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Home / How To / Prototype Railroads / Reconstructing a railroad diamond crossing

Reconstructing a railroad diamond crossing

By Steve Miazga | February 14, 2022

In the summer of 2020, the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railways rebuilt the diamond at Duplainville, Wisconsin

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Aerial map with projects.

Duplainville, Wis., about 18 miles west of Milwaukee, was developed around 1848. A predecessor of the Milwaukee Road began building a new main line west toward Portage, Wis., running through Duplainville about 1855.

The Wisconsin Central (Soo Line) built south from Rugby Junction to Chicago in 1885, crossing the Milwaukee Road at Duplainville. The crossing was controlled by a tower or attendant until 1987 when Centralized Traffic Control was installed. An interchange track in the northeast quadrant of the crossing was built and opened in 1986, serving the “old” and “new” Soo (after it had purchased the Milwaukee Road). The interchange track went out of service in August 2019.

The crossing sees an average of 14 to 20 trains, including Amtrak’s Empire Builder, on the Canadian Pacific, and 30-plus trains, including Wisconsin & Southern using trackage rights, on the Canadian National. After many years in service, it was time for the diamond to be replaced.

Duplainville aerial with projects

Aerial map with projects.
This is an aerial map showing the Canadian National main cutting across from the bottom left to top center with the Canadian Pacific main and siding running across the bottom of the photo. An interchange track curves from bottom right to top center between the lines.

 

Project scope

  • Remove westbound CP/northbound CN mainline switch and replace rail (8/2019)
  • Remove interchange track south of Green Road
  • Grade and develop staging and maintenance area with old roadbed material
  • Remove southbound CN/eastbound CP mainline switch and replace rail
  • Move crossing gates on Green Road for single track crossing
  • Complete reconstruction and replacement of the double diamond crossing
  • Remove Interchange track from Green Road and rebuild crossing
  • Related signal and train control upgrades to fit the revised track

 

A white crane lifting a section of track from a flatbed trailer.
A white crane lifts a section of track from a flatbed trailer.

 

September 9, 2020

A crane lifts a section of track from a flatbed semi-trailer as the arrival and unloading of first diamond replacement components begins.

A large steel plate to support one of the crossings is piled with other track components and pieces of rail.
A large steel plate to support one of the crossings is piled with other track components and pieces of rail.

 

The second shipment of diamond components arrives on September 25. Note the heavy steel plating. Through mid-October, CN crews continue track panel assembly. The work was done in a large staging yard constructed for the project in part by removing the old interchange track between the CP and CN.

A piece of panel track lays in the staging yard next to a yellow construction tractor with rubber tires and rail wheels.
A piece of panel track lays in the staging yard next to a yellow construction tractor with rubber tires and rail wheels.

 

November 2, 2020

Equipment from both railroads and contractors begin to fill the new staging area. Canadian Pacific crews begin the assembly of the new double diamond.

The two tracks of the Canadian Pacific main are assembled to the single track of the Canadian National main to form a diamond crossing panel laying in the staging yard.
The two tracks of the Canadian Pacific main are assembled to the single track of the Canadian National main to form a diamond crossing panel laying in the staging yard.

 

November 3, 2020

The diamond begins to take shape.

Workers in orange vests around the diamond crossing panel in the staging yard.

 

All hands on deck.

An excavator and a loader carry a section of panel track across the Canadian Pacific tracks.
An excavator and a loader carry a section of panel track across the Canadian Pacific tracks.

 

November 4, 2020

L & H Gyr Excavating (now Gyr Acquisitions Inc.), CN’s contractor, moves a new CN main line track panel to a staging location south of the new diamond. Nothing to it, just up and over! The CN crews would be busy removing the interchange switch and restoring the mainline tracks for the next day.

Pieces of construction equipment, including cranes and excavators, arrive on low-boy flatbed semi-trailers.
Pieces of construction equipment, including cranes and excavators, arrive on low-boy flatbed semi-trailers.

 

November 10, 2020

While dump trucks were hauling in ballast early in the morning, CP’s contractor, Cranemasters, arrives with a fleet of nine semis. Two of the cranes are shipped in parts on three trucks, the crane self-assembly gets underway as more equipment arrives.

A black Norfolk Southern General Electric Dash 9 diesel is lighted by spotlights as it crosses the diamond in the dark.
A black Norfolk Southern General Electric Dash 9 diesel is lighted by spotlights as it crosses the diamond in the dark.

 

The last train crosses the old diamond at around 7:30 p.m. Plans are to have both mainlines open by 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning, November 11.

Four cranes lift the old diamond from the roadbed.
Four cranes lift the old diamond from the roadbed.

 

Overnight, cranes begin to take up positions as crews begin cutting the mainline rails, then it’s out with the old diamond in one piece.

Four cranes place the new diamond on the roadbed as orange-vest clad crew members supervise.
Four cranes place the new diamond on the roadbed as orange-vest clad crew members supervise.

 

With the crossing out, ballast removal and subgrade undercut begins. Then crews begin checking the grade before positioning the new diamond and CN main in preparation for the final drop into position on the new subgrade.

A flatbed truck with rail wheels positions ballast hoppers at the crossing.
A flatbed truck with rail wheels positions ballast hoppers at the crossing.

 

November 11, 2020

Canadian Pacific ballast cars arrive from Brookfield siding a few miles to the east. Ballasting the CN main continues in the early morning hours.

A yellow target frame rests on the northside Canadian Pacific track as orange-vest-clad workers supervise the work under spotlights.
A yellow target frame rests on the northside Canadian Pacific track as orange-vest-clad workers supervise the work under spotlights.

 

Surfacing begins on the CP main to ensure a smooth crossing. The sun and bottled up train traffic are coming.

Spotlights highlight a yellow tamping machine attended by orange-vest-clad workers.
Spotlights highlight a yellow tamping machine attended by orange-vest-clad workers as the sun begins to light the clouds above them.

 

A glimpse of sunrise as the final ballast tamping concludes on the diamond crossing.

A red-nosed Canadian National diesel sits on the other side of the crossing where fresh ballast lays between the tracks.
A red-nosed Canadian National diesel sits on the other side of the crossing where fresh ballast lays between the tracks.

 

8:00 a.m. – The first northbound CN train waits for a green south of the crossing.

Yellow-painted construction equipment including ballast groomers and front-end loaders stand on the two-track Canadian Pacific main under spotlights.
Yellow-painted construction equipment including ballast groomers and front-end loaders stand on the two-track Canadian Pacific main under spotlights.

 

November 12, 2020

After two days of train traffic, crews were back for more surfacing on Thursday night. This is looking west on CP at the crossing of CN.

A white heavy-duty high-rail truck with a crane sits on the single-track Canadian National main line as orange-vest-clad workers stand along the rails and a yellow piece of welding equipment sits in the foreground.
A white heavy-duty high-rail truck with a crane sits on the single-track Canadian National main line as orange-vest-clad workers stand along the rails and a yellow piece of welding equipment sits in the foreground.

 

November 13, 2020

Finishing the job – Contractors use thermite welding to eliminate the rail joints from the construction.

An empty staging yard with only a bulldozer and road roller, a large pile of gravel, and a gray construction container sitting in it on a gray day.
The mostly empty staging yard has only a bulldozer and road roller, a large pile of gravel, and a gray construction container sitting in it on a gray December day.

 

The staging site in early December – all ready for winter and plowing!

 

Check out more articles on “Prototype Railroads.”

One thought on “Reconstructing a railroad diamond crossing

  1. Since this piece covers real railroading instead of model railroading, is it also at the Trains Magazine site?

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