Wednesday, January 27, 2016

MoW: Fixing Rail Pulls

These notes are a general discussion of closing gaps in rails. Rail Pull contains photos and videos of rail pull activity by BNSF in Downers Grove, IL.

I took a lot of photos and some video of a repair on Aug 11, 2020 and they have their own notes.

Bradd McClelland post
Helping our MOW brothers out.
[An example of the gap they have to fill by using heat to expand the rails back to the "normal" temperature. (Rails contract and pull in the Winter and expand and kink in the Summer.)]
David Tetris Looks like it's under 3 1/2 inches so slap some elephant bars on there and run protect againsts with a 10mph special instruction. Hop back on and check the break again after each movement (unless you can watch the train over the break.) -CN
Kenneth F. Jones CSX sent their maintainers to broke rail school. I've walked trains over breaks many a night. No big deal, but having 14 years in Roadway helped.
David Tetris CN is the same. MORB training, elephant bars, bolts, a spike puller, track wrench and a broken rail sign all winter.
Stephanie Tom White KCS has guidelines on whether it’s on the high or low rail in a curve and height and alignment mismatch.———-Tom
[There are more photos of rail breaks in the comments including the one below.]

Daniel C Carrol Jr. shared
Frank Cross Well in 40 years on the railroad. The only ones that I ever saw that were straight were bad welds either plant or field. The vast majority of those were due to flat wheels beating the hell out of the rail a lot were extremely cold weather and flat wheels. Most of these other breaks had an irregular edge to the rail even though it may have been small.
Patrick Strawbridge Frank Cross this was broke by a tr-10 tie inserter. It had a small black spot in the head of the rail where a defect was starting.
Frank Cross Patrick Strawbridge wow that's different for sure.
Bill Youngbauer There’s a factory weld 4 ft away... put temp bars with a bolt holding it in the break ... walk train over and change it out after..Rick Counts Found hundreds of them.
William Lambert Done that many of times. I was always called out for a track light out, usually what I found in the cold.
Bill Youngbauer Not a weld with a factory weld that close.
Fred Gepford Bill Youngbauer here you can if it's three feet from plant weld fifteen from field weld.
Fred Gepford But on wood they don't care if it ever gets welded.
Mario Mendoza commented on Bradd's post
Brock Byers Mario Mendoza damn right off the points!
Ray Hammond Right beside the weld!
Bad pre heat.

Jeffrey Schmitt posted
Happened this [Dec 23, 2022] morning on BNSF in Illinois.
They had 3 others besides this one.
Joe Dockrill: inclusion in the weld looks like (dark spot).
Bill Whitner: Bubble causing a fissure in the web section of the thermite weld. Flash-butt, from what I've seen, seems to be more sound. However these temps are hard on all of them.
Jim Thias: It's a "railroad chuck hole"! 😆
Jay Nawrocki: Can you tell the temperature by the number of inches?
Parker Lyons: Jay Nawrocki not really, but it was around -7 at the time most likely.

Sean Angelo video
Sean's comments:
Yours truly putting out a pull apart fire with a back pack blower. The fireballs were pretty fun to make.
That was a super easy pull apart to fix too. Little 105lb rail, only pulled like 2 inches. It's our main line, on a hill going into a curve, we couldn't let it pass. It does help though if you have dry saw dust. Did another one earlier that day that was pulled almost 4 inches, but we had water logged and frozen saw dust. That gap just DID NOT want to close easily. 
CWR (Continuous Welded Rail) has the advantage of removing the maintenance headache of a rail joint every 39 feet. But it does have the problem of no expansion and contraction gaps. The rail wants to contract when it gets colder and to expand when it gets warmer. It is supposed to be laid at the nominal temperature for the area and you hope it doesn't break during cold weather or kink during the hot weather.

When it does break, it is free to contract and opens up a gap. The workers lay fuel along the rail for many feet on both sides of the gap and light a fire to heat the rail to expand it and remove the gap. Then they weld the rails back together. This video teaches us how they then put out the fires.

The phrase "couldn't let it pass" is interesting. I've seen videos of the army experimenting with what it takes to derail a train. A train can ride over a pretty impressive gap when the track is straight. Even so, I wounder how long they would "let it pass" on straight, level track.

