Title:
Rail lifter
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A rail lifter used to lift a set of assembled railroad tracks above the ballast that has been spread on them includes a front loader or the like having a pair of widely spaced front wheels and a pair of similarly widely spaced rear wheels so that the front loader does not ride on the railroad tracks or the railroad ties. An elongated boom attached to the front of the front loader can be raised or lowered. A plow attached to the distal end of the boom scrapes excess ballast from the tracks when the boom is lowered into contact with the tracks and the rail lifter advance. A rail lifter mechanism grips the rails and lifts them up over the ballast and then lowers the rails onto the top of the ballast.



Inventors:
Pike, Lawrence G. (Arkansas City, KS, US)
Application Number:
11/656053
Publication Date:
05/03/2007
Filing Date:
01/22/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E01B27/17
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PEZZUTO, ROBERT ERIC
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Kenneth W. Iles (Overland Park, KS, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A rail lifter comprising: a. a front loader having an elongated boom heading a proximal end and a distal end with said proximal end operatively attached to a front end of said front loader; b. a plow operatively connected to said distal end of said elongated boom; and c. a rail lifer mechanism operatively mounted on said elongated boom intermediate of the proximal end of said elongated boom and the distal end of said elongated boom.

2. A rail lifter in accordance with claim 1 further comprising means for raising and lowering said distal end of said elongated boom.

3. A rail lifter in accordance with claim 1 further comprising means for supporting said plow in a fixed position relative to a left-hand side rail and a right-hand side rail of a railroad tracks.

4. A rail lifter in accordance with claim 3 wherein said plow supporting means further comprises a truck having a pair of parallel space wheels that ride on said left-hand side rail and said right-hand side rail of said tracks respectively.

5. A rail lifter in accordance with claim 1 further comprising means for adjusting an angle of attack of a leading edge of said plow.

6. A rail lifter in accordance with claim 1 wherein said plow further comprises means for scraping debris from a top portion of a pair of spaced parallel railroad rails and from a pair of opposed upstanding side walls of each of said spaced parallel railroad rails.

7. A rail lifter in accordance with claim 6 aware and said means for scraping debris from a top portion of a pair of spaced parallel railroad rails and from a pair of opposed upstanding side walls of said parallel railroad rails further comprises a pair of spaced notches in said leading edge of said plow.

8. A rail lifter in accordance with claim 1 wherein said front loader further comprises a left-hand side ground engaging drive means and a right-hand side ground engaging drive means for propelling said front loader.

9. A rail lifter in accordance with claim 8 wherein said left-hand side ground engaging drive means strikes the ground outside a left-hand end of a plurality of laid railroad ties and said right-hand side ground engaging drive means strikes the ground outside of a right-hand end of a plurality of laid railroad ties, said railroad ties comprising a portion of a railroad track.

10. A rail lifter in accordance with claim 1 wherein said rail lifter mechanism further comprises means for alternately gripping and releasing a pair of parallel rails and four alternately raising and lowering said rails while they are being gripped by said rail lifter mechanism.

11. A rail lifter comprising: a. a front loader having an elongated boom heading a proximal end and a distal end with said proximal end operatively attached to a front end of said front loader; b. a plow operatively connected to said distal end of said elongated boom; c. a rail lifer mechanism operatively mounted on said elongated boom intermediate of the proximal end of said elongated boom and the distal end of said elongated boom; and d. means for raising and lowering said distal end of said elongated boom.

12. A rail lifter in accordance with claim 11 further comprising means for supporting said plow in a fixed position relative to a left-hand side rail and a right-hand side rail of a railroad tracks.

13. A rail lifter in accordance with claim 11 wherein said plow further comprises a left-hand side face and a right-hand side face joined along an inner edge of each said face forming a nose portion forward of an outer edge of said left-hand face and forward of an outer edge of said right-hand face.

14. A rail lifter in accordance with claim 13 wherein said plow further comprises an upper plowing portion and a lower debris dispersal portion.

15. A rail lifter in accordance with claim 12 wherein said plow supporting means further comprises a truck having a pair of parallel space wheels that ride on said left-hand side rail and said right-hand side rail of said tracks respectively.

16. A rail lifter in accordance with claim 11 further comprising means for adjusting an angle of attack of a leading edge of said plow relative to said railroad tracks.

