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John LaCosta

BSM Track Update - May, 2007

John LaCosta    

It has been too long since I have last updated this page. A combination of work related tasks and other personal tasks have seemed to take away the time I used to do these updates.


One of the major projects over the last year has been the work on adding a fourth track to the car barn. This task has involved adding a lean-to on the car house next to track three and extension of the track next to the Visitorís Center, track 4, toward the car house. The extension of track four also involved adding a switch just south of the entrance to the Visitorís Center to allow double ended cars to load and unload from the Visitorís Center platform rather than from the adjacent yard.


The addition of a switch was in itself a major undertaking, since it was done using girder rail. Girder rail is rail with a built in flange way that was designed for use in city streets. The flangway allowed space for the flanges on the wheels that are used to guide the trolley along the track. The first task was to find enough part of a girder rail switch to build one from the rail that the museum had collected over the years as track was removed from the Baltimore streets. After an exhaustive search the track crew found all of the basic pieces needed and started on the slow task of reassembling the switch. Once of the first problems they had to solve was to find enough joint bars for the girder rail. Joint bare are flat pieces of steel, well almost flat, that are bolted to the ends of the girder rail and join two pieces of rail together. I say they are almost flat because they have a bevel on both top and bottom to match the rail profile. Joint bars are designed to fit both the size of rail and a manufacture of the rail. The track gang found enough old pieces of rail with joint bars to use for the switch, the hard part was getting them removed from the old rail, they were welded to the old rail. Why were they welded you ask, to get a good electrical and mechanical connection that would not have to be ďfixedĒ later on once the rail was in the street and covered.


To assemble the switch, a large flat space was needed to work away from the visitorís Center, so the switch was assembled at the south end of the 22nd Street shops next to Falls Road. Since the pieces of the switch had actually come form many different switches, it took a while to get everything to line up. Once the pieces of rail were lined up, new bolt holes where drilled to match the joint bars and to allow gauge rods to be inserted. †Gauge rods are long pieces of steel rod that is threaded on each end and nuts are placed on either side of the rail to keep the rail the proper distance apart. They are used in addition to the ties that are normally under the rail.

With the pieces of the switch aligned the joints bars were welded and then lengths of scrape rail were welded to the bottom of the switch to hold it together for the trip down Falls road to the Visitorís Center. Prior to the move of the switch, the stub track next to the Visitorís Center needed to be extended about 60 feet and girder rail installed. This extension required removing the walkway in front of the entrance doors and digging a long trench about 8 feet wide and 60 feet long.† The two piece of straight girder rail were place in the trench on wood blocks and attached to the stub track. Rather than use wood ties and ballast, the track department decided to use a technique used by modern day transit companies around the world, we filled the trench with concrete, about 9 cubic yards. Since the plan is to make this section look like a city street, the concrete was only poured partway up the girder rail, and once the track is completed to the Car House, a final concrete pour will be done. This pour will be colored to look like brick and will use a mold to make it look like actually brick.

With the straight section of track in, a temporary walk way was place back to the main entrance and the excavation for the switch was started. This was a larger excavation since the switch is wider than the first section of track that was added. We were very fortunate to have the construction company next to the 28th street loop, Potts and Callahan, move the switch down Falls Road and place it for us. After some final alignment and welding, another concert pour was done, this time it took three large concrete trucks and about 30 cubic yards of concrete.


Currently the track department is in the last part of the track extension to the Car House. Unfortunately, we did not have one piece of curved girder rail required to finish this par of the track. After some calling around, the track department located some rail with the proper curvature and with the museum trailer went to Pennsylvania to get the rail, Excavation of the last section was started, and other than running into the telephone lines that ran under ground between the Visitorís center and the car house, the excavation was completed without any problems. The telephone lines were to e replaced as part of this track extension so other than the short period of time that there was no usable phones in the Car House, no one really noticed the broken cables.


Currently the track department is fitting the Falls Road side rail. This has been a time consuming task since the rail on had is from various manufactures and finding and in some cases making the point bars is a taking more time that we had hoped,


Another task for the track extension was pouring concrete along track four inside the car house. The back 1/3 of the Car House extension was completed and will provide a good place to jack cars up when the have to change the trucks. Why do we have to change trucks you ask?


The museum has one sweeper, one PCC line car and three PCC cars, all from Philadelphia. We also have two other PCC as well, so there is very little space available. The only problem with the cars is that their wheels are two inches too narrow for our tracks. What is planned now is to extend the wheels out one inch on each side for the PCCs and replace the sweeper axels with one we have had re-gauged.


The track department has also started up work on the second track and is only has about 300 feet to go for rail and ties. Once that is done, we will need a lot of ballast to get things tamped up.


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