Question Time

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Jim Krause, Jan 4, 2007.

  1. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

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    I'm doing some scenery details around my engine house and along the logging right-of-way. Specifically some rusty rail in a pile and individual pieces dumped on the edge of the track. How long would a section of 56 pound rail be? Jim Krause
  2. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

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    It seems to me that I've read of "standard" rail lengths being 33' and 39', probably at different times. The weight referred to is for 1 yard of rail.

    I also recall reading about a track gang, way back when, having to cut a rail to length. What they did was to "score" the rail at the place it was to be cut, using a cold chisel and a ball peen hammer, making a mark all around the circumference of the rail. Then, using a sledge hammer, one of the workers smacked the end face of the piece to be cut off, causing it to break away cleanly at the score.

    Wayne
  3. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

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    Thanks Wayne. Sounds good to me. I remember seeing pictures of rail loaded on flat cars and they appeared to be slightly shorter than the car, which I assume would have been a 34 footer. Thats an interesting note that you added. Railroading is full of that kind of little known facts. I think I'll just use my rail nippers and a file; however.
  4. Glen Haasdyk

    Glen Haasdyk Active Member

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    Most rail would be up off the ground on some ties or other blocking I would imagine. Steel rail would be recyled or kept so workmen would be able to get at it later.
  5. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

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    Like thus, perhaps?
    [​IMG]

    or this?
    [​IMG]

    Wayne
  6. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

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    Jim: I think that new rail or rail intended for re-use would be stacked neatly off the ground like dctorwayne's first photo. Rail that was not re-usable would probably be left off the side of the roadbed. Whether they are collected quickly or left to accumulate may depend on the personality of the neighbourhood.
    Sites with unusual trackwork -- crossings and such -- may have spare frogs left as well. I'm never sure if these are worn frogs or new frogs, but I think they're in case of accident. (Plain rail is easy to get, but a 64 degree crossing...)
  7. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

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    Good point about the crossings, David. In my second photo, the rail has been dumped, on timbers, near the shops. Eventually, a crew will sort through it, send the short pieces for scrap or non-track re-use, and clean up the defects in the rest. It'll be distributed along the line, to be stored, as in the first photo, until needed.

    Wayne
  8. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

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    Wayne: Yep, like the 2nd picture. My maintenance staff doesn't have time for that neatness thing. Also, those logging railroads didn't sell anything that they could use over until the operation was scrapped. Thanks for the response everybody.
  9. Glen Haasdyk

    Glen Haasdyk Active Member

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    Nice stack with the first photo. I've got a pile like that on my layout as well beside the enginehouse
  10. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

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    If I have short pieces of rail leftover from track laying, I paint them and use them as scenery. Similarily, when I was building bridges, I had a bunch of Atlas through girder and deck truss bridges that came with brass track. I stripped the rail out, cut it to length, then used it to make more of these piles. I also had some N scale rail that I was using to practise building turnouts: cut to length and weathered, it also makes good "scenery" as a supply of rail for sidings.

    Wayne
  11. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

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    At last, a practical use for brass and steel track.

    Philosophical question: if you were making a pile of frogs, would you use the same ones as your regular track, or get some scale ones that would really show up how coarse the track standards are?
  12. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

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    For me, that's a real dangerous one. Proto87 is already very appealing to me, and the availability of Sergent couplers makes it even moreso. A scale detail injected into a bunch of overscale details could tip the "scale", so to speak. I don't have the time or the money to convert a fleet of cars and locos to Proto87 standards, let alone trackwork. I think I'd stick with the oversize details, at least for the time being.
    This scene, in spite of the oversize details and prototypically incorrect trucks, serves its purpose as a point of interest on the layout, and most viewers have been kind enough not to point out the flaws.:rolleyes: :thumb:
    [​IMG]

    Wayne
  13. kitsune

    kitsune Member

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    56' rail is awful light, and would probably have been rolled in the 1870s or 1880s. A more likely length of the time would be 30'.

    Rail will be piled haphazardly even when intended for re-use. A better indicator is if it's a single stick laying randomly, or a pile. Piles tend to be re-use rail, individual stiucks more or less forgotten scrap.
  14. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

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    Your post is a little confusing to me. Are you referring to length or weight of rail? I concur, 56# is a pretty appropriate rail size for the 1880s. And the length might be about 30ft.

    Very little of anything was left piled haphazardly, especially in the 19th century. Unlike now, labor was far less valuable than the specialty materials used to build railroads. The Central Pacific had their rail shipped from England when they weren't forced by Congress to buy US-made rail in the 1860s and 1870s because of the difference in quality of steel from various mills. Until the transcontinental was completed in 1869, even the U.S-made rail had to be transported to an East Coast port from the steel mill, shipped around Cape Horn to San Francisco, transferred to inland ships which took the rail to Sacramento, and then the CP had to deliver it to where it was needed. The labor to stack the rail was peanuts in comparison, and made record-keeping and inventory doable tasks.

    Scrap rail was probably taken to dumps along the right of way so nobody would be tempted to re-use it. But it would have to be in very poor shape to scrap. Most rail removed was sold second-hand to local short lines and industrial and logging railroads if condition was at all useable. Another likely alternative would be to take the damaged rail to a steel mill or foundry (if not too far) to melt back into raw materials. Again, materials were expensive; labor was cheap. As a result, 19th century business practices were very different from today.

    my thoughts
  15. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

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    Used rail also went back to the mills for rerolling. I'm not positive about the procedure, but it would have to be reheated: ingot steel is usually rolled at temperatures above 2300 degrees Fahrenheit, but rail, because of the smaller cross-section, might be done at a lower temperature. The heating would also remove stresses in the structure of the steel and rolling would re-form the proper contours.

    Wayne
  16. mcbane666

    mcbane666 Member

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    what are you guys useing to weather your old rails and wheels?
    I don't have the time to model acidic rain:rolleyes:
  17. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

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    I have used Hobby Black on some of my scrap rails, but it's cheaper and faster using paint. I use Floquil, just a mix of boxcar red, brown, black, orange, or whatever looks good, and applied with a brush. After the paint is dry, I use ca to glue them to timbers made from strip styrene, distressed with a razor saw, then painted with black Polly Scale paint, and followed by a streaking with brown, to make them look like old ties.

    Wayne
  18. kitsune

    kitsune Member

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    I was referring to length, not weight. Older rail was not only lighter, it was also generally shorter. Stick lengths of 39' are generally a 20th century length -- rail length was determined by the average length of railcars capable of carrying it, and 40' gons or flats were uncommon prior to 1900.

    When in doubt, consult the most similar prototype railroad to what you're modeling.

    As for stacking and manpower, sure, if you're a manpower heavy railroad in good stead. If on the otehrhand you're a scrappy narrow-gauge that overbuilt and defaulted on it's rail bill, stacking your rail neatly is the least of your concerns. (Keeping ahead of the rot on your untreated hewn ties would be consuming most of the labor.) So again, it varies based on your prototype / inspiration.
  19. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

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    Logging railroads were notorius for using rail over and over on their temporary spurs. I was doing some reading on a Heisler website the other night and the factory spec's for one of their 75 ton loco's was a minimum of 56 lb. rail. Of course they had some frequent derailments due to bad trackwork. A lot of operations didn't use tie plates, just spikes. The big operations in the 30's and 40's had some substantial track work.