Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Question: Length of Spikes Used at Promontory; Height of rail

From: pravoslavna@comcast.net  

I've much enjoyed your website on the CPRR.  Keep up the good work. I've been diligent reading all the fine pages you have posted, "studying up" for a retirement trip to Promontory that I'm planning after I wrap up a 43 year railroad career.

Here are two questions that you might be able to answer... 

(1)  What was the length of the spikes used by the CPRR in spiking down its 60 pound rail in the vicinity of Promontory?

(2)  It appears that the original 60 pound rail over Promontory was never replaced with rail of a heavier section, as the literature indicates the rail retired in 1942 was still 60 pound rail.  Would you agree with this?

Abram Burnett
New Cumberland, PA


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman" wendellhuffman@hotmail.com

I have a spike which I believe to date from original construction of the Central Pacific. Its shaft measures 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch and overall it is 5-1/2 inches long. I compared it side by side with a replica gold spike a few year ago and it is the same size.

I'd be surprised if the old line around Promontory was not relaid at some time with steel rail (which may very well have weighed the same as the original iron rail, but being steel allowed for greater rail-life and train weight).


7/06/2005 8:02 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Randy Hees" hees@rcn.com

From the "Western Pacific Railroad, Report of the Commissioners on 1st section" Dec 10 1866,

"The Spikes are 5 1/2 inches long and 9/16 of an inch square"

This section was built by the original corporation, which within two years would be taken over by Central Pacific interests. This was the only section of the WP to use chairs instead of fish plates.

From the "Western Pacific Railroad, Report of the Commissioners on 2nd section" Aug 31, 1869.

"The weight of the rails is not less than 56 pounds per yard. They are connected by fish joints.... The rails used are generally twenty-eight feet in length. The spikes are of wrought iron, five and one inches in length, nine sixteenths of an inch square, weigh one half pound each, and number about ten thousand five hundred per mile, upon straight lines, the number being increased upon curves."

By now the WP is owned by and run by the Central Pacific. The section described above was completed immediately after the section at Promitory, and most likely used the same track standards (and materials)

Randy Hees

7/06/2005 2:02 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: littlechoochoo81@netzero.net

The spikes in use in 1869 and before and after were 9/16 x 5 1/2 of wrought iron. The rails in 1869 at Promontory were 56 pounds to the yard. In the late 1870's et sequi rails were changed out to 75 and 76 pounds per yard. This latter weight was unique to CP/SP as far as I know. The 75 pound pattern had a pound added to it in the head area. If you have sufficient interest you can probably tell what brands of rail of 56 pound weight were used in the Promontory by reviewing the testimony in the Pacific Railway Hearings held by a committee of Congress in 1887-88. There are tables showing weights of rail by mile posts and if memory serves it also shows the brands. In 1869 Promontory was at milepost 690, being from Sacramento. The rail from Lucin to near Kelton was changed to 35 pound from the Carson and Colorado line which was taken up and abandoned in the late '30's between Mina, Nevada and Laws, California. This small rail was put in at the start of World War II for use in western US Army depots. When I first hired out at SP in 1948 someone had sent D. J. Russell, who became SP's president about 1950, a template of this 35 pound rail saying it was the original rail used at Promontory. Nice try but no cigar. There were two kinds of track spikes used, one, the familiar one we see today with the lip on top at the same angle as the "bevelled" edge at the bottom of the spike, and the same design except the bottom edge was 90 degrees off from the top lip. The reason for the second type was for use on spiking rails on longitudinal wooden stringers underneath the rail so that the cutting edge of the spike would be across the grain of the wood just as the common track spike cuts across the grain of a cross or switch tie. I found one of the second type one day while walking through the Sacramento shop area. It probably had been used on the wooden stringers that lined locomotive pits in the shops before the advent of concret sills. It is (was) the only one of that type I have ever known. Sadly, when I moved to the Seattle area in 2001 the box in which it reposed along with other artifacts "disappeared" from the moving van somewhere along the route.

