For years the method employed by railroads to keep a section of railroad maintained was to station a group of employees, literally known as section hands. Their responsibilities and duties along the area in question (usually 10 miles or so) included anything that needed to be done (such as making sure any worn railroad ties were replaced, ditches were doing their job, and that there were no broken or misaligned rails causing a potential derailment). Today, the largest, newest and most impressive types of MOW equipment will almost always be found on the large Class I railroads which includes BNSF Railway, Canadian National Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway, CSX Transportation, Kansas City Southern Railway, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific.
However, smaller railroads also feature a small arsenal of machines and today nearly all railroads will contract out some MOW work. Interestingly, in the case of the R.J. Corman Railroad Group, the company began as a small, single-man operation in 1973 providing maintenance work for any railroad which would hire him. Mr. Corman eventually built his empire into a massive operation that today includes short lines, dinner trains, equipment rentals, signal systems, and of course MOW services. Some of the most important equipment the industry uses in today's high-tech world is the defect detection cars, which can do things no human can.
Using ultrasonic and induction testing methods companies such as Sperry Rail Service are contracted by railroads to find the tiniest of cracks within the rail itself to prevent potential disasters and derailments. And, general maintenance itself is many times also contracted out by railroads to other companies today. In this section we will explore and highlight the many different types of equipment in use today, which as mentioned above include machines like ballast cleaners, undercutters, tampers, and rail grinders. For more information about these devices, and others, please visit the appropriate links above.
As railroad's progress into the future differing components of the infrastructure they use today will almost certainly become historical footnotes, which of course will also include the equipment used to maintain them. This infrastructure generally refers to the components that line or make up the right-of-way such as ballast, ties, track, bridges, tunnels, yards, lineside structures (signs, mileposts, switches, etc.), and even signaling systems (if the line is signaled). To learn more about the important infrastructure which railroad maintenance handles please click here.
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