Tie spacing circa 1900

Discussion in 'Maintenance of Way' started by SAFN SAAP, Oct 10, 2011.


    SAFN SAAP Member

    Hey Y'all,

    Does anyone have any Frisco records that would show the proper spacing for mainline, branch, and siding in terms of tie distances? I'm sure the standard has been adjusted since 1900.


  2. wpmoreland719

    wpmoreland719 Member Frisco.org Supporter

    Hey Manny,

    Go to the "Salem Branch" thread and look at some b/w photos that I posted in a pdf file. They're from about 1925 and show the track through Wesco Missouri with a few photos of some young ladies standing on the track. While I don't have any exact measurements, the photos can give a pretty good idea of the spacing, especially if you look at the one of the one girl standing on the rail. The track looks pretty primitive-no ties plates!

    Pat Moreland,
    Union Mo.

    SAFN SAAP Member

    Thanks. I want to try and replicate the tie placement back at the turn of the century. All I seem to find is that tie spacing was not uniform and ballasting was inconsistent. Tie plates were "optional" with many roads. Many lines just spiked the rail directly to the ties. All the information on the SA&AP that I have says what I just stated. To duplicate this effect, the only way I know is to hand lay rail and make the ties unevenly spaced, crooked, and uneven in centering.
  4. Jim James

    Jim James Staff Member Staff Member

    Funny this should pop up just now. Tonight I cut the webbing between each tie on the Atlas track I'm using for an early era branch. According to the few photos of my Zalma branch the ties were spaced wide and appeared primitive which I try to replicate by removing ties here and there and spreading out the rest with plenty of crooked ones. This worked on my previous module with micro engineering which is still better in appearance than my Atlas. It's much finer looking. The Atlas webbing and ties are thicker. I'll quit crying about it now. By the way, my branch was originally a Louis Houck built road which wasn't known for superior track work to begin with.
  5. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Frisco.org Supporter

    "In main track there will be 20 ties used to each 33-foot rail, and 18 ties used with each 30 foot rail (this spacing is very close to the modern Frisco standard of placing ties on 19-1/2" centers). In side tracks 16 first-class ties, or 18 second-class ties, will be standard to 30-foot rail length; in busy switching leads or side tracks which are used extensively, 18 first-class ties to 30-foot rail length will be standard."

    In short,
    First Class Ties...not less than 8" wide; not less than 6" deep, and not less than 8' long.
    Second Class Ties... as above, but not less than 5-1/2" deep.

    There is reason why the business end of a track shovel is 9-3/4" wide at its broadest point.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2011
  6. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

    Karl, thanks as always for the specific data. That's helpful as we're putting down some of the sidings in Olathe. We made some progress last night thanks to moving a radio into the layout room and finding the Cardinals' game.

    Jim, the process you outline is exactly the process I had my son go through with some our sectional track. He worked on that while I was doing something else on the layout. He was very thorough - we're going to have to glue some ties back here for aesthetics. Thankfully, most of the track stayed in gauge. The remainder will be going onto a railrack that my section crews need.

    A good thread, Manny. Thanks for starting; I think that wider tie spacing can even make Code 100 track look a little more realistic.

    Best Regards,
  7. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Frisco.org Supporter

    Here is a bit of follow-up to illustrate how the tie spacing did not change from 1900 to 1961. The Frisco Standard Plan book includes a drawing from Sept 1961 that gives these tie spacings, 20 per 33-foot rail and 24 per 39-foot rail. The change comes from the ties themselves; mainline ties are 7" x 9" x 8'-6" and secondary ties are 6" x 8" x 8'-6".
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2011
  8. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

    I read somewhere that tie spacing was determined by the width of a track shovel. Karl's remark at the end of post #5 "There is reason why the business end of a track shovel is 9-3/4" wide at its broadest point." gives a more plausible "chicken or egg" sequence to the question. Apparently, strength requirements determined tie spacing and that, in turn, determined track shovel width.

    Does this seem right?

  9. TAG1014

    TAG1014 Frisco.org Supporter Frisco.org Supporter

    The shovel idea seems believeable, I once watched a track worker shovel the mud out from between the ties in about 150 feet of track at the Springfield depot. The depot track "ballast" at that time (Ca. 1961) was all mud, no sign of chat. A year or two later they did do some ballasting and spiffing up of the station tracks. But the guy's shovel did fit right between the ties.

  10. john

    john FRISCO.org Supporter

    The ICC valuation records (available for research at Missouri State University, Springfield) have detailed information about the physical layout of the railroad ca. 1918 including facts like the type and number of ties on a given spur, etc. I admit that the Mansfield Branch (which I was most interested in) was a secondary line at this time, although still subject to moderately heavy coal haulage at times. The big surprise for me was the modest percentage of creosoted ties in use.

    A couple of examples from the records:

    A 644' section of track at the Jensen wye (mp 430-431) consisted of 70# rail with 170 untreated oak and 100 creosoted ties.

    A 898' section of track on the other end of this short branch, at Mansfield, (mp 448) consisted of 56# rail with 340 untreated and 74 creosoted ties.

