History of Santa Fe Rail Testing and Rail Test Cars


By W. Brock Lowman

A Santa Fe veteran rail tester, W. Brock Lowman chronicles the Santa Fe’s efforts at rail testing and the various vehicles used in the process. The manuscript includes a description of a typical work day, typical rail faults, and a primer on ultrasonic testing.  An interesting and informative view of a vital but little known part of the work of the railroad.  50 pages, 130 photos.  Softbound.

ISBN 978-1-933587-53-0


At its peak, the Santa Fe system was comprised of about 11,000 miles of rail stretching from Chicago in the east to Los Angeles in the west, serving 11 states in-between.  In this volume, Santa Fe rail test car veteran W. Brock Lowman chronicles the company’s efforts to develop rail detection equipment, from the early American Railway Association magnetic test cars of the 1920s to Santa Fe’s custom Chevrolet C-20 Suburban Hi-rail vehicles with ultrasonic testing used into the early 1990s. The author also takes the reader through a typical work-day testing rail.  Included is an overview of typical rail faults and a primer on ultrasonic testing.  Over 130 photos, plus roster of Santa Fe’s rail testing vehicles.

Part 1:  A Short History of Rail Testing
Part 2: The Beginning of Ultrasonic Rail Inspection
Part 3: Late Modern Era of Santa Fe Rail Testing, 1974-1991
Part 4: The End of the Program-Final Thoughts
App. A:  Figures and Photos-Rail, Steel and Defects
App. B: Ultrasonics Explained