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Train crews work from Pocatello to Idaho Falls

August 23, 2011

Morning News — Leslie Mielke A member of the Union Pacific tie gang places a rail tie alongside the track at Firth Saturday.

BLACKFOOT — The question is, how many choruses of "I've been working on the railroad" have the men and women who make up the two tie gangs and one surface and lining gang presently working in Bingham County endured?
Between Pocatello and Idaho Falls, two Union Pacific tie gangs, number 62 and number 65, are working to replace ties on the railroad tracks. One Union Pacific surface and lining gang, number 82, works tampering the rails.
Forty-two people are in each tie gang; 30 people are in each surface and lining gang.
The gangs started in this area in July and anticipate completing their work in early September.
This rail upgrade is part of a $23.1 million project that is taking place on the Union Pacific railroad lines. This rails are being upgraded from Pocatello to Idaho Falls in the east and from Weiser to Mountain Home in the west.
Crews are replacing more than 206,000 railroad ties and sections of track to improve safety along 180 miles. More than 100,000 tons of rock ballast will be spread to ensure a stable roadbed.
Machinery does much of the work so mechanics are highly prized individuals in these gangs.
Parked overnight at Firth were 20 machines "and that's for only one gang," said Chris Riggs, assistant foreman for the surface and lining gang.
Riggs explained which machines do what.
To replace ties, the first two machines down the rails pull spikes followed by a "mag crane" that picks up scrap.
The "TKO extractor" pulls the old ties. The machine called "scare fire" digs holes for the ties that are inserted under the rails.
The "TKO inserters" clamp the rails. The "plate machine" is used to slide the plates under the rails. The "pup tamper" is next. It squeezes the ties on the rail tight.
Following are three "spiker machines" that place spikes in the ties.
The "gooper machine" puts gooper in tie holes that may not securely hold the tie.
"Gang members hammer ties into the gooper that hardens like concrete," Riggs said.
The "anchor squeezer" squeezes the tie to hold it in place.
Two to three laborers follow, putting in anchors that might fall off, Riggs said.
The surface and lining gang follows. This gang makes the rails smooth, she said.
This surface and line gang uses three "Jackson tampers." These machines tamp up old and news ties to bring the track up and line it straight, Riggs said.
Five "regulators" move the rock to the middle of the tracks and bank the rock up to the tracks.
These machines are followed by the clean-up crew.
"Everything is done by hand," Riggs said. The crew is divided in half. Each crew works every other mile. This crew's job is to see that everything is complete and in order.
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