Lynn Farrar

7/06/2005 3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

want to know if 1869 rail was 3 inch tall ???

4/01/2009 8:02 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Chris Graves" caliron@cwnet.com

Speaking of CPRR rail, It is precisely 56 lbs to the yard, and stands 3 3/4 inches tall. That rail, now was used, and the new stuff could be a tad taller.

UPRR rail, used, is 4 inches tall.

—G J Chris Graves, NewCastle, AltaCal'a

4/02/2009 4:30 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Randy Hees" hees@astound.net

There are tables of rail size by weight, but they are not exact as there were and still are various rail sections for each weight ... but generally,

3" tall rail would be 30lb a yard
4" tall rail would be 56lb a yard
4.75 tall rail would be about 76lb a yard

30lb rail was not used on the Pacific Railroads. It was used a few years later on many of the narrow gauge lines built in California, Colorado and Utah.

The 56lb rail on the original Pacific Railroads would have been about 4" tall, but there was some 50 lb rail used on the Central Pacific, acquired from the Western Pacific when they bought that line in 1867/68, apparently used on sidings.

By the 1870's the line through Promontory would have been heavier 76lb rail, about 4.75" tall. It is possible that the 76lb steel rail lasted until the line was abandoned during World War II.

—Randy Hees

4/02/2009 4:33 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: kylewyatt@aol.com

I believe there are enough surviving samples of the various rails used by the Central Pacific that a good photo survey – with dimensioned scale, could be created.

Attached are two spikes believed to be reasonably early Central Pacific. One was found on the old grade somewhere in Nevada in 2006 (top); the other in a trash pit at Cisco in 2007 (bottom).


4/02/2009 4:38 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: " Wendell Huffman" wendellhuffman@hotmail.com


“B.S.I.Co.63” [Bay State Iron 1863].
3-7/16” tall, 3-7/8” wide. Approx. 60 pounds/yard.
Found near Colfax. 8 inches long, 13 pounds.
Bay State Iron, Boston, Mass. Established 1847.

“RIC 64” [Rensselaer Iron Company, 1864].
3-7/16” tall, 3-1/2” wide. Approx. 50 pounds/yard.
Found east of Colfax. 20.125 inches long, 27.5 pounds.
Rensselaer Iron established in 1846, consolidated with Albany Iron in 1875 to form Albany and Rensselaer Iron and Steel Company.

“RIC 66” Rensselaer Iron Co., Troy, NY, 1866.
3-7/16 tall, 3-5/8” wide. Approx. 52 pounds/yard.
19.75 inches, 28 pounds.

“BSIC 66” Bay State Iron Company, 1866; Boston, MA.
3-7/16” tall, 3-1/2” wide. Approx. 52 pounds/yard.
Found near Battle Mountain, NV. 18.25 inches, 26 pounds.

“RIC 68” Rensselaer Iron Co., Troy, NY, 1868.
3-11/15 tall, 3/3/4” wide. Approx. 56 pounds/yard.
37 inches, 56 pounds.
Believed to be identical to last rail laid at Promontory.

“A.B” Probably Atkins Brothers, Pottsville, PA, 1869.
3-11/16” tall, 3-3/4” wide. Approx. 56 pounds/yard.
Found in Rocklin, CA. 16.75 inches, 26.5 pounds.
Albany Iron established in 1819, consolidated with Rensselaer Iron in 1875 to form Albany and Rensselaer Iron and Steel Company.

“WB” Waterman Beaver, Pennsylvania Iron Works. Danville, PA.
3-3/4” tall, 3-11/16” wide. Approx. 55 pounds/yard.
Found Rocklin, CA quarry. 132 inches. 201 pounds.

Incomplete brand “A Co”; probably Albany Iron Co.,1871.
3-15/16” tall, 3-5/8” wide. Approx. 58 pounds/yard.
Found near Wells, NV. 17.875 inches, 28.5 pounds.
Last iron rail laid on C.P.R.R.

4/03/2009 9:42 AM  

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