Serving the Track Maintenance needs of the Midwest since 1987
Mark Robak
Tim Starostka
Pat Phillips
Ryan Karr


Railroad inspections
Architecture & Building, Blog

The Importance Of Railroad Track Inspections

R&S Track, your Midwest railroad contractor, provides railroad inspections as part of our high-quality services. These track inspections have helped many clients monitor a track’s overall condition. Track inspections pay for themselves because they prevent future costs down the line. A railroad track’s wear and tear are inescapable, but you can curtail its progression with an R&S track inspection service. 

Rails are constantly exposed to severe stress due to heavy freight, high-speed round-the-clock trains, and the rail cars’ intermittent braking and accelerating. With regular everyday wear and tear and severe stress, a variety of rail defects will occur. Head, web, foot, switches, bolts, and welds are the most common places to find defects. Today, we would like to discuss the importance of railroad track inspections and how a midwest railroad contractor can lend a helping hand.

Railroad Inspections Reveal Rail Defects Including:

  • Abrasion
  • Deformation
  • Machining errors and Fatigue

There are other types of rail surface defects as well.

Rail Surface Defects Include

  • Squats—Squats predominantly happen on the flat part of a rail’s surface and occur when there is a mismatch between the wheel and the rails. The different types of squat defects include vertical, diagonal, and horizontal. The defect grows steadily while branching out horizontally underneath the top of the bearing, dislodging it from the body of the rail.
  • Weld – Track welding produces weak points that are prone to abnormalities and show up in the construction process and during maintenance of the rails. When a new line is assembled, some rails are joined by welding. In addition, rail maintenance also uses the welding process when a rail needs to be replaced. 
  • Joints – Joint area defects are gradual fractures in the web of the joint, usually near or at the end of the rail. The typical joint web defects include bolt cracks and separation at the joint. 

There are many causes of rail defects and rail failure. Some of these causes include bending and shear stress, wheel/rail contact stress, thermal stress, residual stress, and dynamic effects.

Railroad Inspection Defects As A Result Of Rail Contact Stress Or Contact Fatigue Include

  • Tongue lipping occurs when two wheels roll along the same spot causing a groove to form.
  • Head checking occurs when a wheel rolls into a gauge corner and creates a crack.
  • Squats usually occur when a wheel rolls across an existing crack, thus creating a new crack.
  • Another type of defect is caused by water filling up a crack and expanding. This produces a frozen crack.
  • Rail corrosion can also be caused by water and liquid. 

Railroad track inspections assess the operating conditions of the rail and identify areas needing maintenance. But even more importantly, inspections can prevent costly accidents.

In fact, one analysis shows that as a result of railroad track inspections, costs of railway issues and accidents have consistently gone down. The first federal track safety standards came into effect in 1971 following the enactment of the federal railroad safety act of 1970.

These regulations require railroads to ensure that employees who work near the tracks perform visual inspections. A qualified inspector should know about railroad tracks, railroads, and railroad safety. They should also have experience inspecting and reporting on a track’s safety conditions and the safety procedures followed by workers.

The job is physically demanding and dangerous. An inspector should be able to manage long periods of walking on rocky, uneven surfaces. They will be bending frequently and crouching to measure track geometry. Inspecting track defects requires climbing up embankments and track structures along with mounting and dismounting from railway cars.

Most inspection work takes place along railroads, in railroad yards, around track structures, and near railroad cars. Inspectors must wear safety glasses, a helmet, and safe, comfortable shoes when inspecting railroad property. They should be very cautious about getting caught in the moving pieces of turnouts or falling off structures.

There is a good chance they’ll be exposed to heat, cold, rain, snow, poison ivy, or other unpleasant elements. Inspectors also shouldn’t be afraid of heights since they need to climb on bridges over ground and water.

Track inspectors are responsible for inspecting railroad tracks, bridges, tunnels, etc. However, they also inspect freight cars. It’s a dangerous job because they are constantly around moving trains. Even so, a railroad track inspector needs to be a team player who is very organized and stays calm during stressful times.

They are required to complete track evaluations and report violations when necessary. The inspector will determine the need for safety meetings and be able to provide training for railroad employees. The training should include proper inspection, maintenance, and safety procedures for track operation.

A Professional Midwest Railroad Inspection: R&S Track

A satisfied customer is our main focus, and we won’t leave until the job is done. We are equipped to handle any job. To learn more about our services which included railroad track inspections, contact us today!

railroad track maintenance.

Railroad Track Maintenance and Rehabilitation

R&S Track, your Midwest railroad contractor, provides a number of rail services to the Midwest rail infrastructure. In fact, since 1987, we have been serving the railroad track maintenance and railroad construction needs of the Midwest.

The most critical component of any railroad, other than employees, is the infrastructure. In today’s post, we will be discussing the importance of maintenance and rehabilitation.

The Basics Of Railroad Track Maintenance & Rehabilitation

Railroad right of way infrastructure includes:

  • Ballast
  • Ties
  • Track
  • Bridges
  • Tunnels

Railroad adjacent line side structures that include:

  • Signs
  • Mileposts
  • Switches

In the late 1800s, the Granite Railway used early strap-iron rails that featured a wooden base atop thin iron strips for added strength. The concept was purely experimental, and developers learned on the fly. Engineers eventually determined that a dense, hardwood like oak proved the most economical. Today’s cross ties are at least 8 – 10 inches thick and about 8 – 10 feet long.

