In the rail industry maintenance is a key component to ensure a safe and efficient track for both freight and passenger trains. Rail is susceptible to wear and tear because of the heavy weights and high speeds the cars may reach. Without proper maintenance you may find your line being given a “Slow Order” in order to minimize the risk of injury, which directly affects the amount of freight or passengers you can put through in a given time interval.
During the primitive days of the railroad industry, what they knew as track maintenance would be done with a simple lining bar and various types of gauges resulting in often uneven, unsafe rail lines. In the early 1800’s as the rail industry was evolving, George Stephenson created the “Stephenson Gauge”, a standardized way of gauging the rail which came out to 4’ 8-1/2”. The Stephenson Gauge eventually made its way to the United States where it was embraced and is still being used worldwide to this day. During these times however, large armies of workers were needed to do the work. They had to physically change any rails that might have been broken or damaged, ties that were crushed or that have rotted away, lay out the ballast when they could afford it, or lay out broken coal if they couldn’t. Now a days, thanks to the exponential growth of technology, we are able to do a lot of these jobs without the hundreds of previous workers and we can do the work more precisely and more effectively.
These days, much fewer workers are needed to complete the job that took hundreds. however, thanks to innovations in the rail industry with machines like tampers, tie-changers, and spikers/spike pullers, rolling gauge , geometry trolley ,digital track gauge etcetera, we are able to complete these tasks in much less time and with much more safety. By using ultrasonic Hi-Rail machines, we can even see fractures within the rail that someone wouldn’t be able to see by just visually inspecting.
If rail maintenance isn’t done regularly, these small fractures within the rail can grow into more serious damage with more force and speed being pulled over it in which could potentially result with the train derailing.