By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Pieces of rail each longer than five football fields were unloaded Friday along the SMART line in Santa Rosa, the steel bending in long arcs as it slid off a special train onto the ground.
“When you look at a piece of rail that is a foot long, it is very stiff, but over 1,600 feet, it is like a noodle,” said Keith Tarkalson, project supervisor for the construction firm Stacy and Witbeck, one of two firms rebuilding the line for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit agency.
That flexibility allows the rail to be delivered in long lengths, which lessen the number of joints in the line for a smoother and faster train ride.
“It has no seams, so you don’t get the clickety-clack of a rail car. It minimizes the number of welds we do; it is just a better product at the end of the day,” Tarkalson said. “This is specific to heavy rail, to commuter heavy rail.”
The $360 million commute line is scheduled to open in late 2015 or early 2016 from Guerneville Road in Santa Rosa to downtown San Rafael and to be extended north and south in future years.
The rail was manufactured by Evraz at its Pueblo, Colo., steel plant. The long lengths were delivered by Progress Rail Services of Albertville, Ala., on a special welded rail train that stretched almost a half mile and was comprised of 30 rail cars.
The unloading process is simple. The end of the rail is chained to the existing track and the train then moves down the track, sending the steel sliding to the ground on both sides of the track.
However, each piece of rail weighs 30 tons and any twist along the 1,600 feet length could cause the steel to move unexpectedly and injure workers, Tarkalson said.
“It is not overly complicated, but you just have to do it right,” Tarkalson said.
The shipment of 50 pieces of rail were unloaded beginning at Sebastopol Road in Santa Rosa as the train moved south at walking speed south. The first shipment of rail will be enough for 7.5 miles of track.
You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or email@example.com.