Rails on the Road

Anything pertaining to railfanning in Michigan.
User avatar
Pixl
Grand Traverse Dinner Train 1996
Posts: 1648
Joined: Mon Mar 10, 2014 7:56 pm
Location: Traverse City, Michigan

Rails on the Road

Unread post by Pixl »

I saw two flat bed semi trucks hauling brand new rail north on US-23 in southern Michigan yesterday as I was returning from my Ohio visit. Since when does railroads use trucks to haul their freight, especially rail? I'm curious as to where that rail was headed to.

User avatar
Standard Railfan
Railroadfan...fan
Posts: 1507
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:25 pm
Location: Marquette, MI

Re: Rails on the Road

Unread post by Standard Railfan »

When the railroad wants to assure something arrives on time they ship by truck.
Cars in company service are treated as low priority and often are the first to be left behind when a train’s locomotives hit their tonnage limit.

User avatar
MP73point4
Railroadfan...fan
Posts: 239
Joined: Tue Sep 07, 2010 12:24 pm
Location: Billtown, MI

Re: Rails on the Road

Unread post by MP73point4 »

It could also be headed for use by a repair or construction contractor rather than a railroad. Stick rail could be used to build or repair a siding on private property maintained by a customer rather than a railroad.
RR Pass Collector

Raildudes dad
Roadmaster
Posts: 4624
Joined: Fri Dec 23, 2005 10:12 am
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

Re: Rails on the Road

Unread post by Raildudes dad »

2 truckloads is a lot of rail. My last highway project with a lot of rail on CSX (runaround for the new 48th St RR bridge) the RR provided the ties and almost 4000 linear feet of rail. Sourced from and delivered by RJ Corman by truck. The stone was supplied by CSX from the Toledo docks and was delivered by rail. CSX MOW crews did the work on the main and up to 25 feet from the main (work rules). US Track works did the rest of the work under contract to CSX.
My boss worked for CSX for 8 years as a bridge engineer in WVA / KY. He likes to tell stories to us interested in RR's of searching for rail cars loaded with bridge materials for MOW projects. "It's supposed to be in the yard (Russell) someplace" so he'd have to go looking. His best one was hunting for a load on a Friday afternoon and finding it stored in a tunnel on a coal loading spur. Walked in and verified it was there as was all the material he needed. Sunday he gets a call, the tunnel collapsed yesterday and the car is now buried in tons of rock and the road above is closed. "Sorry, we can't pull it for you." Time to order a new load of material. Almost had to hire a new engineer :roll: . The even scarier part was the coal loader was closed and if there wasn't a road above the tunnel who knows how long it would have been for the collapse to be discovered. "Mr Supervisor, my husband hasn't come home from work or called. Do you know where he might be?"

User avatar
Pixl
Grand Traverse Dinner Train 1996
Posts: 1648
Joined: Mon Mar 10, 2014 7:56 pm
Location: Traverse City, Michigan

Re: Rails on the Road

Unread post by Pixl »

Back on Track, I had hoped someone might know of a project that the new rail was headed for.

User avatar
wawatam
Railroadfan...fan
Posts: 58
Joined: Tue Sep 21, 2010 5:47 pm
Location: Mason, Mi. / St. Ignace,Mi.

Re: Rails on the Road

Unread post by wawatam »

Another possibility is that the rail wasn't for a railroad at all. In my years of working in the steel erection trade, I've worked a lot of jobs setting and aligning rails on top of rather large girders for overhead cranes to travel on. These cranes can be found inside power houses, steel mills and any number of industrial settings. Most overhead cranes have a capacity of anywhere from 10 to 50 tons and they travel on the same rail you see on most railroads. Also, the rail we received always arrived by truck. I know this doesn't answer your question of where the rail was going. Sorry about that.

User avatar
Pixl
Grand Traverse Dinner Train 1996
Posts: 1648
Joined: Mon Mar 10, 2014 7:56 pm
Location: Traverse City, Michigan

Re: Rails on the Road

Unread post by Pixl »

wawatam wrote:Another possibility is that the rail wasn't for a railroad at all. In my years of working in the steel erection trade, I've worked a lot of jobs setting and aligning rails on top of rather large girders for overhead cranes to travel on. These cranes can be found inside power houses, steel mills and any number of industrial settings. Most overhead cranes have a capacity of anywhere from 10 to 50 tons and they travel on the same rail you see on most railroads. Also, the rail we received always arrived by truck. I know this doesn't answer your question of where the rail was going. Sorry about that.
Wawatam, sound like a good guess to me. I only got a quick look as we passed the trucks on the freeway, my wife was driving and doesn't slow down for railroad stuff. But I did see it was new blueish steel. I would think what few rail projects today use rails that have been pulled up somewhere else and processed for re-use.

chapmaja
Railroadfan...fan
Posts: 798
Joined: Sat Nov 22, 2008 3:02 pm

Re: Rails on the Road

Unread post by chapmaja »

Pixl wrote:
wawatam wrote:Another possibility is that the rail wasn't for a railroad at all. In my years of working in the steel erection trade, I've worked a lot of jobs setting and aligning rails on top of rather large girders for overhead cranes to travel on. These cranes can be found inside power houses, steel mills and any number of industrial settings. Most overhead cranes have a capacity of anywhere from 10 to 50 tons and they travel on the same rail you see on most railroads. Also, the rail we received always arrived by truck. I know this doesn't answer your question of where the rail was going. Sorry about that.
Wawatam, sound like a good guess to me. I only got a quick look as we passed the trucks on the freeway, my wife was driving and doesn't slow down for railroad stuff. But I did see it was new blueish steel. I would think what few rail projects today use rails that have been pulled up somewhere else and processed for re-use.
This would be my guess as well. Given the location where is was seen (US-23 in southern Michigan, which I assume means south of AA), it could be headed just about anywhere? It could be for someplace in state or even somewhere in Canada. I'm trying to think of any construction projects/industries being built in Michigan that would require cranes that run on rail, and I can't think of any off the top of my head. I also can't think of any industries that would be putting in new sidings that would require rail.

