Cement ties

This forum is dedicated to Riding Scale Railroading with propulsion using other than steam (Hydraulics, diesel engines, gas engines, electric motors, hybrid etc.)

Moderators: Harold_V, WJH

Glenn Brooks
Posts: 2451
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2014 1:39 pm
Location: Woodinville, Washington

Cement ties

Post by Glenn Brooks » Tue Apr 13, 2021 2:38 pm

Visited Maricopa Live Steamers this week and got a chance to see their cement tie manufacturing process. These look like a long lasting, and stout alternative for wood and plastic ties. Particularity suited for grand scale track, and also work well for 7x gauge.

MLS devised a way to cast individual ties using sheet rock mud trays. Each tray has 4 stainless steel nails driven and silver soldered through the bottom, to form a proper gauge and screw hole pattern in each finished tie. Then plastic screw inserts are placed over each pin. The tray is filled with cement, with a length of small diameter rebar laid into the pour, for strength.

The finished tie is 4.5” wide on the bottom, 3” on top, and about 15” long.

The critical hurdle to overcome with cement, for me, has always been a method to affix the rail to the tie. MLS uses plastic screw inserts, pressed down over each pin. These inserts remain embedded in the cement after each tie cures out - with the proper offsets to screw down rail having standard scale dimensions. Once laid in the ROW, it’s an easy process to drive track screws down into each of the four prefabbed screw holes in each tie.

Advantages are: indefinite life span, superior durability, impervious to bugs, dry rot, and UV degradation, substantially less cost than equivalent size plastic lumber, deep footing, and no galvanic screw corrosion (common with treated wood).

Disadvantages: slightly oversize footprint, more expensive than wood.

Previously, I have not been a fan of cement ties, due to problems laying up the mold and inability to screw track fasteners into the hard cement surface, without predrilling. However the MLS design seems to have solved both of these problems.

For grand scale, I would like to experiment with larger size track fasteners, to find out what size and cost is best suited for rail loading of 12# rail. Should be an interesting experiment, with possibility of a very cost effective solution for 12” and 15” gauge track laying.

Glenn
Attachments
425CF412-348F-4936-87B7-7C9F3977C4AF.jpeg
W
F2CADC6A-2A7D-4955-AB4A-ABB8BC96A820.jpeg
F53F9F5E-D569-49AC-9BDE-D22E23BBC65A.jpeg
CDB1655F-16E2-4668-837F-73FEEA715D10.jpeg
F3302B31-4FCB-4EF1-8B00-3DA780427DC6.jpeg
780F5C95-FF40-4E59-A6B9-E5602786AF2E.jpeg
5326BC79-2EB8-424D-9143-0FD05C12A925.jpeg
Moderator - Grand Scale Forum

Motive power : 1902 A.S.Campbell 4-4-0 American - 12 5/8" gauge, 1955 Ottaway 4-4-0 American 12" gauge

Ahaha, Retirement: the good life - drifting endlessly on a Sea of projects....

User avatar
LVRR2095
Posts: 1548
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2007 6:50 pm
Location: Maine, USA

Re: Cement ties

Post by LVRR2095 » Tue Apr 13, 2021 3:31 pm

Just being a bit of a nit picker. I believe they are concrete ties. Cement is a binder that when mixed with sand or gravel becomes concrete.

User avatar
NP317
Posts: 3032
Joined: Tue Jun 24, 2014 2:57 pm
Location: Northern Oregon

Re: Cement ties

Post by NP317 » Tue Apr 13, 2021 3:50 pm

Thanks for keeping me from remarking on that fact...
:lol:
RussN

User avatar
Bill Shields
Posts: 6594
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 4:57 am
Location: Somewhere in the World
Contact:

Re: Cement ties

Post by Bill Shields » Tue Apr 13, 2021 4:01 pm

Glenn Brooks wrote:
Tue Apr 13, 2021 2:38 pm

Advantages are: indefinite life span, superior durability, impervious to bugs, dry rot, and UV degradation, substantially less cost than equivalent size plastic lumber, deep footing, and no galvanic screw corrosion (common with treated wood).

Glenn
I like the idea of indefinite life span -> so did Amtrak...before they had to replace a bunch that cracked....

is here any rebar in there - or are they relying on the concrete alone?

In reality..who cares about what it looks like? if lower maintenance!!!!
Too many things going on to bother listing them.

Glenn Brooks
Posts: 2451
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2014 1:39 pm
Location: Woodinville, Washington

Re: Cement ties

Post by Glenn Brooks » Tue Apr 13, 2021 4:31 pm

Bill, yes, they lay a piece of 1/8” rebar, #4 maybe?? , lengthwise in the middle of the mold. Very strong.

