Nevertheless, Robert L. Stevens, an early American railway engineer, was impressed with
the idea of solid iron rails. He introduced a change of paramount importance to the United
States by importing flat-based, solid iron rails rolled in England. These rails were used in the
building of the Camden and Amboy Railroad. The flat base eliminated the need for the iron
chairs, as the rails could be easily fastened to wooden pedestals by hookhead spikes that Stevens
designed. The "T-rail" as it was called and the spike Stevens designed have changed a great deal,
but the fundamental ideas remain the same.
The wooden pedestals to which Stevens fastened his rail were plugs set in blocks of stone.
Had Stevens been farsighted enough to see the advantages of using crossties for support instead
of pedestals, he would be known as the father of modern track instead of as the inventor of the
In time, the pedestal method of support proved too costly, and what was thought to be a
futile attempt to substitute wooden crossties for the pedestals proved highly successful. The
wooden crossties provided such excellent support that gage and surface were more easily
maintained than before. With these developments, the essentials of track, as we know it today,
Modern main-line track construction bears only a slight resemblance to the first successful
endeavors to use the T-rails supported by wooden crossties. Yet, significantly, improvements in
modern track reflect no fundamental change in theory but rather modifications in design and
addition of new features that enable the basic elements to perform their original functions more
Chapter 3 is divided into four sections: rail, crossties, track fastenings, and rail joints.
Section I. Rail
The trackwalker is the first line of defense against track failure. As he walks along an
assigned section of track, he looks closely at the structure of steel and wood that must provide a
safe path for trains. He critically examines rails and their joints, and he keeps a sharp eye for
loose spikes, detective ties or tie plates, and displaced rail anchors. Each of these items has a
definite purpose, and anything which would interfere with proper operation must be corrected by
the trackwalker or reported if he cannot do it alone.