Over 100 years ago men of steel dared to journey the uncharted Missouri River in their quest for the Gateway West. Along the river, settlements popped up--Hermann, Missouri was one of them. When the railroad followed, settlements blossomed into towns that flourished with new commerce. Over 40 trains still pass through Hermann each day; steel men maintain the rails they run on.
Union Pacific Crew 9115 has a special job; they lay rail only on curves. The Curve Gang, as they call themselves, have to pull old rail up before they lay new. A huge "multicrane," equipped with a magnitized ďspeed swing," lifts an "anchor stripper" onto the tracks to begin freeing old rail. Without anchors to hold it in place, curved rail can recoil and whiplash for hundreds of yards down the line, killing anyone in its path. First the old rail is cut using a steel-cutting rotary saw thatís clamped to the rail to keep it from jumping. A crewmember manually operates it, making the cut. Meanwhile, on a second set of tracks, only eight feet from where our crewmember cuts, trains speed by--Amtrack at 70 mph, freight trains slowing to 25.
Laying new rail begins with straight rail thatís heated to shape, anchored in place, then cooled with water to hold its shape.
The Curve Gang hail from ten states. While on the job they live in motels--a few own motor homes and bring their families along. They were in Hermann for 72 hours, replacing rail between Hermann and a road named Zero. Today they've moved on, working their way to St. Louis.
Ruth Anne Kocour
Tel: 775 849-1941
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