Source Material

Notes on Track: Construction and Maintenance, Volume 1 – by Walter Mason Camp – Pub 1904

Rail Rests

Rail Rests—Spare rails, sometimes called “emergency” rails, should be kept on hand at convenient points about a mile apart—say at every mile post. They are needed to replace broken rails occasionally and are handy to draw from when rails are needed at a wreck. These rails, if left lying on the shoulder half sunken into or half covered by the ballast, will, when wanted in a hurry some cold night, be found “tied fast” or perhaps covered with snow. Spare rails should be placed at least 18 ins. from the ground, on some kind of support located convenient to the track and in a clear space.

Common post

Click photo for larger one

Rail rests are made in a variety of forms, almost any of which are good enough for the purpose. A very common arrangement is to set two or three posts on a line parallel with the track and notch the tops to hold a rail in the inverted position (head down). In some instances, spare rail posts set in this way are notched deep enough to hold a second rail laid on top of the other, base to base, or drift bolts are set into the sides of the posts to serve as pegs for supporting a second or third rail. Very frequently the middle post is set slightly out of line with the two end ones and the notching is done as in Fig. 259, to permit the rail to rest on its base.


Rail rests for 60-ft. rails on the Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Ry. consist of four posts 10 ins. Square set 16 ft. apart and notched according to the arrangement in Fig. 259, half the width of the post and two rails deep.


Another arrangement, where it is desired to keep more than one rail at a place, is to set old bridge ties in a leaning position and notch out a series of seats or steps to hold the rails, on the inclined upper sides of the ties. Similarly, heavy planks are sometimes set in a vertical position and stepped out on the edge, to hold two or three rails.


The style of rail rest shown in Fig. 260 is used on the Southern California Ry. It consists simply of posts and caps made from old switch or bridge ties set up on a piece of leveled ground and neatly embellished with a paving of whitewashed stones around each post. The capacity for spare rails is larger than is usually the case with a rest consisting of vertical or leaning posts and the rails are just as conveniently got at when wanted.


The standard “rail rack” of the Southern Pacific Co. is a two-bent arrangement of this kind, the posts or bents being 16 ft. apart. When level ground is available it stands 2 ft. 3 ins. high, above the ground, and 20 ft. clear of the track rail. When set on the side of an embankment it is placed lower than the bottoms of the ties and 6 ft. from the track rail. To prevent mischievous boys from showing spare rails over embankments, without going to some exertion, the rails may be put through holes in the posts, as in Fig. 261.


As examples of more permanent construction, the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Ry, uses 6-ft. pieces of old rails for posts, set with the web facing the track, with old fish plates bolted to each side of the web and bent outward and upward to serve as brackets to hold the rails.


Click photo for larger version

The standard rail rest of the New York Central & Hudson River R. R. (Fig. 262) consists of two posts of old 60 or 65-lb. rails 74 ft. long, set 44 ft. in the ground and 18 ft. apart, with iron cross arms bolted to the bases of the rails to serve as rests for the spare rails. The posts are painted black and around the foot of each there is a cobble paving. These rests are located at mile posts, two miles apart. For single-track lines one cross arm and two spare rails are standard; for double-track lines, two cross arms and four spare rails; and for four-track lines and large yards, three cross arms and six spare rails.


Where curves are numerous it is well to have at the mile post at the middle of the section or at the mile post most convenient to the curves, a spare short rail of the length habitually used on the inside of the curves. Each spare rail should have a pair of splices bolted to it, and a few spare spikes should be cached somewhere near the rail rest. The rules of the maintenance of way department of the Southern Pacific Co. require that in addition to the spare rails kept on hand for use on each section (six rails for each main-line section and three rails for each branch-line section), known as “section stock,” each roadmaster’s district shall be supplied with at least 1000 ft. of rail of fair quality, suitable for construction of temporary tracks around wrecks, washouts or slides, piled where it may be readily loaded on cars. All other rail which may be on hand is reported as “repair stock,” and no section is allowed to have such material piled in more than three different places.

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