Track Construction Machine helping double track NHHS rail line

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, editor
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Double track construction is getting a boost on portions of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield (NHHS) passenger line thanks to a new Track Construction Machine (TCM).


Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) Commissioner James P. Redeker unveiled the mammoth TCM that is being used to double-track portions of the NHHS Line, which is being branded as the CTrail Hartford Line.

The CTrail Hartford Line is scheduled to begin operations in January 2018 and building a second track parallel to the existing single track, which is currently used by Amtrak trains, will allow more frequent train service and more efficient train movements.

The 250-ton TCM will lay nearly nine miles of track between North Haven and Meriden during the next three weeks. This marks the first time a TCM will be used to lay this significant length of track in Connecticut. Officials say the TCM has increased production capabilities over other methods of track construction and note the machine’s ability to construct without interfering with the operation of train traffic on the adjacent existing mainline track.

“We are excited to finally launch commuter rail service between New Haven, Hartford and our friends in Springfield, and state-of-the-art, 21st century machinery like this is helping keep us on schedule so we can begin service as soon as possible,” Gov. Malloy said. “A modernized transportation system brings so many benefits to an area. High among them are the economic advantages that attract businesses and grows jobs, however for too many decades our state lacked the forward-thinking vision to make these improvements. We are committed to building a best-in-class transportation system for Connecticut’s residents, and the Hartford Line is one piece of this vision that will move us forward.”

“The launch of the Hartford Line will provide an opportunity for Connecticut to join in a regional vision to a make rail a more convenient and faster option for travelers,” Commissioner Redeker stated. “Expanded rail service will strengthen transportation infrastructure in Connecticut and the region.”

The TCM is the main component of a moving assembly line designed to install rails and ties in one efficient operation. Prior to start of the operation, train cars carrying fifty, 1,600-foot long rails were off-loaded and the rail was deposited on either side of the rail bed. Fifteen tie cars, each carrying 176 concrete railroad ties weighing more than 800 pounds each, are towed behind the TCM and feed it with concrete ties via a conveyor system. While pulled along the rail bed by a bulldozer, the TCM uniformly lays the ties onto the ballast at predetermined spacing and simultaneously threads the rails onto the ties. A clipping machine attaches the rail clips to hold the completed track assembly together.

The machine can assemble up to 1,000 feet of track per hour (500 ties) in ideal conditions, at over one mile of track per day. Officials note that prior to the use of the TCM, it would have taken months to complete this work using either track panels, which require offsite assembly and transportation to the site, or manual installation through the use of other, more traditional track construction equipment.

The TCM is expected to return to Connecticut in 2017 to add another ten miles of track between Meriden and Newington. By the time the expanded service begins in 2018, about 32 miles of the 62-mile corridor between New Haven and Springfield will be double-tracked.

“In partnership with the state of Connecticut, Amtrak is pleased to celebrate this important milestone in the CTrail Hartford Line project,” Amtrak President and CEO Wick Moorman said. “Through strong collaboration between Amtrak, CTDOT, the Federal Railroad Administration and our various contractors, we are continuing to progress this transformational project and look forward to delivering a state-of-the-art railroad that will allow for improved and expanded service.”