Repairing a railway is an intensive, time-consuming process that can take days or weeks, depending on the size of the break in the rail lines and also on other factors such as winter weather conditions. In addition, rail tracks must be continually maintained to suit up-to-date safety, reliability, and speed requirements between trains.
Stop Trains Running
Regarding railroad repair, the first step is stopping trains from running on the affected section of the track. This is done by placing in between the red tracks signals to show a stop. Workers then move in and start clearing leaves or debris from the tracks using rakes or other tools. It is essential that all debris, whether light leaves or heavy stones and rocks, are removed because they can damage railway lines and trains if they are allowed to remain on the track.
Clear the Track
Once the track is free of debris, workers can begin filling in the holes and cracks created by the rails being placed back in place. The rails are broken down into smaller pieces before being welded back together to create a smooth piece of metal similar to what was originally there before the break. Steel plates are also welded into position over any gaps or holes
Despite the rail track being repaired, it will take time for the metal to harden and strengthen again. The rails and metal must be welded back and aligned with other track sections.
They are then used to hold a rail in place as it is welded on, using a unique tool that pushes a steel rod into the track from underneath. The steel rod, which has a lever attached, pushes the rail into the ground and welds it.
Once all the metal has been welded back in place, maintenance can once again begin on tracks. First, maintenance crews will check whether any pebbles have caught between the rails and if the metal has failed. If this is the case, they will use a rake to clear debris from the track as they can damage trains and affect speed.
Train Services Resume
Once the rail track has been thoroughly repaired, it is ready for use again. The signals that were initially red will turn green to indicate it is safe for trains to resume running in that area. While the rail track has been repaired, workers may need to return later to check the rails in case any further work needs to be done, or repairs need replacing.
Wayne Probert is a senior reporter at Zobuz, covering state and national politics, and he is a grantee with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Before joining Zobuz, he worked as a freelance journalist in Kentucky, having been published by dozens of outlets including NPR, the Center for Media.