Yes, Amtrak, or someone lost a bunch of cement ties. Of course that was with a 50 ton derailment, at high speed. Not sure what live steam set up would carry that much weight ! :D
Moderator - Grand Scale Forum

Motive power : 1902 A.S.Campbell 4-4-0 American - 12 5/8" gauge, 1955 Ottaway 4-4-0 American 12" gauge

Ahaha, Retirement: the good life - drifting endlessly on a Sea of projects....

jscarmozza
Posts: 473
Joined: Mon Mar 03, 2014 5:09 pm

Re: Cement ties

Post by jscarmozza » Tue Apr 13, 2021 5:23 pm

Glenn, how are the rails fastened, do they cast inserts into the ties?

jscarmozza
Posts: 473
Joined: Mon Mar 03, 2014 5:09 pm

Re: Cement ties

Post by jscarmozza » Tue Apr 13, 2021 6:52 pm

Holy cow, you explained the fastening method in the second paragraph!! Getting old.
John

STRR
Posts: 396
Joined: Thu May 24, 2007 9:01 pm
Location: Westminster, CO

Re: Cement ties

Post by STRR » Tue Apr 13, 2021 7:34 pm

Hello Glenn,

I had contemplated concrete ties for my planned 18" gauge line. My thoughts were along the lines of what you have done for a 7.5" gauge.

I was planning to make forms out of plywood, in the same shape as those you pictured. I had an idea of lining the forms with sheet metal, but using good quality concrete form plywood would work just as well. As you did, I had planned to use pins but large enough to hold expanding lead concrete anchors sized for 3/8" lag bolts. As with your forms, I would place the lead anchors on the pins and cast them right in the concrete. Being as my ties would be more substantial, I envisioned using two pieces of rebar. I would put about 2 inches of concrete in the forms, add one rebar, add another 2 inches of concrete, add the second rebar, and fill the forms. I thought about using a vibrator outside of the forms to settle the concrete. Having the forms shaped like your drywall mud pans would make for easier removal of the cured ties. I figure a quick poke with an awl in the lead anchors to loosen any concrete that might have seeped in. A quick shot of air would blow the holes clean.

Since I planned on widening the gauge in the curves, I might have had to make unique forms for the curve ties with wider spacing of the lead anchors. I would have had to drill the ties leading into and out of the curve for the proper transition from standard gauge to broader gauge in the curve.

User avatar
Bill Shields
Posts: 6594
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 4:57 am
Location: Somewhere in the World
Contact:

Re: Cement ties

Post by Bill Shields » Tue Apr 13, 2021 8:54 pm

AMTRAK lost some 25MM worth of ties that were defective in the NE corridor area where I live...not just from a derailment.

Caused by ballast erosion on the bases and cracking mid rail by improper ballasting.. .among other things.

A company local to me made many of the ties...defective or otherwise.

Rebar in middle is a necessity....the more the merrier

Water down holes causing rust on the rebar and cracking might be something to think about if you life in high rainfall / humidity areas.

Life was a lot easier when we could still get creosote...
Too many things going on to bother listing them.

Glenn Brooks
Posts: 2451
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2014 1:39 pm
Location: Woodinville, Washington

Re: Cement ties

Post by Glenn Brooks » Tue Apr 13, 2021 11:22 pm

John, quick followup. The plastic inserts they stick on the pins in the mold are the common star shaped, straight, plastic wall board carpenters insert, one would use to create friction for sheet rock screws. They come in different color coded diameters, as I remember. MLS is using the blue coded inserts.

Not sure if they actually assist the screw in setting in the CONCRETE tie, hahaha, or function more for creating the hole to thread the track screw into. I’ll ask when I go out there again this week.

Now, for larger gauge track laying, I am curious if a soft plug of some sort could be used to form the hole pattern for 3/8” track screws, rather than a formed concrete anchor. If so, one could save the cost of 4 metal anchor inserts for each tie. Significant cost advantage when laying 2500-3000 ties per mile of track.(12,000 anchors).

Glenn
Moderator - Grand Scale Forum

Motive power : 1902 A.S.Campbell 4-4-0 American - 12 5/8" gauge, 1955 Ottaway 4-4-0 American 12" gauge

Ahaha, Retirement: the good life - drifting endlessly on a Sea of projects....

Pontiacguy1
Posts: 1215
Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2012 10:15 am
Location: Tennessee, USA

Re: Cement ties

Post by Pontiacguy1 » Wed Apr 14, 2021 7:58 am

The C&IG down in Texas had a bunch of concrete ties cast and installed at one time. They weren't quite as big a profile as the ones you are looking at, but they were at least a couple of inches across the top surface. They also used the plastic inserts for track screws. They also used a piece of either 1/4" or 3/8" rebar right in the middle. They ended up removing most of them because of cracking issues. Seemed like any time that something derailed, or the ballast washed and wasn't supporting as much on one side or something, then they would have ties cracking. They were also a pain to make and took a long time.

They do make a really heavy track that will stay in place. If you can definitely and for sure solve the cracking problem, then they would make an excellent tie. The wood and plastic ties are more forgiving for misalignments, which is one of their advantages.

User avatar
Bill Shields
Posts: 6594
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 4:57 am
Location: Somewhere in the World
Contact:

Re: Cement ties

Post by Bill Shields » Wed Apr 14, 2021 8:34 am

Pontiacguy1 wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 7:58 am
They ended up removing most of them because of cracking issues. Seemed like any time that something derailed, or the ballast washed and wasn't supporting as much on one side or something, then they would have ties cracking.
of course a threaded rod in a sleeve through the mid-line, pulled tight to pre-stress the concrete would help alleviate this problem...requires end plates, nuts, hydraulic jack and loads of time...

but talk about $$$$!
Too many things going on to bother listing them.

Post Reply