Trains carrying rails

Saw something today IRL (In Real Life, i.e., the "prototype") I'd never seen before: a train carrying nothing but rails. I couldn't be sure, but
it appeared the rails were the entire length of the train, which was many cars (40'? 60'?) long. Rails were on 3 levels on special carriers, somewhat like trailer train cars.
What really surprised me was that the rails were able to flex around curves. The train was traveling at a pretty good clip, and it looked like the rails were something like 12 across on each level, so that seemed like a lot of steel to flex.
Wish I had some pictures to link to. Maybe someone else can find some.
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On 4/23/2010 3:24 PM David Nebenzahl spake thus:

Found this online discussion of the subject: http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?2,1612581
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I knew they did this, but it is really cool to hear from someone who has seen it IRL.
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On 4/23/2010 5:14 PM LDosser spake thus:

In case you're wondering, the train was headed "logical" west (physically south) on the UP mainline through Berkeley/Emeryville, CA. They've got a massive line-maintenance project underway here.
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I saw one in the UK but in bad light one evening a year or so back, photos used as part of a website I put together: http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/gansg/2-track/02track1.htm
About half way down the page - Associated text: Welded track was originally developed in America in the late 1930's, notably on the Delaware & Hudson Railway in 1937 where it was known as the 'Velvet Track'. In America they tried welding lengths of line up to half a mile long then transporting this on a fleet of wagons to the site, they found the long rails curved easily to follow even quite severe reverse (S shaped) curves. In Britain some long rail sections were moved on long rakes of redundant long wheelbase twin bolster wagons (similar to those offered by Peco), purpose built rail carrying wagons have always been used by the railways, where long lengths of welded track are used these are carried on specially designed bogie wagons. The photos below show such a train comprised of JZA wagons passing through Manchester on a rather dull winters day in 2005. Fig___ Photograph of a welded rail train I understand that lengths of up to 230 yards can be supplied from the steelworks these days (thanks to continuous casting methods)
JZA is the wagon code, technically they are 'Continuous rail transporter wagons', the first two letters identify the wagon type, the A means it is air braked (the UK used to use a vacuum system but has been all air brakes for several years now).
Regards
Mike
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

When I worked for the SF and SP way back when, these trains were called "ribbon rail trains". Hopefully we never got a call for the work train to unload the rail. It was a very boring and slow process.
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I've seen those rail trains heading east up Beaumont Hill pretty regularly, and I would have taken some pics and posted 'em if I'd known anyone was interested.
~Pete
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On Fri, 23 Apr 2010 15:24:37 -0700, David Nebenzahl

I'm an Engineer for Norfolk Southern. I work out of Atlanta. Adjacent to Inman Yard, NS has their welded rail fabrication plant. We move a lot of ribbon rail trains out of Inman Yard to various other locations on the NS system. Generally you'll have one six-axel locomotive, and about about 35 or 40 specially made flat cars with rail racks that allow the rail to be loaded from one end and slid down the length of the train. As you said the rail flexes in curves when being transported. A common misconception is that the rail is stiff, but it's actually exactly like model railroad flex-track, very easily bent. The last car in the welded rail train usually has special hydraulic equipment for loading and unloading the rail in remote locations. Often there will also be a maintenance of way boxcar or two in the consist as well with various other track components and equipment in side (tie plates, spikes, tools and equipment, etc)
We also move a lot of sectional rail trains with flat cars containing stacks of short pieces of rail...these are typically used more for yard tracks, certain sidings and industrial leads...although these days a lot of the time welded ribbon rail is often used from many of these applications as well.
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Thanx for the interesting and informative post.
I can't think of a way to model a ribbon rail train and keep it on the track around a model railroad's tightly radiused curves, though!
~Pete
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On 4/24/2010 10:34 AM Twibil spake thus:

I thought about that too; obviously the coefficient of flexibility of nickel silver (or whatever the actual technical term is) doesn't scale well from the Real Thing to, say, HO. But one could use other materials--styrene, or even long strips of cardboard painted rail color. That might work.
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It isn't just the scale rails' lack of flexibility you have to worry about.
As the train goes around a curve, the rails on the inside of the turn will "expand" lengthwise relative to the length of the train's centerline, and the rails on the outer side of the turn will "shrink"; meaning that -just as on the prototype- the rails would have to ride on functional rollers to allow for that back-and-forth motion as the cars corner.
Were the rails rigidly fastened to the cars, only the loco would go around a turn: the rest of the train would continue straight on ahead like a 1/2-mile-long spear!
~Pete
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On 4/24/2010 3:39 PM Twibil spake thus:

You might be carrying the concept of prototype modeling a bit far here.
I was thinking more along the lines of a respectable mock-up, with only the outer "rails" in each stack extending between cars. These could be made of paper or something similar and be flexible enough (or completely free at one end) so as not to turn the whole deal into a huge spear as you describe.
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On Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:39:23 -0700 (PDT), Twibil

If you followed prototype...they wouldn't be rigidly fastened. On a real welded ribboon rail train, the rails are "floating" in their racks to allow for movement either way. I don't think this would translate well in N, HO or O scale though, unless like someone mentioned, maybe using styrene rail instead of actual nickel silver (or steel or whatever).
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Hi,
Twibil wrote:

Let's just say we found a good substitute "rail" ;-)

