Friday, August 27, 2010

Rail Changeout Unit: New rail for Old

Tamper/Canron's Rail Changeout Unit was a $2 million, 221-foot long, 170-ton beast used to replace jointed rail with welded rail in the early 1980's. Based on the P-811 concrete tie replacement machine, CN operated 505-51 and one other RCO, while CP had RCU 5001-01. The RCO and accompanying track machines were spotted for the weekend at Kings, Mi 162 Kingston Sub in April, 1985. The first section power car rides on the old jointed rail (above), and the second cantilevered section support six work stations suspended above the ties. The unspiked jointed rail is moved aside for the tieplate magnets pickup rollers , spike hole plugger, and sweeper:

The welded rail is threaded in after the adzers prepare new tie surfaces and creosote is sprayed onto the new surface:

The plate dropper deposits new tie plates via lower conveyer from one of the supply gondolas, which also receive the old tie plates via upper conveyors:

The third section rolls on the new welded rail, which is lightly spiked to hold the gauge:

The upper and lower conveyors handle tieplates from the orange, formerly brown supply gondolas following the RCO. Track machines work ahead and behind, including Speed Swings, spike pullers, rail heater, spikers and speeders in the years before hi-rail trucks.

On May 4, the RCO is being pulled east through Queens at Mi 175 after a day's work, by 1329 and caboose, along with its flat car for supplies, former baggage car now workshop 70783, and conveyor-equipped gondolas such as 90576 and 90625:

Once tucked away in the former Hanley spur, just off the mainline, a crane operator will go to work removing old tie plates and dropping into other waiting gondola cars. The RCO train also included 4 to 6 more gons, another caboose and two tank cars of fuel.

On a drizzly day in May, the RCO is working near Mi 179, pushing a flatcar ahead of it upon which four sectionmen throw spikes after they've been pulled. 1329 and caboose 'shadow' the RCO at far right:
A foreman talks on the radio while he monitors the tie preparation, threading out of the old rail and threading in of the new rail:

Working at 1500 to 2000 feet per hour, the RCO's crew of 100 could replace up to three miles of rail a day, surely one of the biggest production gangs of its day. Now that wholesale installation of welded rail is complete, short lengths of welded rail are replaced by regional steel gangs as needed. At least one of the CN power units is operating independently as propulsion for CN's TEST train.

Here's a link to a nice selection of RCO photos from CN's Halton Sub in 1982.

Running extra...

A round trip to Toronto one week ago aboard VIA train 651 (the coffee was hot) and train 48 (the Sleeman cold and the pretzels fresh). Scooped a westbound CP freight at Brighton with pure SD40-2 power consist: 5765-5773 Dual Flags scheme-6020. Gondola THB 2674 tagged along with numerous CP gons in the train.

Schnabel car CEBX 800 finally departed Toronto for Kansas with a gigantic Hooper Welding load aboard CN train 915 Eng 5528. Walter Pfefferle posted some excellent stills of the consist here, and Crazeejay posted a video of the train in sumacs at Strathroy here. Schnabel, loosely translated from German to English is "frickin' humongous".

Make sure to visit my brother's new Tumblr site Selling Canada (see link in sidebar) for Canadian history you never knew. Jack Granatstein asked Who Killed Canadian History? in his 1998 book title. Well, Dave is definitely applying the paddles and attempting to resuscitate it.


Zartok-35 said...

They don't just run the RCO power unit on the Test train, but in all manor of Maintanance applications, apparently.

Nice post! Very large interesting machines. Do you plan on mentioning the P-811 sometime in the future?

Still waiting for the prize package.

Eric said...

Hi Elijah, it looks like the former RCO power unit isn't designated as a locomotive, basically it becomes a large Roadrailer that CN can use without an engineer.

I will be mentioning the P-811, although I didn't have as much exposure to it.

I'm also working on a post about CWR's initial installation on the Kingston Sub in 1980, for posting to coincide with the release of a certain model railway track product from a certain Canadian manufacturer when this product is released.

Rest assured that Canada Post is winging the Trackside Treasure prize package on its way to you.

Dr Sandy McColl said...

