As spring arrives, so do certain track defects that will hamper operations and safety. As the frost comes out of the ground, soft spots in track structure might appear. These soft spots may be easy to identify or they may not be so obvious. The people who operate rail equipment will usually be the first to notice these trouble spots. An obvious soft spot may be recognized by mud pumping. The hydraulic action of the track moving up and down under load will bring up the fine material and/or mud from deeper in the sub grade. These soft spots are identifiable by mud, fine material or water coming to the surface. Another, less obvious, would be a dip in the track structure.
By reminding your operational employees of the possibility of these track structure defects you can get them repaired before they get too bad and cause a derailment.
Another track defect that is possible with a sudden hot day is the possibility of a thermal misalignment (sun kink). A sun kink can appear quite suddenly. You might see the beginning of a sun kink as slight crosstie movement. This is usually indicated by a cavity at one end of the ties and a heaping of ballast at the other end of the ties.
With cool nights and hot days a switch might operate quite differently throughout the day. Reminding operational employees of this possibility might prevent an injury. Always keep body parts out of the swing path of the switch handle when releasing it. Tremendous pressure can be present on a switch that is out of adjustment or if a rail is trying to expand or contract.