17. A rail lifter in accordance with claim 11 wherein said front loader further comprises a left-hand side ground engaging drive means and a right-hand side ground engaging drive means for propelling said front loader and said left-hand side ground engaging drive means strikes the ground outside a left-hand end of a plurality of laid railroad ties and said right-hand side ground engaging drive means strikes the ground outside of a right-hand end of a plurality of laid railroad ties, said railroad ties comprising a portion of a railroad track.

18. A rail lifter comprising: a. a front loader comprising a left-hand side ground engaging drive means and a right-hand side ground engaging drive means for propelling said front loader and said left-hand side ground engaging drive means strikes the ground outside a left-hand end of a plurality of laid railroad ties and said right-hand side ground engaging drive means strikes the ground outside of a right-hand end of a plurality of laid railroad ties, said railroad ties comprising a portion of a railroad track, said front loader having an elongated boom heading a proximal end and a distal end with said proximal end operatively attached to a front end of said front loader; b. a plow operatively connected to said distal end of said elongated boom; c. a rail lifer mechanism operatively mounted on said elongated boom intermediate of the proximal end of said elongated boom and the distal end of said elongated boom; d. means for raising and lowering said distal end of said elongated boom.

19. A rail lifter in accordance with claim 18 wherein said rail lifter mechanism further comprises roller means for alternately gripping and releasing a pair of parallel rails and four alternately raising and lowering said rails while they are being gripped by said rail lifter mechanism.

20. A rail lifter in accordance with claim 18 wherein said plow further comprises means for scraping debris from a top portion of a pair of spaced parallel railroad rails and from a pair of opposed upstanding side walls of each said spaced parallel railroad rails, where and said scraper means further comprises a pair of spaced notches a long a leading edge of said plow, each said notch further comprising a U-shaped upper end flowing downward into a pair of opposed parallel side walls, with said two notches such that one said notch rides on top of one of said rails.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Not Applicable.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT.

Not applicable.

SEQUENCE LISTING

Not applicable

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is related to an apparatus for assisting in the laying of a railroad track. More particularly, the present invention is an apparatus that raises railroad track attached to railroad ties that are laid on top of a railroad bed and places it atop the ballast.

DESCRIPTION OF THE RELATED ART INCLUDING INFORMATION DISCLOSED UNDER 37 C.F.R. 1.97 and 1.98

In current practice these are the basic steps in laying new railroad tracks (the present invention cannot be used on replacement track laying).

First, a roadbed is graded. Second, a layer of asphalt is spread over the roadbed if desired. Third, a set of two parallel railroad tracks is laid over the bed using a machine that automatically draws straight railroad rail sections, which may be up to about 0.16 km (¼ mile) long, from a magazine and lays them out as a pair of properly spaced parallel rails that fall onto immediately previously set out cross ties and fastens the rails to the cross ties. When this operation is complete, there is a bare roadbed of dirt or asphalt with a completed railroad track lying on it, but the railroad track cannot be used by a train because there is no ballast to distribute the train's weight and to allow the track to move in response to changes in load or temperature. Fourth, a layer of gravel, i.e, ballast, is dumped onto the top of the railroad track and is spread out on the railroad tracks. Upon completion of this step, the railroad track is not usable for trains because the ballast is on top of the railroad tracks, which are not seated in the ballast.

Fifth, the rails are raised or lifted up, allowing the ballast to settle under the rails, and then the rails are lowered so that the rails and ties lie on top of the ballast. Sixth and finally, a tamper machine tamps down the ballast by plunging large tines into the spaces between the ties. The track is now ready for normal use by railroad trains.

In the prior art, a rail lifter rides on the railroad track that has just been laid, so it is basically lifting up on part of the track in front of the machine while at that same time the weight of the rail lifter device is riding on the rails that have just been lifted free of the ballast. To prevent bending the track too much, the rail lifting goes very slowly. That is, prior art rail lifters rely on a truck, boom or the like rides directly on top of the rails in the same fashion as a railroad train. The weight of the driving vehicle holds down the track it is sitting on, so that the rail lifter itself is required to pull up on rails that are being held down by the driving vehicle, requiring some upward bending of the rails being lifted in front of the drive vehicle and dramatically reducing the effectiveness of the rail lifter. This is always the case, regardless of the spacing between the driving vehicle riding on the tracks and the actual rail lifter mechanism. A conventional rail lifter having a truck or other driving unit sitting atop the tracks is always fighting itself and its own weight in attempting to lift the track above the ballast bed.

