Monday, January 3, 2011

Lunch Time Track Work

October 5th, 2010

I decided to head down to Alyth Yard at lunch to see what was going on for train traffic. When I got there, there was no hump and no waiting trains. There was however a track maintenance crew working on the ballast down from the 12th Street Tower. I pulled out my camera and started shooting.

There was no action coming from the tamper so I turned to the ballast regulator who was spreading and, well, obviously regulating newly dumped ballast. Those suckers sure make a hell of a lot of noise. The attachment on the front is basically used to spread the ballast. Inside are many long rubber rods, I think they are rubber, that are attached to a spinning shaft. And as you can see in the second picture, rocks bounce around as it was spreading the ballast more evenly for the tamper. In the third picture the driver is making use of one of the “wing” plows to spread ballast.

Further up past 12th Street Tower were 3 ballast dumpers. I couldn’t get the complete reporting marks for all three, but the first one is CP 455162, the second is CP 4553## and the third is CP 455###.

These two pictures show the difference in the newer ballast and the existing lighter ballast.

The ballast regulator had stopped what it was doing for a few minutes and I saw that the tamper revved up and started moving towards me, so I walked down to meet up with it. In the background of the first picture, the two guys standing are the surveyors. One is behind the tamper’s laser levelling equipment and is holding the receiver of an RTK GPS surveying system. The little white space ship above his head is the GPS receiver mounted on a surveying rod. The control pad is out of sight. In picture two, the tamper is about to vibrate the ballast into place at one of the many switches in Alyth Yard. In the last picture the rods are still vibrating as they are pulled out and lowered a second time.

Shortly after that, an intermodal train came through from BC heading to the Sheppard Intermodal facility. In the lead was CP 8873 followed by CP 9732, an ES44AC and AC4400 respectively. Bringing up the rear was CP 8517 which was an AC4400.

I took several shots of some of the containers and also a few of some of the couplers as they flew by. The last two pictures of the couplers are interesting. They are used to keep sets of three well cars always coupled together. I knew they existed but never really noticed them before or ever thought of looking for those particular types of well cars. That is until I bought a set of Walthers 3 unit CP well cars when I was attending the Edmonton model train in September with my model railroad group.

As the train was going by, one of the supervisors that was talking with the tamper crew, walked over to me and said that rail traffic was really busy that day. Before he could escape me I took the opportunity to ask what exactly they were doing. He told me that they were doing preventative maintenance before winter on the track ballast and raising it up by 6 inches to raise the switches out of the “holes” or the low areas. This is so water does not collect and freeze at the switch leads and operators. As some may know, because of the chinooks, Calgary goes through some pretty drastic freeze-thaw cycles, sometimes a couple in the matter of a few hours. Temperatures can below 0 Celsius in the morning, 15 Celsius in the afternoon and back to below 0 again. After the ballast work is done, a surveying crew surveys the rails to make sure that the rails are at the right elevations.

I then asked him why the ballast was a different colour that the current ballast and where did it come from. He explained to me that with all the derailments and washouts that apparently there is a serious shortage of ballast, so the ballast that they were using that day was recycled ballast. It was just dirty from being dug up and would wash off after a couple rainfalls. As they dig up old ballast from removing unused switches and abandoned lines, they run it through sifters to remove the small unwanted rock, then ship it to where it is needed. By that time the train had gone by and he then indicated that he had to go check up on the other crew.

There were two locations that came to mind immediately as to where that ballast probably came from and both are on the MacLeod Subdivision. Some of it is probably from near the Azure grain elevator where they’ve removed the rail ties and dug up the ballast. This happened sometime between May 2010 and September 2010. The other location I’m thinking about is further south on Highway 2 near Nolan. Back in July I was heading to a wedding in Lethbridge and noticed that there were work crews digging up ballast and sub-roadbed.

The following two pictures taken back in September show the reclaimed grade crossing near Azure. The first photo is heading towards High River and you can see the auto racks I posted about back in September and October. The second is looking towards Azure and you can just see the top of the grain elevator.

Just before I left I took a shot of some of the workers driving spikes after the tamper had gone by.

At that point I was running out of time and headed back to the office.



Eric said...

Nice post, Jason. An often-overlooked necessity to keep the trains rolling...trackwork. Thanks for being a Trackside Treasure blog partner this past year, and all the best for more railfan rambles in 2011!

jddc.trains said...

Thanks Eric. And thank you for visiting DOTT-EOTR as well.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Great post about an often overlooked area of railroading. Happy new year!

jddc.trains said...

Thank you Steve, and a Happy New Year to you as well.