Why leave loose rails lying along tracks?

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Why leave loose rails lying along tracks?

Postby SouthernRailway » Sun Nov 16, 2014 7:50 pm

Why do railroads often seem to leave loose, random rails lying either in the middle of tracks (on top of ties/ballast, between the two rails that are used), or on the side of tracks that are being used?

Do loose rails somehow help prevent derailments? Or is the loose rail likely to be used soon?

Thanks.
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Re: Why leave loose rails lying along tracks?

Postby bcgfdc3 » Mon Nov 17, 2014 3:18 am

I've wondered this my self. Along with boatloads of ties

I kinda understand the ties as some are so rotted that they probably have no value but the rail is still usable if for nothing else but to melt and manufacture new rail.
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Re: Why leave loose rails lying along tracks?

Postby John_Perkowski » Mon Nov 17, 2014 10:47 am

I know BNSF in my neck of the woods is pretty aggressive about picking up rail, and gathering ties into piles.

Now, rail DOES have to wait for a welded rail train to pick it up, but that does happen.
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Re: Why leave loose rails lying along tracks?

Postby litz » Mon Nov 17, 2014 2:10 pm

Rail that's been replaced is heavy. Very very heavy.

A standard 39ft piece of interstate-freight-calibre rail weighs 140lbs per yard. 140 x 13, or 1820 lbs. That's approaching a ton. Not all that easy to move to somewhere it can be loaded, and absolutely requires a truck or large trailer once there.

Now consider welded rail which is much much longer. And therefore heavier.

Lastly, what you might be seeing loose between the rails might not be old rail at all ... it could very well be new rail laid down by a ribbon rail train, that's awaiting installation ...

(anything, btw, between the rails is "fair game" ... rules generally are that clearance for a passing train is 4 inches above the railhead and higher, excluding the area immediately next to the railhead required for flange passage)
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Re: Why leave loose rails lying along tracks?

Postby Freddy » Mon Nov 17, 2014 8:33 pm

From time to time Roadmasters will have one of the Brandt trucks with a gon and they'll come on his territory and pick it up as scrap. It's in his material inventory as are tie plates, ties,frogs etc. and has to be accounted for as to weight and length and is charged out accordingly.
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Re: Why leave loose rails lying along tracks?

Postby mmi16 » Tue Nov 18, 2014 12:28 am

In setting up for production gangs - rail and or surfacing - the supplies must be distributed prior to the arrival of the gang(s). New strands of welded rail are set on the ground in the area where they will be installed. Surfacing gangs that do tie replacement, where individual bad ties are replaced, use ties that have been distributed prior to the gangs arrival.

Getting the right of way ready for the arrival of system production gang that number 80 to 150 people and use 20 to more than 50 specific machines to perform the renewal functions necessary to keep a line in good repair cannot be performed overnight. Work Trains will be distributing the necessary track materials a month or more in advance of the gang's arrival. Material to be distributed also includes ballast for surfacing.
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Re: Why leave loose rails lying along tracks?

Postby bcgfdc3 » Tue Nov 18, 2014 11:48 pm

I'm talking about pieces of rail approx. 20 ft long and whole sections of tracks or old switches that were removed that have been laying there for years. It seems these could be used or recycled or something other than just rusting
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Re: Why leave loose rails lying along tracks?

Postby John_Perkowski » Wed Nov 19, 2014 12:42 pm

What Railroad?

What location?

Certainly the BNSF and UP in my neck of the woods are very aggressive about reclaiming replaced rail, plates, bolting equipment (we have concrete ties here, not wood), and such.
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Re: Why leave loose rails lying along tracks?

Postby Freddy » Wed Nov 19, 2014 12:54 pm

Takes time. I've tripped over rail,frogs and switch points that've been overgrown for years.
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Re: Why leave loose rails lying along tracks?

Postby bcgfdc3 » Sun Nov 23, 2014 1:59 am

John_Perkowski wrote:What Railroad?

What location?

Certainly the BNSF and UP in my neck of the woods are very aggressive about reclaiming replaced rail, plates, bolting equipment (we have concrete ties here, not wood), and such.



Norfolk Southern - Conemaugh Line in Pittsburgh, PA. There are even abandoned sidings etc. I'm sure there are probably issues with who owns the sidings.
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Re: Why leave loose rails lying along tracks?

Postby SouthernRailway » Sun Nov 23, 2014 9:13 pm

John_Perkowski wrote:What Railroad?

What location?



Metro-North, at the Riverdale station (and elsewhere)--even a long time before the current major trackwork was done in the area.
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Re: Why leave loose rails lying along tracks?

Postby mkirsch » Tue Nov 25, 2014 11:43 am

bcgfdc3 wrote:I'm talking about pieces of rail approx. 20 ft long and whole sections of tracks or old switches that were removed that have been laying there for years. It seems these could be used or recycled or something other than just rusting


There are multiple factors to consider.

1. Is it usable? I would imagine that they replaced the rail for a reason, as in, the old rail was worn out.
2. Is there a use for it? It's my understanding that generally speaking railroads have been pulling up track, not laying it down, for several decades now.
3. Is the manpower available to retrieve it? I don't imagine the typical shortline railroad has people sitting around available to do this. Everyone's schedules are pretty well packed.
4. Is its scrap value more than the cost to retrieve it and haul it to a scrapyard? If it's going to cost you more in machinery, manpower, and lost freight revenue to pick it up than you will get at the scrapyard, it is better off laying there rusting away.
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Re: Why leave loose rails lying along tracks?

Postby John_Perkowski » Tue Nov 25, 2014 12:09 pm

As said above, if the cost of retrieving the rail is less than the cost of salvaging it, it's not going to happen.

Most of the big roads do salvage their rail ... it's a lot less to melt and re-pour steel than it is to buy fresh.

That said, big roads also salvage with the empty welded rail trains, vice picking up 20-40' sticks.

BNSF at East Leavenworth, MO, has, on dunnage, several 20 and 40' rail sections. Apparently they are for emergency insertion should the detector find a flaw. Then, later, the rail train comes by and replaces the entire original 1/4 mile.
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Re: Why leave loose rails lying along tracks?

Postby Engineer Spike » Sat Jun 20, 2015 2:00 pm

That last post about 20' plugs. They are not only useful to replace Sperry rails. In the winter they could replace broken rails. This happens because the rail shrinks so much, that the tensile strength of the rail is exceeded.
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Re: Why leave loose rails lying along tracks?

Postby RussNelson » Sat Jun 20, 2015 10:26 pm

For the same reason you see all those pictures of loose women lying along tracks.
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