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Sunday, April 17, 2011

NECR ARRA Project Tackles Private Crossing...

This April 17 installment of the progress on the NECR/Vermont ARRA project will look at how rail is handled when laid through a farmer or private crossing along the route.  Most of these smaller and private crossings don’t get the crossing panels installed, thus requiring the CWR to continue right along and then be ‘buried’ to maintain the integrity of both the CWR and the crossing itself.  

The process will be defined in the photos that follow, but first off, we see the reason behind the HSR funding – Amtrak’s southbound Vermonter train traversing the bridge over the Third Branch White River at Bethel, VT with P42s 103 and 102 sandwiching the typical 5-car Amfleet consist.

With the track project in full swing and getting more intensified each day, Amtrak will begin incurring delays, albeit in the end with the benefit ultimately coming back to the passenger carrier in the form of higher rail speeds on the Roxbury and Palmer Subdivisions of the NECR.  Following the passage of the Amtrak Vermonter, the crews aboard Rail Train 6 will go to work to begin laying the 8.24 miles (16.5 linear) of rail from mile 94 to 93, then from mile 91 south on the Roxbury Sub.  The NECR GP38AC 3857 and GP38 3855 will lead Rail Train 6, which ironically makes up nearly an all ex-Illinois Central Gulf consist.

To view video of this train laying rail and of Amtrak's Vermonter:

For those keeping track - the consist is made up as follows:  NECR GP38AC 3857 (ex-NECR 9549, exx-IC 9549, exxx-ICG 9549, nee-GMO 730) and NECR GP38 3855 (ex-NECR 9537, exx-IC 9537, exxx-ICG 9537, nee-GM&O 718) leading the ex-ICG 832700-series rail cars that now bear the reporting marks of TYOX (The Tie Yard of Omaha) with 500-series numbers.

 Then the work begins with the first lay of Rail Train 6.  The photo above is actually the second lay, with the end of the first lay resulting in the motive power having been stopped about 200' north of this private crossing.  The lays are being down from top to bottom on this 6-level 8.24 mile (16.5 linear mile) load of rail.  In the left photo, the train progresses southbound with a hi-rail truck visible distantly pulling the joint plates as the train advances past the next connection.  On the right, a mid-train crow's nest is manned by a RailWorks employee who monitors the rail sliding off the train and alerts the rear after the end of the segment being laid passes him.

The backhoe operator that will take on the crossing and bury the welded rail looks on as the train continues to pass at a walking pace of 5 miles-per-hour or less.

The rear-end crow's nest team watches both sides of the departing rail to insure that the ends are detected and connected to the next strand before the train continues on.

The rail threader cars - in this case CWRX 53400 and 53401 - string the 115-pound rail through a series of four rollers/threaders to reach ground level.  Crews from RailWorks and RailAmerica are supervised by LB Foster's Jerry Logston on the NECR Rail Trains.

Following the passage of the train, the CWR is left strung over the private grade crossing, thus making it temporarily impassable.  This is where the backhoe operator steps in and rectifies the problem!

Enter the backhoe - stage right!  The process begins with a trench being dug after the rail is moved out of the way.  The idea is to pull the rail directly back into the trench once it is dug and then cover it over.  Typically the rail stays upright and is easily buried with loose dirt, so the installation gangs can pull it back up and put it in place.

With the trench completed, the rail is pulled back into it to be buried and reopen this side of the crossing.  The same process will be repeated on the other side.

On this day, during the process of covering the rail, this section is cut for the South Switch Bolton and once completely free of the train, rolls over and out of the trench.

The backhoe operator works to completely cover the now slightly misplaced rail with dirt and extra fill ballast.

The RailWorks employee inspects the buried rail to insure that it isn't going to be damaged with vehicles crossing over it in this position.

A repeat of the west rail is done with the right rail.  First the trench digging...

Followed by the rail covering...

And a few passes with the tractor tires firm up the dirt covering...

The final product is a crossing that is again available to roadway traffic and rail traffic alike - albeit without the CWR yet to be installed!

To watch a video of this process, please view the following:

***<DISCLAIMER>*** : All photography is performed with full safety equipment and in direct cooperation and consent of RailAmerica/New England Central Railroad and the rail gangs directly involved.  Briefings are conducted prior to photography and constant contact with personnel regarding the specific covered project.  Special thanks to Ron Bocash, HSR Project Manager for assistance in the photography subjects covered in these blogs.

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