Tuesday, October 11, 2016

1912 90" Wheel Lathe, Track Geometry, and Jointed Rail

(Update: as I waited at a crossing for a train to pass by, I was reminded of another reason why wheels need to be turned --- flat spots. The sound is very distinctive and loud. Flat spots are created when a train goes into emergency stop and the brakes are applied so hard that the wheels do not turn at all. They just scrape (squeal) along the rail. However, it appears that they have figured out how to stop a train quickly without locking the wheels. The train did stop quickly enough that some of the automobiles in the autoracks got wrecked.)

Museums that preserve steam locomotives not only have to worry about preserving the locomotives, but also the machine tools that were developed to build/maintain those locomotives. I remember walking around the steam shop building at the Illinois Railway Museum when it used to be open to the public looking at the machine tools as well as the locomotive that was being overhauled. Strasburg Rail Road has preserved this 90" wheel lathe.

Screenshot from video Jeff Frost posted
Steam locomotive wheels being turned on a 90" wheel lathe built in 1912 for Leigh Coal and Navigation. The lathe now uses Mimik tracers (1960's technology) that was installed around 2009/2010. The wheel set is around 50" in diameter and is spinning around 13 rpm.

To change speeds you have to change out the gears. There are two sets of gears that can be physically installed; each set of gears can be installed to give two variations of speed; large gear on top and small gear on the bottom or small gear on top and large gear on the bottom. This gear change is near the motor.

The next set of gears is engaged with a lever. This gives a slower and faster speed for the gear combination near the motor.

The next set of gears chooses the drive to the the large ring gear on the face plate (90" in diameter of the face plate. You can see the teeth on the tailstock faceplate in this picture) or the smaller ring gear (about 50-60" in diameter, only on the head stock).

With all these gears there are 8 speeds for using the large ring gear and 8 speeds for using the smaller ring gear.

The large ring gear was used for the very slow speeds when using the tool steel tools (roughing tool, flange form tool, outside radius form tool and full tread (5.5"+ wide) form tool.

The small ring gear is what we use now for the higher speeds with using carbide insert tools; this would have been used before with small drivers (like 36" or less in diameter). The top speed for the small ring gear is around 18 rpm.

For turning the journals on the axles we use an auxiliary motor (by passes all of the straight cut gears) to spin the wheel set around 30-32 rpm
Jeff Frost commented on his posting
This was taken last Monday.The 90" diameter faceplate dwarfs the 49" wheels.
Update: This video shows that the reason the wheel surface has a taper is to handle curves in the track. Unlike a car, which has a differential, the rail wheels turn at the same rate. So they change the radius that is making contact with the rail to change the distance covered during each turn of the wheel.

Another wheel lathe:
Rich Behrends posted
THE DOUBLE-ENDED LATHE for turning wheels is an essential part of a locomotive workshop’s equipment. The wheels and crankshaft shown in this picture belong to a two-cylinder 2-6-0 locomotive under construction at the Belfast works of the LMS, for service in Northern Ireland. The wheels revolve with the slotted face-plates, and the turning tools are held in the massive slide rests on either side of the workman.
[Many English locomotives had the connecting rods inside the wheels. American locomotives always had the rods outside the wheels. Look at all of the shavings on the floor under the wheels.]
John Abbot posted
Denver Tramway Co machine shop...1910...
[You can see the building was built back when they used shafts and belts to power the machines because some of the belt pulleys are still hanging from the columns.]
John Abbot commented on the above posting
[Note this unit was still driven by a shaft and belt.]
John Abbott posted
John Abbott posted
Andy Pullen Actually, that's a quartering machine. It's used to machine the crankpins exactly 90 degrees apart to make a locomotive have no "dead spots" so it will always start. That machine actually looks like the shop in Irondale Alabama. The diesels on the right, top side of the photo give it away. I worked in that shop for 18 months.Bob Gaston Norris Steam Restoration Shop, Norris Yards, east of Ruffner Road, Irondale, Jefferson County, ALAndy Pullen That's it. The program was shut down in 1994. The auction was the first week of March of 1995. The locomotives went back to the museum. Roanoke for the 611 and 1218. 2716 went back to KRM.
[Even though it is not a wheel lathe, I include this picture because it shows the amount of big (expensive) machine tools that were needed to maintain steam locomotives.]
John Abbott posted
Andy Pullen That is a railroad wheel lathe. It's for turning the tires on both wheels at the same time. There was one in the Steam Locomotive shop in Irondale Alabama. Except, that machine was built by Niles.
John Abbott Niles - Bement - Pond Company ...they must have split up and went their own way ... as do most inventers with different ideas...
Robt Bernstein No, they didn't split up, they joined together. Niles in Ohio, Bement in Philadelphia, and Pond in New Jersey. Pratt and Whitney bought NBP later, I think.
[Note it is old enough to be driven by belt from a line shaft.]
John Abbott posted
Andy Pullen Strasburg RR.George Atchison Looks like a narrow gauge axle.Casey Sowell I'm nearly positive this is standard gauge, likely for our locomotive #475 back when she was in for wheel work years ago. The base for the wheel lathe is set down in to the floor so it doesn't look nearly as large in this picture.Casey Sowell Worked next to this machine all day today (the last 4 weeks straight actually). Turns up to 90" drivers. Sometimes it will run for weeks on end when there is wheel work to be done and other times it sits idle for weeks. Makes a HELL of a racket when in operation.

