IT'S STILL WORK ALL DAY, NOW THERE'S SUGAR FOR YOUR TAY. This weekend's Railroad Feature is yet another look at the track renewal train, which was in DeKalb last Saturday and Sunday worked its way six miles west to Malta by Wednesday. A grain elevator uses two grounded outside-braced box cars as storerooms. The generous provision of trackside crew welfare facilities is a feature of the project.

I had somewhat more space and more favorable sun conditions for photography. Here's an overview of the main event. Closest to the camera, the rail to be installed is outboard of the rail to be replaced. The working car is riding on the rail to be replaced.

The center truck of the working car is on a sled. I'm not sure what sorts of resistance the power has to overcome to move this train. Modern control systems probably help. I shudder to think about running old-style diesels all day at low-speed, outside-the-continuous rating conditions.

Here's a better look at the tie exchanges. The workers' primary responsibility appears to be to un-jam the ties that are being removed. I observed several stops for that purpose during this photo-shoot.

Immediately behind the renewal train is the rail-removal train. We've been having unsettled weather all week and that train made its way through during an afternoon rain. Sometimes the pickup is a simple matter of matching the locomotive speed with the speed of the takeup reels on the rail train and picking the strand up on the fly. The weather was somewhat better for the passage of the cleanup train.

The project includes full replacement of the ballast. Here's another load coming through DeKalb. The south track still has the old "pink lady" quartz ballast from Rock Springs, Wisconsin. The rebuilt north track has ballast from a different source. Those are additional crew-welfare facilities trackside.

Here's a postmodern 2-6-0 on a work extra. I think this unit, which I photographed late Sunday, is cleaning the ballast.

As this comment notes, the final lining and ballast regulating can be done well after the main event.

As of this evening, the renewal train, rail train, and ballast train have all been removed west of Creston. Material has been placed for continued work from Creston toward Rochelle, although that's not supposed to begin until June 16. The grade crossings in DeKalb and Malta are completely rebuilt on the north track. I understand the south track is scheduled for its rebuild in 2010.

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