On the Onondaga Cutoff, Conrail uses custom machinery to help crews maintain track, signals, structures, bridges, and the right-of-way. Thanks to some custom resin-cast truck cabs and masterful build jobs by my buddy Mark, and to the modification of several of Bachmann's HO scale ballast tamper and hi-rail utility truck, we can model track outages during some operation sessions which adds tremendously to the variety in the operation.
Here Foreman Lee is starting up the tamper, which was left overnight on blue-flag protected track in Onondaga Yard. The boom truck will drive over in support of the tamper operation. Ballast tampers on the prototype are used to groom and adjust the ballast beneath and around ties, keeping track level and the ride smooth for passing trains.
As the sun rises and the machine warms up, the crew gets set to head to the worksite. This involves paperwork for permission to occupy track - a 'Form D' under the Conrail and 'NORAC' (Northeast Operating Rules Advisory Committee) rules, akin to a train order, since maintenance equipment cannot be relied upon to shunt signal systems. These are normally given verbally via the radio, and it's fun to hear that conversation on the radio during a session - it adds nice variety and 'audible scenery' to the atmosphere.
Consider modeling some maintenance equipment for your railroad!