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© September  01 2007  

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Building a MoW Tie Setter


The MoW train consists of a tie setter and a utility car


Written by Laurence Johnson

I’m retired and living on a modest income so I design and manufacture everything: track, switches, rail cars, MoW (Maintenance of Way*) equipment and locos. I have chosen to use groovy track as apposed to aluminum rail because of economics: it costs me $2 per foot to build groovy track vs. $4.26 per foot for aluminum rail; both with a gravel roadbed. All of my sleepers (ties) are made from free lumber provided by a neighbor carpenter.

I currently have 1000 feet of track here at my home and add more each summer as money and time allows. Pushing the strap steel rail into the sleepers has become a problem because of arthritis in my hands and shoulders so I designed and built a “tie setter” using inexpensive bottle jacks each costing less that $10 from the local farm supply store. This unit can be included in the MoW train behind a utility car holding my tools.

My tie setter in the process of being set up.
click any image to enlarge

When using the C-clamps there needed to have quite a bit of room below the sleeper to affix the clamp on the bottom of the sleeper to the rail head of the track; not now, I can slip the lifter bar under the sleeper and tap it into place with a hammer. It is not necessary to remove any gravel that might be wedged between the lifter and the sleeper. Using two jacks allows me to adjust the force needed to push the rail into its groove.

Maintenance work on ties is easy to accomplish because there is no need to remove much gravel from the end of the sleeper when inserting the lifters. All that is needed is to scratch the gravel away using the lifter and then tap it in place with a hammer.

The tie setter lifting a sleeper (railroad tie)

Building the Tie Setter

I make all of my MoW wheels using one inch sections of three inch diameter tubing from industrial conveyors and 1/8” by 4” by 4” steel plates. After wire welding the inside of the tube to the plate I band saw the corners from the plate and then chuck the wheel into my lathe and turn the outside flange to the proper diameter and round the edges with a file. Also, I drill a one inch diameter hole in the center. I next insert a 1” section of 1” diameter round stock flush with the back of the wheel and stick weld the back side of the wheel using a deep penetrating rod and then grind the weld flat using a hand grinder. Returning to the lathe, the wheel is held by the outside flange and the axle hole is drilled and reamed to .500” diameter and then faced to 3/4” width. The outside diameter of the tube is tapered to 5 degrees and burrs are filed finishing the wheel.      

Tie Setter Blue Prints

click to view Acrobat file

The other parts of the tie setter are easily cut to size and shape using a metal cutting band saw. Bending can be done cold with a heavy hammer and vice but preheating will make things easer and the bending radius smaller. A home 120 volt stick welder or wire welding are adequate for assembling the parts.

The 1” x 1-7/8” rectangular holes in the lifter are made by drilling the four corners; chisel cutting the  center out; and the hole can be filed to size in a vice. I also spot welded the two piece jack handles into one piece just to keep things easy.

While not shown on the blue print, the hydraulic jacks are bolted to the 3/8” base using 1/4-20 nuts and bolts. The white cord? It is used to pull the MoW string to the work site.

Read Laurence Johnson's next
How to make MoW Wheels.

* MoW or "Maintenance of Way".  Equipment used to inspect/repair track and other items along the railroad's "right of way" .


Written by Laurence Johnson


Watch for Laurence Johnson's collection of live steam drawings on CD
(due out Fall 2007)


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