An experimental analysis of railroad spike maul methods

Gray, B.A. and W.S. Marras. 1989. An experimental analysis of railroad spike maul methods. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. 31 (3): 335-344. doi:10.1177/001872088903100307.


This study investigated differences in railroad spike maul methods between experienced track workers and novice subjects. Differences were analyzed by developing a quantitative measure of the orientation of the spike maul path during spiking. The relationship between spiking motion pattern and spiking performance in both novice and experienced subjects was also investigated. Subjects were videotaped while using a spike maul on an instrumented spike force measuring system. Analysis of videotapes and performance measures revealed significant differences in motion patterns and performance between novice and experienced subjects. It was concluded from analysis of spike maul motion patterns that experienced track workers had developed a more efficient ballistic technique than had novices. This technique was evidenced by positioning of the maul close to the body’s center of gravity, flexing the elbows, and using wrist motion on the downswing.