Jason Jordan shared
Gotta love cold weather
Update: It must have been a rather small gap that needed to be closed because they are not heating a very long stretch of track. You can see the black strip they laid along the bottom of the rail that is soaked with fuel.
Mason Carlson posted
Good old railsnake to fix a pull apart.
Chuck Kulesa kerosene asbestos rope worked better but it was a logistical nightmare carrying 55gal drums around full of kero soaked rope ... some idiots drove like MORONS either didn't realize or care that the kero was sloshing around right out of the drum into the bed of the p/u and onto the street ... of course who wants to put the lids on the drums ... they're only gonna come off at the job site ... miles away ... yeah man those were the good ole days ..
Dale Frye We used to mix kerosene and sawdust. What a stinkin awful mess.[Some comments talk about the smoke being toxic.]

Jason Brown commented on Mason's post

Reginald Fitzpatrick posted
..Railway Rope "Fire" Snake Season fast approaching...

Metra posted
During periods of extreme cold, rail ends in a joint may separate resulting in a pull-apart. Rails must be heated by igniting kerosene-soaked rope along the rail in order to expand the metal and allow crews to repair the pull-apart.
"Screenshot: AMC & Chicago" from jalopnik posted by Kyle Burk
Jeffrey Cwan looks like Mayfair
Bryan Howell The photo above is from a few years ago and the track crew seen in the upper left quadrant were heating the rail to fix a pull apart.
Michael J Klapperich posted a photo of a smoky flaming rail using a long kerosene rope.
Steven Nilsen Hydraulic rail puller is easier
Mark Saunders and cleaner...
Fernando Pereira Used rail puller on cold weather just to bust other joints heat is the most efficient way.
Fernando Pereira on the olden days used Dutchmen on the winter they not legal anymore. [They would have been fixing sheared bolts at a rail joint rather than a break in Continuous Welded Rail. So I wonder if a Dutchmen is a short piece of rail welded to a joint bar to fill the gap of the break. I also wonder how uniform the gap is when the bolts break.]
Michael J Klapperich Before our joint elimination program, we used to burn ropes basically all day and night sometimes during cold snaps. Used to break out in rashes all over our bodies from the constant diesel exposure. Going thru several of those 35 gal barrels a day was normal. I don't miss it one bit.

Screenshot @ -8:27
A video posted by John Holston
(2021 Update: I see the video has been removed. I presume it was posted by an employee and he was ordered to remove it.)
Later they will replace the rail-bar joint with a welded joint.
Bob Campbell Definitely old school! Diesel and rope
Elrod Rosser That's pretty much still the way it's done in the South....
Ian Dalcourt Striking cold rapidly increasing heated rail with a steel spike maul... mmmm.
Craig Shaw Should be using soft steel maul not a spike maul also dangerous for drift pins of metal chipping
Ian Dalcourt Brass hammers is our go too when trying to slither rail
William Riley Not allowed to use diesel any longer 10000$ fine
Chad DeBoard Bullshit use it everyday on Csx
Christopher Overbeck William Riley you think a 10k fine means anything to a railroad
Rodger Phelps Christopher Overbeck personal fine of 10k plus company gets fine. I was hit with 25k a day by EPA, they dont screw around
Elrod Rosser Damn locomotive sitting there 20 mins. would leak more diesel than the snake, besides, you are burnin' up all the evidence
Craig Shaw When first started on MoPac in St Louis, the section would get used locomotive oil filter and diesel. Then in SW Missouri they’d use rubber shavings and diesel. Then we used blow in cellulose insulation and diesel until someone higher up on UPRR thought about flame retardants could make you sick. Then when I left for train service fiberglass rope and diesel worked well. Now I see they use a non reusable jellified gas rope of some sort
David Stewart Suppose to use a slege hammar for the bull prick not a spikin maul.oh well not one pf us.
Craig Shaw They got a second eye for spare
Chris Castle Wally Hartnell, at CSX we used to use cellulose/insulation and diesel fuel but a year or so ago they found out it is illegal in certain states! So now we have to use fire snake, you are right diesel fuel and whatever else you use to mix with works a lot better and gets the rail a lot hotter than fire snake
Bob Campbell They outlawed it in North Dakota. Catching wheat fields on fire
Allen Bashutski Fire should be on other side of rail so wind blows heat to rail not away
Clifford Titus I was told they don't do that any more. They use a hydraulic pinch clamp. It was second hand information. I am retired.

