Sunday, October 4, 2015

At the Central City, IA Show

Displaying our kits and sample builds at the Central City, IA show. If you are in the Cedar Rapids area, come on down to the show. It's located at the Central City High School in Central City, and is open until 3:00 pm CDT.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Rebuilding of 2nd Street Crossing

Last month (Aug 2015), the Canadian National rebuilt the 2nd Street grade crossing in Dyersville. Well, since the crossing is right outside our front door, we decided to document the rebuilding process with photos. It took several days to rebuild the crossing, and was interesting to watch. Our son, who worked for Amtrak for several years as a conductor, added some additional information when he viewed the photos.

Here is the crossing before the rebuilding started. Rubber crossing inserts had been used the last time the crossing was worked on.

Here's a closer shot of the rubber crossing inserts. If you look closely at the center portion of the inserts between the rails, you'll see a darker color. That's from the locomotive pilots scrapping the rubber insert. Why? A soft spot had developed in the roadbed underneath the crossing, and when trains went through at track speed, there was enough of a bounce to cause the pilots to hit.

Here's a photo of the pedestrian crossing before replacement. Wooden inserts had been used. We would watch bicyclists ride across the tracks using this crossing, and it was not a smooth ride!

A contractor has already made a cut into the street asphalt. Everything from the cut to the track will be replaced with new asphalt.

MOW crews are starting to build the replacement track panel. New ties and rail are being used.

Here's another view of the track panel. Assembly is mostly complete. If those ties look longer than normal... you're right... they are. You'll see why a little later.

A few days prior to the project starting, a couple of pallets of new tie plates were dropped off at the site.

Some of the longer ties have been removed from the new track panel. Crews must have measured out the actual new crossing inserts, and determined they needed to reduce the number of long ties.

Here's the completed track panel with standard ties added to the ends. Notice the difference in length between the long and standard ties.

Here's a closer view showing the difference in length between the long ties and the standard ties.

The asphalt contractor has removed the old asphalt, and the railroad has removed the old crossing inserts.

The old track has been removed from the crossing, and the excavator is digging out the old roadbed.

We are fast forwarding to new ballast being dumped on the replacement track panel. Due to timing, we missed out on the new track panel being dropped into place.

The flood pass has been completed. According to our son, a flood pass is where the center and track shoulders are dumped at the same time, with the goal of flooding ballast up to the top of the rails.

MOW crews now handle the movement of ballast hoppers at the job site using a hyrail vehicle. This saves the railroad an operations crew (engineer and conductor).

A ballast regulator is starting to even out the ballast, and getting things ready for the tamper to come in and level out the track.

Here's the tamper at work. Up in the control cab, a computer has a preloaded track profile that it's reading off of, and sending signals down to clamps that grab onto the track structure and lift... while vibrating fingers push ballast underneath the ties.

Here's the "business end" of the tamper. This was actually quite interesting to watch. According to our son, the tamper not only levels the track, but also adjusts for proper grade and even curve banking.

After the tamper makes a pass, the ballast regulator comes through and moves ballast around, filling in holes that the tamper created when it pushed ballast underneath the ties.

Here's a closer view of the ballast regulator spreading rock from the center and shoulders.

Meanwhile, the asphalt company is removing asphalt from the siding grade crossing.

All the old asphalt has now been removed. The crossing panels will not be replaced... just the asphalt up to the crossing. According to folks we talked to, the siding and the corresponding grade crossing belong to the grain elevator, but the pavement up to the crossing belongs to the city.

Here's another view of the siding grade crossing after the asphalt has been cleared.

The asphalt contractor has laid down the new asphalt. A roller and walk behind vibrator are tamping it down.

Another view of the finished siding grade crossing. Even the pedestrian crossing has new asphalt!

Back at the mainline grade crossing, the local out of Dubuque with ES44DC #2300 is making it's way west. It's under a slow order right now, as the new track structure is undergoing a real "load test". According to our son, getting a few trains over the new track actually helps settle it in place, and will bring out any irregularities in tamping. For the next several days, trains will be crawling over the grade crossing.

And if you're wondering, that's an SD60 behind the ES44DC. And yes... for around here... that's local power!

MOW crews have called it a day. There will still be more tamping and ballast regulating before the crossing panels are dropped down.

Here's another view of the new mainline track. Notice the old street asphalt.

Track welds joined the old mainline with the new track panel. Crews did a nice job grinding down the thermite welds.

One of the replacement rails carries a date stamp, along with some other markings that only MOW crews can decipher.

The signal maintainer is hooking up new crossing wires back to the signal shed.

A closer view of the new crossing wires.

The new crossing panels have been dropped off at the site. Wood panels are going to be used this time instead of rubber.

Here's a closer view of the new crossing panels. Notice the angle cut into the bottom front of the panels. We assume this is done to clear the tie plates and spikes on the track structure.

It's now 4 days later, and the tamper is back at work. With 4 days of rail traffic over the new track structure, adjustments are needed to the track profile.

Here the tamper is making adjustments to the new track panel.

Now the ballast regulator dresses the ballast, starting with the track center.

A pass is now made using the rotating "sweeper" broom.

The track shoulders are now dressed using the regulator wings.

Another view of the regulator dressing the track shoulders.

Making yet another pass with the center wing. Dressing ballast and getting the right roadbed profile is an art.

Making yet another pass dressing the shoulders.

From a head on view, a ballast regulator looks quite menacing... especially with that center plow wing.

And here's the final result of all those passes with the tamper and regulator. Looks like Class 1 track to us!

Crews are now dropping the crossing panels in place.

Placing another crossing panel.

It's now 3 days later, and the asphalt contractor has finished laying down the new asphalt.

Nice smooth new pavement for the drivers, and new smooth track for the engineers!

Close up view looking east. Signals in the background are for the west end of Dyersville siding.

Looking west. Those Wisconsin Central ballast hoppers are staged for the local to pick up.

Even the pedestrian crossing has new wood crossing panels and asphalt. Even Dyersville bicycle riders can enjoy a smooth crossing.

Our final shot is of an old rail section from the crossing. They cut the rail out on both sides of the old thermite weld. The rail saw actually clamps to the rail and makes a nice clean cut.

We hope you have enjoyed this photo series. It was an educational experience for us watching the crossing being replaced. We're not sure what the life expectancy is of the new crossing, but for the time being all Dyersville drivers will be enjoying smooth bump free crossing. Thank you Canadian National!!