SEmG

Track

The railway lines that our trains run on are usually just taken for granted, but they are as important as any other infrastructure when it comes to the safe conduct of trains. Track has, as with nearly everything, developed and improved over the years.
 
Track For a long, long time the track in Britain was made from bullhead section rail that sat in cast chairs fixed to wooden sleepers. The rail was of varying lengths and weight per lb according to the required use, and the ever-increasing weight of the trains, and was held securely in the chairs by wooden or metal keys. There is still quite a large mileage of bullhead track in use, though it is mainly to be found on secandary routes and in sidings. This picture shows one of the very early uses of concrete for sleepers, a field where the Southern Railway was to the fore. The big advantage of concrete, of course, is that it doesn't rot in the way that wood does, so doesn't need to be saturated in preservative. However, concrete has it's own problems and it was a number of years before a reliable, long-lasting concrete sleeper was introduced.

photograph by Ian Morgan

 
Bullhead rail was replaced by flat-bottom rail which can be fixed in several ways. Here the fixing is the Pandrol clip, to be found all over the railway network. Note that flatbottom rail is of a taller section than bullhead. A further development was the introduction of continuously welded rail, something that makes journeys far smoother and, because it is laid at a high temperature, is supposed to prevent the rail from buckling in all but the hottest weather. The rail is manufactured in normal lengths for ease of movement and is then welded into long lengths that are carried on special trucks, often made from rebuilt coaching stock. The welds between the sections of rail can be clearly seen in this photograph.

photograph by Ian Morgan

Track
 
Track In this photograph the rails are sitting on modern Dow-Mac concrete sleepers and are held in place by continental-style clips and bolts. A characteristic of these sleepers is the recessed central section and the sloping ends which, no doubt, results in a saving in the amount of concrete required.

photograph by Ian Morgan

 
Finally, for the doyen of the Southern Electrics (and third rail systems in other parts of the country) there is the conductor rail chair. These are made from insulated material and sit on the end of either wooden or concrete sleepers. The conductor rail is of a smaller section than the running rail so these are built up to maintain the correct height. Lower ones are sometimes to be found at the end of a section of conductor rail where it slopes so as not to damage a pick-up shoe that is coming into contact with the rail.

photograph by Ian Morgan

Track

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This page was created 8 April 2004

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