Of course, while crushed stone (often limestone or quartz) is the aggregate
of choice for today's railroads in years past everything from slag to
cinders has been used (always resourceful years ago railroads would use
whatever they could find). Some light density branch lines would appear
jet black as nothing but burnt coal cinders were used to ballast the route. The Jordan became a fixture of railroad maintenance because of its simplicity, flexibility, and ruggedness. The machine would eventually come in four different models the Standard discontinued in the 1960s, Roadmaster, Type A Jordan, and Type J Jordan.
Starting in the 1950s the Jordan would become equipped hydraulics
giving it extra strength and versatility. However, it's one inherent
setback was that it was never powered, requiring it to always be pushed
by a trailing locomotive.
This, of course, demanded constant communication between engineer
and operator although the fact that it was never powered would
eventually lead to its downfall. In the 1964 the O.F. Jordan Company
would be purchased by Jackson Vibrators, which is today part of the
Harsco Rail, a leading railroad maintenance company. Today, the Jordan Spreader still finds some uses on railroads, such as in snowplowing work but it is rarely used to dig ditches
because it is unpowered having been replaced by newer mechanized
machines available by companies such as Loram, Herzog, and Harsco.
Still, the fact that it still finds work today after nearly 100 years is
a testament to the Jordan's flexibility and redundancy.
Railroad ditch diggers are not the only machines used to keep right-of-ways properly maintained. Others include ballast cleaners, which as you might expect clean the ballast and undercutters. Once the crushed stone making up the ballast structure
has broken down too much to be effective any longer railroads must
replace it. To accomplish this task a another piece of equipment known
as an undercutter is called in. This hefty machine is somewhat similar
in appearance to a ballast cleaner. However, instead of cleaning the stone it scopes it up to be replaced.
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|It has apparently been a hard winter for Michigan as Soo Line Jordan Spreader #D816 has been hard at work judging by all of the snow. The machine and its power, GP9 #2550, roll through Houghton Yard clearing its tracks during March of 1976. The author noted that a few years later during the winter of 1978-79 this part of the state received a record 390.4 inches of snow when it normally receives only around 190 inches.|
For more reading about Jordans you may want to consider the book Railway Maintenance Equipment: The Men and Machines That Keep the Railroads Running
from noted author Brian Solomon. Throughout the book's 128 pages
Solomon covers all types of maintenance equipment from tampers and
undercutters to Jordan Spreaders and rotary snow plows.
I own this book myself and have used it as reference material for this
site many times. It's a great read on an often little understood area
of railroading. If you're interested in perhaps purchasing this book please visit the link below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com.