Today, a revolutionary design of an inverted capital “T” is placed on the ground providing a solid base while the narrow end is the wheels’ guide way. Later on, steel, a stronger, more durable material, replaced iron. Rail is an essential component of a balanced national transportation system and a globally competitive economy. Defining some terms is vital before getting started on railroad track maintenance and rehabilitation.

Here are some terms you may or may not be familiar with:

Gauge – A standard of measure or measurement.

Track Ballast – The track ballast is material, usually stones, that form the trackbed upon which the railroad ties are laid. It is packed below, between, and around the railroad ties to help water drain and prevent vegetation that might compromise the track’s stability.

Sleepers – A Sleeper is a load-distributing component of a track structure laid transversely to hold the rail. Sleepers are also called “Ties” because they tie the rails together.

Tamping – Packing the track ballast under railway tracks to make the track and roadbed durable and level.

Rail maintenance is a crucial component that ensures a safe and efficient track for freight and passenger trains. Rail is susceptible to wear and tear because of the heavy weight and high speeds the cars may reach.

The Main Types Of Rail Maintenance Or Rehabilitation Include

  • Rail Grinding – This consists of grinding machines that travel along the track with grinding stones, which rotate or oscillate longitudinally to scrape the rail’s surface.
  • Rail grinding is used to correct rail grooves, fatigue, metal flow, and rail reprofiling.
  • Rail Replacement – This is necessary to upgrade the track to a higher gauge rail or replace the same gauge rail due to defects, wear, or derailment damage.
  • Tamping – This is needed to correct the track’s longitudinal profile, cross-level, and alignment. A few sleepers at a time are lifted to the correct level with vibrating tamping tines inserted into the ballast.
  • Track Stabilization – Track stabilizers vibrate the track in the lateral direction with a vertical load to give a controlled settlement. Tamping and compacting ballast underneath sleepers reduces lateral resistance of the track. Track stabilization can restore the lateral resistance to the original level.
  • Ballast Injection (Stone Blowing) – Ballast injection or stone blowing is conducted to correct the longitudinal profile. The process introduces additional stones to the surface of the existing ballast bed while leaving the stable, compact ballast bed undisturbed.
  • Sleeper Replacement – In almost all types of sleeper defects, the sleeper requires replacement. Bad sleepers can result in the rail losing the correct gauge, which can cause derailments.

R&S Track: A Midwest Railroad Contractor That Can Handle Your Rail Maintenance Requirements

Tracks age over time and take a beating with bigger carloads, shorter load time pressures, and larger locomotives.

R&S Track, your Midwest railroad contractor, can handle the maintenance and track rehabilitation necessary to keep your tracks safe and help you plan for future maintenance. We have the workforce, experience, and equipment required to manage and complete your unique project. Our team is serious when it comes to track maintenance and rehabilitation. Please take a look at the complete list of our services and reach out today to R&S Track, your Midwest railroad contractor, for more information about what we do, contact us today!

railroad companies
Architecture & Building

Industries That Can Benefit from Railroad Companies

The benefits of railroads shouldn’t be lost on many Americans, as our great nation’s veins are those very same railroads that allowed the pioneers to spread so far and wide. Although we’ve seen other forms of transportation become popular, such as air and road freight, in some cases, rail still has the upper hand. This is usually the case in more specific industries, so understanding why railroad companies in these industries can be helpful.

As a midwest railroad contractor, R&S Track Inc is always looking for ways to help people build, improve, repair, and maintain those capillary and artery railroads of our country. Sometimes that means going back to our roots, to those industries which we’ve always worked alongside. Here’s a look at the industries that can benefit from railroad systems.


While the days of coal-powered stoves are long behind us, we still rely on coal for a relatively large portion of our electricity production. That same electricity that powers your home is the same which powers the factories that produce the goods we buy, so the necessity of coal is apparent.

Not only does the coal industry rely on trains, but they have historically relied upon each other, with specific train carts purpose-built to move coal called a coal car. Coal and trains have a long history together, and it doesn’t take a Midwest railroad contractor to see how that will go far into the future.

Construction Materials

Where would we be without the countless buildings which we occupy throughout each day? It’s hard to imagine, thanks to the numerous trains which have carted building supplies cross-country since the early days of modern America.

Construction materials tend to be incredibly heavy in larger amounts, and relatively worthless in smaller amounts, so finding an efficient way to transport large amounts of them has become a must. As with coal, there are various cars which can help to transport these goods efficiently with minimal waste.

Farm and Food Products

While we don’t typically associate a Midwest railroad contractor to the food we eat, their role is entwined with much of what stocks our shelves in the supermarkets. We Americans eat a lot of food and keeping up with that demand is a monumental effort that takes countless trains sprinting up and down the lifelines of our country.

Many farm and food products require refrigeration or certain conditions to be shipped, which can be achieved in trucks but nowhere near as affordable as with rail freight. Shipping food by train also bypasses the risks of traffic jams or other interruptions, which could be disastrous for some kinds of food products.


