Summer Evening and the ML401

Summer Evening and the ML401
Conrail ML401 rolls west through Central New York farm country in Onondaga County, September 1994.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Modeling Maintenance Of Way

A critical part of prototype rail operations on any railroad is 'maintenance of way' (MOW) - the employees that work to keep the track, signals, bridges, buildings, and electrical services in a state of good repair.  Railroaders don't just run trains, or man the towers and dispatcher desk.  My whole railroad career has in fact been on the maintenance side of the railroad, so I am familiar with the equipment and people that do this critical work.

As operations on the Onondaga Cutoff have matured we have added some MOW activity, taking tracks out of service for maintenance.  This adds variety and challenge to the sessions as well as providing a job for one or two guys.  Here is a photo essay of recent track maintenance at an operation session.

Early in the morning of Friday June 10, 1994, Track Supervisor Jacob is on his hi-rail pickup ahead of the ballast tamper, rolling east from Onondaga Yard into CP 280.   He has copied a 'Form D' - essentially a track warrant under the NORAC (Northeast Operating Rules Advisory Committee), authorizing him to be in charge of that track so that he can move the equipment to the work site.

Once the equipment is moved to the work site, it is joined by a fleet of other vehicles adjacent to the track that work together to repair the track structure, in this case by replacing ties and tamping the ballast to level the rails.  While the work occurs on Track 2, Track 1 is busy handling trains in both directions.  Here ML-403 comes upgrade around a boom truck and the ballast tamper doing their thing.

We turn to watch ML-403's locomotives blast past another boom truck laying out ties for spotting.

TV-13 works west later in the day behind three big GE's based out of Selkirk.  The engineer sounds the horn and rings the bell, following the rules, as he passes various maintenance vehicles and approaching CP 277.

After the work is complete, by late afternoon, the track gang has cleared up.  They give the track back to the dispatcher for use with a speed restriction for the first few trains over the freshly tamped area, then remove the restriction once the track has settled under the weight of revenue trains.   The gang ties up all their equipment back at Onondaga Yard and heads for a well-earned few beers at a local tavern!

Modeling the maintenance of the railroad is something we can all do at operating sessions to add variety and give some credit to the railroaders that few enthusiasts pay much attention to.


  1. Great job on the mow equipment Dave! It's very inspiring and gave me some great ideas for my layout. Good pics to!

  2. Thank you for this wonderful article really…helpful…

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