Walter Mason Camp.

Notes on track; construction and maintenance online

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Editor of the Railway and Engineering Review; Member of the
American Society of Civil Engineers.

More than 600 Illustrations





Copyright, 1903, by W. M. Camp.


What I have attempted to do in the following pages is to treat the con-
struction and maintenance of railroad track from the standpoints of both
the trackman and the engineer. I am led to this from the belief that the
thorough trackman must necessarily be able to comprehend some of the
principles ' of engineering, and that a knowledge of some of the important
details of track work is essential to the qualifications of a track engineer.
As between these two classes of men, both being responsible parties
concerned with the subject, the aim is, of course, to select from both
views the elements which harmonize with what would seem to be the best
practice. I think I understand the difficulty of producing literature en-
tirely suitable to all readers who might find interest in a book on track.
For the purposes of some it might answer sufficiently well to condense and
digest the larger portion of the information into generalized statements,
merely hinting now and then at explanations, or leaving such to be acquired
by inference. While writings of this character may be entertaining, they
usually fail to cover extensive practice, and I regard them as of little value
to those readers who wish to make a thorough study of the subject. I
have therefore addressed myself to the class of readers whom I thought
were most in need of, and who would make the best use of, a thorough-
going treatment of details, as well as of general principles.

Considering that men in responsible charge of track may differ widely
in learning, it is to be expected that a comprehensive treatment of the
subject should involve some things beyond the grasp of the average track-
man, while, in order that the book may accomplish the highest usefulness,
the learned engineer must occasionally find what to him is unnecessary
explanation; or he may find the use of some terms, common among track-
men and necessary to make the matter understood, which to him are not
in keeping with what he might consider the parlance of his profession.
It is hoped, however, that what has been deemed necessary for the track-
man to know or use will be found intelligible to him ; and what unnecessary
explanation the engineer may find certainly cannot mislead him. There
is much knowledge that is useful to the trackman which is not commonly
sought by engineers, yet which, nevertheless, they ought to have. To deal
with a structure so simple as track necessarily calls for many statements
of details which may seem trivial to those not in touch with the work; but
where ignorance of, or neglect to give proper attention to, such apparently
trivial matters is commonly found, and must inevitably result in needless
expenditure of large sums of money, it would certainly seem that a refer-
ence to the same in a public utterance cannot be out of place and that no
mistake can be made in pointing them out here.

Some of the simple problems in switch work and curves have been
taken up, not because they are not as clearly set forth in other books to
be had, but because books on engineering which deal fully with these prob-
lems are not, as a rule, to be found with trackmen and are not sought by


them, principally because one not conversant with such books in their
entire scope is liable to mistrust his ability to pick out those parts which,
he might comprehend. A few problems commonly met with are therefore
included, with the rules and formulas applying thereto, for the benefit of
those who are acquainted with arithmetic and the use of tables. Beyond
this, some general problems which have not yet appeared in field books,,
generally, have been worked out for surveyors and engineers. For the-
benefit of persons seeking to familiarize themselves with the mathematics of
easement curves, some of the problems involved have been demonstrated,,
as in a text-book, one object in view being to show that the use of such
curves, in all ordinary cases, is not so complicated with mathematics as
some may have supposed.

A considerable volume of descriptive matter that is used largely in,
illustration of practice or of principles discussed has been arranged in the
form of supplementary notes. While most of this matter is regarded as
essential to a comprehensive treatment of the various subjects to which it
relates, and therefore exceptional to the class of matter customarily
reserved for use in an appended form, there were two reasons for the
arrangement. In the first place, it serves the convenience of the general
reader, who may wish to omit extended reference or numerous concrete
applications; and, secondly, it gave opportunity to make use of a smaller
size of type than seemed appropriate for the purpose of a general treat-
ment, thereby effecting some economy in space, the need of which was
suggested by the prospect that the amount of matter in view might expand
the volume to an inconvenient size.