On effort to address this problem is found in U.S. Pat. No. 3, 274,952, issued to Fekete on Sep. 27, 1966, which utilizes a pair of spaced carts that ride the rails and support each end of an elongated boom, with the rail lifting clamps supported by the boom midway between the carts. This is a large and unwieldily apparatus. Further, no other vehicles can use the railroad while the apparatus is on the tracks. Uncompleted railroad tracks, that is, those that have not been settled into the ballast, can still be used by trains, very slowly, but the rail lifter must first be removed from the tracks. It can be removed from the tracks by moving it to a siding track, which may be many miles away from the job site, or by a large off-track crane, which must be on site and on standby. If, for example, a section of track is being replaced, it is likely to be bounded at each end by sound track that needs to be used during replacement of the track section. This is very difficult with Fekete '952 and other prior art rail lifers, and their progress is very slow. Fekete '952 discloses, however, a suitable rail lifter mechanism for gripping, raising, and and lowering railroad tracks by tightening pairs of opposed rollers against each rail and holding them by gripping under the rail flange throughout the work process.

Therefore it would be useful to provide a rail lifter that does not fight itself and its own weight in lifting the rails and tie assembly free from the ballast bed; that does not sit on the very rails it is lifting, thereby vastly increasing productivity, and that can easily be moved on and off the tracks to allow train traffic to proceed as the newly laid railroad track and tie system is being raised above the ballast, allowing the ballast to settle under the rails and ties.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, it is a primary object of the present invention to provide a rail lifter that does not fight itself and its own weight in lifting the rail.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a rail lifter that does not sit on the very rails it is lifting, thereby vastly increasing productivity.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a rail lifter that can easily be moved on and off the tracks to allow train traffic to proceed as the newly laid railroad track and tie system is being raised above the ballast, allowing the ballast to settle under the rails and ties.

These and other objects of the present invention are achieved by providing a rail lifer comprising a front loader having four wheels equipped with rubber tires that straddle the railroad ties widely and that contact the ground well outside the outer ends of the ties. An elongated boom is attached to the front of the front loader and can be raised and lowered with hydraulic rams. At the distal end of the boom is a set of small rail-riding wheels and a plow for leveling and scraping excess ballast from the rails. A rail gripper assembly, or rail lifter mechanism, is connected to the boom at about the midpoint of the length of the boom. The rail gripper assembly is hydraulically operated and actually grips the rails for lifting by the boom, which then lowers the rails onto the ballast. In a continuous process, the gripper never releases its grip on the rails during its work. The eight gripper mechanism rollers each spin about a shaft, so the that rail gripper assembly is in contact with the rails at all times. The rail lifter of the present invention is useable only on new track construction and is used only for step 5 above. A rail lifter according to the present invention can prepare a new railroad as described at the rate of about 3.1 km (5 miles) per day, whereas the prior art rail lifter can prepare about only 0.9 km (1.5) miles per day of the same track, a productivity increase of 333%. The increased productivity in track laying leads to dramatically lower labor and capital costs in preparing the new railroad. Further enormous benefits arise from the ability to quickly move the rail lifter off the tracks and allowing trains to pass.

Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following description taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, wherein is set forth by way of illustration and example, the preferred embodiment of the present invention and the best mode currently known to the inventor for carrying out his invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a rail lifter according to the present invention shown on the tracks.

FIG. 2 is a fragmentary side view of the rail lifter of FIG. 1 showing the boom member.

FIG. 3 is an isometric view of the lifting pad mechanism of the rail lifter of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is an enlarged side view of the boom supporting wheels and plow attached to the front end of the boom.

FIG. 5 is an isometric view of the rear of the wheel and plow assembly at the front of the boom of the rail lifter of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is a rear isometric view of the rail lifter of FIG. 1 showing the front loader portion.

FIG. 7 is a rear oriented isometric view of the rail lifter of FIG. 1 shown on a railroad track.

