News & Reviews News Wire Twin Cities & Western project continues work to remove rail joints

Twin Cities & Western project continues work to remove rail joints

By Steve Glischinski | June 28, 2023

Grant helps fund program with goal of eliminating all jointed rail on main line

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Man pushing machine along track to cut rails
ONE Rail crews use a cutting machine to trim off bolted rail ends. Steve Glischinski photos

Yellow tractor moves rail to fill gap
After the cut sections are removed, a track machine begins to push the rails together.

GLENCOE, Minn. — The Twin Cities & Western Railroad is continuing its rail joint elimination program thanks to a recent federal grant.

Crews from contractor ONE Rail Group are currently working near Plato, Minn.

Machine welding rail
ONE Rail Group’s welding truck flash-welds the rail together. The process only takes a few minutes, a far cry from the days when sand-packed molds had to be individually applied for thermite welding. Using this process 60 to 80 welds can be done in a single day.

The contractors cut off bolted rail ends, then push the pieces of rail together. Using a ONE Rail truck equipped with a.c. welding technology, the rails are flash-butt welded together in about 3 minutes.

Twin Cities & Western logoWorkers then move in to smooth the rail and rail head. Rail anchors are then placed, and when the section of track is complete, a surfacing crew will tamp blast through the welded rail section.

About every 10 rails, new rail is added to replace lost footage of the bolt-hole ends. Crews work on the north or south side of the rail for a few miles, then drop back and weld the parallel rail.

Last week the crew worked adjacent to the residence of Allan Debner, who has lived trackside for more than 70 years. He remembers when the Milwaukee Road upgraded the rail in 1959-60, and when the Olympian Hiawatha used to cruise by at around 70 mph.

Man bent over rail with machine sending out tail of sparks
Seconds after the weld is complete, a workers moves in to grind the side of the rail smooth.

When Debner was young, his family’s cows would have to be moved across the tracks; he recalls hearing a train whistling for town as the cows were still on the tracks. “But they made it across in time,” he said. Debner still has a piece of 95-pound rail Milwaukee crews gave him when the rail was replaced.

A bipartisan effort by U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, along with Reps. Dean Phillips, Ilhan Omar, Michelle Fischbach, and Tom Emmer, assisted in obtaining the grant.

Man with machine working on rail
Another machine is used to smooth the head of the rail.

The project was awarded funding by the U.S. Department of Transportation under the Federal Railroad Administration’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure & Safety Improvement (CRISI) program, supporting the railroad’s long-term program to eliminate all jointed rail on its main line.  Twin Cities & Western had previously received a $2.01 million CRISI grant in 2019. That money was used to weld rails together on a segment of the main line between Chanhassen and Norwood Young America, Minn.

Man holding piece of rail
Allan Debner, who has lived by the tracks for over 70 years, holds a piece of rail that Milwaukee Road crews replaced in 1959-60.
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