The manuscript for the book, in its present form and scope, went seek-
ing a publisher more than six years ago, but for a time it seemed that the
chase would end unsuccessfully. By a fortunate circumstance, however,
I was finally enabled to embrace the opportunity of publishing the matter-
on the piecemeal plan, 'as a series of articles in the Eailway and Engineer-
ing Review, with which I became identified as editor. Under this arrange-
ment the publication of the matter continued weekly for about three -
years. It is due to say that my position in an editorial capacity has
afforded exceptional opportunities to enlarge upon my original work, the
basis of which was notes and observations taken during years of practical
experience as a trackman and an engineer. I have also profited by the-
criticism of readers upon the matter published serially, and in the revision:
of the same for its final appearance in book form I have increased by about
70 per cent the volume of matter contained in the series of articles. These-
successive processes of elaboration have necessarily put much new cloth
into the old garment and have greatly expanded its size, without, I trust,,
bringing this feature of the work within the meaning of the parable.
One constant aim has been to follow practice down to date, and give ref-
erence to all new improvements which seemed likely to assume future ~
importance. One particular object in view has been to cover as widely as
possible the development of labor-saving machinery. In this line there-
has been much improvement within the past few years, and this phase of
the subject is destined to be one of increasing interest.

In acknowledging sources of information I must concede due credit to-
several hundred railway officials and employees and to the many manufac-
turers of track supplies, who have kindly responded to inquiries for infor-
mation by interview or through correspondence. While I cannot under-


take to refer personally to each and every one who has rendered valuable
.assistance,, I wish to acknowledge particular indebtedness to Mr. D. M.
'Taylor, of the engineering department of the Wheeling & Lake Erie Rail-
Toad, who has kindly favored me with a large amount of data and with a
careful criticism of the matter published serially in the Railway and Engi-
neering Review.

Finally, I shall feel obliged to any reader who will notify me of typo-
.graphical or other imperfections discovered, or who will give me the benefit
of his criticism upon any statement or matter of opinion^ in which he
may find interest, or send me data or records of work to compare with
similar data herein contained. Having treated of many questions on
which there are conflicting opinions among expert trackmen and engineers,
I could not resist the temptation to now and then venture my own opinion
on such matters. I am very sure, therefore, that certain opinions herein
expressed are contrary to the views of some maintenance-of-way men. To
.a very large extent, however, I have accorded questions of this character
full discussion, presenting the views of both sides, believing that those
interested in a work of this kind would appreciate the enumeration of
established opinions fully as well as, and perhaps better than, the conclu-
sions which any one person may have drawn from the same. It is needless
to here dwell upon the advantages of discussion, for much benefit is some-
times derived in the way of suggestion, even though the result may fall
short of definite conclusions. In this light it is sometimes profitable to
launch an opinion, notwithstanding that opposition to the same can
readily be anticipated. A writer on track who would confine his remarks
to matters of settled opinion would necessarily have to omit many inter-
esting features of practice.


Chicago, January, 1908.


Track Foundation.
1, Introduction; 2, Meaning of Terms; 3, The Roadbed; 4, Ditches; 5, Cul-


Track Materials.
6, Rails; 7, Splices; 8, Bolts; 9, Spikes; 10, Ties; 11, Tie Plates; 12, Ballast.


13, General Remarks; 14, Outfit Train; 15, Material Yard and Side-Tracks;
16, Unloading Material; 17, Organization of Forces; 18, Placing Ties; 19, Spacing
Ties; 20, Supported or Suspended Joints?; 21, Rail Car; 22, Placing Rails; 23,
Square or Broken Joints?; 24, Curving Rails; 25, Allowance for Expansion;
26, Splicing; 27, Spiking; 28, The Track-Laying Crew; 29, Tools for Laying
Track; 30, Track-Laying Machines; 31, Highway Crossings.



32, General Remarks; 33, Rail Grade Stakes; 34, Raising New Track; 35.
Tamping; 36, Ballast Cars; 37, Lining; 38, Filling in and Dressing; 39, Quan-
tity of Ballast Required.



40, General Principles; 41, Simple Curves; 42, Some Ways of Laying Out
Curves; 43, To Find the Degree of 'Curve; 44, Action of Car Wheels on Curves;
45, Curve Elevation; 46, Reverse Curves; 47, Compound Curves; 48, Curve
Monuments; 49, Rail Braces; 50, Transition Curves; 51, The Cubic Parabola;
52, Tapering Curves; 53, Searles Spiral; 54, The Holbrook Spiral.

Switching Arrangements and Appliances.