John Abbott posted
Andy Pullen I believe this is also Strasburg.
John Abbott posted
John Abbott posted
[A steam locomotive tire was a steel band that was heat shrunk around the hub and spokes. It could be replaced after it would be too thin because of multiple wheel lathe turnings.]
John Abbott posted
[They must also be rebuilding something else.]
Dave Cavanaugh posted
David Williamson Strasburg Railroad...currently adding 12,000 square feet of NEW shop space for steam locomotive repairs!Dave Cavanaugh http://www.rrmuseumpa.org/index.shtml
Robert Phillips commented on the above posting
Found this in New Orleans... Belongs to LASTA(Louisiana Steam Train Association)... Mounted to a flatcar:):):)
Robert Phillips commented on the above posting
They loaded the "wheel lathe" and , ha, anything they wanted to lift with this rail crane:):):)
John Abbott posted
Craven Bros railway wheel lathe c1909.
David Daruszka posted
Checking the gauge on a driving wheel at the Pennsylvania Railroad. Given the gearing on the wheel, it belongs to an electric locomotive as opposed to a steam engine.
Ross Haygarth I always wear a straw boater when measuring the track of my new Choo-Choo 
David Daruszka Easiest way to identify a supervisor.
Jerome Clements They were, and still are, known as a "skimmer" on this side of the pond. They are still available here, as I'm sure they are in the UK.
Robert Livingston Quill drive, I am guessing 62" diameter, a standard for PRR ("The Standard RR of The World").
Mark Gulbrandsen All of the equipment in this shop is still in use. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYd9Pd58ksA
Screenshot (source link in case the video link is not permanent)
[The diameter of the tire is smaller than the wheel so they have to heat it to expand it to get it off.]
Steve OConnor posted two pictures with the comment: "1947 Locomotive Cyclopedia."

John Abbott posted
Fabrica brasil 1880
Ray Cook That's a gaggle of wheel lathes.
Jeff Turnfer posted four pictures with the comment: ''March 1957"


Another big machine needed to maintain steam locomotives:
Steve OConnor posted
Steve OConnor commented on his posting

A Metra video and article of how they "re-profile" their coach and engine wheels in place. They now using a milling head rather than a lathe tool.
Jim Morris How many times can a wheel be trued before replacement in necessary?
Metra Typically, a wheel can be re-profiled six to seven times before replacement is necessary.

Amtrak's wheel truing building near the south side of their Chicago Yard. Fortunately, Mark Hinsdale caught the sign back when you could still read it. It says: "1700 So. Lumber Street Wheel Truing Building". In his following photo you can see that they extra wheel sets stored on the right side whereas I caught them on the left side.
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It looks like they have portable units for diesels.
Scott Gist posted, cropped
Getting a little wheel machining done.
Scott shared a post of a video showing a lathe in operation
Mark Rickert seems harder than it should be. A brake shoe with a cutting head is all that's needed, and hoe they profile the 1630 due to excessive strait rack.
Jerry A Lee posted
CN shop Memphis TN
[This shows that wheel set replacement and refurbishment are a significant aspect of locomotive maintenance.]

