I woke up in the middle of the night last night realizing I'd forgotten to put out the garbage. So I went to do that, and once outside I heard this gawd-awful roar coming from somewhere out to the West of us. So I hopped in the car and went hunting the noise, stopping every so often and cutting the engine to listen. The streets were mostly dark and nearly deserted.
It turned out to be some sort of railroad maintenance machinery sitting on a trestle overpass, "making a racket" as my grandmother used to say. It looked like eight or ten short, stubby locomotive-type cars in a row, and when it started to move, sparks showered from the undersides of some of the cars.
I next went up to a crossing to watch it pass by, and there seemed to be spotters every few cars, who I guessed were watching to make sure the sparks didn't start a brushfire at trackside. Then the contraption stopped, then reversed direction. At the head, now the end, of the train, a man with a hose was hosing down areas of the track, which were steaming.
So my question: what the heck was I looking at and what were they doing?
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Featured Comments from:
Werner Wittersheim: "What you observed was a rail grinder. These maintenance-of-way (MOW) vehicles are used to reshape the surface of the rails to make them smooth again. With time, rails tend to lose their ideal shape because of the impact of the wheels which roll on them: Some wheels are not exactly round (and therefore rattle along the line); sometimes wheelsets get blocked during braking (and thus glide over the rail); sometimes locomotives accelerate too abruptly which results in slipping driving wheels. All this mars the rails. Scratches begin to show, corrugations, rills, and other deformations of the surface can be found. These damages retroact with the passing wheels again, causing them to vibrate,which shortens their lifespan and produces unnecessary noise. In extreme cases it can bring up derailments. So it's worthwhile to rework the rails. This can be done several times before the rail has to be replaced."
Michael Perini: "And where was the D800 which can shoot in the dark to document rail grinding or Bigfoot, or other things that go bump in the night???"
Mike replies: It was where I should have been, back at home sleeping.
KeithB (partial comment): "Was it this?"
Mike replies: It was exactly that. Even said "LORAM" on the end, come to think of it.
Crabby Umbo: "...You gotta quit eating chili before you go to bed...that sounds like an infernal machine from another time!"
Mike replies: You know, that thought occurred to me...sitting on the roadway under it, with it up on a low trestle above me showering sparks down to the road below and making an appropriately infernal noise. Quite dramatic. My thought was that it was like something out of Jules Verne. I'm kind of happy I encountered it, actually; never seen one before.
Here's a nice video of about what I saw (thanks to Bryce Lee and other for this link).
And, it was brats and NA beer....