55, Turnouts; 56, Stub Switches; 57, Laying Stub-Switch Turnouts; 58,
Frogs; 59, Guard Rails; 60, Switch Rods; 61, Headshoes; 62, Switch Stands; .
63, Headblocks; 64, Switch Ties; 65, Foot Guards; 66, Switch Lamps; 67, Clear-
ance Posts; 68, Point Switches; 69, Laying Point-Switch Turnouts; 70, Chang-
ing Stub Switch to Point Switch; 71, Three-Throw Switches; 72, The Lap
Switch; 73, The Wharton Switch; 74, Derailing Switches; 75, Side-Tracks; 76,
Crossovers; 77, Crossings; 78, Slip Switches; 79, "Y" Tracks; 80, Turntable
and Drawbridge Joints; 81, Yard Tracks; 82, Machine Operation of Switches;
83, Interlocking Switches and Signals; 84, Switch Protection.

Track Maintenance.

85, Raising and Tamping Low Track; 86, Lowering Track; 87, Lining Old
Track; 88, Tie Renewals; 89, Renewing Ballast; 90, Cutting Grass and Weeds in
Track; 91, Mowing; 92, Cutting Brush; 93 Ditching; 94, Shimming; 95, Renew-
ing and Relaying Rails; 96, Broken and Bent Rails; 97, Regaging; 98, Righting


Canted Rails on Curves; 99, Cutting Rails; 100, Expansion in Rails; 101,
Stretching Steel; 102, Adjusting Bolts; 103, Creeping Rails; 104, Shoveling
Snow; 105, Oil-Coated Ballast; 106, Laying Tie Plates; 107, Bank-Edging.

Double- Tracking.

108, General Considerations; 109, Advantages, Etc.; 110, Comparative Cost
of Construction nnd Maintenance; 111, Preparation for Double Track; 112,
Construction of Double Track; 113, Danger to Workmen; 114, Sidings for
Double Track.


Track Tools.

115, General Remarks; 116, Tools Required; 117, Shovels; 118, Picks; 119,
Hammers; 120, Wrenches, 121, Claw Bars; 122, Pinch Bars; 123, Tamping
Bars; 124, Chisels; 125, Rail Saws; 126, The Gage; 127 Level Boards; 128,
Track Jacks; 129, Raising Bars; 130 Rail Tongs; 131, Rail Drills; 132, Rail
Benders; 133, Hand Cars; 134, Push Cars; 135, Other Tools; 136, Use and Care
of Tools; 137, Tool Houses; 138, Tool Repairs; 139, Section Houses.

Work Trains.

140, General Remarks; 141, The Train; 142, The Crew; 143, Boarding Ac-
commodations; 144, Ditching with Trains; 145, Distributing Ties; 146, Handling
Rails; 147, Loading Logs; 148, Handling Ballast and Filling Material; 149,
Wrecking; 150, Fighting Snow.

Miscellaneous .

151, Fence; 152, Cattle Guards; 153, Bridge Floors; 154, Snow Fence; 155,
Snow Sheds; 156, Fire Guards; 157, Bumping Posts; 158, Sign Boards; 159,
Signals; 160, Slides; 161, Washouts; 162, Change of Line; 163, Policing; 164,
Repairing Telegraph Wires; 165, Disposition of Old Ties; 166, Taking up Track;
167, Purchasing and Handling Ties; 168, Tie Preservation; 169, Metal Ties;
170, Lag Screws vs. Spikes; 171, Effects of Bad Counterbalancing; 172, Longer
Rails; 173, Compound Rails; 174, Rerolling Rails; 175, Rail Trimming; 176,
Track Elevation and Depression; 177, Track Tanks; 178, Ash Pits; 179, Track
in Tunnels; 180, Resurveys; 181, Rail Deflection; 182, Variations from Standard
Gage; 183, Automatic Block Signals and Track Circuits; 184, Crossing Gates;
185, High Speed.

Organization .

186, General Remarks; 187, The Roadmaster; 188, Section Foremen; 189,
Section Labor; 190, Watchmen; 191, Length of Section; 192, Floating Gangs;
193, Discipline; 194, Reports and Correspondence; 195, Track Inspection.

Supplementary Notes and Tables.