FIG. 8 is a schematic top view of the rail lifter of FIG. 1 shown on the railroad track during use in preparing a new railroad track.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to FIG. 1, the rail lifter 10 includes a front loader 12, or other suitable self-propelled vehicle, having an elongated boom 14 having a proximal end 16 attached to the front end 18 of the front loader 12. Directional word are oriented from the point of view of an operator person sitting the driver's cab 13 in a normal driving position; e.g., front, rear, left and right are defined relative to this person; for example, the elongated boom 14 extends forward of and from the front of the rail lifter 10. A plow 20 having a left-hand side face 22 and a right-hand side face 24 that are joined together at an angle at the inner edges 26 of the two faces is mounted on a distal end 28 of the elongated boom 14, which is supported by a left-hand side rail engaging wheel 30 and a right-hand side rail engaging wheel 32, both mounted for rotational movement about an axle 34, with the rail engaging wheels 30, 32 and associated axle 34 forming a truck 35, and both rail engaging wheels 30, 32 having an inner flange 36 to keep them on the respective left-hand rail 38 and the right-hand rail 40 when the elongated boom 14 is lowered to place the wheels 30, 32 in contact with the rails 38, 40, which are parallel to each other and generally follow the ground-following contours of the ground upon which the rail bed is built. The plow 20 disperses excess ballast and other debris from the rails 38, 40. The elongated boom 14 pivots about its mounting system at its proximal end 16 by means of a winch mechanism that extends or withdraws, that is, shortens or lengthens the pair of cables 42, each having a distal end attached at the cable bracket 44 about mid-way along the length of the elongated boom 14. The distal end of 28 of the elongated boom 14 can be raised well off the tracks 38, 40 for transportation to a new job site, or maybe lowered into the rail-engaging position shown in FIG. 2. Located intermediate of the two ends of the elongated boom 14 is a conventional rail lifter mechanism 48.

The front loader 12 of the rail lifter 10 includes four wheels, which are preferably metal wheels having rubber tires mounted on each of them, which will be referred to as “wheels,” including the front left-hand side wheel 50, a rear left-hand side wheel 52, a front right-hand side wheel 54 and a rear right-hand wheel 56 (FIG. 8). In the appropriate type of wheel, such as an all metal or steel wheel, continuous belt tractor treads mounted on two or more front-to-rear mounting wheels or gears, pneumatic rubber tires, solid rubber tires, or the like may be utilized with the rail lifter 10. Further, the number of wheels beyond four is likewise an important, as a large rail lifter 10 may employ three or more wheels on each of the left-hand and right-hand side of the rail lifter 10. The left-hand side wheels 50, 52 form a left-hand side ground engaging drive means and the right-hand side wheels 54, 56 form a right-hand ground engaging drive means. As shown, the two front wheels 50, 54 are the same distance apart as the two rear wheels 52, 56, but this need not be the case. In particular, spacing the two rear wheels 52, 56 farther apart than the two front wheels 50, 54 may provide a smaller turning radius and greater vehicle stability.

Still referring to FIG. 1, the rails 38, 40 are mounted on a plurality of spaced apart parallel railroad ties, or ties, 58, all of which lie under the rails 38, 40 and are perpendicular to the rails 38, 40. The ties 58 are each perpendicular to the rails 38, 40 and are seated in a bed of ballast 60, such as gravel. The rails 38, 40 are normally fixed to the ties 58 by spikes, bolts, or the like. They assembled left-hand rail, right-hand rail 40, and the ties 58 that are fastened to the rails 38, 40 form a collective assembly sometimes referred to as the tracks 59. All four tires 50, 52, 54, 56, are well off of the tracks and clear the underlying ties 58 by a substantial distance, which is great enough to insure that the rail lifter 10 does not ride on or rest on either the tracks 38, 40 or the ties 58, but rest on the outer edges of the ballast or on the adjoining ground. That distance is generally in the range of 4-10 cm (10-24 inches) outside of each track 38 and 40, or a lesser amount if workable. That is, the inside edges of the left-hand side wheels 50, 52 engage the ballast 60 or the ground about 4-10 cm (10-24 inches) outside of the left-hand ends 62 of the ties 58 and inside edges of the right-hand side wheels 52, 54 engage the ballast 60 or the ground about 4-10 cm (10-24 inches) outside of the right-hand ends 64 (FIG. 8) of the ties 58, as shown with greater clarity in FIG. 8.

