History : Oct-Nov 2015
86 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2015 aying track followed a standardized method adapted to any particular challenges faced. The American-made wrought iron rails were usually 28 feet long and weighed 56 pounds per yard. They were bolted together with fishplates, which allowed for expansion and contraction as temperatures changed. Track was laid on wooden crossties—up to 2,640 per mile. On the Union Pacific the available timber was poor quality, so it had to be treated and better hardwood brought in for the end and center ties of each rail length. Once the route was surveyed and marked out, “grad- ers” moved in with picks, shovels, and horse-drawn scrap- ers to prepare the ground, creating a gradient, or slope, that would ensure that trains could climb and descend at safe, steady rates. Where necessary, newly invented nitro- glycerin explosives were used to blast through rocks, and timber bridges were built over streams, rivers, and canyons. Tracklaying was a spectacular sight, excitedly reported by correspondents at the time. A car loaded with rails was moved to the very end of the new track, where a dozen men lifted each of the rails and laid them parallel on the embed- ded ties. “Gaugers” adjusted the width between them, and spikes were dropped along their lengths, tapped gently into the ties before being driven home by three powerful strokes of a sledgehammer. Finally, “bolters” attached the fishplates. Then the whole process repeated, moving for- ward at walking pace. ONCE I BUILT A RAILROAD THE TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILWAY BEING BUILT CIRCA 1869. THIS PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS THE PROCESS OF GRADING THE TRACK BED UP ONE OF THE MANY SLOPES ENGINEERS HAD TO OVERCOME.
Dec 2015-Jan 2016