Whether you like it or not, fashion is a huge part of our cultural identity in modern America. Having clothes has never been considered a luxury here, but without trains, we may not have the same affordability in modern fashion.

Trains offer an easier way to transport large amounts of clothing to even the smallest towns. Granting all access to that which keeps us warm, protected, and relatively dignified.


The irony of road freight relying upon rail freight isn’t lost on the average Midwest railroad contractor, nor should it be lost on you. Most of the vehicles we see on the roads today started their lives as shells being shipped around in train cars.

Thanks to the sheer size of trains, we’re able to transport vehicles in pieces, as well as fully assembled vehicles. This is especially important in those industries with highly specialized vehicles.

Cleaning Products

Coming out of the pandemic, the importance of cleaning products is particularly highlighted. The chemicals which make cleaning products so effective are generally quite volatile in larger amounts. This can make shipping them by other means, such as road or boat, quite dangerous to other people and the environment.

As with other materials, there are specialized train cars that can offer the ability to transport these necessary chemicals safely.

Public Transport

While cars have given us huge amounts of freedom, so much of driving nowadays is back and forth to the same places. With a thousand individuals traveling from the same residential area to the same commercial or industrial area each day, we’re driving climate change at hyper-speed.

Trains have always offered a more comfortable, environmentally-friendly, and scenic way to achieve your daily commute. With the rise of larger corporations, we may see the necessity for train lines from towns to the factories which provide us with the countless goods we buy online.

Finding the Best Railroad Contractor Companies

When it comes to finding the best railroad contractor companies to work with you want to consider a few things before signing a multi-year contract or even a million dollar or more contract. Railway projects usually average around $1 million dollars per mile of railroad track that you want to lay, so most likely your project will require some big bucks.

Costs for a 1-mile railroad can quickly add up.

  • Railroad Switches: $50,000 (for 2 switches)
  • Switch Timbers: $12,000 (for 2 timbers)
  • Railroad Relays: $171,000 (for 245 tons)
  • Railroad Ties: $166,000 (for 3,000 ties)
  • Railroad Ballast: $162,000 (for 6,000 tons of rock)
  • Railroad Spikes: $4,000 (for 68 kegs)
  • Railroad Crossings: $15,000 (for 1 crossing with signals)
  • Labor, Grading, Drainage: Varies by Contractor

Compass International lists the Global Railroad Construction Costs in their engineering handbook what gives a more detailed look at the costs of quickly engineering a railroad, but most of the costs vary from contractor to contractor and from state to state and are even dependent on national level influences like the cost of local, state, and national regulation on the railroad companies. If your located in the midwest, than you have found the best railroad company. RS Track, can help you forecast the costs of developing a new railroad.

Our Midwest Railroad Companies Can Help Your Business

If you work within any of these industries, then we implore you to look into how you can incorporate railroads into your business. Whether that means buying land and building your own, or restoring an older line to its former glory, we can help. Be sure to check out our website or call us today to speak with a Midwest railroad contractor.

railroad safety rules by the FRA

Typical Train and Railroad Safety Rules

Trains have been instrumental in the development of much of our modern world, and can be partially attributed to our modern quality of life. By helping us to transport goods and people en masse, we’ve been able to build towns and cities as nodes across our vast train networks. With this has come some degree of risk though, as with any kind of heavy machinery accidents do tend to happen, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. That’s why the FRA requires many federal railroad safety rules which we will cover in this post.

If you grew up anywhere near a train track, then chances are you will have some experience with the basics of train and railroad safety. Although unless you’re a Midwest railroad contractor, you may not be aware of all the reasons why we have certain rules in place. If you’re looking to purchase, repair, or build any railroads, you will need to ensure that safety protocols are followed. Here’s a look at the typical train and railroad safety rules that you will need to enact to ensure the safety of pedestrians near your railroads.

Understanding the Federal Railroad Administration Expectations & Railroad Safety Rules

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) work tirelessly to ensure safety across all railroads throughout America. They have strict guidelines and expectations which can be read on their website, and understanding these is important to the average Midwest railroad contractor and owners of railroads alike.

Ensure you have read all the relevant literature and ensured you’re meeting all of their safety regulations before allowing any trains to move on your rails.

Keeping Track of the Federal Railroad Administration Track and Rail Compliance Manual

Every industry has their checks and balances, as well as rating agencies, compliance agencies, and regulatory agencies that make sure the industry is operating efficiently, not cutting corners, and not hurting the people with predatory practices, or hurting the environment with illicit corporate activities that destroy the local, state, and national economies.

That’s why the FRA released the Track Integrity Manual which helps railroad owner operators follow the guidelines.

Trains and Railroads Require Regular Maintenance

Not only should you abide by the safety regulations expected by the FRA, but also ensuring that both your railroads and trains are in working order can further ensure safety. A simple brake failure can turn an accident into a tragedy, so be sure to do your due diligence in ensuring everything is repaired and maintained in a timely and effective manner.

For any help with maintaining your railroads, feel free to contact us to speak with an experienced Midwest railroad contractor who can help you maximize safety on your tracks.

