The importance of maintaining the trackage is critical. Both the ties and the rails wear as time goes by and someone has to inspect the track and choose where to work on next as they discover problems. Rail can be damaged in a number of ways - the edge may be worn off by wheels scraping the rail side, the wheels may not be gauged properly, the shape of the wheel tire to flange might be incorrect and many other possibilities. The wooden ties have their problems from decay from contact with the ground to loosening the attachment article ( spike or screw) by vibration and deteriorating wood. Getting the correct spacing between the rails is critical as it varies depending on the situation. Mike is such an old hand at this he just methodically replaces bad rails and ties with ease.
The SCRR is a very large train layout. We like trains, like you do and have chosen to build a layout (actually several layouts) as a group project. We have 9 acres of land and some resources plus whatever a member wants to contribute. For less than $7 a month you can become a member and get to work on the layout, run trains, ride on trains and be with a great bunch of folks. We have once-a-month public run days to share our hobby with the general public. You can be a part of all this, join us and have fun with trains. We want to have more people who want to build on, maintain and run trains on our setup. Does this sound like something you would like to do?