Join 3,438 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


But Not All the Live-Long Day
May 27, 2011 5:00 PM   Subscribe

Working on the railroad; 5.17 flash video that is strangely hypnotic.
posted by bwg (37 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite

 
It looks pretty dangerous... It's surprising how few people were wearing hard hats.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:16 PM on May 27, 2011


I like that the train on the train makes train noises.
posted by rog at 5:16 PM on May 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Holy God I love trains.
posted by localhuman at 5:18 PM on May 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Thanks! I used to be the surveyor for a crew like that 20-odd years ago. We didn't have nearly as much automation; a big sled that was dragged under the ties, followed by a chain of specialized machines with one or two men on each one. We were just starting to deal with concrete ties when I went back to school. I think what we learned was that concrete ties were twice as heavy as wood ones, and the whole procedure fell apart. Not to mention the machines. Except the surveying part!

"Why do I have to wear a hard hat? There's nothing above us."

"It's company policy - if you don't wear your hard hat, you'll be fired on the spot."

People still got hit by trains though...
posted by sneebler at 5:20 PM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Very impressive engineering, somebody somewhere thought out the whole process, bit by bit, step by step, then designed and implemented that whole show, very cool.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:23 PM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Whoa. Train on train action!
posted by bz at 5:25 PM on May 27, 2011


Concrete ties suck. Especially when derailments happen. That tamper is pretty boss though.

Those guys at the end really need to put on some dust masks or wet the ballast down.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 5:27 PM on May 27, 2011


Awesome. Reminds me of the brick-laying machine.

Get on this, Playmobil.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 5:31 PM on May 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


I used to work for a railroad. I was doing research in the archives. It was a great job, I set my own hours and my own pace and got payed a lot.

The first time I went in to turn in my time sheet, the lady gave me a huge smile and said "How's it going?" I said, "Great! I've just been....uh....working....on...the...uh...railroad?"

She laughed and said "Thank god that never gets old."
posted by marxchivist at 5:37 PM on May 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Mmm, train train.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:40 PM on May 27, 2011


The machine 90 seconds in blows my mind. It looks like they already cut the rails from the ties, and then this machine just lifts the rail, pulls the ties out from underneath it, and then drops new ones back in place.

God I wish rail makes a serious come back in the US in my lifetime. Or that I can move to a country that has serious rail infrastructure already.
posted by mrzarquon at 5:44 PM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Socialism at work. You would never see that level of investment in infrastructure by the government in the US today.



I'm envious.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 5:59 PM on May 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


Reminds me of the Dutch paving machine.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:13 PM on May 27, 2011


I always heard that concrete ties were better, and along with rails that are fused together, allow for a much more precise and smooth grade - a necessity for high speed trains.
posted by dmand7 at 6:15 PM on May 27, 2011


Still slower than John Henry.
posted by DU at 6:25 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The two dudes manually putting the fasteners on have got some serious job security. No way THAT job could be automated! It's a non-computable function forever out of the reach of machines.
posted by DU at 6:27 PM on May 27, 2011


God I wish rail makes a serious come back in the US in my lifetime. Or that I can move to a country that has serious rail infrastructure already.
--
Socialism at work. You would never see that level of investment in infrastructure by the government in the US today.
We still use a ton of rail for bulk shipping. No one hauls coal around in trucks. I'm sure similar things happen in the U.S.
posted by delmoi at 6:29 PM on May 27, 2011


Man, the only thing I can think of when I see videos like that is who designed that stuff? What's their engineering team like, and what's their job like, and what's on the resumes of the people who went on to build those things? I always say the same thing about assembly lines, where the stuff always looks like it's not built inhouse and looks like extremely customized machinery.
posted by crapmatic at 6:42 PM on May 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


(assembly lines = the assembly line itself, not the products rolling down on it being assembled)
posted by crapmatic at 6:43 PM on May 27, 2011


Still slower than John Henry Gromit.
posted by wanderingmind at 7:00 PM on May 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


I often see machines like this while rolling into Wellington station. It's nice to finally see them in action -- although I'm not sure the machines are quite the same type.
posted by Soupisgoodfood at 7:27 PM on May 27, 2011


Nice post, bwg. The video doesn't do justice to the noise those machines make. When UP put the concrete rails through at night, even four miles away with the windows closed and the pillow over my head it was loud.

