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Rails going in Northgate train tunnels

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It's exciting times at the portal to the Northgate light rail tunnels where contractors are welding 80 foot long rail "sticks" together to haul into the tunnels beneath the University of Washington and Roosevelt neighborhoods. The Northgate Link light rail extension is on schedule to open in 2021with stations at Northgate, the Roosevelt neighborhood and the University District. Here's a few fresh pictures from the last couple weeks of work. 

Check out this story from the Platform for details about the route and how the rails will "float" in the tunnels beneath the University of Washington's sensitive research areas

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The rails are delivered in 80-foot-long "sticks" and stacked in place to be welded together into 560-foot-long and 800-foot-long sections. Each stick weighs about 3,000 pounds. 

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Workers grind the rail sides near the joints before they move on to the next station for welding.

Northgate rails on the rollers for easy movement

Simple rollers on wood frames make it easier to roll the rails into place for welding. 

Rail is readied for welding to the previous piece

The next step involves lining up the ends of two sticks to be joined together inside the automated "flash butt" welding machine. 

Welding together two pieces of rail

With the rails lined up, the flash butt welding machine joins them in minutes and the connected section is rolled on toward the tunnels.

Rail weld grinding by hand

Workers grind away the small amounts of excess materials left from the welding process, check the weld and roll the stick down the line. 

Inspecting the welded rails

Inspecting the weld.

Closeup of a rail weld

Closeup look at the final weld. 

Rails pulled into the Northgate tunnels

The rails, now in 560 to 800-foot-long sections, are pulled into the tunnels where they will be installed over the next several months. 

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