The world’s combined railway network is complex and expansive. If we add up the distances between the two farthest points connected by a railroad in every country, it crosses 1.3 million kilometers. And, since this number continues to grow, it’s safe to say that the world heavily relies on railways to stay connected.
Although it seems like trains and railways have always been there unchanged, that isn’t the case. The railway system requires consistent development and maintenance to keep functioning smoothly. There are various railroad repair activities that take place routinely and involve specialized machines.
Whether it be the steel tracks or the ties and ballast that support them, each of these things is tended to as and when needed. Here’s a video that shows the different kinds of machines and equipment used for railway maintenance activities.
Different kinds of machines for railway maintenance
1. Railway tie replacement machine
The crucial component of the railroads that holds them together is the railway tie or crosstie. It is basically a slab of wood or concrete that lies horizontally between the parallel steel tracks. Over time, these ties get worn out due to pressure from the weight of trains, weather, and more. If not replaced, they might cause uncomfortable rides and even mishaps.
In certain countries, the repairmen use a special machine for railway tie replacement. Usually, such a machine moves along a track, clears the ballast, picks out a damaged tie, places a new tie (secured manually), and then puts the ballast back in to finish the job.
2. Rail grinder
The railroad part that stays in constant contact with a train’s wheels is the metal tracks. As a consequence, these steel beams lose their original shape gradually due to friction and weather conditions. This results in rail corrugation or roaring rails, causing the tracks to produce horrible noises when a train goes over them.
A rail grinder is a specially-designed vehicle, often made out of a small train, that runs on the tracks and fixes its deformities along the way. It restores the tracks back to their standard profile by grinding its wheels, which are set at certain angles as per the requirement. During the process, the machine produces intense sparks on the tracks.
3. Ballast regulator
Ballast is the foundation on which the tracks and ties rest. It refers to the numerous small stones that you find on a railroad. Since the ballast forms the base of a railroad, a ballast regulator comes into action when a new route has to be laid down. Moreover, on old tracks, the regulator is useful for adding more ballast to retain the uniform shape of a track and maintain ballast distribution.
Whenever we leave anything to decrepitude, nature tries to take it over. For instance, abandoned towns into vine-infested concrete jungles. The same goes for the railroad vicinity, especially in remote areas. With time, the vegetation near the tracks can grow to the extent that interferes with the trains.
There are brushcutter machines that fix this by moving along a track and trimming down the nearby vegetation simultaneously. They do this by using a unique cutter attachment that is controlled by a crane, as shown in the previous image.
5. Yard cleaner
From excess ballast to just plain junk, a lot of unwanted things can collect on the railroads over time. Therefore, it becomes very important to sweep them off the path every now and then. A yard cleaner machine, which consists of a ballast broom, bucket elevator system, and conveyor, can effectively remove junk from the tracks and collect it for disposal elsewhere.
So, those are the machines that play a big role in keeping the railroads in shape and suitable for use. It’s interesting to note that, apart from the railroads, a train’s wheels also need replacement after a certain time.