As for how much rail it was. I'm just trying to picture the amount of rail. the typical length of a flatbed trailer is 48 feet, so my guess is the lengths likely would have been 40', which I think is a standard length for a rail. If the rail is 100lbs rail, it means 100 lbs per yard of rail correct? That means each length of rail would weigh 1333.33 lbs. Given the maximum truck weight 80,000 lbs of load in other states, including Ohio (if I understand the law)it means each truck could be carrying 60 sticks of rail, or roughly 2400 feet of rail. If two trucks were seen, it means 2400 total feet of rail was seen (you do need two rails) . This is a lot of rail. My guess is either it was going to a big factory being built somewhere, or a customer building a substantial siding on their property. One other possibility is that it was going to a distributor (possibly in Canada) who sells the rail for construction projects. A quick google search found several such providers in the area of Canada between London and Kingston, with several more companies in the Montreal area.

User avatar
patrick
Railroadfan...fan
Posts: 1534
Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2004 7:46 pm

Re: Rails on the Road

Unread post by patrick »

So i saw these trucks, or a couple like them around 12Pm on I75 northbound in Bay City. they were spine like trailers and only had 1 or 2 sections of rail per trailer. I'd guess 50 to 60 foot lengths.

Raildudes dad
Roadmaster
Posts: 4624
Joined: Fri Dec 23, 2005 10:12 am
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

Re: Rails on the Road

Unread post by Raildudes dad »

Here are some facts - a tandem tractor tandem trailer can gross 80,000 lbs w/o permits. My tandem tractor (87 Ford LTL9000 day cab) weighs out at 12,000 lbs, my 25 ton capacity tandem low boy trailer (steel) weighs 11,300 ls so I can net 51,200 lbs. A sleeper cab probably weighs more but a trailer may be less if its aluminum so the net load weight is probably 50,000 lbs plus or minus.
Crane rail can be 30, 33, 39 40, 60 or 78 feet with weights ranging from 12 to 80 and 104 to 175 lbs per yard. RR rail is usually 39 feet and from 100 to 141 lbs / yard.
Assuming 100 lbs / yard and 39 foot sticks, 50,000 lbs calcs out to 38 sticks per load, 1483 feet of rail. 6 inch base gets 17 sticks per layer with a 102 inch wide trailer, or 2 layers. What did you see Pixl?
2 pieces of rail on a spine trailer, seems odd but I'm not saying it isn't true. Photos always are good but I'm not good getting them either :)

chapmaja
Railroadfan...fan
Posts: 798
Joined: Sat Nov 22, 2008 3:02 pm

Re: Rails on the Road

Unread post by chapmaja »

If they were in Bay City (or near Bay City), I wonder if it might have been something for Dow in Midland. Given the floods could they have needed a couple pieces of rail within the facility and the railroads couldn't provide it, or get to the location of the facility it was needed in? Just thinking out loud about where it could be going.

User avatar
Saturnalia
Authority on Cat
Posts: 13900
Joined: Wed Sep 28, 2011 7:54 pm
Location: Michigan's Copper Country
Contact:

Re: Rails on the Road

Unread post by Saturnalia »

They could also be welded transition rails, from one sized rail to the other. They're often used in place of compromise/transition joint bars these days. I've seen them used a lot when they relay rail at crossings to a higher weight than the original rail. Unless you're ordering a bunch of them, best they be carted around on trucks.

Railroads aren't built to handle small or one-off movements. Volume or hugely oversize for highways is what they're best at and what gets catered to.

User avatar
Pixl
Grand Traverse Dinner Train 1996
Posts: 1648
Joined: Mon Mar 10, 2014 7:56 pm
Location: Traverse City, Michigan

Re: Rails on the Road

Unread post by Pixl »

Raildudes dad wrote:Assuming 100 lbs / yard and 39 foot sticks, 50,000 lbs calcs out to 38 sticks per load, 1483 feet of rail. 6 inch base gets 17 sticks per layer with a 102 inch wide trailer, or 2 layers. What did you see Pixl?
Guessing from memory as my wife passed the trucks, I would say about 40' length, maybe just two layers, defiantly new rail with letters cast in and some white "digital looking" letters and numbers on the sides. I wish I had taken a picture now, would tell a thousand words.

Raildudes dad
Roadmaster
Posts: 4624
Joined: Fri Dec 23, 2005 10:12 am
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

Re: Rails on the Road

Unread post by Raildudes dad »

She didn't pass them very fast if you could see all that :lol: . Sounds like a couple loads of rail running together. Could be for a small project or a couple loads for a big project anywhere north including Canada. Some times sticks are welded on site to produce welded rail when there isn't enough to justify a welded rail train.
Hard to say without sightings further north.

Post Reply