Closures could begin Monday for rail replacement work in Warsaw

The north-south railroad through Kosciusko County and Warsaw will soon undergo significant upgrades by Norfolk Southern as part of a “once in a lifetime” rail replacement project.

Much of the existing rail is from the 1930’s to 1970’s.  That rail requires replacement due to wear and tear, as well as excess movement in the rail when trains connect with it.

The new rail will be continuous and laid in ¼ mile pieces.  Those pieces are welded together to create one jointless track.  This process will lessen future maintenance by eliminating joints in the rail.

There will be two phases to this rail replacement project.  The first phase will be unloading the new rail.  Crews begin by cutting the asphalt on each side of the rail at crossings.  Much of the cutting work is already complete.  When the new rail is ready, crews with backhoes will be staged at upcoming crossings and will dig out the cut asphalt, creating a 7” trench around the existing rail as the rail train approaches.  A rail train will bring the new ¼ mile pieces of rail along the track, sliding them off the back of the train into those trenches.  Crews will then place temporary cold patch over the new rail until the second phase in June or July.

The unloading process should only close crossings for approximately 15 minutes at a time, as the rail train passes through and the new rail is dropped into place.  Where joints need to be welded, the rail train pause, which could result in a slightly longer closure.  Once the rail is dropped into the trench, emergency vehicles will be able to cross the trenched opening, if necessary.

Tentatively, beginning on Monday, April 23, the rail train will unload the new rail from Claypool to just south of Pope Street in Warsaw.  While the first train will not be unloading rail at Pope Street, the locomotives will temporarily block the Pope Street crossing.  The rail train will then take anywhere from a couple of days to two weeks to reload with rail in Columbia City before returning to deliver rail to Warsaw.  Once a more definite date is determined, residents will be given a few days’ notice about when to expect these temporary closures in town.

Phase 2 of the project will begin around June 20 in the Claypool area, arriving in Warsaw around the week of July 2nd and continuing north from there.  This phase involves digging up the temporarily placed rail, permanently placing and spiking it, and finishing with a long-term asphalt application and approach improvements.  Most of these closures will be two to three hours in length.  This surfacing rail gang can cover 1-2 miles per day.  Crews won’t tear out a crossing until they know that the rail gang will be there that same day, to prevent unnecessary closures.

As part of Phase 2, there will be a few extended crossing closures in Warsaw.  The Market Street crossing will be closed for 2-3 days.  Center and Main Street crossings, as well as the entirely of Hickory Street, will be closed for 2-3 weeks.  When possible, temporary crossings will be opened up to allow some traffic through, but motorists are advised to plan alternate routes.  These extended closures are due to laying conduit and repaving Hickory Street to prepare for crossing upgrades that are currently scheduled to take place in in the Fall.  Doing this conduit work now will eliminate having to close entire crossings later on, except for some short one-lane closures for crew safety.

All closures will occur in order of crossings from South to North.  Crossings cannot be skipped and completed later with this process.  Closures will occur around train traffic schedules through Norfolk Southern’s dispatch center.  Local emergency services will be notified of all closures, so they can plan accordingly.

Norfolk Southern continues to work closely with city, county, and other local municipal officials to provide information, coordinate detours and notifications to dispatch, and keep everyone apprised of updates and progress.  This project is funded in its entirety by Norfolk Southern.