Brings back memories
I worked underneath loading tie plates onto the conveyor for one summer in Northern Ontario before heading off to school. That was about 1982. I have tried to tell people here in Australia about the RCO unit - now I've got pictures - Thanks

Eric said...

Hi Sandy,

Thanks for sharing your experiences with the RCO. I'm happy to be able to help you tell others about this unique piece of equipment, which many have never encountered.

anthony rose said...

I hear that the RCO might be back in ontario again this year,Hi to a former RCO worker >Dr Sandy McColl.

Eric said...

That would be cool to see, Anthony. In recent years, CN has been using small steel gangs to replace rails on curves and other heavy wear sections.

Jason said...

Hi Eric,

I took a few photos of 505-51 in Hope a couple weeks ago. If you're interested in seeing what it looks like today:

Eric said...

Wow, what a change, Jason. Demoted to a MoW transporter, the RCO power unit has not had an easy life. Also, it's a long way from the Kingston Sub.

Thank you very much for sharing this photo and for your comment!


Anonymous said...

Dr. Sandy McColl,

There have been 3 P-811's working in Australia since the early 1980's,Roberts Construction imported the original Valdeterra machine for Westrail's No. 8 Contract and Hammersley Iron's and Queensland Rail's were built in Melbourne and Brisbane respectively. QR's is the only one in regular service today. No RCO's though, not enough rail change out to warrant the beast.

DKH Harsco Rail.

Eric said...

Yes, the RCO did a lot of work in a short time here. Now, sections of rail are dropped and replaced by a region steel gang, i.e. on curves, periodically. Australia certainly has equally large distances to cover with trackage, and some very heavy trains, too.

Thanks DKH for your comment.

Anonymous said...

I worked on the P811 in the early 80s replaced rail and ties in ares near Boston Bar, Albreda, in the shadow of Mt Robson etc., all in BC. The head foreman was a Metis man from Winnipeg named Louis Lauzon. All my pics are in Kodakchrome slides and I have not yet transferred them to computer. Some great scenery and memorable times.

Al Hogg

Eric said...

Great to hear from you, Al. What a scenic backdrop for a workplace! These machines were certainly busy during those busy track renewal years, and cool to watch as well as the support trains required.

Thanks for your comments,

Anonymous said...

I was just watching a railroad stint on daily planet and it brought back incredible memories. Nice to see this blog. I was involved with the chemical plugging of the spike holes, right behind the plate pick-up and in front of the cribber. I spent 2 wonderfull summers on the CP for a total of 12 months with some incredible guys (mostly newfies)from '81-83 running from Quebec to Banff. Living, eating, breathing the tracks. An incredible life experience as a 20yr old!

Plugger Pete

Eric said...

Great to hear from you, Pete. If you read the other comments on any of my RCO/P811 posts, you'll find some other RCO'ers have commented too.

There must not be too much on the 'net about the RCO, because this post has attracted a fair bit of attention.

The eighties were big years for CN and CP's track programs. Stay tuned for more MoW posts here on Trackside Treasure.

Thanks for your comments,

Anonymous said...

I worked on an R.C.O. Gang with Canadian Pacific Railroad , from late September 1980 , until mid 1987 . Laid ribbon rail from Toronto - Montreal .. Worked westward , laying rain in various spots including through Banff National Park .

Eric said...

Great to hear from you, A. I was unable to ever see the CP Rail RCO at work. Sounds like it was a memorable experience for you and thanks very much for your comment,

Unknown said...

Hope you had as good a memory as I have. Maintenance supervisor. Name is John OC. Jack was gang supervisor. Out of Hamilton TH&B roundhouse.

googleblog said...

Had the pleasure of working right inside the RCO machine at the plate drop for CPRail at 19yo. Both sides mask was a must. All operators 7or8 where from Newfoundland and a gang of 120 men was mostly Newfoundlanders. Oh joy lol. The young men in the tie plate car loading the plates were black from the dust at the end of the day. And our days out in Red Deer alberta were 16hrs long supper served at site and did a record 4.5 umm forgot if miles or kms in 1983. I am proud of being part of that team in my life.

Eric said...

Good to hear from you, Richard. Probably miles in those days! I haven't made it to Newfoundland and Labrador yet, but hope to. The folks there are unique in all of Canada.

Thanks very much for your comment,