The railroad infrastructure is a very maintenance intensive operation in itself. In the days before the mechanization that we see now, this work was done by manual labor. Track and bridge maintenance was a daily chore on railroads, and the track was divided into sections, each under the responsibility of a section gang, that is, a group of workers charged with maintaining their assigned area of track.
Jack Delano was traveling out west in March of 1943, where he documented some of the sights along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. In this image we see an Indian section gang aligning the track in the Santa Fe’s yard in Needles, California. More than a dozen workers are struggling to coax the track into it’s proper alignment. Imagine doing this kind of back-breaking work each day!