    If you have a specific section of Frisco track in mind - desire extreme accuracy - and don't mind doing some serious research (there are aprox 1500 volumes in this record) the detail is available right down to the size and location of box culverts etc...

    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 14, 2011
  11. john

    john FRISCO.org Supporter

    Here's some additional information:

    Although I didn't copy any "mainline" information while I was at Springfield I do now remember where I saw that information for the Central Division. "Most of the roads were originally laid with ties spaced at 2 feet centers, 2640 per mile, as against 3200 nowdays." This was in 1917 in an article on the construction of the Central Division which was written by McNair and appeared in Frisco-Man. The Central Division was laid down in the early to mid 1880's.

    mountaincreekar likes this.

    SAFN SAAP Member

    I'm not trying to replicate a section of the FRISCO exactly. I wanted the correct tie count per section of rail. Thank you all to help me.
  13. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Frisco.org Supporter

    The track conditions described in the valuation record is consistent with the Frisco tie standards of that period. The 1914 MOW Rules and Instructions Book give the following on p146:

    "Specifications for Cross Ties.

    White Oak
    Post Oak
    Burr Oak
    Chestnut Oak
    Cedar (Red & White)
    Cypress (Heart Grade)
    Black Locust
    Long Leaf Heat Yellow Pine

    1. Red Oak family, including red oak, pine oak, black oak, water oak, willow oak, turkey oak, and Spanish oak.
    2. Pines including loblolly, short leaf yellow, lodge pole, Western spruce, hemlock, Norway and other sap pines, and Cypress (Sap Grade)
    3. Beech
    4. Soft Maple and Rock Elm
    5. White Elm
    6. Hard Maple, Black Walnut (except all heart and White Walnut)
    7. Douglas Fir
    SPECIAL NOTE: The right is reserved to exclude ties made from one or more of the above named species of timber, advice being given well in advance of requirements."
    mountaincreekar likes this.
  14. Coonskin

    Coonskin Member

    Hi Steve:

    Actually, no more than five hazmats per train can be handled on FRA Excepted Track. Perhaps you meant no revenue passenger traffic, which is prohibited on FRA Excepted Track.


    SAFN SAAP Member

    The SA&AP was not known for its grand track work. Ties were often crooked, non spiked, missing, and ballast was quite often ties sunken into the earth. Although I have lots of detail about this, the one piece of detail that was missing is the tie count, or approximate tie count standard for the SA&AP. That's why I asked this question. Everyone who has posted up has given valuable information. Valuable indeed. I am extremely grateful!

    What I plan to do is use the Fast-tracks jig for the PC ties, and then space out ties every five or six spots. Then I can put the rail down on the bed, secure it, and then place random ties crookedly, unpainted/stained, and make it look like the 1900's. Today's manufactured track is just too perfect. Even in real life, when I rode the rails on the C&O, the ties were in awful shape and not uniform in spacing or length.

    Again, thanks to all!
  16. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Frisco.org Supporter

    Rule 209 from the 1914 MOW Rules and Instructions and p12 from the FRA standards under which the Frisco operated disagree. The 1973 FRA standard did not concern itself with tie spacing, or the number of ties per mile, but only with the number of defective ties per 39', the number of defective ties under a joint, and the distance between non-defective ties. Use of the "rail-length", is an easy way to view track integrity.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 14, 2011
    mountaincreekar likes this.
  17. john

    john FRISCO.org Supporter

    Does anyone know when the Frisco actually started using creosoted wood? The impression that I got from the valuation records was that it was still a relatively new thing for them in 1918. There may not have been very much of it in use in 1900? On the LR&T (Mansfield AR branch) the trestles were still untreated oak. Some of them were not replaced with creosoted bridges until the 1930's!! The attached page is taken from an overview of the condition of the branch which was given in the ICC valuation.

    One interesting thing about the valuations was they also sometimes listed abandoned and even long since removed property. On the Mansfield Branch one item that was listed was a wooden Howe Truss bridge over the James Fork River at Midland on a coal spur track which had already been removed (Williams). Even more interesting was a turntable and engine house at Hackett, Arkansas. The report made the comment that (in 1918) no trace of it was remaining. I had never seen or heard any other claim that there was ever anything like this at Hackett.


    Attached Files:

  18. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Frisco.org Supporter

    The earliest tie records that I have only go to 1936 when 7% of the total 1,456,845 ties inserted were untreated. It is noteworthy that 1948 was the first time the total of untreated ties fell below 1%, and 1952 was the first time that 100% (710,168 ties) inserted were treated ties.
    Highlights from the tie record:
    Year Total:Ties Inserted Percent Untreated

    1937:1.4mm:18% :Last year until 1949 that total ties insert exceed 1mm
    1942:801m:3% : pre-1948 low percentage
    1945:687m:21% :highest percentage of untreated 1936-1952
    1946:725m:21% :highest percentage of untreated 1936-1952
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2019
  19. john

    john FRISCO.org Supporter

    The 1,456,845 ties replaced in 1936 - was that for the entire system? That's a lot of rail car loads of ties.

  20. Karl

    Karl 2008 Engineer of the Year Frisco.org Supporter

    That was for the entire Frisco; the records don't indicate where they were placed.

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