Ad h: Those dutch paving machines are fantastic. I've often thought of the man-hours that went into brick paving and cobblestone. Wish our greenbelt and bike paths could be made as lovely as that.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:27 PM on May 27, 2011


Soon, having learned to lay their own tracks, robotic trains will overthrown humanity.
posted by ...possums at 7:29 PM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow. Things have come a long way from gandy dancers, but they don't sound as good.
posted by kinnakeet at 7:36 PM on May 27, 2011


The Long Island Railroad replaced the ties on the track in front of my house last year. Nothing like this though. They had a big robot arm pull the spikes, push the old tie out to the side, put it on a car, then slide a new tie in the old space. An air cannon put in the new spikes, and they moved on to the next tie. I must have stared, mesmerized, for almost an hour. It looked like Doc Ock doing track work.
posted by Marky at 7:51 PM on May 27, 2011


This is the coolest fucking thing I've seen all week. I fucking love trains- and, while this is a little weird, but ever since I started reading the 1632 series a couple of years ago on someone's recommendation here at Metafilter, trains as a means to build up infrastructure and economies seems like the best thing ever!
posted by hincandenza at 8:27 PM on May 27, 2011


This is one of the most fascinating videos I've seen in a long time. Whoever invented the type of machinery you see here? Suppose this had been available when the Transcontinental Railroad was built in the 1800s. This video is a joy to watch!
posted by PlanoTX at 10:22 PM on May 27, 2011


From the markings on the trains one can gather that this video is of a Belgian railway being laid. At least some of this machinery was made in Austria by Plasser & Theurer.
posted by joost de vries at 10:43 PM on May 27, 2011


Wow. That's really cool! Here's another kick in the rubber parts: This is one kind of track machine. We have entirely different sorts here in Switzerland. I live almost on top of the tracks, and have watched them doing work here. It's automated in a different way. Equally fascinating, of course.

The Dutch paving machine, not so much. See, I lived in NW Germany for 5 years, and spent time in the Netherlands regularly. I noticed very much that Dutch paving was sloppy, compared to the Germans. The paving stones in Germany are seriously beautifully laid.
posted by Goofyy at 2:17 AM on May 28, 2011


Goofyy: "The paving stones in Germany are seriously beautifully laid."

Well, you'd expect that from the Germans. If you want great engineering from the Dutch, tell them it has anything to do with water.

Because then the Dutch kick serious ass.
posted by bwg at 3:18 AM on May 28, 2011


There's something wonderful about that machine that makes me want one for home use. You know, for yard work. Or something.
posted by klarck at 4:32 AM on May 28, 2011


Kind of makes that little blinky-light Arduino "project" you cobbled together seem a little...silly...doesn't it?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:37 AM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not a train geek at all, but this is fascinating, and my four year old loves it too. The problem is, apart from the really obvious stuff - e.g. where I can see there is a machine lifting up the old (wait, what are you calling them...) ties - and automatically laying new ones, it's really not clear to me what's going on.

Would one of you folks who clearly recognises most of this stuff be able to write a really brief explanation, e.g. 0m to 0m45s they're doing xxx? We'd enjoy it even more if we knew what those machines were doing!
posted by Hartham's Hugging Robots at 6:40 AM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The two dudes manually putting the fasteners on have got some serious job security. No way THAT job could be automated! It's a non-computable function forever out of the reach of machines.
posted by DU

Maybe someday. See this flex picker demo video. It even lines up the logos. It's only a 2-D situation, so it's not as complicated as the tie fasteners.
posted by jjj606 at 11:15 AM on May 28, 2011


What the thing is doing between 0m to 0m45s:
Its some kind of lifty-craney-thingy function that puts whole batches of concrete ties in place on top of the machine shown next, which is the one that fishes the old ties out of the ground and puts the new ones in place.
The entire process is: old rails are taken off the old ties (not really shown), old ties are pulled up, new ties are put in place and spaced correctly, new strings of rails are - in several steps - attached to the ties, ballast is tamped securely around and under the ties. Final step (that's what the loco with those hopper cars is doing): loose ballast is spread and pushed in place as a top layer.
Yes, this is Belgium, the green-yellow locomotives at the end of the vid. are of a Belgian type, and you can see it by the Dutch/French text on the machines. And yes, fused rails, like elsewhere in Europe.
If I can believe this description, some of the Plasser & Theurer machines (the ballast tamper, in this case) are, or have been, used in the US too; I also definitely remember seeing one someplace between Tokyo and Shizuoka a few years back. So even though they're highly automated and specialized machines, they're use for a pretty much standard procedure all over the world: replacing old ties and rails in one go with new ones. Cool stuff.
posted by Namlit at 11:37 AM on May 28, 2011


I like that the train on the train makes train noises.

35 comments in and still no "Yo dawg I herd you like trains" ?
posted by russm at 4:06 AM on May 29, 2011


Seriously overdue response but... thanks Namlit. That was great!
posted by Hartham's Hugging Robots at 4:33 AM on June 2, 2011


« Older This past January Newsweek magazine deemed Grand R...  |  War Pigs, live in Paris 1970. ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments