The usual dimensions of track spikes are 51/2 X 9.16 inches square, their weight about half a pound each. Their common defects are brittleness and imperfect points. In spiking track, the most important points to be attended to are the proper spacing of the ties and driving the spikes in such a manner that the ties shall be held in place at right angles to the track and the rails in true gauge; to insure the latter, the track gauge should always be used when spiking the gauge side, the rail being held to proper position by a lining bar. The gauge should be kept about 6 or 8 in. ahead of the tie being spiked and should not be lifted until the spikes are driven home; gauges should be tested regularly and every morning when they are to be used all day, so as to insure a true gauge all the time. The two inner spikes should be set on one side of the tie and the two outer spikes on the other, as indicated in the accompanying sketch. This prevents the tie from slewing around, and thus deranging the gauge of the track, as well as interfering with the proper spacing of the ties. The joints and centers should be spiked first, which will bring the rails to their proper position on the ties, which in turn will assist intermediate spiking.

Each tie should be carefully gauged as spiked and, as before indicated, the ties with the broadest faces being selected for the joints.

In gauging ties it is very convenient to have measured off on the handles of the mauls in the hands of the forward spikers the distance from the outside of the rail to the end of the tie. This distance will then be gauged on the tie, when it will be lifted to the rail and securely spiked; the gauge is then used, and the loose rail held in place with the lining bar as previously indicated, loose gauge being given on curves, in accordance with directions of the engineer, the allowance for which is about 1/8 in. on a 2° curve, up to about 3/4 in. on a 12° curve.

This widening of the gauge should begin on the tangent, back of the P.C., the full amount of excess over true gauge being reached by the time the P.C. is reached and continue all the way around the curve, running from the P.T. in the same manner as back of the P.C.

The spikes should always be driven home straight and at right angles with the face of the ties. When the foreman in charge of the track-laying work sees a spiker, when the spike is nearly home, strike the spike head laterally, which is done to make it lie snugly to the rail, he should at once check such imperfect work and put the man who does it at other work. The foreman in charge of gang of spikers should be experienced in this branch of the work, and by weeding out imperfect workers, can soon get together a first-rate gang of spikers. But no trouble will be experienced from carelessly driven spikes, if the tie has the spike holes bored into it, before laying. This is considered good practice, but rather expensive.

Rail Illustration

For boring the holes quickly and accurately, a proper template should be made, by which the ties are marked for the borers, who should be provided with boring machines, by the use of which a hole, square with the face of the tie is bored. The boring machines should be so arranged as not to cut the hole beyond the required depth, which should be slightly less than the length of the spike. The diameter of the holes should be about 1-16 of an inch less than the thickness of the spike. This not only does away with the spike tearing its way through the timber and thus injuring its fiber to a great extent and causing it to be much more susceptible to rot, but it is said to increase the adhesion of the spike in hard wood ties at least 50 per cent. But in order that the best results may be obtained, the spike should be flattened on either side of the sloping point, which will generally prevent it leaving the hole.

The spikers should carefully avoid striking the rail with their mauls, as such carelessness often produces fracture, which sometimes causes the rail to break in two at such points, which is liable to produce derailment and serious accident. Spike mauls should weigh not less than nine nor more than ten pounds, and should be on straight handles, not less than 3 ft. long. After considerable use, the face of the maul will become somewhat rounded, and when this takes place it should be sent to the shop to be redressed. The last blow on the spike should be only sufficiently hard to cause its throat to fit snugly on the rail; a harder blow will often fracture the spike in such a manner as to cause the head in a short time to break off and leave the rail unsupported at that point. Foremen should not allow a spike to be pulled, especially in frosty weather, until it has been first struck a light blow to break the rust and loosen its hold in the wood. The filling of old spike holes with wooden plugs is bad practice, for the reason that they will cause the spike in a short time to slip from its place; to fill the holes with sand is much better, and spikes driven in holes so filled will hold much more firmly.

The best form of spike I have seen is the curved safety railroad spike; this spike takes in the tie a position which enables it to resist the thrust of the rail against it much more effectually than the ordinary spike can possibly do. I have seen in good condition, one of these curved spikes which was said to have been driven eight times. The cost of the curved safety spike is more than that of the ordinary spike, but it is better made, holds the track better, and, I believe, is worth more than the difference asked for it. - J.A. Hall, on Construction and Maintenance of Track, before American Society of Civil Engineers.