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NCDOT RAIL GRANT: NEW MASTS, SIGNS, & A MAJOR SAFETY UPGRADE!

September 30, 2015     During the past several years, there has been increased railroad industry focus on grade crossing safety nationwide due to more trains, more cars and more grade crossing conflicts. NCDOT-RAIL responded to the call for improving grade crossing safety. Among several initiatives was a project to improve rail crossing signage.…

THE STORY

Recently, Red Springs & Northern Railroad Foundation, Inc. (RS&N) was fortunate to be awarded a grant from NCDOT-RAIL to upgrade crossing masts (posts) and signs in the incorporated towns located on the RS&N line. Many of the RS&N street crossings have heavy traffic counts, speeding vehicles, large trucks, reduced visibility conditions, and frequent rail work parties on the line. Also, RS&N’s grade crossing signs and masts were in poor condition due to years of wind, weather and vandalism taking their toll.RSN - LEANING 2RSN - LEANING

(Throughout this article, please click on pictures to enlarge.)

A number of the old masts and signs probably dated back to the 1960’s, with some of the masts possibly even older – several of the masts had the old FRA/DOT grade crossing metal ID tags with SCL (Seaboard Coast Line RR) stamped on them.

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(Notice the small metal plate on the old mast. These particular masts will be saved for a history display in the future, maybe in the new RS&N depot.)

Thankfully, the NCDOT-RAIL Grant provided RS&N with much needed replacement masts, signs, reflective mast strips, and payment for each crossing upgraded in the incorporated areas.

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The new signs were assembled and placed in accordance with FRA and NCDOT-RAIL specifications.

A HUGE TEAM EFFORT

In preparation for the project, Susan Cease evaluated the crossing locations that met the GRANT requirements.  Location information was provided to Doug Bedenbaugh, who went into the field and marked (painted) the “spot” for the mast installation.  Later, Susan double-checked the locations, communicated with the Town of Red Springs on two unusual locations, and prepared a spread sheet of all the locations that would have new posts and signs.  Susan also communicated with the Utility Locating Service (811) and provided them with the exact “spots”.  A week prior to the work day, the 811 located sites were checked for any obstructions and a “bill” authorizing the digging of the new mast holes was received.  There were 14 new mast locations identified for installation.

After a rain delay on Friday 9/25/2015, a new work day was scheduled for Monday, 9/28/2015 at 09:00AM (and we were caught by rain…again! – the work party started in light rain and finished in a downpour.) It was determined that the most efficient use of labor and sign materials was to mount the new crossbucks, yield signs and reflective strips on a single mast. This was accomplished by using “in-ground treated” 6in. x 6in. sq. wood posts and a plethora of tools: 3 drills, drill bits, ratchets, measuring tapes, marking pens, etc. And LOTS of measuring!!

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An assembly line production for mounting the signs on the posts was efficiently done at the RS&N engine terminal.  By noon, the masts and signage were assembled and loaded on the trailer.

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Simultaneously, Milton Lucas worked with several members to “auger” the mast holes at the approved locations on Ginny Lucas’ really BIG green tractor.

TRACTOR

Trees and brush were also trimmed and cut down.

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Finally, lunch at the Mexican restaurant in Red Springs (oh, yeah, baby!! – GREAT company and the food was excellent!!). Installation of the completed masts continued into the afternoon, using a plethora of equipment: shovels, tampers, a reciprocating saw, weed whippers, chain saws, ladders, Ginny’s really BIG green tractor with that mean-looking auger (yep-yep, that’s the one!!) following behind, and levels completed the installation “inventory”. Say “HI!!” to Susan Cease, ya’ll, and her “new best friend”, Mr. Level:RSN - MR. LEVEL

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In a driving rain, the crew installed the final masts and signs.  The old posts and crossbucks were picked up from the various locations and taken to the RS&N engine terminal.RSN - DEAD

One full mast installation at Church Street remains in Parkton. (The old mast that we intended to upgrade – it was upright a week ago! – was lying on the ground, rotted at the base.) In addition to Parkton, the three old steel masts in downtown Red Springs will be receiving new yield signs and vertical reflective strips, requiring a different method of mounting. Susan hopes to finish this intersection Saturday, October 3, 2015, weather permitting – looks like rain, though – again!!! At this present time, there is one all-new mast at that location, the old one having been removed years ago.

IN CONCLUSION

All told, RS&N upgraded 14 locations in a single day.  Everyone – both rail and highway traffic – will now have an extra margin of safety, with the new signs clearly giving ample notice that rail activity is in the immediate area.

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All work locations were given flag protection and traffic control, and there were no mishaps or damage to new signs or posts – or workers!!  The work crew cleared the RS&N engine terminal at 5:30PM.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS:

Sincerest thanks and much gratitude go to the following:

NCDOT-RAIL – for their generous grant that enabled RS&N to accomplish much needed upgrades at railroad crossings – the new masts and signs are highly visible to on-coming traffic and will immediately call attention to the track, thereby creating a safer means of crossing.

John and Susan Cease – for providing transportation for the masts by truck & trailer (1) from the point of purchase (Brown Lumber Co. in Rose Hill) and delivery to the assembly location at Red Springs engine terminal; (2) from the assembly location to various installation sites; and (3) for seeing and appreciating the historical value in the old masts and signs. John Cease – for overseeing the project and making safety the #1 priority; and Susan Cease – for her technical expertise in so many areas, including evaluating the crossing locations that met GRANT requirements (picture: Susan Cease and Rick Tufts),RSN - CONFERENCE

assisting with sign assembly, communication with the town of Red Springs and the Utility Locating Service (811), and her overall physical presence and encouragementLOVE THAT SMILE, GIRL!!

Ginny & Milton Lucas – for providing the critical installation component – the use of Ginny’s really BIG green tractor with mounted power auger, operated by Milton, that saved sore backs due to what could have been massive shovel overload, thereby causing multiple trips to the store for Sloan’s Liniment!!

Carey Boneyfor ordering the posts (32 in all) from Brown Lumber Co. in Rose Hill.  Extra posts will be used over time to upgrade the crossing signage for those locations that are outside of the incorporated areas.

Janet Tweedy – for keeping the crew safe by flagging approaching traffic. Thank you so much, Janet!! We all arrived home safe and in one piece because you kept vehicles at bay.

Oz and Lydia Williams – For maintaining inventory identification and a photographic record of the project and who are responsible for posting the story of this project with photographs on the RS&N website.

And to all the members who worked SO HARD to complete this project through physical contribution (that’s backbreaking, SWEAT EQUITY, ya’ll!!)   –

Mark Bullard

Doug Bedenbaugh

John and Susan Cease

Rick Tufts

Phil Gandy

Jim Tweedy

Without everyone, Red Springs & Northern Railroad Foundation, Inc. couldn’t have made this a major accomplishment.

John Cease/RS&N BOD

Lydia Williams