The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for July 10th, 2013

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If you see something, photograph it and say something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the overt messaging offered by security professionals and municipal Police officials concerning the presence of literally millions of desert born sappers hidden alongside the heaving shorelines of a lake called Freedom, there do seem to be quite a few holes in the fence lines of our rail yards. Probably, this is because the security apparatus of these institutions need to strike different nerves to acquire their sources of funds, rather than to rankle the ire of the common proletarians and politicians alike.

Luckily, this homeland insecurity allows one such as myself opportunity to observe some often esoteric kit which the railroad people employ for “maintenance of way.”

from wikipedia

A railroad crane, (US: crane car or wrecker; UK: breakdown crane) is a type of crane used on a railroad for one of three primary uses: freight handling in goods yards, permanent way (PW) maintenance, and accident recovery work. Although the design differs according to the type of work, the basic configuration is similar in all cases: a rotating crane body is mounted on a sturdy chassis fitted with flanged wheels. The body supports the jib (UK; US: boom) and provides all the lifting and operating mechanisms; on larger cranes, an operator’s cabin is usually provided. The chassis is fitted with buffing and coupling gear to allow the crane to be moved by a locomotive, although many are also self-propelled to allow limited movement about a work site.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a flat bed car coupled to a self propelled rail crane, called a Burro, you’re looking at there. What your humble narrator doesn’t know about the rails is enormous and the scope of my ignorance on the subject is actually breathtaking, so if i misname something or am just wrong on this subject- please instruct and correct via the comments section.

Corrections and additions are always welcome at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


Burro cranes (some were outfitted with shovels, as the one at Roots) were designed to be self-sufficient maintenance-of-way tools. As such, they were self-powered, and could propel not only themselves, but could take along with them a flat car, gondola, dump car or other equipment needed for their work. Therefore, they could take with them rail, ballast, timbers or any other materials needed for track repair or construction.

These utilitarian rail vehicles have been built by several manufacturers, including Cullen-Friestedt, Federal Sign & Signal, and now by the Badger Equipment Company. But they have always retained the name Burro, and if you say Burro to a railroader, he knows that you’re not referring to the four-legged animal.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Extensive construction and demolition work has been underway at Sunnyside Yards in anticipation of the East Side Access project for several years now, but these fellows with their Burro were MOW workers.


Railroad Maintenance-of-Way (MOW) machinery and its design and utilization, is the equipment used by railroads to lay, clear, and maintain railroad track infrastructure and is of paramount importance in keeping the world’s railroads running dependably, safely and profitably. Railroads are a key component of the world economy. Corn, beans and other foods and feeds, coal, oil, manufactured goods, building materials, and virtually everything else that one can name, moves by rail. The volume of goods transported by the railroads is increasing dramatically. Existing railroad track must carry more and heavier traffic. Railroad bridges must be repaired and maintained. Fences, walls, gates, area lighting and other security structures are of increasing importance. Increased traffic and speeds adds to demand on signals. Railroad and railway Maintenance-of-Way equipment and utilization strategies play a key role in keeping all rail traffic running safely and on time. Railroad Maintenance-of-Way equipment and utilization efficiency planning make it possible for railroads to upgrade and maintain track and rights of way.

Want to see something cool? Upcoming Walking Tours

Modern Corridor Saturday, July 13, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull Saturday, August 10, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, August 17, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

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