Spikes, Ties & Rails

by Jeff Oaks (From the Summer 2000 issue of Nailer News.)

Spikes, Ties & Rails is the quartely publication of the North American Railroad Maintenance of Way Association.  I joined the organization earlier this year, and I received a few back issues of their publication which I will review below.  The NARRMOWA was founded about 1994, and I am member #170.  Their brochure says

"Our organization is composed of individuals who recognize that railroads could not operate without the maintenance of way people who keep the trackwork, structures, bridges, signals, etc. in safe working condition.  These are the overlooked people of railroading, as are the tools they use and the methods of using them.

"It is our desire to record and preserve this aspect of railroading, not only of the past but of the present as well.  To accomplish this we desire to develop a working library of books, drawings, plans, papers and photographs which will be available to our members through our newsletter "Spikes, Ties and Rails'' and to individual members on request.  It is also our desire to work in conjunction with existing or new railroad museums and working tourist railroads.

Our dues are $10 which entitle a member to four issues of our periodical newsletter plus any special bulletins etc.\ we mail.  As we are a young and small organization we still have a lot of work to do, for most of this we depend on our members.  Your interest, help and membership are appreciated."

Spikes, Ties & Rails is published much like Nailer News, but with glossy paper.  This is presumably to allow for better reproduction of the photos, but the resolution is still not that good, because all the illustrations are printed from computer image files.  I would expect this to improve in the future.  The length of each of the six issues I have is eight pages.

The next issue (Spring 2000) is a little overdue, so the latest I have before me is dated Winter 1999.  There are two articles in this one:  "A Plethora of Track Tools'' by John Mowrer, and "The World of Double-Ended Snowplows'' by John C. LaRue, Jr.  Mowrer's article shows many pictures of hand tools used by MOW men, like a two-man rail drill, track jacks, and various tongs, bars, and wrenches.  The names and uses of all 32 tools are given in the text.  LaRue's article reviews, with eight photos, different double-ended snowplows.

Besides articles, you can find editorials by Walt Hayward (President), and Ben Bendever (editor).  There are a few other tidbits in each issue, like "Speeder of the Month'' and illustrations from an 1886 track maintenance manual.  This latest issue is unusual in that there is nothing on modelling.  Most other issues have an article describing for model railroaders how, for example, to set up a proper work train.

I joined the NARRMOWA hoping it would have historical articles on railroad engineering, but it is put out by folks who primarily worked for the railroads and who are relating their own experiences.  This means that my first article for them, on the 1919 screw dowels used by the Santa Fe in an Oklahoma test section, will be a little out of place.  Here are the differences in focus between them and me:

1) I tend to look farther back in time, using old railroad engineering journals and books, while the authors of articles in Spikes, Ties & Rails restrict themselves (at lears in my copies) to the period after World War I, and they speak from pesonal experience.

2) I am more interested in the elements of track---ties, plates, spikes, rail, and how they work together to make an efficient and effective track, while the NARRMOWA authors are more interested in tools, MOW equipment, and in the actual practice of installing, maintaining, and removing the various items which make up track.

None of them seem to have access to journals like the Proceedings of the American Railway Engineering Association.  For instance, in the 1950 AREA Proceedings is an article titled "Spray Equipment to Control Vegetation on Track and Right-of-Way''.  The AREA had a subcommittee on the chemical eradiciation of vegetation whose report appears in each annual volume.  Steve Shoe wrote the article "A Weed Spraying Train'' in the July, 1995 Spikes, Ties & Rails.  He shows photos he took in 1961 of a UP weed-spraying train "on my lunch hour while attending college in Greeley, Colorado'', and explains how it all worked.  He even gives instructions on how to model such a train, but he offers no information from any printed source.

I guess one way to differentiate between the engineering literature and the NARRMOWA newsletter is that the former was written by engineers for engineers, while the latter is written by the men who did the actual work for men who did the actual work.  Each perspective has its merits, and I sure know a lot now about mid-century weed spraying trains!

Here are the titles of other articles:  Railroad Hand Tools:  Check Out the Flea Markets; New Ballast on the Stump Dodger; D&RGW Narrow Gauge Jordan Spreader; Spike Lifter; M of W Cars on Display; Sidebooms in Action; Foreman's Car in HO; Scoops and Shovels; Modelling Long Island Railroad Maintenance of Way Equipment; Exploring the Knoxville Roundhouse; Hand Derricks; The Wonderful World of Tamplers; Custom Finishing MOW; Of Outfits, Work Trains, & Wreck Trains; Construction & Use of the Spot Board

This is a worthwhile organization, and anyone out there interested in maintenance-of-way ought to join.  After all, dues are cheap, and they had the foresight to name themselves "North American'' instead of the provincial "Texas'' we are still stuck with!

To join, send $10.00 to:  Walter L. Hayward, PO Box 420159, Kanarraville, UT 84742.  You can also contact the editor, Ben Bendever, by e-mail at rebendever@lucent.com, or visit the NARRMOWA website at http://www.drbens.com/narrmowa.htm (Ben's e-mail address on that page is wrong).

Note:  As of Fall 2001, the editor is Douglas W. Groff <doug@whitmoreprinting.com>.

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