THE CLICKETY-CLACK SOUND IS LONG GONE

The romantic lore of the history of the railroads has within it the “clickety-clack” sound produced as the steel wheels of railroad cars roll over the rail joints and this sound is widely associated by people to railroads. Except, today there is no “clickety-clack” to be heard – its gone. Since the very beginning of railroads, railroad track has been made using pieces of rail a little over thirty feet long. Track is assembled by laying the pieces of rail end-to-end on the ties and the rails are connected with steel bars and bolts to form a “rail joint”. This joint is what produces the sound heard as the steel wheels roll along the rails. The track is said to be made using “jointed rail”. Track made in this way is viewed by railroad managers as being inefficient because of the cost associated with the joint hardware, track assembly and track maintenance. Well maintained jointed-rail track does not fail often, but it does fail at the joint occasionally. Such a failure is very serious for an obvious reason; the train leaves the track. If track made with jointed-rail has been judged undesirable, why was it used until relatively recent times. The answer lies in the lack of the technology necessary to handle and transport long pieces of rail. The welding technology to make short pieces into a longer piece has been around for a long time. Several decades ago the railroad industry realized the required technology was mature enough to begin to eliminate jointed-rail track and replace it with track assembled with “continuously welded rail”. Track today is mostly assembled with “welded-rail” on mainline routes; we no longer hear the “clickety-clack” of the trains. Recently, I was visiting the San Bernardino station area and I walked to the track side on the depot building to – what else – photograph the trains and such. The two mainline tracks are next to the passenger platform and I saw the worn welded rail was being replaced with new rail. The replacement of the worn rail was almost finished but there was a smallish machine scooting back and forth on the newly laid rail. At first, at a distance, the machine looked to be just joy-riding on the new rails. When the machine got close to me, I saw that the machine was adjusting the old rail to place in position for pick up later. It never ceases to amaze me when I see quarter mile long piece of rail bend like it was made of long plastic rod. Alert person that I am, I photographed the machine moving the rail. Look at the images below and you will see what I mean about “plastic”

About THE OLD MACHINIST

I am 82 years old and wed for 65 years. I am a retired engineer and spent 35 years developing INS gyroscopes. I am a High School mentor in physics, mountaineer, model builder, machinist and have a degree in Physics. My interests include railroad history and photography, science history, cosmology, interesting people, and old engineering drawings. I place a high value on my friendships. I enjoy life and am looking forward to the future with my usual sense of anticipation and curiosity.
Gallery | This entry was posted in HOW THIS & THAT IS DONE, MODERN RAILROADS, RAILROAD STRUCTURES, RAILROADS AT WORK, STANDARD GAUGE RAILROADS, THE WAY IT WAS, TRACK MAINTENANCE and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to THE CLICKETY-CLACK SOUND IS LONG GONE

  1. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it,
    you’re a great author. I will always bookmark your blog and definitely will come back someday.
    I want to encourage you to continue your great writing,
    have a nice day!

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