe.

The section foreman reports to the road supervisor, who has charge of several sections, and the road supervisor reports to the roadmaster or to the division engineer, who has general charge of road maintenance on the division. The roadmaster or division engineer usually reports to the division superintendent and also to the chief engineer of maintenance of way for the entire railroad.

When important changes are to be made in the railroad, such as the relaying of large quantities of rail, the straightening or strengthening of track, the construction of new tracks, the renewal of bridges, or other work requiring the use of heavy machinery and large forces of men, a special crew of men, called an "extra gang," and the necessary equipment to perform the work, are assigned to the job.

In this picture we see a crew of men relaying rails on a long stretch of track.

The old rails have been removed; new rails have been placed alongside the tracks, and the locomotive crane is putting them in place on the ties. Behind the crane men are fixing the rails in their exact position, measuring their distance from the outer rail by means of track gauges (note the three gauge bars on the rail behind the crane). Other men with pneumatic hammers, nut fasteners and other tools are driving spikes, fastening bolts and completing the track-laying job. When the crew finishes its work, the track will again be in condition for the passage of trains. Crews like this can lay thousands of feet of rail a day.

In this picture we see (1) the right-of-way (the ground occupied by the railroad and its appurtenances), (2) a three-track railroad, (3) two curves, (4) a cross-over track with switches at either end (between the two curves), (5) an embankment (elevation above the natural surface of the ground), (6) a cut (where the track cuts through the ridge or hill in the background), (7) rails, (8) angle bars (holding the rail ends firmly together), (9) tie plates, (10) spikes, (11) crossties, (12) ballast (the white crushed rock surfacing material under the ties), (13) telegraph or telephone poles, (14) two signal towers (supporting signals), and (15) poles for a signal power line (on the far side of the roadway).

Nearly all railway track in North America is built with a space of 4 feet 8½ inches between rails. This is called standard gauge. Uniformity of gauge makes the interchange of cars possible.

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