Saturday, February 6, 2021

MoW: Rail Pull

The title "Rail Pull" is a pun. It, or CWR (Continuous Welded Rail) pullaparts means that a rail broke in two pieces because it contracted too much during cold weather. With the tension relieved, the contracted rails leave a gap at the break. It is also the modern way of fixing a break with hydraulic power (see below).

Joe Dockrill posted
-14C the most wonderful time of the year
[There are so many comments that I just looked at a few of them. There is consensus that it broke at a weld. But the comments debate between factory weld or field weld. You can't weld a broken weld. You have to cut at least 6" from either side and add a "plug." (Whatever a plug is.)]

Before the rail can be fixed, the gap has to be removed. The old way of doing it was to heat the rail so that it would expand and close the gap.
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.

On my way home on Aug 8, 2020, while crossing Forest Avenue in Downers Grove, IL, I noticed a couple of Hi-Rail trucks parked to the west. (Satellite) So I found a parking spot, grabbed my camera and checked it out. It was a welding team that was going to pull the rail before the weld. This is a rare sight because the welding teams normally work at night in this area since it is on BNSF's Racetrack that handles over 100 trains a weekday. Track work such as replacing a crossover is done during the day and uses bolted rail joints. A worker explained the bolted joints would be replaced by welding teams that work during the night. Rail pulling is even more rare because they are normally just replacing joints.

The temperature was 89 degrees, so the gap they were closing was not caused by a rail pull because of cold weather. They must have cut the gap into the rail. Did they install the rail during cold weather so that now they had to remove some rail to avoid rail kinks when the weather stayed hot?

This shows the two trucks that were parked at the work site. They were working on the south, or M3, track. Unfortunately, I'll learn later, the truck on the right blocked my view of Amtrak trains that are inbound (eastbound).

When I arrived, they were using the cutoff saw. Note the hydraulic hoses going to the saw. The truck provides the power.

After inspecting the gap, they did a diagonal cut.

Some video of this cut is the first clip in the first video below.

The final measurement before they set up the rail puller.

The truck has a small crane because some of the equipment is heavy. If you look on the left side of the above photos, you will see that someone had already hooked up the rail puller and got it off the truck and now it was just a matter of swinging it unto place.

I skipped my video of the first pull because it was out of frame. This gap is what happened after they released the puller. The gap had been down to about an inch before the puller was released. The metal pieces beyond the track between the legs are mold parts that have been unloaded to be handy after the pull is done and they start building the mold for the weld.

The worker with the sledge hammer started here and worked his way away from the puller. I think he was hitting the rail anchors to jar them to let the rail slip through them.

For the second pull, I skipped taking a video and alternated between shots of the gap and of the worker using the sledge hammer.

This is about as far as he went with the hammering on this pull because...

...he was soon walking back.

Note the tape measure laid across the gap. The gap is noticeably smaller in this photo.

He must have released the pull because the gap is now wider.

I took video of the third pull, and it is the second clip in the first video below.

Both workers used hammers during that pull and they went further down the track.

I also took video of the fourth pull and it is the third clip in the first video below.

This is the gap that they held while they welded the rail.

They started building the mold for the weld.

But first I took video of a westbound intermodal train. It is the first clip of the second video below. Note that it was honking early and often even though Downers Grove is a quiet zone. That is normal when they are approaching a work zone.

An inbound (eastbound) Amtrak train came by so fast that it took me by surprise because of the truck blocking my view of the track to the West. And because it must not have honked its horn. And because it must have been doing the track speed of 70mph. That train is the third clip in the second video below.

One of the jobs of the helper was to watch for a train when one was due by. I noticed sometimes that he would stand to the right of the work zone looking down the track. I didn't realize until too late that when I saw him looking I should get the camera in video mode and up to my face ready to go. They had a speaker on the truck that let them hear when the dispatcher was telling them when to expect a train. I assume the spotter is why I didn't hear the Amtrak trains honk. Here the helper is holding the torch that will be used to heat the mold.

They are clearing out their tools and have moved the thermite crucible closer to where it will be needed.

He has put the business end of the torch into the mold. I guess that was a test fit because...

...he takes it back out.

Here the torch is in the mold after it is lit. I've seen them do welds before so I know that they will have to let that torch burn for a while. That is why it is break time.

They will get the mold so hot that just putting the crucible on top of the mold will ignite it. I left because I did not want to wait during the torching even though a video of the thermite igniting and burning is always impressive.

As I left, I noticed the welders also do arc welding. I think they do that to add metal to switch points, diamond points, etc.

I also noticed that they had small outriggers deployed on the truck. I assume they did that because of the small crane that they use to unload and load their tools. They have to be careful when jacking the truck up to not get it so high that the flange clears the head of the track.

The second Amtrak train came through as I was leaving. It is the second clip of the second video.

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