I volunteered at the Prairie Dog Central Railway again on Saturday. I was asked if I was interested in doing some track work, and I agreed. We were scheduled to work between 9 and 2.
When I arrived at the Prairie Dog, I saw CN 5556 rolling up the line to service the elevator at CN Lilyfield. I took a quick shot of it passing by the station before I went in.
CN owns the first few miles of the former Oak Point subdivision, and the Prairie Dog owns the rest.
We assembled at 9 AM at the shop on Inkster Boulevard in Rosser just northwest of Winnipeg. The plan was to ride diesel 4138 up the line to Warren, then check and clear crossings on the way back. Engineer Mel, MOW chief Robert, Tom and myself crowded into the cab and we were off. It took about an hour to reach Warren.
There were two crossings just north of Warren that were quite clogged. We got out and attacked them with shovels and brooms. The concern at the crossings is with debris getting between the rail and the boards on the inside of the rail, causing a rough ride and in the worst case a derailment. The soil around Winnipeg tends to be clay and therefore sticks in the channels.
The Prairie Dog Central has a couple of labour-saving devices on their locomotive. The first is a pair of posts mounted to the pilot of the locomotive that are used to clear the channels in the crossings. The posts are normally "up" but they can be lowered and secured such that they are right on the inside of the rails. The locomotive then rolls slowly through the crossings and the posts plow through the debris in the channel. You can't use this when there is a joint in the rail, for fear of the post catching on the joint. Here's a photo of the post lowered, in the shop.
The other labour-saving device is a high-pressure blower. They rigged up a wand, very much like a car-wash wand, connected to the compressed air aboard the locomotive. This powerful device can blow out a lot of debris, rocks and so forth from the channel. Safety glasses and hearing protection are required!
Tom told me to make sure I kept my mouth closed when using it, and I soon found out why. The debris goes everywhere - in your hair (not that I have any), your mouth, your nose...
We worked our way south from Warren. Some of the crossings were fine, and some were not. There were a few that were especially difficult, and they needed a pick to remove some of the debris. Robert also checked every flashing light on the way and noted the inspection in the log book.
We were back in the shop by 1 PM and we retired to the lunchroom. Another good day working on the Prairie Dog!