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Thumbs up for Material Yard

Summer 2015

  • Roger Brown, utility mechanic, checks for proper track gauge during construction of a new switch turnout panel.
  • With the help of an overhead bridge crane, Ethan Eaton, laborer, left, and Ivan Caldwell, utility mechanic, maneuver a section of rail into position during construction of a switch turnout.
  • Adam Dunford, turnout supervisor, in center of photo in orange shirt, engages with Ethan Eaton, laborer, left, and Mark Franklin, right. Eaton uses a pneumatic spike driver to secure a tie plate while Franklin uses a bar to position the tie during construction of a switch turnout.

Engineering leaders give material yard a thumbs-up

Utility mechanics Joe Graham, left, and Jairus
Kirby, who retired in June, operate a spike
driving machine during construction of a
switch turnout panel.

Engineering Department leaders who oversee division operations are big fans of the Roanoke Material Yard.

“They are a tremendous asset,” said Kenneth Webb, assistant division engineer track on the Pocahontas Division. “I don’t know how we would survive without them.”

In late June, the material yard completed a major job for the Pocahontas Division: constructing and shipping 117 42-foot track panels that will be installed inside the 3,766-foot-long Raitt Tunnel west of Grundy, Va., on a line that serves NS coal customers. The time savings and safety benefits of having material yard employees build the panels in a facility designed to do that work are substantial, Webb said.

“We can custom order what we need, and they build it exactly how we tell them,” he said. “If you think about the time it would take in the field to lay out the ties, drag the rail in, and spike them down, it’s easily five times faster doing it with these pre-constructed panels.”

The 42-foot panels, delivered to the site in gondolas, will be installed three at a time by two crews on either end of the tunnel, each crew working 12-hour shifts. The material yard, Webb said, conveniently attached by wire everything needed to couple the panels – joint bars, nuts, bolts, and washers.

Ben McElroy, division engineer on the Illinois Division, said the material yard plays a vital role in engineering operations.

“They build track panels and turnout switches in a controlled environment and get everything perfect,” McElroy said. “When we get one of their panelized turnout switches in the field, they’re easy to unload and to put in. Instead of taking two or three days to build a switch in the field, we can lay one in four hours.”

The material yard transports the turnout panels in an NS-designed rail car featuring an A-frame structure that allows the turnouts to be loaded upright instead of flat. Once on site, the panels can be easily removed without need of a crane.

In addition to maintenance support, McElroy praised the material yard’s efforts to reclaim track material for reuse and recycling.

“Out in the field, it’s just scrap, but to NS this material is a multi-valued asset,” he said. “The material yard sorts the higher value and lower value scrap in different piles and maximizes the dollar value. The yard adds to our bottom dollar.”