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seeking

propane track warmers? wtf

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so the other day im walking through my yard and i hear this screaming, hissing sort of noise...i follow it down a track, and find a 15 foot stretch of track, where on each side, there was a metal sort of housing built next to the track (but not going over it) with a gas line running into it (from god knows where) and it was lit on fire, with a constant line of blue flames running along the track.

i've got a picture i'll post up later.

 

anyone ever seen anything like, or have any idea what the hell it is for?

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I'm assuming it was located at a switch right? I don't know about propane, but in cold weather areas, most high volume switches have some sort of heater/blower that keeps the switch free of ice. usually its for CTC controlled switches, where no brakeman is getting out to throw it. In the old days they used to pour kerosene on the switchpoints and light them on fire.

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it is near a switch point, BUT it's near a switch point that connects to a dead track that hasent seen a train in atleast two years, so never gets switched.

i had considered that, but it wasnt plausible. plus, the contraption is too large and bulky to allow for switching.

hopefully the pics will make more sense of it.

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...we've got what ese is talking about at our main yard...little fires around the controlled switches...and i've seen them out with small propane blowtorches to use by hand on the other switches...in our more ghetto yard i saw them out the other day with pickaxes choppin up ice blocks...

 

...i am completely dumbfounded, however, if your switch doesn't lead to anything...unless it got pushed in the wrong direction and then heavily frove that way so they set up this installation to put it back (which also seems pretty stupid)...did this look like something permament?....or something they could just take back down...

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forgot to post the pic, ill do it tonight.

it wasnt permenant, but it was definitely put into place with some sort of care and planning. the more i think about it, i dont think it was on a switch at all. near one, yes, but not right at the Y or anything.

we'll see.

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ive seen them on video that artistik sent me and yeah the sound is pretty omenous. like a loud deep whistling buzz.

fortunately theres no ice on the trax around my way, except when we empty the beer chest;)

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i had to kind of blow the contrast out cause its a night photo. all along the metal bracket things, on both sides, for abot 15 feet, are these tiny blue flames, like pilot lights on a stove. you can only see spots of them in this pic, but they run the whole length.

behind me, about 50-75 feet, is the split, but again, it hasent been used in years and years; trains only go down the one line. it must serve some purpse though, cause there is a giant propane tank off to the side, that i always wondered what it was for....and i guess now i know (sort of).

despite the extra bracing shit inbetween the tracks that you can see right here, nothing moves. and if you look on left hand side, it looks like there is another track, thats a piece of loose track sitting next to it, that i assume they're going to someday replace it wiith. its been sitting there for two years though, so obviously they arent in any rush.

i really dont get it.

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Guest rob deer

awesome. can you make hot chocolate in the yard?

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Guest soneMILWwi
Originally posted by rob deer

awesome. can you make hot chocolate in the yard?

maybe you should put your nuts on it little guy and see if the warmth makes them grow...

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I searched on the internet at various companies that produce "propane track heating" equipment, and the only items I found were for switches only...Although some of the pictures on these sites for switch heaters resembled your picture, Seeking. I'm still stumped on the equipments placement at your spot...

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I don't get it either, unless you photoshopped this thing to mess with our heads.

To clarify, the prime (and I thought only) purpose of those propane heaters is at a switch, to keep the switch from icing up in the winter. A frozen switch is a pain in the ass, impossible to move, and in fact ice buildup at frogs and points can derail a train on rare occasions.

Your location is bizarre. First of all, there's no longer a track to switch to, although what's being heated there is clearly a switch. My best guess was that there used to be another track to switch to, and they pulled it up but left the switch in place, never to be used again, which I have seen happen in my area.

However, then I took a closer look at the photo. The rails don't even match up. A train going through here would derail, especially if it came from where you're standing. If it came from the other direction without stopping it still might derail, although its weight would tend to push the switch points back to where they belong. I hope this isn't a mainline. They must have to stop the train when they come through here and put the switch back to the useful position. I don't know why they would set it to the defunct position, except as an automatic stopper for a runaway train, which I never heard of. (I know UP manually derailed a runaway train in Cali last year, wiping out some houses in a ghetto neighborhood rather than risk it crashing closer to the city center.)

I don't understand this photo. Best bet is to stake the place out (which should be fun in this weather) and see how a live train behaves at this spot.

