Identifying Track Class

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Identifying Track Class

Postby quincunx » Tue Feb 11, 2014 12:16 pm

Can you tell the class of a track just by looking at it? What would be the difference in class 4 vs class 3? Are there maps identifying what is where? Is there more to it than rails, ties, and ballast (like signaling and grade crossing safety features)?
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Re: Identifying Track Class

Postby jogden » Fri Feb 14, 2014 1:48 am

The short answer: no. It would be pretty difficult to tell the track class simply by looking at it.

If you took some measurements, and you happened to know the requirements for the different classes, then you could figure it out. There are quite a few variables that determine track class though, such as ballast depth, rail size, superelevation in curves, the amount of play in the track structure, and so on.
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Re: Identifying Track Class

Postby 130MM » Fri Feb 14, 2014 9:26 am

The answer is that it is all based on the speed posted in the timetable. The FRA requires you to maintain the track to class of track as established by the timetable. If your track has Class 2 speeds, then you must maintain to the Class 2 limits. It's as simple as that.

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Re: Identifying Track Class

Postby scharnhorst » Sat Feb 22, 2014 8:54 am

Class 1 5-10mph / Expected or Exempt trackage most often requires a hI-rail to run ahead of the train
Class 2 10-25mph
Class 3 25-30mph
Class 4 30-60mph
Class 5 60-90mph
Class 6 110mhp
Class 7 125mph
Class 8 160mph
Class 9 200mph
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Re: Identifying Track Class

Postby MattW » Sat Feb 22, 2014 5:27 pm

I believe I've also read that there are inspection requirements, so in theory at least, track maintained to class 9, might only be inspected to class 3 and thus limited to class 3 standards. I'm sure someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I do believe there is more than just the physical requirements at play here.
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Re: Identifying Track Class

Postby scharnhorst » Sat Feb 22, 2014 11:46 pm

MattW wrote:I believe I've also read that there are inspection requirements, so in theory at least, track maintained to class 9, might only be inspected to class 3 and thus limited to class 3 standards. I'm sure someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I do believe there is more than just the physical requirements at play here.



The higher the class the more inspections are done.
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Re: Identifying Track Class

Postby Ken W2KB » Wed Feb 26, 2014 11:44 am

FRA regulations:

§213.4 Excepted track.
A track owner may designate a segment of track as excepted track provided that—
(a) The segment is identified in the timetable, special instructions, general order, or other appropriate records which are available for inspection during regular business hours;
(b) The identified segment is not located within 30 feet of an adjacent track which can be subjected to simultaneous use at speeds in excess of 10 miles per hour;
(c) The identified segment is inspected in accordance with 213.233(c) and 213.235 at the frequency specified for Class 1 track;
(d) The identified segment of track is not located on a bridge including the track approaching the bridge for 100 feet on either side, or located on a public street or highway, if railroad cars containing commodities required to be placarded by the Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR part 172), are moved over the track; and
(e) The railroad conducts operations on the identified segment under the following conditions:
(1) No train shall be operated at speeds in excess of 10 miles per hour;
(2) No occupied passenger train shall be operated;
(3) No freight train shall be operated that contains more than five cars required to be placarded by the Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR part 172); and
(4) The gage on excepted track shall not be more than 4 feet 101⁄4 inches. This paragraph (e)(4) is applicable September 21, 1999.
(f) A track owner shall advise the appropriate FRA Regional Office at least 10 days prior to removal of a segment of track from excepted status.

http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=ebe1f22c9a1fbd5d53f2718a9b124d2b&node=49:4.1.1.1.8.1.5.3&rgn=div8

and:

§213.9 Classes of track: operating speed limits.

