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HC Railroad Spikes in reach, but I need help


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I am 17 years old, and I have been blacksmithing for two years. It's great fun, and the beauty is amazing. But to the actual topic point, I have recently gotten consent from the county to salvage an old section of railway (My mother works in the Clerks office, so finding permission wasn't all too difficult). And the reason that I wanted to salvage the old line, is because of the HC stampings on the spikes. So I have a small tractor, truck, trailer, and even a buddy who's got nothing else to do, but I have no idea how to disassemble the tracks. If I just wanted the tracks, I could just use a large cold set I've made to shear the spikes. But I want the spikes! So I know it's an odd question, but does anyone know the best way to go about this?

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So this is second hand info from my buddy that used to work for a railroad, but I seem to recall him telling me about a piece of rolling equipment that pulls spikes.  Besides that, I searched around, and I think there is something called a 'claw bar' or a 'heel claw bar' that will pull spikes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gandy_dancer) but I don't have any idea where to get one.  You might be able to forge one, using the photo in the link as a guide.

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Good Morning,

 

Old section of railroad will have loose spikes. Make a heel bar (like a crow bar) that will catch under the spikes. OR. Make a piece that you can slide under the spike head, that will have a loop or ring on the top, use a long bar on a fulcrum (piece of 2x4) to pop the spikes out. Maybe use the rail for the fulcrum.

 

You will learn quite a bit about how the railroad builds things. Pay attention and learn to work backwards of how it was assembled. It was assembled with quite large tools. Use your BRAIN and not all your BRAWN!! :)

 

Neil

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Since you are not pressed for time, I'd suggest just getting the loose ones with a fairly small 3' crowbar and let the solid ones "ripen" a bit more. If it's truly an *old* track you may not find HC ones as they generally date to more modern times with the advent of mechanized spike emplacement. I would be on the look out for track clips---the funny ampersand looking things. Tough to forge but they often have almost twice the carbon content of an HC spike and so make a decent knife instead of a funny heavy letter opener. (and you want the ones with rectangular cross section not the channel ones...) Keep your eye open for other steel around the tracks and note that I have found real wrought iron around old tracks too.

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To remove dogs manually you need really 2 tools, a pigs foot (claw wedge) and a spike pulling bar (claw bar) the pigs foot is struck on the end with a hammer 1st to drive the claw under the dog then it is hit down to the sleeper to lever the dog out of the sleeper, if the dogs are loose or half way out, you can use the spike pulling bar to lift them out. Pictures attached as a picture is worth a 1000 words.  You can either fudge them or something like them or you could see if you can find something like it to do the job or better still make them yourself, a good smith with a helper should be able to finish 25 plus pigs feet a day or 10 spike pulling bars a day, it took 2 of my guys a day and a half to make the pile of bars shown, starting with about 18" of 2.5 sqr 1045 each.

 

as Big Arnold says "you can do it"

 

Phil

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The most valuable material you can salvage, by far, is the track itself!  The 'HC' spikes might make decorative knives (I've made more than a few) they won't harden much, if at all, even with the best heat treatment.  They are designed with low carbon content so they'll bend before breaking.

 

The track on the other had makes excellant anvils, most hobby blacksmith and bladesmiths I know have at least one (I have two and would like more). 

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Hello!  I posted a day or two ago on the best way to pry spikes from a rail line that I have gotten permission to "recycle".  Though the information and support was great, and I have pryed up quite a bit of them, I got thinking.  Though I'm not greedy nor dying for a little extra capital to support my passion,  It would be nice to improve some of my blacksmithing equipment and have money to not worry when the time comes to buy more coal.  But before I fuel up my oxy-actylene torch and cut the tracks up, do the tracks have a large enough carbon content to sell for more than just regular scrap steel?  Can anyone help? 

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I have just gone through such a situation earlier this year. A rail spur that I owned had become abandoned. But many years ago it was "owned" by the previous owner, which is a strange situation unto itself. In the past the rail companies owned all that was attached to any rail project, then it started requiring the landowner to make necessary rail repairs or improvements. That happened as the rail companies were washing their hands of rail sidings. At that time most engines would not enter the property as they wouls string along enough cars to engage the rail cars that were to be moved. Well that is the way they did it in Mississippi.

 

Last year we decommissioned our fixed assets along the rail, along with the rail we owned. Those folk that took up the tracks (rails) had to get a special letter from the rail companies stating that the rail was in fact owned by others and could be sold for scrap.

 

We came in witha backhoe to remove all the usable ties and plates along with spikes. Backhoes make quick work of such aproject, but 4 flat tires later took all the luster from the great adventure. I still have a couple of buckets of spikes but I will not plan on entering the project without steel tracks.

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Yes the rails are a nice higher carbon steel for wear resistance. However they are a terrible shape for reuse into most things that would profit from HC and rail is not "uncommon" as so much of it is floating around. I've often picked up chunks of it at fleamarkets *below* scrap price. (cost in gas to scrap it was higher than what the owner would get for a single small chunk) So if you have actual rights to the stuff I would run it as a small business and scrap it! (keeping some small chunks to have around...)

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If you are going to lift all the rails, I would suggest that you split the nuts on the fish plates with the oxy then open the split nut with a cold sett.that way you may save the bolts and you will definitely save the fish plates, and save in oxy too.  In Oz fish plates can sell for about $500 to 700 a pair assuming that they fit rail someone is going to lay, (there are as far as I know very few places making fish plates any more, due to thermit welding being the main method of joining rails today).  If you plan to sell it in lenghts do not cut the rail unless it has been thermit welded, and before you start cutting, ring some rail maintenance companies and see if there is a preferred length to cut it to.

Where my workshop is is a railway museum and the guys here have been all through this sort of thing, they have gone to buy rail, and wanted to get the fish plates only to find the guy who scrapped the rail in the first place did it by just cutting through the middle of all the fish plates, funny size rail, no fish plates available, these guys dont have the equipment to thermit weld, the public likes the clickety clack of fish plated rail etc.  Long story short the rail is more valuable if you can supply fish plates with it.  The fish plates and bolts cleaned up have value themselves.

 

Phil

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I have a RR Spike claw bar that came with the house as well as a lot of other "stuff".    IT's about 5-6 feet long and weighs probably 40 pounds +/-.     Seems there are probably just spikes laying around?  Learn about all the other bits of RR metal parts and their composition and names.    Here is a link that has some info...

 

http://www.harmersteel.com/catalog/track-tools-accessories/rail-anchors-tie-plates/

 

If I recall the rail anchors are approaching or are well into the tool steel carbon content range (.55 Carbon or was it .8...???).   They are annoying to straighten by yourself.   Hardenable for sure.   What work I have done with spikes makes me think they are unpredictable.

 

I also made a folded over and welded hardy tool out of an anchor.  Folded over to add thickness.    I think this is what Thomas is referring to as ampersands...???   Like the unit V in the link above.    BUt there seem to be a lot of different shapes.

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I've made a few punches, slitters, chisels, out of rail anchors like the unit V shown at http://www.harmerste...ors-tie-plates/

I takes a little work to straighten them out but you end up with about two pounds of very usable, hardenable steel 

 

The "improved fair" anchor would make a good hot cut hardy tool with a little cuttting and welding. 

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