Which leads to the question of how long the train would be supposed to be. In case of a model train, I'd go for a three - to - ten car train, depending on layout size.
The rail only contacts two racks (more or less above the bogies) per wagon in the prototype and it would be similar in the model.
In that case it would be sufficient to fasten the fake ribbon rail only in the middle and leave it floating at either end, just like in real. Obviously one needs to leave some room for that ;-) Friction for floating would be little, as the area of contact is rather small and the movement is rather small, too. I could imagine the "rail" being suspended with short loops of thread, which would eliminate friction almost completely in the model. One could mostly hide the thread, so that it looks prototypical.
---------------------- I\ /\ /\ /\ /I I\ /\ /\ /\ /I I\ /\ /\ /\ /I I\ R /\ R /\ R /\ R /I I \R/ \R/ \R/ \R/ I WAGONFLOOR--WAGONFLOOR BOGIE BOGIE
--- Top beam I Rail carrying rack \/ Thread loop R Ribbon rail
Friction would be a problem only in longer models, I wouldn't be confident for the model to work, as the movement increases along with the friction (which is a more-than-linear increase overall?)...
So, using some finesse and the selective-compression thing, modelling a ribbon-rail train seems possible? Biggest question remains: what to use for faking the rails? Color would be easy: rust ;-)
Ciao...
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Could be. It's fun to blue-sky the idea anyway.

Extruded Polyethylene strips? Soft enough, can be made in any shape/ color you need, and doesn't conduct electricity. Main problem I see is that anything soft enough to bend around the curves would probably also sag a bit between cars and supports.
Not a problem on the prototype because the rails don't have to bend around our tight model railroad curves.

http://www.wsorrailroad.com/projects/slinger1.jpg
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I was yarding 203 (an intermodal freight) at Inman Yard today and I noticed 4 welded rail (a/k/a ribbon rail) trains in the yard. Three of which were up on the north end in the Local Yard and the 4th was actually being loaded in real time at the rail fabrication plant next to the intermodal yard. All but one of the rail trains had a box car on the end opposite from the hydraulic loading/unloading car.
I noticed the shorted of the trains had only 18 flat cars. The longest one appeared to have about 24. This stands to reason, because welded ribbon rain is generally loaded in lengths of 1/4 mile or roughly 1320 feet. I've actually run a few of these trains in through freight service to Greenville, SC, and if I recall they're usually about 1600-1700 feet long, which stands to reason, because the time you add a few hundred feet to account for the locomotive (usually one, but I have seen two on occassion). Also the rear hydraulic car, and the boxcar(s) that are on the head end account for another 50 to 100 feet of the train length.
As someone pointed out, they indeed have only TWO racks per car for the rails to slide on. The Norfolk Southern rail trains have racks that are tall enough to hold six levels of rail. I've never counted how many rails wide each rack is. Just taking a wild guess I'd say either 10 or 12 wide. So that'd be somewhere around 60 or 72 or so rails per train. It may not be 10 wide, but I think it is atleast that wide. But say it's only 60 rails per train...that'd be 15 miles of rail (or 7.5 miles if you consider it takes two rails per mile)
Rail trains like this are often used to REPLACE worn rail. The rail is delivered on location by a crew in "work train" service. The track department will have a number of employees there to assist and direct the unloading of the new rail at the location. Then the work train leaves. At some point later, the track department will come in and replace the worn rail with new rail and move the old rail aside. Eventually another work train (empty) will be called and the track department will assist that crew in loading up the old rail to be taken somewhere. I'm not sure what they do with the old rail...I'm guessing it's melted down and recycled into new rail or other steel products.
Just in case you're wondering, work trains (whether rail trains, ballast trains, cross tie trains, etc) are the most boring of all trains on the railroad, because you wind up doing a lot of sitting and waiting. Maybe pulling ahead a few hundred feet and stopping again for long periods of time, repeat ad infinitum...trust me...very boring!
You could literally bring a barbeque grill and set it up and have a picnic waiting for the next move to be made (and I've heard tale that in the OLD days this very thing happened on some work trains where they had SD40-2's with the long "porches".
Anyway, getting back to the rail trains. Perhaps instead of trying to model a welded ribbon rail train, someone might prefer modelling a sectional rail train. It's very common to see entire trains made of flat cars (or in some cases gondolas) loaded with sections of jointed rail anywhere from 25 feet to about 40 feet long. You might have a train with 50 or 60 of these in the consist. There's no limit to how long or short, since they're loaded in individual cars rather than a "set".
Ribbon rail flats have the knuckles "locked" using a nut and bolt to lock the pin and prevent the cut lever from working. Sectional rail trains usually don't have this, as they may not all be going to the same destination. You also see a lot of sectional rail cars mixed in with various through freights.
It's also common to occassionally see a welded ribbon rail unit train on the head end or rear end of a mixed freight. Sometimes you'll see 2 or 3 empty welded rail trains moved together in a single train.
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Fascinating info, thanks for sharing it!
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On Wed, 28 Apr 2010 20:22:43 -0700, " Rumple Stiltskin"

I was back there again today, and I counted how many rails across the cars carry...it's 8 rails wide by 6 rails high...so that's 48 pieces of 1/4 mile long rail.
So that's 12 miles of rail per train, or enough rail for 6 miles of track.
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At what per yard? 120#? Hefty load.
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On Fri, 30 Apr 2010 23:37:57 -0700, " Rumple Stiltskin"

I would imagine it was 132 pound rail. That's standard for mainline these days.
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