If needed a third person is employed to make sure the tie inserter always has plenty of spikes. The simple reality is that these machines save railroads thousands of maintenance hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs each year thanks to their efficient work. No longer does the industry have to employ an army of workers to maintain its right-of-way. Being self-propelled, railroad tie inserters can clip along
at a quick pace with a top speed of nearly 30 mph (although when
inserting spikes the machine goes much slower, around 10 mph),
completing a long stretch of main line in a day's time. Today's models also are heavily computer-controlled and usually feature push-button or joystick controls. If you would like to learn more about railroad spike inserters please click here to visit Harsco Rail's website. There you can get an idea of what the machines look like and their exact specifications as well as learn about related equipment such as tie cranes, exchangers, undercutters, blowers, and a wide range of other equipment.
Its name being rather straightforward in describing what it does,
railroad spike pullers have been around for several decades now and
greatly ease the task of removing spikes
during maintenance projects (whether it be to replace ties, rails, or
both). That is, of course, unless you are the one operating the machine
as the work is hot in the summer, cold in the winter, noisy, and gives
one a good jolt when pulling spikes. Spike pullers
have a rather unique, unconventional look but are usually easily
recognizable by the fact that they have a low profile, open air design
and usually only carry one operator. The machine is similar to the
inserter except, as the name implies it removes spikes and does so much
more quickly than via manual labor. Today, the major builder of
inserters and related equipment is Harsco Rail.
Spike pullers almost always work as some kind of mechanized
gang, usually as part of a tie gang (which today normally consists of an
army of machines, not men). Today's tie gangs includes such machines
as spike or rail anchor pullers (which pull the spikes/anchors clear of
the tie), tie cranes (which remove the railroad ties once they are free
of the rails), tie extractors/inserters (different from a tie crane
these machines work vertically to remove or replace the railroad tie
from underneath the rail), and spike inserters (as you might have
guessed these machines use hydraulics to quickly drive spikes down in
the tie plate and tie itself). If very heavy work is being done other large equipment will be used
as a mechanized tie relaying machine and/or even a rail train if new
rail is to be laid. As it is, tie gangs may look like machines simply
heading off to work in an elephant line.
However, they are actually
very coordinated work details with each machine and accompanying
operator assigned a very specific task to get the work done as quickly
as possible. The reason for speed and hastiness in finishing a maintenance job
is simply, to keep the trains and goods moving. Delays are quite
costly and avoided at all costs because if the freight isn't delivered
the railroad's don't get paid! Spike pullers, like virtually all mechanized railroad
maintenance equipment used today, use hydraulics to get the job done.
The machine itself is usually ten to twenty feet in length (although
some models are very small) and in most cases uses one operator although
newer models being built today feature two operators, which allow for
the job to be done faster by spikes being pulled from each rail
simultaneously. Most railroad spike pullers built today feature a dull-head,
hydraulic "jaw," which uses hydraulics to pull the spike
from each side of the rail simultaneously.
These hydraulic jaws usually lie just behind or very near the cab of the operator so he or she can be right near the equipment to perform the work as efficiently as possible. Older spike puller models required the operator to manually position the equipment over the rail and spike and properly align it to remove the latter. Today's models are computer guided to greatly improve alignment, allowing the operator to move much more efficiently, and in affect gets the job done much faster. Time is money, and that phrase rings ever so true in the railroad industry. When part of work detail you will usually see railroad spike pullers work in tandem, whereby the lead unit pulls spikes from one rail while another trails and removes spikes from the other. However, as mentioned above with newer "dual" units which pull spikes from rails simultaneously and use two operators, these are becoming more widespread.
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