Owning a railroad gives you a world of freedom in transporting both goods and passengers across the United States of America. One of the most celebrated facts of a railroad, especially when compared with other forms of transport, is that it's a long lifespan. Although unless you’re a railway engineer, it’s hard to know exactly what you need to do to your line to ensure its longevity.
Ensuring the longevity of any form of infrastructure can involve an array of maintenance tasks, from routine checks by a railroad inspector to replacing railroad ties when necessary. However, doing these too frequently can cause costly interruptions to your operations, so ensuring they’re only done when needed is a must.
Here is a look at how you can maximize the longevity of your railroad.
The Typical Lifespan of a Railroad
The lifespan of a railroad varies massively and is predominantly dependent on how frequently it’s used and the weight of the trains and cars on it. Mark Sylvester, a Motorman at Midwest Electric Railway stated that they can last between 3 and 100+ years (read here). Although, as stated in the Quora thread, the corners and bends in tracks typically don’t last as long.
On average a rail is assumed to last around 700 million gross tons of traffic. So if your rail is carrying 50 million gross tons per year, it will last around 20 years. Although this is also dependent on the materials which make up each component in the railroad track.
The different components used in making railroads will last different lengths of time too, with railroad ties typically needing replacement due to faults more often than the rails themselves.
Organizing routine checks from a local railroad inspector will help you to keep up to date with all necessary maintenance and repairs needed on your line. They use a variety of different tools to achieve this and will need to perform some kinds of checks more often than others. While such a service from a railroad inspector may cost a fair amount, by identifying potential problems before they occur you will save money on expensive repairs and avoid derailments.
Modern technology now allows certain railroad inspections to take place at speeds of up to 80kmph, meaning the inspection can be undertaken during typical operations.
What Are They Looking For?
Although the inspections should be left to the experts, as the owner or manager of a railroad it can be useful to know what they’re looking for. If you identify any potential problems yourself you may be able to save both time and money.
These are the typical components on a railroad that are inspected:
● bolt holes
Most problems are identified in the head, although they do occur in the web and foot too, meaning the entire rail needs to be inspected. You should also make note of any cracks, corrosion, or anything that looks like it could cause any amount of problem in the future. Remember that the sheer weight of some trains can take a small fault and worsen it incredibly quickly, so diligence is a must.
Along with doing routine inspections, routine maintenance will ensure that all parts are working as they should and aren’t posing the threat of an eventual break. The regularity of maintenance is completely dependent on how often the rails are used and the million gross tons being carried on them. Frequently or constantly used lines will require inspection and maintenance much more regularly than those which are only used occasionally. Be sure to only hire a railway engineer with proven experience in maintaining other tracks to ensure it’s done to the highest standard.
Making Repairs ASAP
A common mistake in the industry (and many other infrastructure-related industries) is putting business before maintenance and repairs. You don’t need to be a railway engineer to know that time is of the essence when it comes to making repairs on your railroads.
Whether it’s simply replacing railroad ties, or uprooting a whole section of track for reshaping, the sooner these repairs are done the less time and money they will waste. Even something as simple as replacing railroad ties can cause a monumental interruption to some operations, although the potential derailment should scare most railway owners into action.
By sacrificing your service for a day or two to make necessary repairs and alterations you will be ensuring the longevity of not only your railroad but also your business.
Published by Danny Wilde