Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Track Gang #2 McWilliams Multiple Tool Air Tamper

Canadian National Railways 408, Prince Rupert BC, September 1959. A massive re-ballasting of the CNR Skeena Subdivision had been going on for some time. I was sixteen years old, and we were just months away from moving back to Seattle.

What a racket these machines put out, with the revving up of the huge air compressor, and the “pffit-pffit pffit-pffit” air exhausts from the rams and vibrators.

Re-ballasting was a three-step process. First was the laying down of new ballast to rail height, spread and profiled with a Jordan Spreader. Next the track leveling gang came along, lifting and leveling the rail, as described in the previous post.

Finally, the ballast is firmly tamped between the ties with the McWilliams Multiple Tool Air Tamper.

Manufactured by Railway Maintenance Corporation of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, this machine is dominated by a large Canadian Broomwade air compressor and storage tank.

Using compressed air, two sets of tongs are driven down on each side of a tie, and vibrated for about 5 seconds. Then with a sharp report of exhausts, the tongs are lifted, and the monster moves ahead two ties, and the process repeated.

Air Tampers 408 and her sister, 409, advanced at this mind boggling snails pace mile after mile. The had advanced just over two miles in the five days between the first set of photos on September 5th and September 10th!

Every now and then, the operator climbed into the machinery to adjust the tongs. The trailing Air Tamper is dragging a trailer that carries the crew’s tools, and rails used to move the machine off the main line. Looking carefully at the front and back of the machine, you can see two pistons that force a bar down onto the rails, lifting the machine clear of the rails.

Steel rails are laid under the small wheels, and allowing the machine to be move laterally away from the tracks. I didn’t get a chance to see this being done, but that is one heavy piece of machinery that you don’t want to have it get away from you and land in a ditch!

This is
train order country – no radios. So everyone has to be reading not only from the same hymnal, but also the same hymn!

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