BNSF's wheel shop has produced over 3,000,000 wheelsets.
[Satellite? Google Maps doesn't label the yard. Normally they are pretty good about putting BNSF on there yards.]

Sometimes, the wheel set is just scrap metal.
Between the share and the post, I had to dig through a bunch of stupid comments to find some useful information. Judging from the more useful comments, this can be caused by a locked pinion gear, a "birdnested" traction motor, or someone forgot to release the handbrakes.
Robert J. Riley We always called em birdnested here when the string band breaks and slings the windings. 
Joseph Freeman Looks like it derailed and kept going. Opposite wheel wear on inside of flange.
Samuel Foster Still glowing red that's impressive.
Scott Wilcox Got one almost this bad as second unit on a grip on-grip off train about two years ago. Inbound got it that way...never checked their power. Hand brake applied on second unit. I quite often catch hell for delaying trains, but not that day. After finding the brake on, I had a bad feeling and checked the wheels. Good thing. 8 inch flat spots were pretty obvious by looking. Chief still wanted me to take it that way because "It was ok coming in, it's ok to go." We're told by the company and the unions that "we can not refuse" what we are told to do. Funny how that goes away when you stand your ground in a situation like this.
Robert J. Riley I got told to take one with 4.5 flat spots. I was told there would be an investigation if I refused. I ran that shakin somebitch at 60MPH with a freaking out conductor. He said this fucker is gonna hit the ground. I looked at him with a straight face and said I HOPE SO! That will be the winning ticket to the railroad lottery. He looked at me in horror and we rode another 125 miles with it like that. They bad ordered it in Fulton KY and chewed his (the official who told us to take it) ass out... 6 new wheel sets.....yeahhhhhhhhhhh....
Scott Wilcox Robert J. Riley Probably some new rail along the way too!
Robert J. Riley No idea Scott but there were some very pissed off people about it. To top it off those engines belonged to the NS and were only being pirated to make a turn to Fulton KY and back to Memphis before we sending them back to NS on 397 to go to Sheffield AL. Kinda hard to explain that one too. CN at the time was notorious for stealing foreign power in the yard in Memphis, using it and bringing it back with way less fuel and giving it back without even replacing the fuel they used. The BNSF now takes their power off in Memphis on coal trains going to the coast because CN would add 60 or 70 cars of slop on the headend on them and burn BN fuel for "free". UP shut a pair of locomotives down on the fly up in TN because their crew showed up in Johnston Yard to find no locomotives. Omaha tracked them with the Qualcomm and saw they were running, shut em down. I'd like to think upper management didn't know this was going on, however I can't see how it was this rampant and no one knew....
Rebecca Glanz Question is how far did this thing go? (Job security for track guys btw) I have seen one that was drug for 100 miles and it didn't look nearly this bad.
Jason Lambert From Toledo to Indianapolis.
Robert J. Riley Jason there’s no way that lasted 227 miles sliding. Looks more like what I’ve seen after 5 or so miles at track speed. Once it gets hot it goes pretty quickly. This must have been a Geep or older SD or been DIT as the speed sensors on anything else would have detected a locked axle and set a trainline alarm.
Maik Everding shared
Mike Snow The failure is a result of an Inclusion !
[From what I gather from this and other comments is that the wheel broke. And every revolution made would create another damaged spot on the rail. The disk brake indicates that the wheelset was either on a locomotive or a passenger car, so someone should have heard this problem.]
Sam Carlson posted
Broken wheel. This can't be good!
Sam Carlson I don't think it's the one that caused the Hawthorn Woods derailment. If it was, then for some odd reason, it was moved to Spaulding.
[I hope the train was moving slowly. That had to cause a derailment.]
Ken Jamin posted
The train ran seven miles with this much of the wheel missing! It was discovered on a roll-by iinspection. (Milwaukee Road 1970s)
[There are several comments talking about sending cars that had been in Mexico to the RIP track "because somebody down there always stole all the chains and binders."]
Keiwoon Krause I remeber hearing Hilary got a letter from the Milwaukee road president for spotting and stopping a train with a cracked wheel.Ken Jamin Acknowledgement from the carrier was very spotty in later years. I once got a letter of commendation for spotting a sticking brake (sliding wheel) on an Amtrak train. But I got no acknowledgement for stopping a passenger train 
when it was burning off
 a journal as it went by me. (See my article “Trouble on a Turboliner” in Trains magazine.) However, not long after, I was called on my day off to come in (they admitted they forgot to tell me the day before) and I agreed to do so. I got to work as fast as possible, @ 1 1/2 hrs late, but claimed eight hours per agreement. I got a letter of reprimand for coming in late and claiming more time than I actually worked. It took me a long time to get that letter removed from my file and left a bad taste.

