New England Central Railroad Upgrades
- Installed 1.495 million feet of continuous welded rail (CWR)
- Replaced 140,000 wood ties
RailWorks and another rail construction contractor installed rail and replaced wood ties along 191 miles of New England Central Railroad (NECR) track to accommodate higher-speed Amtrak passenger service.
RailWorks teamed with Atlas Railroad Construction in a joint venture to upgrade the line to accommodate higher-speed Amtrak “Vermonter” passenger service. RailWorks installed 140,000 wood ties, and the two contractors shared the job of installing 1.495 million feet of continuous welded rail (CWR) along 191 miles between St. Albans, Vt., from the north and the Massachusetts border to the south. The sweeping upgrades allow passenger trains to travel up to 59 mph north of White River Junction, Vt., and up to 79 mph south of White River where centralized traffic control (CTC) has been installed. For Amtrak passengers, the historic improvements mean a smoother ride that’s up to 40 minutes shorter than before.
Work on the project began in the fall of 2010 when the first of 18 rail trains arrived with CWR. A RailWorks gang worked each train to position 50, 1,600-foot strings of rail along the track shoulders, enough for 15 miles of rail. Also that fall, RailWorks managers on the project began meticulous planning so the rail and tie gangs could hit the ground running when they arrived the following April. They set up accounts, determined equipment needs, pinpointed material unloading and distribution spots, and set up initial schedules to complete the work.
In early April of 2011, two rail gangs – one from Rail-Works and another from Atlas – began replacing rail starting in St. Albans and working south. The RailWorks gang took the western rail and the Atlas gang took the eastern rail. Positioned about 2 to 4 miles apart, each gang first removed the existing rail, laid about 1½ miles of rail and readied the track for service at the end of each shift. The RailWorks tie gang started two months later to replace defective ties marked for replacement by NECR.
The gangs generally worked 15 straight days. During the seven-day stretch when they were off, another five-person gang spent three to five days unloading each rail train to position CWR on the track ahead of the rail gangs. With up to 150 workers on the line and so many moving parts, communication between NECR, Amtrak and all workers and subcontractors on the track was essential not only to ensure safety, but also to meet production goals. Communication became particularly important after Hurricane Irene hit the last week of August.
Learn more about this project in a contractor case study in Progressive Railroading magazine.