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CSX workers use a tie-replacement machine to lift up rails and pull out crossties during track replacement in Decatur on Tuesday.
Daily photo by John Godbey
CSX workers use a tie-replacement machine to lift up rails and pull out crossties during track replacement in Decatur on Tuesday.

Working on the railroad . . . really fast
CSX fixes track, the new-fashioned way

By Eric Fleischauer
eric@decaturdaily.com 340-2435

My grandfather, who sweated through railroad repairs with sledgehammers and prybars in the 1920s, would be wide-eyed at the repairs going on in Decatur.

CSX is repairing track on a three-mile stretch through Decatur, a total of six track-miles. The repairs began Monday, and production foreman Mike Powell expects them to be complete Thursday.

The end result will be safer tracks for the trains and smoother crossings for drivers. Until Thursday, the result will be closed crossings and traffic tie-ups.

Not everyone was upset. At crossings Tuesday, spectators abandoned their cars to watch the work. Usually the gawkers were parents with children, and it was tough to determine which age group was more fascinated.

"We had a feeling people would be interested," Powell said. "We don't mind, as long as they stay away from the track. We want them to be safe."

The repairs are an inconvenience for local traffic, but not one Decatur drivers will have to cope with frequently.

"We're really beefing the tracks up," Powell said. "This should last for 10 or 12 years."

Powell's 66-man team is performing the repairs with no less than 38 types of mechanized equipment. In addition to backhoes and spike pullers and other wheeled gadgets, a tie-replacement machine is also being used.

The tie-replacement machine lifts the de-spiked track and then, using booms extending up to 20 feet from either side, pulls the ties out from under the track.

On Monday alone, the crew replaced 2,100 railroad ties. Powell said his crew has replaced as many as 4,000 ties in a day.

Powell said his crew maintains this pace despite having to have the track clear for train traffic before 7 a.m. and after 4 p.m.

Grandpa would be impressed.

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