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Sleepers are early railroad "ties" made from rock or marble. They seem to be
entirely an eastern phenomenon, mostly since the railroads being built in the
very early days of railroading in the U.S. (1832-1835 or so) were experimenting with
different approaches to track laying techniques - prior to the
common use of
I know of five railroads (so far) that used sleepers:
the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railway
the Columbia-Philadelphia Railroad
the Allegheny Portage Railroad
the Camden and Amboy Railroad
Probably the first use of sleepers was by the Baltimore and Ohio, on their original mainline from Baltimore to Ellicott Mills MD. Several are on display at the B&O Railroad Museum in downtown Baltimore.
the Baltimore and Susquehanna Rwy
The original mainline for the Baltimore and Susquehanna (later the Northern Central and then the Pennsy) used them (at least) in the Timonium MD area. They were installed in the 1833 time frame, as they were trying to go north out of Baltimore towards York and Harrisburg PA.
These sleepers were made from marble that came from a local quarry, located in Texas MD, a small community located between Timonium and Cockeysville MD. FIY - Marble from this quarry was also used to construct the Washington Monument in Washington DC, and when the monument was refurbished in the late 1990's, they came back to the quarry to get more marble so it would match. The sleepers were uncovered en mass during the construction of the Light Rail system in the 89-90 timeframe, and again in 2005 when the northern end was double-tracked. Several hundred of them could be seen adjacent to the single track as it approached Padonia Road from the south. Several dozen more were uncovered at Industry Lane, less than a mile north of the Padonia Rd location. How far north they go, I guess we will never know. Yours truly made a valiant effort to have some removed and saved so they could be put on display somewhere, but met stiff resistance from both the Mass Transit Administration, and the State Historical Society. One particularly ignorant thing the fellow at the MTA said, was "how do you know how to remove the stones without damaging them" (he was ridiculing my lack of expertise as an archeologist, and not knowing the proper methods for uncovering artifacts), and no more than two weeks later, the bulldozers clearing the R-O-W at Industry Lane came along and scraped the top of almost all of the sleepers. So much for the state being a competent guardian of the stones. One of the other arguments I was given was "why should we pull them out of the ground now, when in the future, they may develop better methods of obtaining information on their history". I've rarely heard so much government BS (to my "face") in my life! Needless to say, they are now ALL covered up by the northbound track for the foreseeable future. A few were still around to be saved in the 1995-98 timeframe.
The B&S sleepers were not consistently cut in size or shape. They are rough cut, except for the "rail groove". The sleepers are grooved with a slot to lay the rail in, and I suspect the rail was laid directly on the marble, and secured with either two or four bolts. Judging from the fact that the grooves in the top of the sleepers are not the same depth, the sleepers were probably put in the ground, and then the groove would be cut to make the track lay as level as possible.
One shot of the stones at Industry Lane, during the light rail double-tracking in 2005.
the Columbia-Philadelphia RRThe Columbia-Philadelphia Railroad was part of the railroad-canal system (map) trying to compete with the Erie canal. Several hundred sleepers were uncovered east of Columbia PA, adjacent to the Pennsy mainline between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. Looking at pictures of the sleepers here, and at Portage, one can see a striking resemblance. Unfortunately, I was not around to get pictures of them while they were still in the ground.
the Allegheny Portage RR
The Allegheny Portage Railroad, between Altoona and Johnstown PA used sleepers extensively. The museum in Portage PA has an extremely well done exhibit, and has laid out several hundred feet of the sleepers on the ground to give the visitor an idea of how they were used. A link to a page on the sleepers is here, a link to the National Park Service website for the Allegheny Portage Railroad is here, and a link to a tutorial on the railroad is here.
The painting is nice, but the sleepers are too far apart!
(The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission)
Close-up of the Allegheny Portage RR sleepers.
(Allegheny Portage National Historic Site)
Below, photos of the original rail used on the Portage Railroad, dug up in 2003. Thanks to Abram for passing these along to me.
the Camden and Amboy Railway
The C&A was incorporated in 1830 by Colonel John Stevens (of Hoboken), and completed in 1838 connecting Camden, Bordentown, Trenton, and South Amboy. When they first started laying track, they used stone sleepers, made by the inmates of Sing Sing prison. Once, when the arrival of the sleepers was delayed, the Stevens' decided to temporarily use wooden crossbeams, or ties. They soon found that the trains ran smoother on the ties, and started to replace them.
During the construction of the light rail station in Bordentown, they uncovered the foundation of an old 1851 engine house. They also discovered that the railroad used the old stone sleepers for construction of the foundation. They have left a couple of them on display in the middle of the wye with the marker shown below.
Colonel Stevens had two sons, Robert L. Stevens and Edwin A. Stevens. Robert was the one who went to England to purchase their first steam engine, the John Bull, in 1831. The engine ran until 1866, and is now on display in the Smithsonian.
I love trains, and I love signals. I am not an expert. I do these pages because I love spending my time doing them - although I do a reasonable amount of research to make sure the information presented is accurate! :-) :-)
Please Note: Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them. For those of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my indexa page has a list of almost everything railroad oriented I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.
If this is a railfan page, every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct. Once in a while, an error may creep in, oooooooops, oh well! :-)
My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a
thousand words, especially for railfanning. Text descriptions only
get you so far, especially if you get lost or disoriented. Take
along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still
better if you get lost! I belong to AAA, which allows you to get
local maps for free when you visit the local branches. ADC puts
out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their
state maps do not have the railroads on them. If you can find em,
I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and
concise graphics, and they do a really good job of showing you where
tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads.
Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.
BTW, floobydust is a term I picked up 30-40 years ago from a National Semiconductor data book, and means miscellaneous and/or other stuff.
Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit is always given! BE NICE!!! Contact info is here
Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.
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