Hanging with the Track Gang 2


There’s lots to do around a tourist railroad to keep things rolling smoothly, both in a mechanical and aesthetic sense.  From carpentry, welding, or painting to brush clearing and trackwork – and all of that takes human effort to accomplish.  The Valley Railroad, based in Essex, Connecticut is no different.  But they have one asset that helps make a lot of that work happen – a volunteer organization at the ready to work alongside the railroad staff, making completing some of those projects a reality.

The Friends of the Valley Railroad is the not-for-profit volunteer group that helps out around the railroad with any number of tasks – from cosmetic restoration and metal fabrication for equipment to working on the railroad’s infrastructure.  This work is often complementing, or even in concert with regular railroad employees as they perform their duties (click here for a recent blog post example of a couple VRR employees at work).  The FVRR has regular volunteer work days on the calendar – typically Wednesday evenings are spent in the Essex shop working on any number of projects, as directed by the supervising Valley Railroad employees.  Saturday mornings are usually spent along the right of way working on track maintenance.  I met up with the group on a Saturday morning as they were replacing ties on the northern end of the line in Haddam, Connecticut.

A mostly manual process, the track crew removed the old ties, cleared out a channel where it was, and slid a new tie into place.  With it centered on the rails, it was backfilled, then lifted up to the rail and tamped (for the unfamiliar, tamping is the process of lifting the tie and forcing ballast under the tie so it lies flush beneath the foot of the rail).  There is one piece of machinery that is used in this process – a track scarifier.  This machine essentially loosens and removes some of the ballast between the ties, making it a bit easier to remove them from under the rails.

If you’d like to help out, be sure to visit the site for more information on joining the Friends.  To make it easier, use these direct links:

Here’s a set of photos showing the crew working their way north – by the time I left, they had inserted, tamped and finish graded about a dozen ties by hand, and the scarifier cleared out at least another 100 feet of track.

 Friends of the Valley Railroad member Brendan moves the track scarifier to the work location in Haddam.

Friends of the Valley Railroad member Brendan moves the track scarifier to the work location in Haddam.

 

 A look back along the tracks

A look back along the tracks

 

 Unloading the tools at the work site

Unloading the tools at the work site

 

 Unloading the tools at the work site

Unloading the tools at the work site

 

 The start of the work site

The start of the work site

 

 Filling in and tamping

Filling in and tamping

 

 Filling in and tamping

Filling in and tamping

 

 Tamping

Tamping

 

 Tamping

Tamping

 

 The view from the track scarifier

The view from the track scarifier

 

 Finishing the balast

Finishing the balast

 

 Brendan filling in around a newly installed tie

Brendan filling in around a newly installed tie

 

 Tamping a newly installed tie

Tamping a newly installed tie

 

 Finish grading and tamping

Finish grading and tamping

 

 Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

 

 Tamping a newly installed tie

Tamping a newly installed tie

 

 Brendan beginning to insert a new tie

Brendan beginning to insert a new tie

 

 Brendan sliding the tie into position

Brendan sliding the tie into position

 

 Brendan finishing the tie insertion

Brendan finishing the tie insertion

 

 Filling in and tamping

Filling in and tamping

 

 Leveling out the grade

Leveling out the grade

 

 Moving ballast

Moving ballast

 

 Tamping

Tamping

 

 Inserting a new tie

Inserting a new tie

 

 Inserting a new tie

Inserting a new tie

 

 Leveling and tamping

Leveling and tamping

 

 Leveling and tamping

Leveling and tamping

 

 Tamping

Tamping

 

 Inserting a new tie

Inserting a new tie

 

 Inserting a new tie

Inserting a new tie

 

 Clearing out the channel for a new tie

Clearing out the channel for a new tie

 

 Brendan beginning to insert a new tie

Brendan beginning to insert a new tie

 

 Filling and tamping the new tie

Filling and tamping the new tie

 

 Inserting a new tie

Inserting a new tie

 

 Centering the new tie on the rails

Centering the new tie on the rails

 

 Brendan operating the track scarifier

Brendan operating the track scarifier

 

 Detail look at the track scarifier

 

 Track scarifier removing dirt from between ties

Track scarifier removing dirt from between ties

 

 Track scarifier under the sun

Track scarifier under the sun

 

 Original track with new ties waiting to be inserted

Original track with new ties waiting to be inserted

 

 Detail look at the track scarifier

Detail look at the track scarifier

 

 Original track with new ties waiting to be inserted

Original track with new ties waiting to be inserted

 

 Track scarifier with the crew in the background

Track scarifier with the crew in the background

 

 Brendan operating the track scarifier

Brendan operating the track scarifier

 

 Brendan operating the track scarifier

Brendan operating the track scarifier

 

 The results of the scarifier

The results of the scarifier

 

 Continuing north

Continuing north

 

 Continuing to clean up the tie insertions

Continuing to clean up the tie insertions

 

 Continuing north

Continuing north

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

2 thoughts on “Hanging with the Track Gang

  • Al Crossley

    Great look at a part of the VRR few of us see. I have to say that the ‘ballast’ you refer to, at least in the photos, bears a strong resemblance to plain dirt….