Grade/Level Crossings

For the most part, trains will operate on railroads which are usually away from civilization and residential areas. Although as one can expect with such a web-like network, there are countless intersections where both vehicles and foot passengers will need to cross tracks safely. These are generally considered to be the most risky place for all parties involved, including even passengers and operators on the train. Most people are familiar with the idea of trains hitting cars which have stalled on their tracks, but not many are aware that countless cars drive into the sides of trains each year.

Having adequate and appropriate signage is considered one of the best ways to ensure the safety of pedestrians, motorists, operators, and pedestrians.

Passive and Active Signs

Most railroad crossings will utilize both active and passive signs to try and diminish the risk of accident at crossings. Passive signs, as the name suggests, are those which notify pedestrians and motorists of an upcoming railroad crossing. Whereas active signs are those which use lights and bells to indicate a train is coming.

Operation Lifesaver, an organization providing rail safety education, have a fantastic explanation of all the kinds of signs you can expect around crossings and railroads which you can read here.

Community Education

While signs can be useful in deterring accidents around railroads, they aren’t fail-safe. Beyond implementing adequate signage, many railroad owners will be encouraged to invest in community education. As with any kind of education, it all starts with our youth, so working alongside local schools to present a rail safety program relevant to the trains in your area of operation is a must. Even discrepancies like whether you’ll be hosting predominantly freight or passenger trains is an important consideration.

Young or New Drivers

Beyond implementing rail safety in our schools, there’s one other demographic who are often forgotten but potentially quite prone to accidents on railroads. Young or new drivers won’t have the same reflexes or quick-thinking necessary to swerve out of the way of danger, so ensuring that rail safety is taught to them too is a must.

The aptly named Operation Lifesaver once again have stepped up to provide invaluable resources on the matter, and have even created a video with an accompanying lesson plan to teach safe driving around railroads.

The Federal Railroad Administration Enforces Safety as the #1 Concern As A Midwest Railroad Contractor

We lead busy lives and tend to become desensitized to the very real risks around us at times, no matter how cautious we try and be. Over time you may start to see members of your community ignoring rail safety protocol in situations where they deem no danger present. Its in these moments that tragedy often strikes, so it’s important to regularly remind people of the necessity of safety protocol around railroads and trains.

Be sure to put up notices on both local social media groups and on community noticeboards if you believe safety is being ignored, and utilize the brilliant resources that Operation Lifesaver have created for this exact reason. Call us today for a free railroad consultation or schedule a safety inspection.

railroad weather conditions

How Midwestern Conditions Affect Railroads

Life in the Great American Midwest is defined by the terrain and weather conditions that are unique to the area. Because of this, infrastructure such as roads needs to be built to withstand such conditions, and knowledge of what affects it is important. According to the average railroad maintenance company, there are several railroad weather conditions in the Midwest that may affect your railroad.

While they seem relatively simple, railroads rely on a variety of nuanced mechanics to remain functional over time. When these mechanics are hindered by environmental conditions, they can pose a threat to both the vehicles using the line and those people in and around those vehicles. Whether you’re building a new railroad, or taking over an old one, knowing which conditions can affect your line is imperative.

Here is a look at how local conditions can affect railroads in different parts of the Midwest.

Railroad Maintenance Company that Handles Tornadoes

Truly one of the more terrifying extreme weather events, tornadoes are an annual part of life for many Midwesterners. While they can occur at any time of year, they generally occur in June and July in the Midwest due to Goldilocks-like conditions. Depending on their severity, they can scatter ballast or in more extreme instances uproot the entire rail scattering ties and sleepers, and warping rails.

While there isn’t much one can do in terms of preventing tornado damage to the railroads, certain areas in which tornadoes are more common can be avoided. Usually though, when tornadoes pose a threat to railroads, the trains, cars, and any potential passengers will usually take precedence.

Railroad Maintenance Company that Fights the Extreme Heat

While most locals are deeply fond of the hard and fast Summer that rolls through the Midwest each year, not everyone benefits from it. In fact, the extreme heat over this time poses a range of threats to our health, with dehydration and heatstroke being common issues each year. It also poses a threat to our infrastructure, which while made to withstand some degree of extreme weather, is still affected by it over time. When it comes to railroads, the main threat that extreme heat poses is the rail buckling while a train passes over it, which can be disastrous.

As with tornadoes, it can be hard to fight the extreme heat and the effects it has on your railroads. Regular maintenance and acknowledgment of extreme weather conditions can help to prevent such problems. On speaking with a Midwest railroad contractor, they mentioned that seasonal modifications can further dampen the negative threat of extreme heat and other extreme weather conditions.

Railroad Maintenance Company that Prepares for Ice and Snow

Extreme cold can have a profound effect on our daily life, and while Winter is short in the Midwest, like Summer it is fierce. In fact, braving that fierce cold has become a part of the Midwestern identity. Ice and snow caused by the extreme cold can have quite an impact on both trains and railroads. Ice building up on the brake shoes can dampen the stopping power of a train, as they need to warm up and melt the ice before they will function. Likewise, snow on the tracks can impact both the stopping and going power relied upon by trains.

