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Roger Hensley

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  Railroads of Madison County
Maurice Lewman

Track Maintenance

May 17, 2002

Before trucks and other mobile equipment used today to maintain the tracks everything was pretty much done by hand. On the Michigan Division, Elkhart, In. - Louisville, Ky., each maintenance section was about fourteen to fifteen miles long. Each section had three to four men year round. In summer they would have extra gangs that retied and surfaced the track. Crossties and ballast were handled by work trains. Motor cars were used for mobility and to carry tools. These motor cars would carry six to seven men.

The tools carried would allow you to do most repair jobs. As a rule these were the tools they carried on this division. 4 lining bars, used as jack handles, to line track and hold ties against the rail while driving spikes and other uses, 2 claw bars, used to pull spikes and hold up ties for spiking, 2 or 3 track wrenches, 3 or 4 shovels, 2 picks, 2 spike mauls, 1 pair of tie tongs used to move ties by two men or flipped over and used by one man, a few spikes and bolts, 2 small track jacks, 1 track level, 1 track gauge and 1 small blacksmith hammer. Of course most cars had a single shot Stevens Rifle for ground hogs and such. Also an axe and a device to pull spikes from between the stock rail and a guard rail.

We have the motor car ready. We will look inside the car house. Its size is 12'X18'. Inside the car house there are extra tools of the kind on the motor car. These are speciality tools that were not used every day. A two man hand drill to drill holes in rail, a rail bender used to bend stock rail, a rail stretcher used to pull rail together if it would run due to temperature change or other reasons, mowing scythe handles and blades, brush axe and a roll of number 9 wire used for whatever, different lengths of 1/2" chain, a hand saw and a coal burning stove. On the wall behind the stove was a couple of pieces of number 9 wire about six inches long, shaped like an s, with a handle about six inches long. This was one of the most valuable pieces of equipment in the car house. It was used mostly in the winter. If you were at the car house at noon, fire going in the stove, you laid the s shaped wires on the stove, opened your lunch box, removed the fried bologna sandwich with maybe a slice of cheese and toasted your sandwich. If you have never eaten a sandwich toasted in this manner, after being in the cold for four hours, you have never lived.

I better explain what I meant by "if the rail would run." When a rail parted for whatever reason, and the weather cooled, the rail shrunk. This involved the rails themselves and in the case of, let's say at fall creek at Emporia, if the rail broke north of the elevator switch the track would run north down the hill. When you replaced the rail with a standard length rail it would be short a few inches. You applied the rail stretcher to both parted rails through the bolt holes. The stretcher had a long 1 1/2" bolt with a ratchet in the middle that you operated with a lining bar. The threading on the bolt was like a turnbuckle . When the rail came together you removed the stretcher. You then replaced the joint bars and trains could run.

The next time I will explain how we used some of these tools. Some are almost a lost art. Also on the motor car was a couple of rail chisels.

Maurice Lewman

Maurice worked the Michigan Division from 1947-1981. He then worked on the Bee Line from 1981-1992. From 1947 until august 1950, he worked on the section at Shirley and Markleville. In 1950 he started firing on steam and then on through the diesels. Maurice said, "I had the pleasure of working with C. C. Staley and Ron Buser many times."

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