Discussion relating to the past and present operations of the NYC Subway, PATH, and Staten Island Railway (SIRT).

Moderator: GirlOnTheTrain

  by SouthernRailway
Why does the NYC Subway have so many sections of jointed rail, rather than welded rail, on its lines?

If mainline railroads have adopted welded rail for lower maintenance costs and a smoother ride, why does the NYC Subway still use jointed rail so much? For example, today I was standing at the north end of the N train platform at Astoria Boulevard; there are several sections of jointed rail visible from the platform, and the rails aren't even very carefully bolted together. Same for many sections of the system, indicated by a very rocky ride.

What gives? I asked this question in Trains magazine and the response I got was, "the MTA uses sections of jointed rail measuring X feet in length". Thus I know it does, but why?
  by Backshophoss
Considering the tight radius curves through out the system,and the small track work windows avaible,don't think a train full
of "ribbon rails" can be moved,much less dropped in place.
Easier to change out "stick rail" in those short windows.
  by Kamen Rider
the subway isn't a main line railraod, what CSX, UP and company do for themseves isn't nessisarly in the MTA's best intrest.

Subway rails take a much greater pounding, it's quicker to swap out a shorter segment of worn rail than to pull up an whole CWR segment.

That's not to say the subway doesn't use CWR, but it's abilty to move it around is very limited.

IE, the 7 extension uses CWR segments. it takes 2 days to go from the Linden Iron Shops to 41st and 8th, and they can only carry four segments at a time.
  by mikey cruz
@ Kamen, the reason they only do 4 rails at a time is because of the grade gettin up to QBP so my question would be why don't they either add more locos and space them (for structure weight reasons) or use the new R-156 which is supposed to be alot stronger. The TA really makes us wonder sometimes.
  by Arborwayfan
On a new line above ground in most places CWR is easier and cheaper to lay. That's not the case underground etc., as others have pointed out.

On a heavily-used freight line (20 or 30 trains a day, half of them 100-car coal trains with 39-ton axle loads), the rail and the wheels take a beating and getting rid of joints helps a lot. I don't know the MGT/year of an NYC subway line vs. the UP in Nebraska or CSX in Indiana, but I suspect the NYC subway is lower, even with the short headways you have in NYC.

On a high-speed commuter line, CWR is smoother even than well-maintained jointed rail. At subway speeds, perhaps not so much.

The MTA may be doing what makes sense.
  by DaveBarraza
NYCT welds jointed rail in place quite often. Look for the "bubble bar" joint bars, which they apply immediately after the welds before they can be inspected.
  by Piyer
SouthernRailway wrote:For example, today I was standing at the north end of the N train platform at Astoria Boulevard; there are several sections of jointed rail visible from the platform 8<-------
Consider for a moment how CWR is laid. First you place the ties and then you link them with the rail, which you then clip or spike to the ties (over simplification, but you get the idea). Now, go back to that platform on Astoria Boulevard - or one on any of the other elevated structures. Do you really want unsecured ties sitting on that open framework while you tug a quart-mile piece of rail across it? No. Elevated structures have their tracks laid in panels. Think of them as prototype versions of the sectional tracks model railroaders use. They are moved to the site either on flatbed trucks or railcars and then moved into place with a crane.

For 16 years, from 1976 to 1992, I lived in an apartment overlooking the Brighton line's Ocean Parkway station. I watched them change out the tracks only a couple of times in all those years, but it was always panel track they used. The only time I saw them use stick rail was to do work to the ballasted section on the Ocean Parkway arch.