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


Freight Train cars.

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.

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.

Freight Train cars.

Different Freight Train 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 Train 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 Train 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 Train 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.

5 Freight Train Cars for Different Loads

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

1. Flatcars

The first kind of freight Train 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. Wellcars

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.

5. 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 Train 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

how long do railroad tracks last - how often do railroad tracks need to be replaced - concept image.

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!

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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.

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The Benefits of Building Railroads vs Railroad Track Repair

Railroad track repair is what we do. The value of functional railroad systems is intrinsically tied into the history of America’s economic success. While in days of old a great deal of manpower was used to build many of the tracks we use today, times have thankfully changed and technology has replaced the dependence on manpower. Much has changed in the country, but railroad contractors are still very much needed for repairing railroads and more!

Just consider the many uses and benefits of building railroads and its easy to see why adjustments or new rails are laid down still.

There are many factors to consider nowadays, which largely depend on what the railroad’s intended use is. There are also a number of modern rules and regulations around the building, maintenance, and risk management of railroads. Understanding the efficacy and economic viability of a railroad as opposed to other transport systems can also benefit the budding investor.

The Purpose of Railroad Track Repair

There are only really a couple of modern uses for railroads, they are freight and personnel transport, but those are incredibly crucial uses for the country.

Railroad Freight Benefits

Railways are still utilized for the the freight of various goods, it’s important to look at other options too. Read here to learn more about the similarities and differences between rail and road freight.

Personnel Benefits of Railroads

A railroad to transport people to and from wherever, then the same consideration can apply as freight. What are the benefits of transporting people via rail rather than by road? There are plenty of potential reasons such as:

  • Access to a worksite which otherwise is inaccessible
  • Transporting large amounts of people to and from the same place daily
  • Creating a sense of history or mystery in relation to some event or place

Whatever reason you’re looking into railroads, identifying exactly why you wish to do so can potentially show you positives and negatives you may not have considered.

Railroad Track Repair and Environmental Conditions

Extreme weather conditions can be mitigated by the use of more modern methods and materials, but they will still deteriorate your tracks over time. Otherwise if you’re looking at buying an old track, then looking into its history can tell you how the materials and methods used have fared against the weather and environmental conditions of the area.

Building a Bridge

It’s not uncommon to require a bridge somewhere along your railroad track to pass over a valley or a body of water that can’t otherwise be circumnavigated. Building or repairing a bridge for use can be an expensive project, and can also take several months. Be sure to confer with the appropriate engineers prior to pursuing such a project to get an idea of the cost and time it may take.

Digging a Tunnel

As with building a bridge, it can often be impossible to circumnavigate certain topological features and one must simply go through them. Digging a tunnel, like building a bridge, can be incredibly expensive in both time and money. If it can’t be avoided, then as with bridges it’s important to speak with an engineer about the true cost of such a project.

You may not have to face either of these situations, especially if you’re considering building somewhere generally flat like the Midwest. Railroad contractor James J Hill was quoted saying “What we want is the best possible line, shortest distance, lowest grades, and least curvature we can build.”, which still rings true today.

Railroad Track Repair vs Building a New Railroad

A question which we have the luxury of asking these days is “do I repair the existing structure or do I build something entirely new?”. Both of these have their own pros and cons and comparing them can give you an idea of what may be more suitable for you.


There are many train tracks which already exist across America, with plenty of corridors which may only require some minor repairs. 


  • Can be cheaper than building new by not needing more materials
  • More environmentally friendly than building new as new resources aren’t required
  • Preserves a part of America’s rich rail history


  • May require more frequent and heavy-duty maintenance
  • Restricts the rail to only suitable trains and carriages
  • May require a lot of research into the history of the railroad to find details about construction and materials

Building Fresh

By building a new railroad, you will have an entirely different experience and a completely different result.


  • Built to your exact specifications
  • Can utilize modern materials and technology to increase longevity
  • Allows for maximum safety and minimal risk 


  • Substantially more expensive than refurbishing
  • Can take a lot more time than simply refurbishing
  • May have to spend time and money in removing old tracks

Railroad Track Repair vs Building: Contact R&S Track

Regardless of whether you’re looking at repairing an old line, or building a new one, be sure to get in contact with all the appropriate authorities to make a legitimate plan. Contact us today to speak with an experienced Midwest railroad contractor to learn more about how we can help.

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