Ice and snow can also cause derailments, which are pretty much the worst-case scenario for most railroad operators. A build-up of ice and snow between the rails can lead to a derail due to the lack of a flangeway for the wheels to ride in on the inside edge of the rails. During cold snaps or more intense snowfalls, all railroad operations may need to slow down or stop to allow snow-clearing equipment to do its thing.

As with extreme heat, seasonal modifications can help to prevent such issues from arising, although regular maintenance and paying close attention to the weather can be enough in some instances.

Spring Floods

It seems that the Midwest suffers from almost every possible extreme weather condition each year, which truly denotes Midwesterners as survivors. The final extreme weather condition which is common to the Midwest are the floods caused by Spring downpours each year. These have become increasingly worse in recent years, with the 2019 Spring being the wettest on record for the U.S.

While rain itself may not have a profound effect on the various components which make up a railroad, in large quantities water is capable of displacing even the strongest foundation. Areas near rivers and lakes are the most prone to being affected, and therefore require a lot more attention than those parts of the line in more arid areas.

Prepping and Maintaining your Railroad As A Midwest Railroad Contractor

If you have concerns about any of the above conditions affecting your railroad, don’t hesitate to contact us today. You can speak with a Midwest railroad contractor who can advise on all of the above matters, and help you figure out what you need to do to protect your line. Check out our website, or call us today to learn more about how we can help.

railroad track maintenance.

Different Freight Cars for Different Loads

Freight via train has been revolutionary since its inception, and is still more advantageous to some than via ship or air. By retaining its relevance over time, we’ve also seen the freight cars change from their original form, which would’ve typically been a flatbed. Nowadays there are several different types of freight cars which can be used to move a variety of different things and materials.

Knowing which freight car will be relevant for your line is important well in advance, although there are usually options. If you aren’t a Midwest railroad contractor, or haven’t worked with different freight cars before, learning everything from scratch can be overwhelming. Instead it may be easier to consider the different kinds of freights, and identify which are relevant to your needs through comparison.

Here is a look at the different kinds of freight cars for different loads, as well as some of the history around them.

Types of Freight Cars – Flatcars

The first kind of freight cars to be used back in the early 19th century in England, flatcars were simply flat decks on wheels which allowed the stacking of various goods. These were instrumental in transporting large stones in early England, and have since been imperative for logging companies throughout the US.

Due to their shape, they allowed huge versatility in the transporting of goods, which has made them an asset to all rail freight companies. One might see vehicles, farm equipment, shipping containers, or even industrial parts on modern flatcars. Although their exposure to the elements meant that either the goods needed to be watersafe or timing would need to be concisely planned.

Types of Freight Cars – Gondolas

Usually the most beat up of all the cars, a Midwest railroad contractor friend claimed that these are the least respected cars in the industry. Relatively similar to the flatcar, gondolas have short walls around the sides which form a sort of bowl in which loose goods can be transported easily.

One will often see coal, stones, and smaller logs loaded into gondolas, although anything small can be carried in them with relative ease. A great advantage of gondolas is that they are generally so basic that usually only the air-hoses, bearings, knuckle couplers, truck assemblies, and other basic over-the-road equipment need to be maintained. Although their peculiar shape makes them only useful for specific kinds of goods.

Types of Freight Cars – Boxcars

Perhaps the most iconic car you will see carried behind a train is the boxcar, which most people will know from movies and TV shows. They’re often depicted as a large shipping container-sized car with big square openings that are either fixed open or can be opened and closed at will. We often saw them in movies as the car which people would hitch a ride on, running alongside the train to then jump up and sit in the opening.

These boxcars came about after the realization that loads may need some protection from the elements, and have been useful in carrying a variety of goods. While they are effective in transporting large goods in a sheltered manner, their shape and style does limit what can be carried in them.


While the industry recognizes that wellcars are a pretty big improvement on the flatcar, they are essentially flatcars which are slightly more equipped to hold containers. Also known as double stack cars, for their ability to stack two intermodal shipping containers on top of each other, these are ideal for those companies that handle a lot of shipping containers.

Shipping containers weren’t the only thing that wellcars have been used to move though, with truck trailers also being loadable. Transporting several truck trailers via a freight train may be much more affordable and environmentally friendly than simply driving each and every trailer back, so this also makes a good option for trucking companies.

Tank Cars

Another recognizable car, the tank car consists of a large cylindrical barrel fixed upon a flatcar which can transport liquid or liquefiable goods. Prior to tank cars, freight companies would have to rely on barrels to transport liquid, largely limiting how much could be moved. These barrels would typically have seal issues, and leaks were common on the lines, causing issues for both oil companies and train lines.

Modern construction of tank cars allows a much wider range of goods to be transported in them, with even food-grade tanks becoming commonplace. For transporting large amounts of liquids across the country, very few forms of transport stand up to tank cars and what they allow.

Other Cars

These are just some of the more common types of cars, you may also see:

  • Hopper cars – similar to gondolas with much higher walls to transport more loose materials
  • Caboose – typically attached at the end of all the cars, these are used by crew
  • Refrigerator cars – as the name suggests these allow the transporting of goods which need to be cooled
  • Livestock cars – cars which are outfitted to carry livestock
  • Iron ore cars – prior to hopper cars, iron ore jennies allowed large amounts of iron and other ores to be transported safely

If you’re looking for more advice about which types of cars may be relevant for your work, don’t hesitate to call us to talk to one of our Midwest railroad contractor team.

