"Big Joe" tamper at work. As I've noted many times, the crews at the WW&F strive to authentically re-create 2 ft. railroading in the early 1900s. Wherever possible, they attempt to use the same equipment and procedures as would have been used 100 years ago. One of the few exceptions is the critter you see here. This contraption is a one-of-a-kind, self-propelled, 2 ft. ballast tamper, called "Big Joe." It got its name because the front end of it started out life as a "Big Joe" stacker....a small fork-lift device. The WW&F folks bought it 2nd hand and mounted it on the front of a small MOW flat. To the fork-lift they attached a series of air-powered tampers. The fork-lift assembly pushes the tamper tines into the ballast and the air-powered "jitterbugs" on the tampers shake the ballast, creating a more stable track bed. To power the tampers, a gas-powered air compressor trailer (minus the wheels) was mounted on the back half of the flat. The compressor balances the otherwise front-heavy flat and provides extra weight and stability for the whole vehicle. The unit has a couple of hydraulic motors on it, one of which powers the fork-lift that controls the up/down motion of the tampers, and the other actually propels the unit, so it does not have to be pushed by a locomotive while in regular use. Since it will only do about 1.5 mph, it is normally pushed by a gas-mechanical locomotive from one job site to another.
Although it is definitely not prototypical for a Maine 2 ft. line, this critter seriously enhances the ability of WW&F track crews to stabilize the road bed under newly built track and perform regular maintenance on existing track. It is pretty cost-effective to operate, although it is also pretty noisy. The fellows who are operating it do wear some serious noise protection....and when the day is done, they probably feel like they've been running a jack-hammer all day.