It looks like they still had a gap of over an inch when they put the bolts in. That is to leave room for the weld. 
Joe Aguirre commented on John's posting
[I assume these are hydraulic grippers that can be used to close the break in the rail. I'm confused as to how they would be used.]
This one makes more sense to me
With its capacity of 120 tons of pulling force available, the Hydraulic Rail Puller can operate on 115“ 141 lb rail on any 10 GPM @ 2000 PSI power unit. Hold valve to maintain rail position.

DeBruler, photos and videos of closing a gap with a rail puller.

Bobby Seaton posted
Old school repairing a pull apart friend of mine posted I am retired but brings back memories many days I fixed pullaparts!
Bruce Moen
Gavin Laderoute commented on Bobby's post
[I looks like something pulled apart near the frog of a turnout.]
Screenshot @ -:06, cropped, from a Bobby Craven post
Jason Roper If the pullapart was that bad u needed that much snake shoulda just put in longer rail lolGraham Church Jason Roper not allowed too.Buckle Territory in Summer.
[Some comments point out that the rope is on the wrong side because the wind is pushing the fire away from the head instead of towards it. Note the big wrench by the rail in the foreground. They must not have a HyRail with hydraulic hoses to power a wrench.]

Steven Page posted
Little flash from the past 
10 gallons for a inch [I believe that is the amount of diesel fuel they pour along the track to close a 1" gap.]
Earl Barth
 actually that one was a bad one 4"
Looks like the ties are poor as they seem to be burning like the diesel fuel
Yeah that was the winter before we changed out the ties like 8 or 9yrs ago.
Steven Page
 did the joint hold? [See photo below for Steven's answer of "yes sir."
Yes you can close joint with the rope, but the bad part is you lubricate the rail and the anchors will not hold. Pull it together and if possible weld it. Save a lot of work and money.
Been there, done that. Dirty job with fuel oil soaked asbestos rope!
And watch your pants to make sure they don't catch on fire.
I wonder if he is using a brass maul.....?
John Fuller
 no my old boss was a hard man and cheap.
Steven Page
 I know the feeling every year when we had our CWR class they would always say use a brass hammer!! I worked for 40 years and never saw a brass sledgehammer or spike maul.....!
Having to heat this much to close a gap needs a piece cut in.
Lewis Mann
 should of yes but my old boss was a cheap ass.
Lewis Mann
 never add rail!
Never say never. It may of not been adjusted correctly when laid. Some gangs were in too big of a hurry to get finished. Witness the Marion Branch in the fall of '76 between Wabash and Marion.
Never say never. It may of not been adjusted correctly when laid. Some gangs were in too big of a hurry to get finished. Witness the Marion Branch in the fall of '76 between Wabash and Marion.
In the seventies at times was assigned CWR pullaparts to repair daily. Used rope soaked in diesel fuel, once lit we would use peter can full of gasoline to get the heat up. We would put dirt on small tie fires. To drift the rail in we took 9 inch 1 1/8 inch heel block bolts with the end cut and grounded to a point. They worked great. The head was much easier to hit vs the drift pins the railroad would supply.
Never had any police bother us, used a six pan pickup. So at times we would go spot to spot with 5 to 8 peter cans. Personally never had any issues, injuries or incidents with my crew or myself. We did hundreds as. Tracks along the NEC btw Newark NJ and Phila had CWR laid in the early sixties without the best thermal adjustment practices.
** after I was promoted to General Forman wherein we were installing new turnouts #20’s I received a beep on my beeper, I called the office. The Supervisor stated, go to Metuchen Frm Murphy has been trying to close a pull apart for three hours. Let me know if you can close or cut a rail in.
Ok, here we go. We show up, driving along the access road, 4 track high speed territory, we see in the line of site a trail along the ballast from the crews truck which they are trying to get the fire extinguished aprox 400 ft into the right of way which it seems as though they cut a 55 gallon drum in 1/3 which is cooking, on fire vertically over 15 ft. I’m concerned about the people, overhead catenary etc. before we could even get out of our truck, we hear a Metroliner #115 blowing the horn, constantly the engineer sees the fire but in those days they ran over pullaparts even with ropes burning. Then all of a sudden the Metroliner hit the 1/3 55 gallon drum. The fire went 200 ft in the air, spread out and made a screaming noise, the engineer could see the field of fire ahead of him, he was running at least 80 mph, started hollering my train is on fire my train is on fire, luckily by the time it took for him to go into emergency and stop the fuel which was spread a very high speed has extinguished itself with no harm.