1, Tile Drainage; 2, Some Details of Steel Working and Departures in Rail
Design; 3, Material Yards in Track-Laying; 4, Rules on Care of Lamps, A., T.
& S. F. Ry.; 5, Distributing Ties; 6, Tie Preservation in Europe; 7, Tree Plant-
ing; 8, Metal Ties in Foreign Countries; 9, Locomotive Counterbalance Experi-
ments; 10, Track Elevation and Depression; 11, The Training of Roadmasters;
12, Limit of Capacity of Single Track; Table V, Sines, Cosines, Tangents, Co-
tangents, Versed Sines and External Secants; Table XI, Measurements for Stub-
Switch Turnouts; Tables XIII and XIV, Measurements for Point-Switch Turn-
outs; Table XV, Distances between Points of Frogs in Crossovers; Table XVI,
Direct Distances between Frog Points on Ladder Tracks.







1. Introduction. The proper construction of railroad track arid the
efficient and economical maintenance of the same involve the science of
engineering. There are so many definitions of the term "engineering v
that a new one will not be attempted here, for almost any of them apply.
One which fits the case very well may be comprehended by saying that
to properly construct or maintain track is to know how to "make a dollar
go the farthest." Of the three recognized stages having to do with track in
service, either construction or maintenance is a field of engineering of no
less importance than that of track location. Considering the specializing
tendency of the times, which has created such professions as bridge engi-
neering, hydraulic engineering, sanitary engineering, and other departments
included within the scope of .civil engineering, why should there not be
recognized a distinct class of work known as "track engineering?" Track
and roadbed represent a much larger investment than do bridges, water-
works, or sewers, or more than all combined, and the problems which have
to be studied and solved in relation to track are about as difficult as one
will find in any line of engineering work.

Track engineering begins with the reconnoissance or preliminary sur-
veying and must be followed through the location and the construction of
the roadbed, the building of the track proper, and continue with the main-
tenance and repairs ever afterward ; for in no sense can it be excluded dur-
ing the progress of any of these steps. In locating the line for a railroad
track, it may often happen that a choice may be had between soils or substra-
ta of different kinds, without sacrificing anything in matters pertaining to
right of way, grades or curvature ; or the local conditions peculiar to one side
of a valley may differ so widely from those of the opposite side, in such
respects, for instance, as exposure to wind and drifting snow, slides, falling
rocks, surface drainage, springs of water, stream encroachments on the
roadbed, the shading of the right of way by steep hills or by forest, as to
materially affect the cost of maintenance. Although the relation of such
matters to the work and expense of track maintenace is apparent yet it
has not always been considered during that part of the work so often
regarded as preliminary in a too strict sense. If things are allowed to
shift too much for themselves during construction it will usually be found
that methods of work will be permitted which will result in inferior service.
In these days when so much of industry is dependent upon the activities


of corporations, and when labor is becoming more and more divided, men
in general will take less and less interest in that which they engage to do,
except in what may appear to promise them more or less direct returns in
higher compensation or in reputation. Obviously, then, there will be a
larger demand for men whose occupation it shall be to maintain a close
watch on details, with a view to turn aside all the undirected and mis-
directed tendencies which might lead to extravagance, inefficiency, or what-
ever in the end might operate depresaingly upon dividends, which consti-
tute the ultimate aim of the projectors of railroads.

Now, it does not matter by what name we choose to call this occupa-
tion whether it be intelligent foremanship, good railroading or engineer-
ing there is room for it; but if any system of work or management which
can be applied to track supervision in a manner to make track more durable,
safer, or less expensive to maintain, be not engineering, then I know of no
appropriate term to apply to it. In almost all industrial lines, particu-
larly those identified with mechanical or electrical engineering, it is the
chief consideration of the science that questions of economy in maintenance
or running expenses shall not only share equally with the attention usually
given by the engineer to contsruction in general, but that they must be
entertained by him particularly and studiously in coexistance with his plans
of construction. Already a great deal more study is being devoted to
track engineering than was the case when 60-ton locomotives and 20-ton
freight cars were typical of rolling stock, and the tendencies indicate a
still larger application of engineering principles to this line of work.

