Enlarged further, I see there appears to be Sectionmen working on the track. I'd like to think that perhaps the Dapper Gentleman is the Station Agent returning from checking on progress made on whatever work they're doing.
I was told by an old rr guy that you wanted to have the roadbed and ballast profile fall away from the ends of the ties so they weren't buried, stayed drier and didn't rot, and that the mounded ballast in the middle made a sort of a reservoir of ballast that would work its way outward under the rails to keep the profile right as time went on and the ballast tended to fall out to the sides. Is that right? I do notice in the old photos that the tie ends tend to be pretty well exposed on track that looks well-maintained.
This is what I've always heard = The DSP&P “native ballasted” the line, meaning it set the ties in local dirt with a few cinders mixed in. “Native ballasting” left the ends of the ties almost completely exposed, with perhaps just an inch at the ends actually in the dirt. The exposed ends of the ties allowed them to "breathe," thus drying out faster, reducing rot and enabling them to last longer. In the case of the DSP&P, they lasted a lot longer, being untreated (and thus much cheaper). The “ballast” crowned to the top surface of the ties in the centerline of the track. In theory the “ballast” in the middle held the ties and allowed the water to drain off and away from the ties.
Speaking of another Jim Dandy, I see that his persistive efforts have now had the comments section removed from a growing number of the DPL photos. One now has to email them with the corrections, identifications and locations.
To build on what Mr. Shapekahm states, what serves as ballast is mounded up towards the track centerline. This helps any water that falls on the road bed drain to either side of the track, moving quickly away from the road and rails, and ideally only a very small amount penetrates below the track. This prevents undermining the roadbed.
Over time, the design of the roadbed became the focus of engineers, who gradually lifted the roadbed up slightly from the adjacent landscape, tamped and compacted the underlying soil (to the extant that years of train travel did not do so), and introduced freely draining rock ballast to both bed the ties and move the water away to ditches now carved on either side of the track within the right of way.
While I enjoy nature, and like to see it preserved, all of this track engineering has created miles-long wetlands that parallel our railroads.
I can only observe that Mr. Dandy must be experiencing a bumpy ride as he spirits the depot drawings past the section gang to the next depot where an express train awaits.