The TRT-909: An engineering marvel

May 27, 2011

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The TRT-909 Track Renewal Train is a train upon a train, with its own rails to transport its tie ferry.

Ever since I was a kid I've had something of a fascination with trains. Well here's the ultimate train: one that tears up and then lays down its own tracks. It's the TRT-909 Track Renewal Train, which made its way by my neighborhood last weekend.

I'd known it was coming based on prior news reports weeks ago. I knew it was actually here when I heard very loud noises coming from the tracks a few blocks from my house on Sunday.

These particular tracks that run through town are part of the corridor that runs between Chicago and St. Louis and is being upgraded to accommodate the forthcoming high-speed Amtrak that will travel the corridor in a few years. (Note that "high speed" is by the lowly standards of Amtrak and not those of the world.)

Anyway, the TRT-909 is an impressive machine. It pulls up and spreads the rails apart, removes the old wooden railroad ties and replaces them with new concrete ties, then puts the rails back down. There are also a dozen or more smaller vehicles/machines that do other work on the tracks before and after the TRT-909 does its thing. I've seen other videos online that show this process in more detail, but this video shows the gist of the main part of the job, as well as I could shoot it from my distance of 20 or so yards away. Apologies for the shaky-cam quality; I was kind of far away and had to zoom quite a ways in to get the detail.

That such a machine was conceived and built and can do this is quite an impressive thing. It's a very specific job, and here they've created a very specific engineering marvel.

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12 comments on this post

    This is really cool, and a little bit scary because I read and watch science fiction and have an active imagination.

    What if TRT gets tired of listening to its stupid human masters and decides to plan its own path? And keep on going?

    Ima sicka dis! Ima gwan to Vegas!

    There must be a Battlestar Galactica joke in the comment about the shaky-cam video. Perhaps your next posted video should be of you shaving?

    Seriously, though, that is one cool machine. I'm astounded at how close the construction workers get to it. I'd worry about sticking an arm where it didn't belong. It is probably good that I don't work construction, given my occasional lack of situational awareness.

    Just to clarify, all the machines have human drivers. It's not a robot operation. It's more like a construction project taken to a very specific purpose with a very specific set of machines.

    Wow, Jammer I didn't know you were into Train stuff. My Dad and awhile bunch of family friends work for CPRail (the Canadian Pacific Railway)... perhaps, if there is something specific you want to know about, i could get some information for you.

    Thanks for the offer. My train fascination is a passing interest at best. I have no technical expertise on the matter or any driving ambition to learn. I just like watching trains when I see 'em.

    Very cool video. One doesn't usually see that kind of mega-engineering outside of a Thunderbirds episode. :)

    Haha, Passing interest indeed. Well, that's okay, having grown up hearing about it, and what the work is like, it's never really grabbed my attention, unless we're talking about old passenger locomotives, or the giant gun train from WWII. I still wouldn't mind going across Canada on our passenger train service, but it's pretty far down the to-do list, just cause there's so much to be done before I get to it.

    Oh just ride a train to work every day in a larger urban area and you'll quickly tire of trains. Well maybe not so much the trains, but everything else. My personal favorite is when switches are frozen in the winter causing delays. Because you know, its never cold and below freezing in Chicago, so why bother planning. And no, I'm not bittter. Definitely not me. In any case, that is a pretty cool machine.

    Well, I live in Germany and work in Switzerland, so I have to commute every day with one of these:
    Quite fast and comfortable...but I have to pay a fortune for the tickets...

    Regards Rob

    Here in Japan it takes a magnitude 7 earthquake or someone committing suicide by jumping in front of a train to put the trains off their schedule. And commuting expenses are part of your compensation at most companies. ;p

    Where'd Jammer go?

    I can't find anywhere if they sell these things or they just rent them?! Wonder how much that would cost to buy vs renting!

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