I knew that cold weather caused rail pulls. Bad wheels cause rail defects that are a source of the rail pulls. Some selected comments from a post. They were rather hard to find because I had to dig through a lot of snarky comments.

Daniel Grande Once had 32 broken rails behind train with a rough wheel.
Joseph Robert Whelan That’s a bad day.
Daniel Grande Joseph Robert Whelan ya started around midnight and 2 crews about 24hrs to repair all, over 36 miles of track, was around 1980.

James Michael Forman Flat spots on wheels are also a big factor. They have wheel impact detectors in some places. If you have severe flat spots, you usually have to set those cars out.

Joe Westbrook flat wheels cause a lot of broken rail.not always a [rail] defect.
Brian Westhouse Wheels with surface defects on the tread cause rails to break, not necessarily slid flat wheels. That's why they have Wheel Impact Load Detectors along the track.

Jamie Scott every day in cold weather every time a flat wheel hits a week spot or fatigued rail

Don Fountain They are more likely to pull up part at a joint than to snap into, but it does happen even with good rail on the main line, but very seldom. The most I have heard of in one night is two per hundred miles.
Dennis DeBruler Thanks for some real information. For a group with "(railfans welcome)" in the title, many of the comments were useless, if not offensive, and made it hard to find the informative comments. I did find the handful of comments that taught me that the problem with wheel defects is not just the noise they make as they roll buy.
Todd Young Don Fountain , who u work for bro ? Generally true but we got 1947 132 with 1/2” head left no surface sketchy ties on parts of the territory.
Don Fountain My experience was for excellent rail between 2000 and 2012 when I retired on the line that had a lot of curves and not a lot of heavy coal cars. This was under the management of one excellent president CEO Michael Ward on CSX.
He ran or railroad for the long-term not for just for short-term profit.

Adam Schrodt Well on my ten hour shift today in -25 with -50 windchill my train was stopped for 3 pull aparts and 2 broken rails on an 80 mile run.

Video of a GP10 having its "toes trimmed." (source)

Video of IRM's Putnam working since 50 years after it last ran.

Ann Arbor's steam locomotive wheel lathe

A video shows how the wheel-axle sets are made  (source)

Edward Wayne Bridges posted
The other aspect of maintaining the correct wheel/rail contact is grinding the rails. Just do a search on YouTube for "rail grinding train" to see plenty of videos of sparks flying. Some show how the grinding wheels turn off and raise one car at a time when approaching a crossing and then resume grinding on the other side of the crossing. I saved this picture because was surprised by how much "dust" was thrown into the air.

Modern diesel locomotives and rail cars also get their wheel sets trued up in a wheel lathe. The lathe is just not as impressive (big) as the old steam locomotive wheel lathes. My uncle, Douglas Weitzman, would talk about a locomotive needing its "toes trimmed." Another reason for wheel lathes is to remove flat spots on car wheels. An engineer does not want to do emergency braking because that locks the wheels and wears flat spots on the wheels. When you are standing at a crossing you can tell if a car with flat spots is going by because there is a loud, rapid thump-thump-thump as it goes by.

A geometry car is used to measure the profile of the rails to determine if the profile is bad enough that they need to be ground again.
Norfolk Southern Corp posted
Norfolk Southern train 905, the track geometry train, is shown northbound on the Bloomington District at Carlock, Illinois. The train ran from Bement to East Peoria, Illinois.
Don Dieckmann posted a couple of comments of a 3-car track testing and measurement train on BNSF at Naperville, IL.

Don commented on his posting
Coming at me on the inside track. Didn't realize what it was, or how fast it was moving, so...

