Repair projects will keep rail traffic rolling along

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 29, 2003

Kansas City Southern Lines welder Todd McCutley, of Jackson, uses a profile grinder on a rail after welding together the rails that were once part of a switch system at the Bovina Drive railroad crossing in Bovina. McCutley used a Boutet welding technique to weld the rail. The Boutet technique includes wrapping a clay mold around the rail and heating the metal to 5,000 degrees before pouring it into the mold. ( Chad Applebaum The Vicksburg Post)

[05/29/03] Two projects of Kansas City Southern Railway are designed to help keep increased rail traffic rolling on the east-west corridor through Vicksburg.

An ongoing project is track inspection and repair, said Rick Bruce, KCS division engineer based in Jackson.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Bruce said each section of track is checked with an infrared laser every three months to spot hidden defects in the rail. When a defect is found, the railroad has two choices under Federal Railroad Administration rules. For minor defects, bars can be installed along the rail to reinforce a weakened spot. For more serious problems, a welding crew is brought in.

“The first thing they do is bring the rail up to the proper temperature,” Bruce said. “Then they light off a powder mixture.”

He said the powder is aluminum and iron oxide. When the mixture is ignited, the resulting chemical reaction produces molten iron that seals the defect in the rail.

A second project, Bruce said, began in October and should be complete in late August or early September. It involves replacing 16 manual switches with automated ones.

With the old style switches, the train had to stop while someone manually worked the switch mechanism to allow the train to move onto another track.

“This will allow us to control them from the cab” of the locomotive, Bruce said.

KCS is in the midst of a multiyear buildup. The new switches will allow the increased train traffic to move more quickly. In the wake of the North American Free Trade Agreement, KCS uses the corridor through Vicksburg to move increasing amounts of freight from Mexico to the Eastern Seaboard. As many as 32 trains per day pass through the city.