Workers fixing railroad system - railroad planning

Overcoming Environmental Obstacles with Proper Railroad Planning

Railroad planning has been helping people and possessions move great distances for many years now, and several countries worldwide owe their development to them. While we have several alternatives nowadays, namely air, road, and ships, many still rely on railroads. And although the trains have changed dramatically over the years, the tracks themselves are remarkably similar to those we saw in the 19th and 20th centuries.

While the tracks look similar, technology has absolutely revolutionized the process of building a railroad. Nowadays one doesn’t need a troop of slaves or low-paid laborers to do the hard work, instead, we have machinery which is far more efficient and ethical. However, looking at how we overcame environmental obstacles in the past can inspire and guide our efforts today.

Here is a look at how railroad pioneers overcame environmental obstacles in the past, and a look at what we can use today to achieve the same.

Railroad Planning for Different Types of Environmental Obstacles

The environment here in the US is incredibly variable, with forests, deserts, mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes, marshlands, all surrounded by the sea. This has posed many challenges for the pioneers of our great nation, as they traveled via horse and buggy, and later via trains across these landscapes. On riding some of the most famous lines we can see tunnels and bridges which seem to defy physics, and still impress the average Midwest railroad contractor of today.


Prior to our colonization of this land, large swathes of America were covered in dense forest which had housed both indigenous people and endemic flora and fauna for countless years. In the early days of our settlements, those forests near civilization would have provided much-needed timber for construction. Although in between settlements, one can imagine a thick native bush which would have been an intimidating prospect to overcome.

A Vital Resource

Prior to the availability of coal which came in the years following the industrial revolution, the main resource for cooking and heating was wood. The same went for early railroads too, which despite their name “the iron road”, were predominantly built out of wood. In fact, by the late 1800s, railroads accounted for 20 to 25 percent of wood consumption in America.

Clearing forests for railroads has and continues to be relatively straightforward, with the main obstacles nowadays being protected flora and fauna.

Deserts Require The Greatest Railroad Planning

Deserts pose a range of challenges to the building of a railroad, with less than ideal ground for building on, and constantly shifting sand, it’s truly a nightmare to the average Midwest railroad contractor. Although desert railways have been successfully built throughout the world, with the most impressive being Mauritania in the Sahara Desert. While finding solid ground to build the rails on isn’t impossible, it’s been considered preferable to circumvent desert areas as much as possible. The main problem posed is the buildup of sand on the tracks which can interfere with drainage when it does rain in these regions.

In the past, trainmen have had to physically sweep and shovel sand off of the tracks and switches, but nowadays attachments on the front of trains can achieve the same result without the labor.


If you’ve ever been on a train that has bored straight through a mountain, then you may have some appreciation for the great feat which it is. Mountains were overcome in two different ways, the first and more common was to bore straight through, the other was going over.

Straight Through

During the construction of the transcontinental, workers drove spikes into the mountains, filled the holes with black powder, and blasted through the rock inch by inch. This process was unbearably slow though, averaging about a foot each day. Nowadays tunnel boring machines (TBM)can make light work of a mountain, averaging 50 to 60 feet a day, which makes up for their incredibly high price tag.

Over the Top

In other instances, some mountains have been overcome by trains and tracks purpose-built for climbing those inclines which are otherwise impassable for trains. Mountain railways are predominantly used to transport people and goods to the summit, rather than as a section of a standard line. This is because of the steep grade railway technology which needs to be utilized to stop the train from sliding back down the track to the bottom.

Bridging and Circumventing Other Obstacles with Proper Railroad Planning

Rivers, valleys, and parts of lakes or marshlands which weren’t too wide were often overcome through the use of bridges. As with the railroads themselves, these bridges were once made of wood and now utilize stone, concrete, and metal to ensure their longevity. In other cases, circumvention proved to be cheaper or more convenient and still remains to be more preferable than hiring a TBM.

If you’re building a railroad, or even considering it, contacting us to speak with a Midwest railroad contractor should be one of your first steps. We can assist you in every part of your railroad construction, rehabilitation, repair, and maintenance, so contact us today.

historic railroads in the us.

The Largest and Most Historic Railroads in the US

Historic railroads in the US has often been referred to as the veins of America, both in appearance and in their relevance to the rapid development of all major States. Many of these historically significant railroads are still around today, albeit refurbished and in many cases completely replaced with more modern materials. The fact that some of these major railroads are still used today is a testament to their timelessness and their efficacy.

For modern railroad owners, and those looking to build railroads for modern use, it can be helpful to look at some of the more exemplary and historically significant railroads that exist in America. Ask any Midwest Railroad contractor, and they’ll inform you that some of the best inspiration available for the development of modern railroads is in our history. Whether you physically visit them, or simply do your research about them, certain railroads have defined, and will continue to define, the future of railroads in America.

Here is an overview of exemplary and historically significant railroads which may be of inspiration.

