Steel Drivin' Men
Still Setting Spikes By Hand
With White River Junction's 24th Annual Glory Days Festival going full throttle this weekend, one aspect of the old railroad culture continues —setting spikes by hand.
Two Vermont Railway employees, Dave Nelson, of Orleans and Adam Page, of Newport, were setting plates and spikes on a track that ran near the tents that were being set up for this weekend's festival. About a quarter mile of old, worn rails had been taken up and newer, heavier rails were laid in their place. Nelson and Page fastened the rails to the ties using the plates and spikes. They had about 1,400 plates and spikes to set—by hand--before they could drive the spikes home with a pneumatic hammer.
While there is plenty of railroad nostalgia to celebrate during the weekend festival, Nelson and Page are reminders that not everything about that bygone era was glorious. It is easy to forget the anonymous men who labored in the heat and humidity to build the railroad.