In the end the new Foreman and crew had not followed practices and for sometime had been soaking their ropes in gasoline not diesel, they got the heat up quicker etc. this day their 1/3 drum being carried out to the track and set btw track #4 and #3 had spilled out a little (line of gas) from truck to where it was set. Not realizing that the ground was frozen once the laid out the rope, some 200 ft, then lit the rope the trail of fire not only lit the rope, but trailed all the way back to the truck.
In the end early yrs of Amtrak NEC, no injuries, passengers very upset and moved to another train as train #115 was annulled crew was relieved. Foreman brought up on trial - disqualified 2 yrs with 30 days off.
Then all the new crews were sent to Pullapart School.
Those were the days. FYI I worked 42 yrs 8 months along the NEC.
We used diesel fuel and blow in insulation ...we had to just put it in the cribs between ties or our lousy ties caught we had to go a bit further to get the rail to grow enough to close her up for bolt defects.
Russell Baucum
 good ties burn almost as well if you dump fuel on them and set it afire.
Mo Rensing
 not like an old rotten tie...a new tie will burn if ya let it get hot enough but by that time ya got your bolt in and shoveling your diesel mix off in the open ballast...rotten ties will reignite with a little breeze and the phone rings for another call out for a tie fire or smoking...the train men call in to dispatch when they spotted smoldering.
We never used rope spread out on the rail the fix a pull-apart. We used rolled batted insulation. We would cut the insulation in thirds then we would put it on the inside of the rail and soak it with diesel fuel. Then we would set the insulation on fire. We would go about 50 feet each way with the insulation. When the fire dies down a little we would put more diesel fuel on the insulation. We never had any problems bringing the rails back together. I worked on the C&O or Chessie system late 60s into the 80s.
Hated that nasty rope...preferred diesel insulation in a bale you can pick up at any lumber yard..35 gallon barrel..keep a batch mixed up in the winter ready to load on the truck with the boom.A lid is a must to keep from town best let the fuzz know your getting ready to set a fire so the fire department don't show up..
Used it many times. Tucked in behind the head of the spike, on the base of the rail and usually ties didn’t burn...but we had a lot of snow too...
When I first started on railroad 1975 Feb. we used saw dust soaked in fuel oil. Spread out about 50 ft. On either side of joint.
Always been intrigued by a fire snake. Never had an opportunity to either use it, or seen one done...

John Ives commented on Steven's post
Been there done that.

The bigger BNSF trucks in the track department have hose reels for two pairs of hydraulic hoses. Here we see an attachment to cut the rail. They also have attachments to drill holes in the rail and another to tighten the bolts. They are installing a track panel as part of rebuilding the crossing at Main Street in Downers Grove, IL. In the foreground you can see the joint bars they installed for the middle track that morning.
20180908 4999
Here is the truck supporting the work on the other end of the track panel. The power wrench attachment is so small we can't even see it. The attachment that drills the holes is in front of the standing worker. The sprayer next to it is used to squirt oil on the bit as it drills. To the right of the pitchfork, laying on its side, is an attachment that cuts rail. A welding crew will work some night to replace the joint bars with welds. These tracks are normally CWR and support around 100 passenger trains a day (commuters + Amtrak) with a track speed of 70 mph and about 50 freights.

(new window)  My camera work looks pretty steady compared to this video.

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