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Fall 2023 issue Classic Trains question

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Fall 2023 issue Classic Trains question
Posted by basementdweller on Sunday, August 27, 2023 10:29 AM

My question is regarding a photo in the Fall CT issue on page 35. The photo shows a Rock Island train on a double track and one of the tracks is covered in a white material that clearly stands out against the ballast. 
what would this material be and why is the track covered?

At first glance it looks like a dry fertilizer or plastic pellets etc but that would be a lot of spillage if not intentionally laid down. The caption for the photo makes no mention of it.

Any ideas as to what and why?

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Posted by wjstix on Monday, August 28, 2023 11:45 AM

My guess would be that it's fresh ballast that has been dumped from ballast hopper or gondola cars between the rails, but hasn't been spread out yet. I seem to recall one of the model railroad magazines recently had an article by a Rock Island modeller where he talked about how the near-bankrupt Rock of the 1970s sometimes didn't bother to clean out old ballast and replace damaged ties; instead they just put fresh ballast stones down on top of the old and hoped for the best.

Stix
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Posted by basementdweller on Monday, August 28, 2023 9:44 PM

I appreciate the reply, it's so strikingly white against the existing ballast that i thought it had to be something else.

If I modeled that it would not look right to me, lol. 

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, August 29, 2023 8:49 AM

If the track is on a grade, it's not uncommon to see drifts of traction sand build up over time.

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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, August 30, 2023 9:26 AM

The article I referenced is in the May/June 2023 Cowcatcher Magazine, it's written by Tim Blackwell about Mark Armstrong's very accurate Rock Island layout. One picture shows an area with fresh white/light gray ballast having been applied over the existing ballast.

I think in the Classic Trains picture, new ballast has been dumped between the rails, but hasn't been spread out yet. That's why it's covering the ties. Soon after they probably dumped ballast along the sides of the rail, and then spread that out. Based on some ballasting scenes I've seen on YouTube's Virtual Railfan channel, that process is fairly common - although non-bankrupt railroads would remove old ballast and replace old/worn out ties first!

Stix
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Posted by BigJim on Wednesday, August 30, 2023 7:06 PM

wjstix
although non-bankrupt railroads would remove old ballast and replace old/worn out ties first!


Not true. 
Ballast is not removed in any way. Sometimes a ballast cleaner is used to pick up the ballast on the outside of the ties in order to remove the build up of dirt that would hinder drainage, but, the machine puts it right back down after cleaning.
New ballast is laid right on top of old, no big deal!

The only time that I have ever seen ballast actually removed was when the heigth of the track needed to be lowered in order to provide clearance above the top of the rail. In that case, an undercutter is used to remove the roadbed under the track structure.

As for the phoho in question, if you look at the bottom at the outside of the near rail, you can clearly see that it is indeed ballast.

.

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, September 7, 2023 10:46 PM

Haven't seen the picture.

On the double track territories I have worked where there are grades involved - you will generally see the track ascending the grade looking white over time as engines have routinely been using sand to maintain traction as the pull their train up the grade.

Worked the Operator's position at Bakerstown on the B&O's P&W Subdivision between Pittsburgh and New Castle in 1967.  The office at Bakerstown was located about 20 car lengths from the actual crest of the grade (which was a grade on both sides of the crest).  You could hear trains grinding up the valley several minutes before they activated the announciator circuit.  When the train came into view it was lugging along with four or five EMD 567's in notch eight with sand routinely being used and covering the power in a cloud of sand dust as the train approached the office at minimun continuous speed.  When the power crested the grand and began to get cars on the down hill side, the would then rapidly accelerate as more and more tonnage would get on the downhill side of the grade.  The the cab and helper power went past the office and I would go out and line the crossovers so the helper power could head back to Glenwood Yard to tie up or get another shove.

One could easily see the differences between sanded and unsanded tracks when you crossed over the tracks on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  During the late 1970's or early 1980's the P&W went from being double track current of traffic railroad to single track CTC.

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

              

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Posted by basementdweller on Sunday, September 10, 2023 6:30 AM

Thanks for the replies, interesting.

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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, September 13, 2023 9:57 AM

BigJim
Sometimes a ballast cleaner is used to pick up the ballast on the outside of the ties in order to remove the build up of dirt that would hinder drainage, but, the machine puts it right back down after cleaning.

That was apparently what the Rock wasn't doing, clearing the drainage. According to the article, you would see fresh white-gray ballast with big brown stains several feet across where trapped water under the track turned the dirt to mud, and the up and down action of the trains crossing the joints "pumped" the mud up to the top of the ballast. 

Stix

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