Working on the Railroad, 4/25/03

The Union Pacific decided to rebuild the railroad that runs through Santa Cruz. Late last year Santa Cruz County became the train wreck capitol of the U.S. when we had three derailments in less than three months.

When work on the railroad started, I was expecting to see thousands of Chinamen with coolie hats and pick axes jabbering in Chinese and swinging away to replace things. Instead of Chinamen, Union Pacific used machines. Not as interesting as Chinese coolies, but a bit unusual in it's own right.

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There are all kinds of small wierd machines that run on the tracks. Note the bundles of railroad ties piled along the tracks. One of the first machines did nothing but break open the bundles and position ties for the machines that followed. The machine in the fourth picture yanks out railroad spikes.

They leave the rails in place, but remove the spikes and old ties. The machines in the next panel reach over, grab a new railroad tie and shove it underneath the rails. Note the closeup. The final machine drives in new spikes.

The cleanup truck has to be the damnedest machine I've seen in a while. It's a semi truck, on railroad wheels, with both a fifth wheel and a coupler, and a sleeper cab. It tows a flat car with a small crane that picks up the old ties to get hauled away. Efficient, but Chinamen would have been more fun to watch.

One final machine that's awesome! It's called a "tamper". It's one huge self-driven car. In the first picture you see the whole thing. In the 2nd picture where I highlighted an area, the tamper actually lifts the track it's sitting on up by 3-6 inches. Hard to believe, but it does it. On the final two you see mechanical claws that tamp ballast (the railroad gravel) underneath the lifted-up cross-ties. Again, no Chinamen.


Finally, the boats. After a hard day watching them build the new railroad, I noticed that all the sailboats were out. Nothing to do with the railroad, but how can you go wrong with sailboat pictures?