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
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 dutiesall for
the purpose of keeping the railroad tracks smooth, strong and
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.
I've Been Working
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