Monday, February 11, 2008

The First Curve Was Almost the Last.

Support the little railroad and the folk that put it together - buy inexpensive hand crafted yard art from Mary (yes, the run the train, work on the track Mary)  Click this link.

Once you buy a locomotive, get it running and restored, somehow -- just looking at that locomotive on static display track isn't enough.
Before the Plymouths arrived, we laid 120 track foot (more or less) on a straight away - where the locomotives are parked in the photo below. That took an afternoon. The next day we started working on the first curve.
This curve.
A month later, we had laid not one additional foot of rail. Not because we weren't working on it, but because steel rail comes from the mill straight and is inclined to stay that way. (Which is a good thing really, but just then ...).
"Just use a come-along to pull it around." we heard. 40 pound rail? No.
"Convince it to curve by pushing it with a backhoe (and a bobcat, eventually an excavator)." 40 pound rail - 2 / novice gandy dancers - 0.
Regrouping, we investigated the options for bending our rail around curves. Apparently there were only two.
Option 1: - Use a hand rail bender.
Hand Rail Bender
We found one suitable for 40 pound rail. We bought it. We picked it up, we set it back down. We looked at it. Fifty pounds of "U" shaped steel with hooks that go over the top of the rail, with a threaded rod to apply force on the rail where the bend is to be.
Option One - A: The same concept substituting a hydraulic cylinder to apply the force.
We read about the process. Bending rail by hand while not terribly complicated, is heavy work and very time consuming. An excellent description of the proces can be found at the link below. I read it.
An excellent article on bending rail writen by Dave Johnson. The link will take you to the "One Yard, Three Foot" blog.
My understanding of what the process would be for our railroad went something like this:
Pick up a fifty pound rail bender, set it on the rail, turn the theaded part until it "bends" (dents) the rail. Reverse the turning to free the bender. Lift fifty pounds, slide it down the rail a few inches. Repeat several thousand times. No.
Option 2: - Spend tens of thousands of dollars for tooling and have someone bend it to order. No.
A review of options; Spend months sliding a heavy object a few inches at a time down the planned 1-1/3 miles (2/3 of a mile times 2) of rail or figure out a way to print money.
Option 3: - Yes, I said that there were only 2 options. There were.
Rick created option three from a surplus grapple claw and sheer force of will. It operates on the same concept as a hand bender, but is moved, controlled and powered by our bobcat and required only minutes per 30 foot rail section to bend to any radius we needed.

Rick's Rail Bender
We laid rail around the curve the next day.
The story on the rest of the track will have to wait.

No comments: