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Pitts2112
2nd Jun 2012, 20:11
I was hiking in the Mount Washington area of New Hampshire a couple of months ago and came upon a nearly-abandoned section of railroad track. There was a small wooden bridge with this formation of rails laid inside the guage. What is its purpose? I'm guessing it is to spread the load from the bridge back to the solid ground, but I'm sure someone here is truly clued up on this stuff to say for sure.

http://i193.photobucket.com/albums/z250/Pitts2112/IMG_0387.jpg

To say thanks for the terrific answers I know are going to come, here are a couple of scenic pictures from the site:

Originally the Portland & Ogdensburg Railroad, through a succession of operators, including the Maine Central Railroad, now the Conway Scenic Railway.

Portland and Ogdensburg Railway - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portland_and_Ogdensburg_Railroad)

http://i193.photobucket.com/albums/z250/Pitts2112/IMG_0381.jpg

http://i193.photobucket.com/albums/z250/Pitts2112/IMG_0376.jpg

AvroLincoln
2nd Jun 2012, 20:31
Not that I know the answer myself, but I would say that you might be on the right track there!
I'll get my coat . . .

sitigeltfel
2nd Jun 2012, 20:33
spread the load from the bridge back to the solid groundThat gets my vote. Possibly a bit of "insurance" if the bridge becomes unstable while a train is crossing.

Milo Minderbinder
2nd Jun 2012, 20:36
In the UK you sometimes see pairs of rails dropped into the centre of the track on bridges in a similar way, though I've never seen them tapered at the ends, or welded together like that

My understanding (possibly in error) was that they were there to try and damp down any vibration, partly because its impossible to ballast a track over a bridge as well as on the normal track formation. You simply can't add the same depth of stone. Considering that bridge you show looks like a wooden construction - or at least it has a wooden trackbed - theres not much anchoring the track into place. No stone ballast at all. My guess is the extra weight of the rail is there to partly overcome that absence

As for the tapered design, I'd guess thats designed to deflect any dangling couplings or hoses to one side, to stop them knocking on the rail

Also significant could be the fact the rails are secured to the sleepers by plates and spikes: no chairs. bolts or clips. That gives a rail thats very likely to "spring" from its foundation as effectively its only held down by nails with little resistance. In the UK that would also mean the track was ancient - I don't know about American timelines though.

Pitts2112
2nd Jun 2012, 21:10
That track is pretty old. According to the Wikipedia link in the OP, that section, going through Crawford Notch, was laid in the 1880s and it's my guess that not much has ever been done to it other than routine maintenance.

Just behind where those pictures were taken was a large pile of spare ties (sleepers, to our UK audience), some of which were pretty well rotted. I did wonder how long those had been there; if they were left over from the original construction or dropped off later as maintenance stock.


http://i193.photobucket.com/albums/z250/Pitts2112/IMG_0386.jpg

A closeup of the fastening hardware. It's interesting to see the dings on the steel from what I'm guessing were mis-strikes of the hammers during installation.

http://i193.photobucket.com/albums/z250/Pitts2112/IMG_0383.jpg

Milo Minderbinder
2nd Jun 2012, 21:26
Yikes
that looks like there is nothing stopping vertical movement of the rail at all!
I though the spikes were butting down onto the rail, but that last shot shows they're not! All thats holding the rail down is gravity, and sideways movement is only restricted by the slight lips on those rail plates (I' loathe to call them chairs but they may just qualify...)
The vertical flexion in the rails themselves must be horrendous

Queer thing is that ballast looks relatively clean - no weeds, no oil trail so it looks like thats had recent work
I guess looks can be deceptive though

flying lid
2nd Jun 2012, 21:32
The rails are called guard rails.

In railroad (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railroad) use, guard rails are placed parallel to regular running rail along areas of restrictive clearance, such as a bridge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridge), trestle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trestle), or tunnel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunnel). These have the effect of keeping the wheels of rolling stock (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolling_stock) in alignment in case of derailment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derailment). It also helps to minimize damage to the structure and allow easier post-accident cleanup

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guard_rails_(railroad)

Lid

DX Wombat
2nd Jun 2012, 21:33
Pitts, I have just posted a link on TRAB asking TBF if he can help. How is your little one doing these days?

tony draper
2nd Jun 2012, 21:38
That thought struck me also Mr Lid,if the front bogey came off the track either side that arrangement would tend to turn the wheels back inwards toward the rails.
:)

Pitts2112
2nd Jun 2012, 21:42
Thanks, FL! I knew we'd get there.