The Great Northern Railway – Minnesota to Washington

A symbol of the success of Libertarianism in America, James J. Hill famously built this railroad (supposedly) without financial support from the federal government. Hill, an already established Minnesotan coal and freight merchant, and three associates bought the decaying St Paul & Pacific railroad and turned it into The Great Northern Railway. If the railroads in America were in its veins, the Great Northern Railway was one of the historic railroads in the US.

The Mobile & Ohio Railway – Alabama to Kentucky

Although this railroad was used by the confederates during the Civil War, it went on to be used for almost 80 years after it ended. As it was attacked often during the Civil War it had to go through extensive rebuilding, and in 1940 it was merged with the Gulf, Mobile and Northern Railroad to become the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad.

The Santa Fe Railroad – Kansas to New Mexico

A favorite to many a Midwest railroad contractor, the Santa Fe was also known as the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. This was one of the larger railroads in the United States, and never actually connected to Santa Fe itself, due to the rugged terrain. The Santa Fe railroad hustled its way into existence, and even traded part of its line in Mexico at one point for track in the San Joaquin Valley. The railroad officially ceased operations on December 31 1996, when it merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad to become the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway, and is now the biggest freight network in North America.

The Union Pacific Railroad from Nebraska to California

The largest railroad in America, after the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway, the original Union Pacific railway was built as part of the First Transcontinental Railroad project, later known as the Overland Route. This monumental project connected the two coasts of America, and on connecting the two tracks from each side in Utah, a golden spike was laid in commemoration. The current Union Pacific is the oldest operating Class I railroad in the United States that has not originated as a merger between separate road names or holding companies.

Visiting the Golden Spike National Historic Site isn’t just for your average Midwest railroad contractor and their family, this site marks an integral part of America’s journey to where it is today.

The Pennsylvania Railroad

Next historic railroad in the US is the Pennsylvania Railroad. Spreading from Philadelphia into Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, New York, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, the northern parts of Michigan and parts of West Virginia. The Pennsylvania Railroad was founded in 1846 and grew into the largest corporation in the world by 1882, something which seems impossible in the modern economic climate. In 1946, a whole century after its founding, this private railroad company reported its first ever loss.

The Northern Pacific Railroad – Puget Sound to The Great Lakes

Although this railroad was a government-sponsored enterprise from the start, it was riddled with financial problems throughout its short lifespan. The Northern Pacific wasn’t able to keep up with privately financed railroads, and a myriad of financial problems (bankruptcies, corruption, etc) followed the line everywhere it went. This tragic railroad survived in one form or another until 1970, where it was absorbed into the Burlington Northern Railroad system.

Not only can exploring these historic railroads in the US give insight into what to (and what not to do) when building a railroad, but also give us an idea of how and why they were so integral in America’s development.

Seeking out a qualified railroad contractor to work on old rails or help make new developments? Contact R&S Track Inc today for a fair estimate.

References: Association of American Railroads | 3 Industries that Rely on the Railroad System

railroad replacement

Understanding the Relevance of Railroad Services

Considered an integral element in the development of America, railroads are still a preferred method of transporting goods and people across the Midwest. While many railroads are still functional, there are plenty which need railroad services such as repairs and rehabilitation. These repairs must be done to a professional standard to ensure the safe transport of both goods and passengers.

Before contacting a Midwest railroad contractor, read on to learn more about the services they offer, and how they can help you.

Consulting Railroad Services

As with any project which requires physical labor and engineering, a consultant is necessary to ensure the efficiency and efficacy of the job at hand. When it comes to railroads, you may consider hiring a Midwest railroad contractor to advise on exactly what you need to do to your tracks to get them functional again.

This is especially helpful to those who don’t have any knowledge or experience with railroads, although even with some experience and knowledge a consultant may be necessary.

Surveying Railroad Services

Due to the nature of how trains move along railroads, the land underneath the tracks is just as important as the tracks themselves. By hiring surveyors to inspect the land underneath your current tracks, you can enhance the longevity of the tracks by identifying potential problems early. Railroad surveyors will also be able to conduct a survey of your site to get an accurate idea of your inventory, which can aid you in planning for future needs.

This is a necessary part of the process of repairing or even building railroads, and should be done as early as possible to determine all potential problems.

Project Design Railroad Services

While designing a railroad track may seem simple enough in theory, the reality behind it involves many nuances which may require specific knowledge to understand. Things like various elevations, rivers, and geological features will require planning to circumvent or build over. This is where a professional and experienced railroad project designer can help, as they will be familiar with all the subtleties required.

Unless you’re looking at major repairs, project design is only really relevant when building a new railroad track. As with consulting, project design is helpful even to those with experience, and especially for those without.