Referring to FIG. 2, elongated boom 14 has been lowered into its working position with the plow 20 just above the tops of the rails 38, 40 and the debris catcher wheels 30, 32 in contact with the rails 38, 40. The rail lifter mechanism 48 is adjacent to the rails 38, 40 for gripping and raising the rail and tie combination out of the ballast 60 bed. As shown in FIG. 2, the rails 38, 40 and associated ties 58 have been raised out of the ballast 60 bed from the location of the rail lifter mechanism 48 to all the track behind it, while the track and tie system in front of the rail lifter mechanism 48 remains buried in the ballast 60 bed. The elongated boom 14 and its associated proximal end mounting bracket 66 can be raised and lowered by a pair of double-acting hydraulic rams 68.

Referring to FIG. 3, the rail lifter mechanism 48 includes a left-hand side pod 70 and a right-hand side pod 72, each of which is mounted at the end of a pod axle 74. The left-hand side pod 70 includes a pair of downwardly projecting front opposed rollers 76 and a pair of rear opposed rollers 78. Similarly, the right-hand side pod 72 includes a pair of downwardly projecting front opposed rollers 80 and a pair of rear opposed rollers 82. Using the double-acting hydraulic ram 84, powered through the hydraulic lines 86, 88, the two left-and side rollers 76 can be moved apart, as indicated by the double-headed arrow 90 or closer together, as shown by the arrows 92. When moved closer together, the rollers of the 76 grip the underlying rail, such as the rail 38, below or on its flange. Each of the other opposed pairs of rollers 78, 80, 82 operate in the same fashion and in concert. When the rails 38, 40 are gripped by the rollers 76, 78, 80, 82, the cables 90 are pulled to lift the rail lifter mechanism 48 up and the cables 90 are released to lower the rail lifter mechanism 48. Repeated raising and lowering of the rail lifter mechanism 48 while the rails 38, 40 are being gripped, releases the rails 38, 40 and attached ties 58 from the ballast 60 and raises the rail and tie assembly onto the top of the ballast 60. The gripping rollers 76, 78, 80, 82 grip and engage the rails 38, 40 continuously during work. The rail lifter mechanism 48 is suspended from the elongated boom 14 by the bracket 93, which supports the pod axle 74 that the left-hand and right-hand side pods 70, 72 respectively, are suspended from. The bracket 93 can be moved back and forth along the elongated boom 14 for maximum efficiency in a particular application, but is usually in a fixed position along the elongated boom 14 during use.

Referring to FIG. 4, the left-hand side face 22 of the plow 20 includes a downwardly projecting debris dispersal portion 94 disposed at an angle 96 lying in a range of 25° to 35° from the horizontal to remove excess ballast 60 from the rails 38, 40 and attached ties 58 prior to lifting the rails 38, 40 and includes a left-hand side notch 98 cut into its leading edge 100 so that the leading edge 100 is actually slightly below the top of the rail 38. The notch 98 further comprises a U-shaped upper end 99 flowing downward into a pair of opposed straight parallel side walls which are the left-hand side wall 101 and the right-hand side wall 103. The actual angle of attack 96 of the leading edge 100 can be adjusted by turning the adjustment bolt 102 by means of the attached T-handle 104. An upper plowing portion 105 of the left-hand side face 22 is angled upwardly at a steeper angle as indicated by the angle arrow 107, which is preferably about 120° to the horizontal, but may lie in a range of about 115° to 125° as needed. In any event, the angle 109 between the debris dispersal portion 94 and the upper portion 105 is fixed by bending, welding or the like at about 135°. The plow 20 is symmetrical about the inner edges 26 lying where the left-hand and right-hand side faces 22, 24 meet, forming a nose portion 26 that is forward of the left-hand outer edge 25 of the left-hand face 22 and that is forward of the right-hand outer edge 27 of the right-hand face 24 so that all the foregoing observations, angles and so forth regarding the left-hand side face 22 applied to the right-hand side face 24 which he is more clearly visible in FIGS. 1, 5. Other suitable plows can be designed, but the notches 98, 106 (FIG. 5, below), are critical to effective and efficient operation of the rail lifter 10. Scraping excess ballast 60 and other debris from the tops of the rails 38, 40 makes lifting the rails 38, 40 to place them on top of the ballast 60 both easier and faster. More importantly, ensuring that all ballast 60 is scraped from the tops of the rails 38, 40 and downward from the tops of the rails to the ties 58 prepares the track 59 for normal use by railroad trains, which cannot operate at normal speeds if the ballast 60, or other debris remains on the tops of the rails 38, 40 or their side walls, which could prevent proper engagement between the railroad wheel flange and the track flange. The notches 98, 106 provide a means for ensuring that the leading edge 100 of the plow 20 clears the ballast 60 and any other debris from the tops and upstanding side walls of the rails 38, 40. Using the adjustment screw 102, the angle of attack 96 of the leading edge 100 can be adjusted within a range of about 15° to 60°, as dictated by working conditions.