As for the spikes, in most of the ones I saw, they were holding the rail down with the extended side of the head. The photo above is an exception.

Pitts2112
2nd Jun 2012, 21:44
Thanks, DX. It'll be interesting to see what info or other examples they come up with.

Littl'un's doing great, thank you. I was just looking at some pics of her from last year, in fact. She's as bright as a button and twice as cute! :)

Milo Minderbinder
2nd Jun 2012, 21:49
You may be right about the guard rails, but I'm not so sure. In the UK a guard rail would be much closer to the running rail - giving almost no clearance for the wheel backs. These look too far away to do that, and don't seem long enough - you'd expect them to be in place well before the bridge is reached

Of course USA and UK experience could be completely different

RedhillPhil
2nd Jun 2012, 22:23
They're definately guard rails. Other people have summised correctly that they're there to keep a derailed train on the straight and narrow.

Lon More
2nd Jun 2012, 22:46
As Lid and others said, guard rails.

When I laid our garden out back in 1980, I used some sleepers to border part of it. They weren't rotten and had tie nails dated 1880 hammered into them

Fox3WheresMyBanana
2nd Jun 2012, 22:55
The reference below should lead you to an article from 1888 where the guardrails actually did save a bridge.

Engineering news-record - Google Books (http://books.google.ca/books?id=PMxBAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA339&lpg=PA339&dq=guard+rails+derailment+bridges&source=bl&ots=mEtiy9Ortx&sig=afcFBm2vW0h5V0gAHOqfMPQ4KmE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=GYvKT5vVMufs0gGHnLymAQ&ved=0CFkQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=guard%20rails%20derailment%20bridges&f=false)

n5296s
2nd Jun 2012, 23:12
In the UK a guard rail would be much closer to the running rail - giving almost no clearance for the wheel backs
Those are *check rails*, not the same thing at all. Their job is to guide the wheels by the back of the flange where they have a choice about which way to go, such as (and mainly) the crossing vee at points (/switch).

The guard rail is a much cruder thing, designed to pull back into more-or-less alignment a derailed axle or bogie.

Pitts2112
2nd Jun 2012, 23:23
Which begs the question: just how effective at righting a derailing car would these things be? Especially on a flexible bridge?

radeng
3rd Jun 2012, 06:32
Spiking flat bottomed rail without any base plates is common practice in much of the world, although not in the UK. The idea of flat borromed rail came from Charles Vignoles in the 1840s, but was not widely adopted in the UK until the 1950s.

At one time, the world's largest manufacturer of spikes was a company called 'Elasteel' and they made them in Worksop, Notts.

RedhillPhil
3rd Jun 2012, 11:25
Which begs the question: just how effective at righting a derailing car would these things be? Especially on a flexible bridge?

The idea is not to "right" a derailed vehicle, simply to keep it in a straight (more or less) line on a bridge or viaduct. Re-railing a vehicle is enough fun with having to recover it from the street/river/field below.

RedhillPhil
3rd Jun 2012, 11:27
Spiking flat bottomed rail without any base plates is common practice in much of the world, although not in the UK. The idea of flat borromed rail came from Charles Vignoles in the 1840s, but was not widely adopted in the UK until the 1950s.

At one time, the world's largest manufacturer of spikes was a company called 'Elasteel' and they made them in Worksop, Notts.

Didn't they go on to make Pandrol clips too? Were they in Sandy Lane?

MadsDad
3rd Jun 2012, 15:30
RHP, remember Pandrol having offices in Gateford Road (not too far from Worksop Station as I recall - had to go there once on an errand). Don't know if they were Elasteel prior to that though.

OFSO
4th Jun 2012, 16:48
Whether guard or check rails, they are to ensure that a wagon arriving at the bridge after a derailment will have its wheels at best steered back onto the main rails and at worst kept from going over the side of the bridge. A bit "belt-and-bracers" but not unusual.

Pitts2112
5th Jun 2012, 02:35
Thanks, folks. I think I get the idea, and it's one that I'd have never guessed.

Mystery solved!! :)

radeng
5th Jun 2012, 16:01
I don't know if Elasteel became Pandrol - quite possibly. I left Worksop in 1964 and haven't been back since mother died in 1988. Can't say as I miss it, especially after what I hear it's like now.

reynoldsno1
6th Jun 2012, 02:25
When I laid our garden out back in 1980, I used some sleepers to border part of it

My back yard is terraced and all the steps are made with old sleepers - virtually rot proof, and so hard you have to drill holes for the nails ....

handsfree
6th Jun 2012, 07:15
Pandrol have made 1,4320 million rail clips over the years according to their website.