The Directions Say “Run Like Hell…”

Making a field weld is serious business.

And while our headline pokes a bit of fun at the danger of making a field weld on the railroad, we remind ourselves that SAFETY COMES FIRST.

Safety Comes First.

That’s because we’re working with small batches of molten steel in an on-site environment.

We’re talking serious heat, volatile materials and very specific protocols in an impromptu location.

These little bowls of fun are produced by Railtech Boutet (pronounced “boo-tay” – go ahead and laugh, but it’s a great company with headquarters in France).

These flash pots require a lot of forethought and planning and attention to detail.

For serious rail in the modern age, you want Continuous Welded Rail or CWR for short. CWR eliminates the joint bars in railroads that are used to connect up the 39-foot long sections rail typically comes in.

There are many advantages that we won’t go into depth about, but suffice to say that it removes a lot of the movement in tracks and helps mitigate many issues that degrade the quality of a track.

If you want the official guide to making a field weld from RailTech Boutet, you can find a link to their manual at the bottom of this post.

Step 1: Pack the Mold

Step 1: Pack the Mold

Packing the mold is the most important step when it comes to quality of the pour. A poorly packed mold will fail and the molten steel will seep out and the weld will fail resulting in lost time and money.

Failing to put the plug in the bottom of the mold is an easy oversight, and that mistake will allow hot molten steel to run right through the weld and pour out the bottom of the mold – not the desired result.

A failed weld not only means the cost of the weld and the time spent setting up are lost, but also the rail can be damaged and new ends must be cut, rail must be shifted and a new weld prepared.

The next step is setting up the single use terra cotta pot that will hold the pellets that will be set alight. This glorified flower pot will serve as the crucible for the liquid steel and direct the flow of the molten alloy into the gap between the two rails.

Then it gets serious.

You light an aluminum fuse that gets dropped into the mixture.

Then you run like hell – well, at least you move quickly away, to be a little less dramatic about the whole thing.

Thermite: Ingredient in C-4

Hot liquid metal starting to cool down and solidify.

The mixture contains Thermite, an ingredient in military grade explosives like C-4, and in field welds.

Yes, this is serious stuff.

It gets hot very – quickly!

2384-degrees Fahrenheit to be specific.

The thermite and iron shot turn liquid with the heat, melting and flowing down through the mold to fill the gap between the two rails with the overflow running out into a pan designed to catch the molten steel.

After that the process gets a bit more tame.

We wait a bit and allow the molten steel to set up – but not too long before we knock the molds loose, and get back to work.

No Rest for the Railroader

Demolding or removing the mold – it’s still burning hot!

It’s still hot – but cooling rapidly, so there’s no time to sit around.

The slag above the rail profile needs to be sheared off as cleanly as possible with the head of the rail with the rail shear attached to the Matweld – another product from RailTech Boutet (stop giggling).

The Matweld is a versatile hydraulic engine that operates multiple tools including the rail shear and the grinder which are a critical part of the field welding process.

Matweld weld grinder in action cleaning up a field weld.

The shear gets the weld off the top of the rail, then there’s the hand work of knocking off the outside of the rail profile with a hammer and steel wedge.

After that, it’s time to get the rail grinder out and clean up the edges of the weld to allow smooth transit of the wheels along the rails.

Sounds simple, and it’s very doable, but it takes a steady hand, a cool head and learning from some experienced folks to make sure it all goes according to plan.

Want the nitty gritty details on how this is done?

Check out the official Weld-Training Guide from RailTech Boutet (seriously, you’re still giggling?)

And then there is the exhaustive set of directions



This Guy!

img_6066This is Charles “Buddy” Perry – the very heart and soul of Railroad Services. We think he’s probably the reason they have the word “Super” in Superintendent.

His genial manner combined with over four decades of railroading experience and a demand for safety and quality in the work he does has been invaluable over the years.

Many of our clients have been with the company for as long as he has. Sure, there are new faces from time to time, but Charles (or “Buddy,” as we call him around here) has been a solid mainstay.

His loyalty remains beyond compare.

And you ever want to see the extent of what can be done with a backhoe, just catch this man in action.

Pure awesomeness in the saddle when it comes to operating that machine!

The Extended Team

img_5643We’re pretty proud of the team we’ve been building here at Railroad Services.

They’re a team of professionals with decades of railroading experience, and lately we’ve added some new talent with additional skills to make things even more amazing.

Working together with our sister company, Rail Yard Studios, we’ve gone from being solely a railroad contractor to being much more.

Increasingly, our projects have been calling for a little expertise outside of the good solid railroad knowledge we’ve had for so long, and the team inside at Rail Yard has played a big role in several of our projects.

robert-hendrick-rick-logo-artisan-craftsmenIn addition, we’ve developed key relationships with a number of outside professionals that we think pretty highly of. They’ve come in handy on projects lately as well.


So here’s a shout out to the crew from Railroad Services and Rail Yard Studios.

Thank you!

What Do You Do Well?

Making a railroad field weld

Entrepreneur, Michael Burcham, once asked of a young intern “What do you do well?”

It’s a great question for a business to ask of itself, too.

We sat down and looked at it, and suddenly, we understood a lot better what we ought to be doing.

Railroad construction and maintenance seems pretty specific, but there are actually many aspects to the railroad.

So here’s a list of some of the things we’ve done lately:


Pre-Cast Concrete Railroad Grade Crossings

Cross Tie Replacement

Rail Replacement

Concrete-Embedded Track Renovations

In-Track Grain Hopper Installation


Field Welds

That’s a short list of the larger scope of projects we’re adept at doing.

“What do you do well?”

Installing precast concrete panels at a railroad grade crossing

And here’s what you’ll find us doing almost daily after an inspection from the Roadmaster or Track Inspector that nets one of our clients a 30-day notice or a shut down – because sometimes things just break:broken-rail-on-job-site-soon-to-be-recylced

Open Gage

Cross Elevation in Track

Broken or Worn Rail

Broken Joint Bars & Bolts

Stripped Joints

Bucked Track

Yes. We’re pretty good at a number of things, but this is only a small part of what’s involved in railroad construction and maintenance. There’s still signals and the handling of the locomotives and cars, but we’ll stick with the track work, thank you very much.