TRACK WASHOUT

Discussion relating to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Philadelphia Metro Area). Official web site can be found here: www.septa.com. Also including discussion related to the PATCO Speedline rapid transit operated by Delaware River Port Authority. Official web site can be found here: http://www.ridepatco.org/.

Moderator: AlexC

bth8446
Posts: 103
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2009 12:31 am

TRACK WASHOUT

Post by bth8446 » Sat Sep 10, 2011 11:38 am

Wow, those pictures of the track ballast being washed away from under the tracks that septa, news and other outlets showed, were interesting.
Makes me wonder if a solution could be made, or perhaps there is already a solution.

I assume packed rocky soil, then a few feet of ballast is the most economical track bed for any lenght of weather exposed track.
so I don't think we are going to change that.

I looked at the pictures and I thought, how about, in areas where they know there are washout issues (they know of some, I'm sure
others need the right conditions before they are identified, but certainly we just discovered a few this past week) how about laying down some kind of adhesive. When they put on the last foot of ballast in these areas, apply it with some gooey adhesive that will harden up (a bit, but not too much) so that when water comes along in a gush, it can still pass through the ballast but won't wash it away. The adhesive would keep the ballast stuck together at its contact points to other ballast rocks next to it.

Does such a substance exist that won't wear away in harsh heat, water, snow, ice, freezing temps, constant flex from heavy trains compressing them . . .? I don't know.

It couldn't be applied system wide, it would probably make track and tie renewal difficult. but if applied at just the problemed areas,
I don't think it would be that bad.

Perhaps it is most economical to just take the puch in the system's face and go out of service for a day or two. How often do washouts
recur at the same troubled locations?

Or was this situation quite unique?

Anyone know of a recurring trouble spot?

AlexC
Posts: 594
Joined: Wed Mar 17, 2004 7:55 pm
Location: On the Perkiomen Railroad

Re: TRACK WASHOUT

Post by AlexC » Sat Sep 10, 2011 12:35 pm

bth8446 wrote:Does such a substance exist that won't wear away in harsh heat, water, snow, ice, freezing temps, constant flex from heavy trains compressing them . . .? I don't know.

It couldn't be applied system wide, it would probably make track and tie renewal difficult. but if applied at just the problemed areas,
I don't think it would be that bad.

[...]

Perhaps it is most economical to just take the puch in the system's face and go out of service for a day or two. How often do washouts
recur at the same troubled locations?

Or was this situation quite unique?
That product is called rocky ballast, and we've been using it for at least 150 years. Yes, it can get washed away, yes it needs to be maintained and replaced, but it works. Unless you build your system on viaducts and tunnels (like the El) I don't know how you'd ever completely avoid the problem... and those would bring up other problems (wind? flooding?)

We've had a record amount of rain in the past six weeks, and while you can plan for the hundred or two hundred year events, something bigger is typically not economic. If people are pumping water out of their 1st floor, or having to flip their cars back on to their tires (like in Ambler), getting to work on the R5 isn't their top priority.
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Matthew Mitchell
Posts: 5168
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2004 10:48 pm
Location: Glenside PA

Re: TRACK WASHOUT

Post by Matthew Mitchell » Sat Sep 10, 2011 5:05 pm

There are civil and other engineers who have been specializing in these questions for more than a century, and companies all trying to come up with products they can sell that will do that job for the railroads. Read a few industry magazines (as opposed to railfan mags), and you'll see how much effort railroaders put into protecting the roadbed, and why the three most important things in track structure are drainage, drainage, and drainage.

kiha40
Posts: 110
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2005 4:04 am

Re: TRACK WASHOUT

Post by kiha40 » Sat Sep 10, 2011 5:16 pm

Matthew Mitchell wrote:industry magazines (as opposed to railfan mags)
Any particular ones you recommend?

Matthew Mitchell
Posts: 5168
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2004 10:48 pm
Location: Glenside PA

Re: TRACK WASHOUT

Post by Matthew Mitchell » Sat Sep 10, 2011 7:01 pm

kiha40 wrote:
Matthew Mitchell wrote:industry magazines (as opposed to railfan mags)
Any particular ones you recommend?
Well, if you're interested in track and roadbed technology, Railway Track and Structures is more relevant than Railway Age. Railway Age is more widely distributed though. Railway Track and Structures is at http://www.rtands.com/.

[edited: I forgot about RT&S]

Thomas K. McHugh
Posts: 123
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 11:18 pm
Location: Wyncote, PA, USA

Re: TRACK WASHOUT

Post by Thomas K. McHugh » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:38 pm

IMHO the proper solution to the ballast blowouts in the Jenkintown-Wyncote Station area that have happened at least twice in recent memory, is to build dry detention basins, pocket wetlands, and bio-retention basins in the sub-watershed areas upstream of the tracks. Continued development, so-called flood control projects, and so-called stream "improvements" projects have actually caused a significant increase in accelerated stormwater runoff and flooding. The flood victims and SEPTA engineers know this.

PARailWiz
Posts: 488
Joined: Sun Jun 27, 2004 9:59 pm
Location: Norristown, PA

Re: TRACK WASHOUT

Post by PARailWiz » Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:05 am

IMHO the proper solution to the ballast blowouts in the Jenkintown-Wyncote Station area that have happened at least twice in recent memory, is to build dry detention basins, pocket wetlands, and bio-retention basins in the sub-watershed areas upstream of the tracks. Continued development, so-called flood control projects, and so-called stream "improvements" projects have actually caused a significant increase in accelerated stormwater runoff and flooding. The flood victims and SEPTA engineers know this.
You are quite correct. Unfortunately, given how highly developed the watershed in that area is, and that the soils in southeastern Pennsylvania are generally of naturally low porosity to begin with, it will be cheaper for SEPTA to just keep repairing washouts as they happen. The true long-term solution requires large-scale regional cooperation and effort on a scale local policy is only scratching the surface of.
The picture to the right is a photo of Silverliner I 246 located at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, PA.

Thomas K. McHugh
Posts: 123
Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2009 11:18 pm
Location: Wyncote, PA, USA

Re: TRACK WASHOUT

Post by Thomas K. McHugh » Mon Feb 20, 2012 3:41 pm

I didn't mean to imply that SEPTA should be getting into the watershed-wide flood mitigation effort. The causes and the solutions of flooding are PA DEP, County and local government issues. Indeed, the flood victims are mostly private homeowner families. This is a huge issue in Cheltenham Township and is well beyond SEPTA. SEPTA (we taxpayers) is just another "victim." Abington Township keeps solving their flooding problems by dumping their stormwater into Cheltenham Township. Flood Control Projects in Abington Township are actually Accelerated Stormwater Runoff and Flooding in Cheltenham Township.

jfrey40535
Posts: 2830
Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2004 11:43 pm
Location: Phila

Re: TRACK WASHOUT

Post by jfrey40535 » Mon Feb 20, 2012 3:50 pm

I think its important to note that it appears that many municipalities and the city are now in the habit of using SEPTA as their public works department. Jenkintown and Abington have flooding issues caused by overbuilding, so SEPTA is called in to mitigate the issue by replacing culverts with bridges that increase water flow. The 33rd and Dauphin bus loop project also includes the installation of underground aquafers to mitigate flooding issues near the park, which have nothing to do with a bus loop. Its probably the economics of the time where its easier to get funding under the guise of a transportation project, which has the unfortunate effect of having transportation dollars wasted on non-transportation issues.

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