It is not difficult to explain the situation in the past. Track is so
extended over distance, when compared with other works or structures;
the roadbed, the ballast and the materials of which the track is constructed
are subject to such inequalities and irregularities; the track structure is
so simple and deteriorates by such insensible degrees; and the wide-spread
but mistaken idea that "main strength and awkardness" are as efficient in
its service as intelligence and skill, has so prevailed, that, in the very nature
of things, the officials not directly responsible for the condition of the track
were slow to grasp the idea that track should be studied as thoroughly as
other engineering structures. The simplicity of the track structure is the de-
ceptive element in questions relating to maintenance economy, for ideas con-
cerning the stability of track are too fequently confined merely to the
question of approved qualities of rails, ties and ballast. The fact that the
track structure lies upon the surface, exposed to the extreme action of the
natural elements, is a very important consideration in track engineering.

One of the most expedient resources available for moving people out of
a rut is to make them feel the disadvantages of their position from a finan-
cial point of view.. Opportunities for applying this principle to railroad
track are easy to find. For the sake of illustration, let us for a moment
contrast the track with some other engineering structure in use on rail-
roads ga y an iron or steel bridge. Now the average bridge is considered a
costly structure, and much care is taken with every detail which goes into
its make-up. The foundation upon which it rests is usually built to stand ;
all materials going into it are of the most substantial quality; all the pieces
goinc 1 into the superstructure are not only carefully made and inspected
but are carefully handled when being put together; connections or joints
between pieces are made stronger than the pieces themselves; every piece
in the whole system is carefully adjusted to its place, so as to bear its proper
stress, and that before any load is allowed to come upon the bridge. The
structure is supposed to be kept well painted; it is watched and inspected
frequently ; and should there be found deflections much exceeding those cal-


culated upon, or any behavior tending to show the least weakness, the whole
thing is counted a failure. * Such is engineering, and such is what makes
weak' railroad bridges scarce and bridge accidents of seldom occurrence.
All the care exercised costs, but everybody knows that it is money saved
and that it is good economy. As for the track, who does not know that ten
miles of average track costs more than the average bridge of several hun-
dred feet length, foundation and all? Yet who does not know that when
put together the work has too frequently been done with a rush and that
reckless work due to this cause has been too frequently overlooked? In
liow many instances has one not seen the work improperly finished, as,
for instance, when ditching and such necessary work was Mt~to be com-
pleted at a time when its cost must necessarily amount to much more than
what it would have been in the first place ? How many have been the cases
where costly materials are worn out or rendered useless 'through lack of
attention, or through ignorant supervision, long before they should be?
Now all this costs money and it is known to be false economy, yet it has not
been so generally conceded as have like mistakes in some other lines of
engineering. What then is needed? I maintain that the same strict and
intelligent engineering is needed that is usually applied to some other
railway affairs.

It is popularly supposed by some trackmen that the term "engineering"
relates to matters in which they are not concerned ; while on the other
hand, to some railroad surveyor or draftsman the employment of the word
in connection with trackmen's work is to disparage his occupation and its
relative importance to the occupation of a trackman. Where such is the
presumption both, parties have a mistaken conception of the word engineer-
ing. I consider that there are many roadmasters and section foremen who
have more to do with track engineering than some men commonly known
as civil engineers, yet whose experience has been nothing more than survey-
ing or drafting, no matter how extended their experience ftthin such limits
may have been. Eeally, surveying and mathematical calculations cut but a
small figure in track maintenance. It is true that in some respects track
location can be fairly well learned from books, drawings and office work,
but how to build and maintain track to best meet diverse conditions cannot
be learned between covers or in an office. The experience necessary to
teach such knowledge must be had by actual contact with the work. Ac-
cording to some men's ideas track engineering is largely a matter of sur-
veying and the ability to select good materials, but in the following pages
it is attempted to show that it also requires intelligent manipulation and
an adjustment of parts involving no mean order of skilled labor.

There can be no question but that some prestige is lost to the engineer-
ing profession from the fact that so many men who have a general knowl-
edge of engineering principles attempt to make their applications too
specific, without having acquired that view of things which comes only by
patient and earnest devotion to the partiuclar line of duty, with some
responsibility therein ; and so it is with track engineering. There are men

Online LibraryWalter Mason CampNotes on track; construction and maintenance → online text (page 1 of 172)