Referring to FIG. 5, a right-hand side notch 106 is formed into the leading edge 100 of the right-hand side face 24 of the plow 20 and corresponds to the left-hand side notch 98. The notch in 106 further comprises a U-shaped upper end 109 flowing downward into a pair of opposed straight parallel side walls which are the left-hand side wall 111 and the right-hand side wall 113. The distance between the center lines of the left-hand side notch 98 and the right-hand side notch 106 is the same as the distance between the centers of the rails 38, 40, which is conventionally about 23 cm (57.5 inches), thereby insuring that the notches 98, 106 scrap both rails 38, 40. Further, each of the left-hand side face 22 in the right-hand side face 24 extends outwardly from the respective notches 98, 106, by about 6.3 cm (16 inches) to ensure that excess ballast 60 is spread well off of the rails 38, 40. A sprocket gear 108 is disposed about the axle 34 to provide a means for driving the wheels 30, 32 by means of a chain if desired. A frame 110 for connect in the plow 20 and its associated truck 35 to the proximal end 16 of the elongated boom 14 includes a horizontal cross member 112, having an upwardly and inwardly projecting left-hand strut 114 connected at its lower end to the horizontal cross member 110 and at its upper end to the proximal end 16 of the elongated boom 14 and a corresponding similarly attached right-hand upwardly and inwardly projecting strut member 116.

Referring to FIG. 6, with a front loader 12 includes a radiator 118 mounted in the rear end 120 of the front loader 12 to protect the radiator 118 from debris at the front of the front loader 112 and to disperse excess heat from the internal combustion engine (not shown) or other means for driving and operating a front loader 12. The rear right-hand wheel 56 includes an inner edge 122 resting well out side of the right-hand ends 64 of the ties 58. The rear left-hand side wheel 52 includes an inner edge 124 that lies well outside the left-hand ends 62 of the ties 58 by straddling the entire rail 38, 40 and tie 58 assembly, the wheels 50, 52, 54, 56 of the front loader 12 of the rail lifter 10 the front loader 12 does not interfere with the lifting of the rails by the rail lifter mechanism 48, greatly increasing the speed at which new track assemblies can be raised above the ballast 60 and preparation of the railroad track for normal use by trains. Further, the distal end of the elongated boom 14 is a sufficient distance from the rail lifter mechanism 48 that it too does not interfere with the lifting of the rails 38, 40 and associated ties 58 and that distance desirably lies in a range of about 5.6-7 m (17-21 feet), with the preferred distance between the rail lifter mechanism 48 and the distal end 28 being about 6.5 m (19.5 feet).

Referring to FIG. 7, the rail lifter can is shown in the process of raising the rails 38, 40 and associated ties 50 above the ballast 60, creating the gap 126 between the ballast 60 and the rails 38, 40 and ties 58. The actual laying of the track on the ballast 60 bed is complete along the stretch of track behind and under the front loader 12 and forward of the front loader at distance of about 5.6 m (17 feet), while all the track forward of that point remains buried under the ballast 60.

Referring to FIG. 8, clearly visible are the inner edges of the four wheels, in particular, the inner edge 128 of the front left-hand side wheel 50, the inner edge 130 of the front right-hand side wheel 54, the inner edge 124 of the rear left-hand side wheel 52 and the inner edge 122 of the rear right-hand wheel 56. Again, the inner edges 124, 128 of the front and rear left-hand side wheels 50, 52, respectively are well clear of the left-hand ends 62 of the ties 58 and the inner edges 122, 130 of the front and rear right-hand wheels 52, 56 are well clear of the right-hand ends 64 of the ties 58, so that the front loader 12 of the rail lifter 10 widely straddles the tracks 59.

While the present invention has been described in accordance with the preferred embodiments thereof, the description is for illustration only and should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention. Various changes and modifications may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the following claims.