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section and §§213.57(b), 213.59(a), 213.113(a), and 213.137(b) and (c), the following maximum allowable operating speeds apply—

[In miles per hour]
Over track that meets all of the requirements prescribed in this part for— The maximum allowable operating speed for freight trains is— The maximum allowable operating speed for passenger trains is—
Excepted track 10 N/A
Class 1 track 10 15
Class 2 track 25 30
Class 3 track 40 60
Class 4 track 60 80
Class 5 track 80 90

(b) If a segment of track does not meet all of the requirements for its intended class, it is reclassified to the next lowest class of track for which it does meet all of the requirements of this part. However, if the segment of track does not at least meet the requirements for Class 1 track, operations may continue at Class 1 speeds for a period of not more than 30 days without bringing the track into compliance, under the authority of a person designated under §213.7(a), who has at least one year of supervisory experience in railroad track maintenance, after that person determines that operations may safely continue and subject to any limiting conditions specified by such person.

http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=ebe1f22c9a1fbd5d53f2718a9b124d2b&node=49:4.1.1.1.8.1.5.6&rgn=div8
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Re: Identifying Track Class

Postby Passenger » Sat Mar 01, 2014 5:21 pm

Interesting.

2 questions.

Class 6 110mhp
Class 7 125mph
Class 8 160mph
Class 9 200mph


Is there any actual track in these classes in the USA?


Class 1 5-10mph / Expected or Exempt trackage most often requires a hI-rail to run ahead of the train


I'm thinking that no track was ever built to this class.
That it would always be poorly maintained disused bits that decayed, such as occasionally used industrial spurs.

Is this correct?
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Re: Identifying Track Class

Postby MattW » Sat Mar 01, 2014 6:05 pm

Passenger wrote:Interesting.

2 questions.

Class 6 110mhp
Class 7 125mph
Class 8 160mph
Class 9 200mph


Is there any actual track in these classes in the USA?

Unless Amtrak is blatantly committing a major rules violation, the NEC has track up to class 8 which allows the Acela to reach 150mph! The Lincoln and Michigan services also reach 110mph so there much be Class 6 on those lines, and any place where you get 90 (Southwest Chief, Surfliner I think) you'd also have class 6.
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Re: Identifying Track Class

Postby Passenger » Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:11 pm

MattW wrote:
Passenger wrote:Interesting.

2 questions.

Class 6 110mhp
Class 7 125mph
Class 8 160mph
Class 9 200mph


Is there any actual track in these classes in the USA?

Unless Amtrak is blatantly committing a major rules violation, the NEC has track up to class 8 which allows the Acela to reach 150mph! The Lincoln and Michigan services also reach 110mph so there much be Class 6 on those lines, and any place where you get 90 (Southwest Chief, Surfliner I think) you'd also have class 6.


OK. How about class 9?
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Re: Identifying Track Class

Postby mvb119 » Sat Mar 01, 2014 10:33 pm

There is currently no class 9 track in the US. The Northeast Corridor does not have any speeds above 150mph so there is no need to maintain any track above class 8 standards, even if they up the speeds to 160mph like they plan to, they are still within the limits of class 8 track. If CAHSR gets built, which seems less and less likely in my lifetime, then there might be class 9 track.
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Re: Identifying Track Class

Postby Engineer Spike » Thu Mar 20, 2014 8:23 pm

Besides the ballast conditions, and the elevation of curves, there are a few other criteria. One it the interval of good ties. A major requirement is how strictly the track is in gauge. The amount of wide gauge allowed gets stricter as the track class goes up.
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Re: Identifying Track Class

Postby BR&P » Thu Mar 27, 2014 9:03 pm

130MM wrote:The answer is that it is all based on the speed posted in the timetable. The FRA requires you to maintain the track to class of track as established by the timetable. If your track has Class 2 speeds, then you must maintain to the Class 2 limits. It's as simple as that.

DAW


No, that's not the way it works. FRA does not require you to maintain anything but the basic excepted standards.

It's actually the reverse of what you say. The track is inspected and the speed allowed is governed by how good the track is. If a railroad wants to maintain a given speed, they know what standards they must meet and plan their maintenance accordingly. If a railroad's track inspector finds some item which does not comply with the class the track is designated, if he cannot immediately make a repair he must downgrade the speed allowed at that spot until it complies. So if you have Class 3 track and there is a defect, speed must be lowered to 25 mph freight (Class 2), or 10 mph (Class 1). There are further restrictions if a piece of track can't meet Class 1 - without going into great detail there are ways to keep operating (in most cases) for a bit until proper repair can be made.

But the condition of the track determines what class of track a given segment may be identified as, and that class of track has a maximum speed (or speeds) allowed. You have the right idea but a better way to state it is "If you want to run trains at Class 2 speed, you must maintain the track to the Class 2 limits."
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