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no, cracked, you're viewing it wrong. there is NO switch right here, there is only ONE track. what appears to be the other track, in a 'bad' position, is the inside portion of the 'track warmer', and the extra piece of rail which i already said is just sitting on the ground next to the track. absolutely nothing moves right here. and yes, it is a 'main line', infact, it is the ONLY line, in or out, of the yard. and i have sat in the bushes on several occasions, and watched the train pull through. it's yet to derail. and this is my 'famed' autorack spot, so i think they would be more careful than to allow a train full of new cars go plummeting off into a small ravine.

i need to go back out there duriing the day and take a better, more complete picture. there has to be a reason the thing exists. i mean, i guess it has to have SOMETHING to do with a switch, but i dont know what, because nothing on this track moves right here. also, while the big propane tank is there year round, this heating mechanism is not. it was just put in for winter.

one last thing, the extra braces and shit you see between the track, that might look like a switching mechanism, are not. there is a big light box just to the right of the track, the braces and brackets go with that.

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another angle.

as you can see, if you look straight down the track, there is no second track that comes into this one, there is just the one track. behind the camera, a good 50-100 feet, is where the switch is, but again, it has not been switched in years.

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Alright Seeking, in trying to determine what this is I have a few quesions for you:

-When trains cross over this equipment are they moving fairly slow, as opposed to during the summer time when this equipment is not installed?

-Are their any type of manufacturing company labels or stamps on the equipment?

-I don't want you to injure yourself, but the heat that is given off by this equipment, what type of area does it heat? Just the actual rails, or can the heat be felt in the surrounding area?

-When watching this equipment, does it make any noise? Like when a train is moving through it? As opposed to when it is just sitting there?

 

Keep in mind I stay in the South, I'm afraid of the snow, and never seen anything like this before in real life.

 

Whatever it is, it serves a purpose, b/c you said the railroad installs it during the wintertime. Since its on a straight length of track, and on a track that is heavily traveled b/c it enters a yard, it seems to be important that all trains pass over this equipment. Alright, railroad cars have brakelines that are operated on air. Air has mositure in it, which will freeze in the winter time. This will cause the brakes to stick and not operate safely and effectively. The train cars will sit idle in a yard, when its time to depart, the engines will connect, pull the train out, as it passes over this equipment, the airlines will thaw out, allowing the brakesystem to operate as designed. This is just a crazy idea to what this thing is and does, I'm still not sure, though...

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ok, lets see if i can explain this without risking blowing up my spot...

 

the yard is a holding yard for a large plant. it does not get heavy traffic, but it does get constant traffic, meaning, atleast a couple trains go through it every day. this part is right near the mouth of the yard, and its around a curve, so the trains are always going slow anytime they pass over it. if a train was heading outwards from the plant, it takes about a mile to get to this point, so even if this was some insane contraption to warm the brakes, by the time it got here, it would be pretty much too late. it would have had to navigate atleast 3 decent sized curves, and a yard. all of that with the weight of a full line of full autoracks. not a very light load. plus, it does not really warm the air, just the track. infact, if you look at the flic, you can see snow on the rail, even like a foot or two from the end of the burners. apparently steel is a piss poor heat conductor. i even tried to warm my hands by it, but they had to get real close before i could even feel it. yes, you could make hot chocolate, and for novelties sake alone, i will have to do so (with melted snow, like i was fucking rambo). im just going to have to tredge out there and take day shots. which sucks, cause we just got a foot of fucking snow, and its a half mile hike. but this is so bizarre, that i cant just leave it alone.

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Sorry for all the questions, Seeking, I don't want you to blow your spot or anything, with the info you supplied I'll try to look some more, especially since my idea isn't feasible...

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The best part is kicking snow all over it and making a huge 15ft steam cloud.

 

Yeah we've got those all over. Usually there's a silver propane tank right next to the track.

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Just to clarify, I am 100% certain that the propane heaters are to keep a certain chunk of track from icing up. I have just A) never seen one that was not at a switch and B) don't understand the photo because the tracks look fucked up. I'll need a daytime flick.

Is there a small ravine/culvert running underneath the track bed at that spot? Any kind of bridge, even something as small as a culvert, will tend to ice up faster because of the lack of geothermal heat under it.

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the have those up north. The one that i pass has a propane tank like 20 feet away...and u can always smell propane when u walk by...but ive never looked at it before. This one is right next to a road crossing, and there is some switching down the line.

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there are vulverts 20 feet to each side of the track, but not under it.

i'll get a day flic soon.

i agree cracked, the track looks messed up in that pic. it'll make sense when i get a better pic.

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