Track Inspections Railroad Services

If you have recently bought or acquired a railroad track, the first thing you will need to do is have the tracks inspected. This can not only identify issues early, but also give you information about the efficiency and longevity of the track itself. Track inspections have changed dramatically since the inception of railroads, and now utilize technology referred to as Nondestructive Testing (NDT), such as:

  • Eddy current inspection – can identify surface or near-surface flaws
  • Electromagnetic Acoustic Transducer (EMAT)
  • Liquid Penetrant Inspection (LPI) – for manual inspection of joint bars and rail ends
  • Magnetic induction or Magnetic flux leakage – used to locate unseen flaws
  • Magnetic Particle Inspection (MPI) – used for detailed manual inspection
  • Radiography – used in specific locations such as bolt holes or areas where thermite welding was used
  • Ultrasound – considered the most popular method
  • Visual inspection – utilizing cameras to detect breaks and cracks in joint bars and bolted rails

Track inspections are imperative to undertake regularly to ensure the safety and longevity of your track. While you should undertake them as the railroad track owner, other railroad companies using your line may also request the right to inspect.

Track Maintenance

As with inspections, regular maintenance is an important provision of railroad services and can ensure both the longevity and efficiency of your tracks. From lubing the adjusting points and switches, to replacing fasteners and bolts, keeping up with maintenance can keep everything functioning. Any Midwest railroad contractor will tell you that regular maintenance saves them both time and money in not having to undertake expensive repairs or rehabilitation.

As with inspections, maintenance should be undertaken regularly. Contact us to find out how often your tracks may need maintenance, and how we can help.

Thermite Welding

Traditional bolted rails usually suffer a number of problems which require thermite welding to rectify. Due to the nature of this kind of welding, this should only be done by experienced professionals.

Get in touch with us today to talk with one of our railroad contractors about any thermite welding you may need on your tracks.

Derail Services

Even with regular inspections and maintenance, derails can happen. While they may be devastating at times, it’s important to know you can get the cars back on the tracks, and the tracks repaired to continue your service.

Midwest Railroad Services: R&S Track

Hopefully you will never need to hire derail services, but on the off chance you do we can help you get back in business. Contact R&S Track today!

Railroad inspections
Blog, Uncategorized

Why We Support the Rails to Trails Conservancy

Having worked on railroads for several years, our team at R&S Track have seen firsthand the removal or conversion of railroad systems. During this time we’ve come to see how quickly these accolades can be buried under gentrification. Whether you’re a Midwest railroad contractor or just a fan of trains or the history of this great nation, the loss of these artifacts can be devastating. 

When we first heard about the Rails to Trails conservancy, there was a buzz around the office as excitement spread that one could ride along these old tracks. It also brought a collective sigh of relief, as many of our older staff who recognize the historical relevance of some of these old rails knew that they would be preserved appropriately. 

Here are some reasons as to why we support the Rails to Trails conservancy.

I Want to Ride My Bicycle, I Want to Ride My Bike

Whether it’s a BMX, mountain bike, road bike, or just a cruiser, almost everybody has had a bicycle at some point in their life. They’re usually the first vehicle we become acquainted with, and it teaches us the importance of physical balance. Being able to ride a bicycle as a child also granted you a sense of autonomy among your neighborhood and community, and helped facilitate camaraderie among other children with bikes. These last two points are what we believe the Rails to Trails conservancy is able to provide both children and adults across America: autonomy and camaraderie.


“United we stand, divided we fall” is the age old saying which alludes to the very independent nature of being a human. Whether we explicitly crave it, or find other ways to attain it, we want to prove to ourselves (and often others) that we are capable of doing things on our own. While some cultures still have pilgrimages, the modern Western people prefer carving their own path across the many ancient routes that made our world. Whether it’s the El Camino de Santiago of Spain, or the Te Araroa trail of Aotearoa (New Zealand), we love walking or cycling long distances on our lonesome.

Although we recognize that while these great trails in other countries offer a unique experience, we believe having access to something similar in our own country can only be empowering for American citizens.


During these experiences of great solitude, we will often find ourselves bumping into or moving alongside like-minded people with similar desires. It’s in these vulnerable moments that we can truly connect with others, despite all differences that may seem to separate us. These connections can remind people of their place in the universe, and help forge new bonds which link us together as a family.

The Rails to Trails conservancy would provide opportunities for all kinds of people to meet on the path to a similar goal, and to connect through their mission and purpose.

Preserving Historical America

According to our Midwest railroad contractor who’s “seen it all” :the endless railroads spread across America can be likened to the capillary veins which are spread throughout our bodies. This is true in both a visual and metaphorical sense, as without those great veins America wouldn’t have grown into what it is today. While much effort has been put into recording videos, documentaries, and film-adaptations of much of America’s history, there’s nothing like physically visiting the place and seeing relevant artifacts in person.

Preserving through Converting

The most interesting element of the Rails to Trails conservancy is the fact that they’re not just keeping old rails, but actively converting them into walkable and cyclable paths. This is achieved while still ensuring that historical structures such as bridges and buildings are restored. This conversion may be the strongest point for the Rails to Trails conservancy, as it protects while still generating practical use out of these historical sites. This also works as “proof of concept” for similar ideas across America where investment can turn that unusable history into a practical present phenomena. 

How R&S Track Can Help

Not only are we happy to support the Rails to Trails conservancy, we’re also acutely aware of how the services provided by our contractors can help. If you’re looking for Midwest railroad contractor for track inspections, surveying, project design, or track rehabilitation, contact us today. We provide a range of services which can help to facilitate parts of the Rails to Trails conversion process on your railroad.

We are hiring for laborersApply Now