5 Tips You Probably Didn't Know About Railway Track Maintenance

You’ve probably watched countless trains drive along the tracks, but have you ever thought about what it takes to keep them on it. Workers across the country provide much-needed track maintenance. Without it, the economy of many countries would come to a standstill because rail is one of the most popular methods of getting manufactured goods and materials across the country.

The United States is crisscrossed with thousands of miles of train tracks that require regular maintenance, but few people understand what goes into maintaining them. We’ll examine some of the common maintenance tasks railroad track requires on a regular basis.

Track Maintenance Includes Removing Railroad Ties

The modern rail system has changed little since its inception including the use of wooden railroad ties. While prestressed concrete is also used, wood is still common. The purpose of the tie is to transfer the load to the ballast and subgrade.

track maintenance

They also keep the rails in the correct position. With the constant use and the considerable weight of trains, it’s not uncommon for the ties to wear out. This compromises the structure of the tracks, so they must be replaced by experienced workers.

If you want to learn more about track maintenance read on.

Track Ballast Regulation

The ballast is the bed that the railroad ties are placed. It’s commonly made from crushed stone and packed below, in-between, and under the ties. The ballasts help drain water and keep vegetation growing on the tracks.

The job is done by a machine called a railroad ballast regulator and is the last machine you’ll see on a track during maintenance. The regulator cleans the stone from the ties and maintains the proper slope for drainage. Without it, the stone could compromise the track or lead to flooding if the angle is incorrect.

Track Defect Detection

How does a railroad worker know when to provide maintenance to a track? There is a special train car designed to seek out detects and cracks on a microscopic level.

The faster a defect is found and fixed, the less chance it causes serious consequences. The cars use two methods, induction and ultrasonic detection, to find defects. This was implemented after a transverse fissure, a crack in the rail unable to be seen by the eye, caused a train to derail.

Ballast Removal

Much like the ties, the ballast gets beat up through the years. The constant movement of the trains and the weight crushes the rocks and eventually makes them unusable for a ballast. A railroad undercutter scoops up the ballast, so it can be replaced.

Spike Replacement

Railroad spikes are integral to the integrity of the railroad tracks, but they must be replaced regularly. When creating a new track or replacing old spikes, they used a spike driver. Initially done manually, the driver is run by three people.

The first person feeds the spikes and the other two apply them to the track.

Keeping the Trains Running

Track maintenance is an important and constant process that happens on railroad tracks. Without it, trains wouldn’t run on time and the economy would slow down.

If you want to learn more about maintaining railroad tracks, please explore our site.

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