Don commented on his posting
...I got caught changing lenses and almost completely missed it.
When I was getting off at Gilman to go south on US45 to get pictures of grain elevators, I got caught by the crossing gates and pulled off to take photos of the southbound activity. It turns out that it was not a train, it was a Sperry Track Inspection Unit. There are more photos in three videos in my trip report around Gilman and Paxton.
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When tracks are this bad, they don't even need to run a geometry car. You can eyeball what is wrong. Notice how CSX has allowed their former-Rock Island route in Ottawa, IL form a "dimple" at each rail joint. And a "kink" at the crossing edge. The following examples of bad track might tear an inspection train apart.

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Jointed rail need not be bad. But it does require proper maintenance. In the same town, Illinois Railway has maintained their jointed rail for higher speeds. The fact that jointed rail does require more maintenance is why many routes have replaced the jointed rail with Continuous Welded Rail.

David Brumley posted
John Vincent that's an old pic taken when AC powered locos came on the scene in the 90's. With a train beyond the loco's limit, the wheels, through AC traction, just kept turning and burnt down the rail . Chessie system if I remember right.Windell Pyles id like to see the wheels.Rob Foley For sure the wheels are shiny. Maybe a little blue. LolBryan Hartford Parr They never saw him again after the Welder’s caught him. [I'm surprised that a welder could add that much metal back on the rail. I'd assume they would replace the rail.]Dennis Lee Definitely REAL!!!! I seen one worse than that one on C.N. track out of Escanaba Mi. in the U.P.Ben Starkey Seen some of these at Loveland Colorado more than a few years ago.Sam L'Huillier seen that a few time but only around iron ore trains.[A cause I have read about is that a DPU (Distributed Power Unit, i.e. an engine on the rear) does not get the radio signal to stop. A 4400hp locomotive is easily strong enough to keep turning the wheels even though the rest of the train has stopped.]
Rail grinding won't restore the above rails. But if the track geometry inspection finds the rail head is out of specifications, a rail grinder can restore regular rail to the correct profile.
Jim JP Pallow posted
West of Tucumcari, N.M. 5-91
[Note the tank cars at one end and the man watching the water nozzles in front. Grinding creates sparks and they want to put out any fires they started. The "clouds" are the ground off metal "dust" drifting away.]
If you search YouTube for "rail grinding train," there are several hits. Here is an example.
(new window starting at 30 seconds)  Unfortunately, these are night shots so we can't see if they still let the grindings drift off into the air. Nighttime is probably the only time the maintenance crew can get track time. It appears that the trains makes multiple passes back and forth over a section. They also have a fire hose so that a later pass can extinguish fires caused by sparks that flew further than the reach of the water from the nozzles.

Here is a part of another video done in the daylight that does show they generate a "cloud" as recently as 2011.

Napolean, Defiance & Western has done enough work on their rails that it is now hard to find a train running on really bad track. But if you look for the predecessors, Maumee & Western and Maumee & Western, you can find engines rock back and forth as they go slowly down the track.

Skip to the jungle part of this video. It has to be really scary going over bad track and not even being able to see where the bad spots are. Scott found another good rock and roll segment. If you keep watching they do a variant of a "flying switch" --- they stop then let the hopper coast through the turnout. They must be on a hill. It shows how good rolling bearings are because I don't see much of a hill.

No amount of rail grinding is going to fix this. That is why there is MoW equipment for regitation control, tie replacement, ballast dumping and tamping, and even rail replacement.

Rail "transposing" This is the rail equivalent of rotating your tires. That is, after one side is worn, wear out the other side. I gather that rail grinding has made the procedure obsolete.
J Kelly Hankins posted

Robert Learmont posted
There’s just something about the look of the tread of a freshly trued wheel.

(new window) I wish I knew where on the former Maumee and Western the "tomato paste line" is. Bad track still exists as of Oct 18, 2017.

A video showing cars rocking back and forth on jointed rail with the comment: "The same Iowa Interstate CBBI w/ IAIS 708, 153, and ex Southern NS 5088 (HH GP38-2) at the first spot I caught it going underneath a wooden bridge near Putnam on the Peoria branch. Plenty of rocking with the jointed rail!!" Note the dark green C&NW and faded blue Rock hoppers. And has a NS high hood. Somewhere I read that hoppers will have harmonic rocking on jointed traffic at certain speeds. But I can't find that comment now. I believe the speed was 19-21 mph.

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