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Everything you Should Know About Steel Rails

Dec. 07, 2022 Share:

Segments of steel rails are joined together to form a continuous line to support the wheels of railcars and are important load-bearing and guiding elements in railroads. The cross-section or profile of a rail segment varies with time and application area. Next, I will take you through the history, types, applications, and materials of steel rails in detail.


Steel Rails

History of steel rails


Railroads have shaped the course of history and industry by changing the way people and goods are transported. With the rise of industrialization and the mass market, steel has become an increasingly popular choice for rail design and manufacturing. It has now replaced other materials in the production of medium and heavy-duty structures.


Engineering innovations, metallurgical advances, and improved steel manufacturing processes have standardized the available grades of steel rails. While compliance with the standards varies by geographic region. However, each standard grade is designed to meet specific load-bearing, mechanical and operational characteristics. 

Types of rails


Rail profiles consist of a top head. The web supports the head and is relatively thin. At the bottom of the assembly are the feet that rest on the rail.

The train rail profile is an asymmetrical I-beam with a wide flat bottom that fits the rail. The wheels rest on the top of the track and the wheel rim extends downward on the inside of the track. A slotted head is a feature of the tram track section. In this configuration, the wheel rim is located in a groove in the rail head.

The North American flat bottom rail or T-rail with flange has a wider flat foot at the bottom. This asymmetrical profile is now the most common product worldwide.

Channel rails have a grooved structure at the head. The rim is located in the flanged groove, while the rest of the head is load-bearing. Grooved rails are ideal for tram tracks and can be used for laying special tracks.


Materials for rails


Graded steel is the primary material used in the track manufacturing process. There are many operational and safety issues as the components tend to break or spill. Testing existing structures for potential weaknesses requires continuous effort. To this end, automated testing machines that rely on induction magnetic fields, ultrasound, or a combination of both can help detect dangerous cracks and flakes.


The chemical composition of steel alloys used for heavy and light components is balanced to produce material strength, flexibility, wear resistance, and temperature variation. The rigidity of the steel is increased by creating an alloy of carbon, silicon, phosphorus, and manganese. This changes the microstructure of the alloy, which in turn changes its mechanical properties. While superior tensile strength and hardness can withstand greater loads and speeds, they may have higher low-temperature brittleness and fracture sensitivity.

Steel Rails


Applications of Steel Rails

Steel rail products are used for a wide range of transportation functions, as outlined below.

Public transportation: passenger railroads, underground railroads, trams.

Freight logistics: bulk material transportation. Head-hardened rails treated to produce additional strength and fatigue resistance are ideal for long-distance freight rail.

Cranes: Fixed rail lifting equipment for short and heavy hauls.


How to choose rails?


Two factors to consider when selecting a rail product include the following.

The expected level of wear, tear, and failure for testing and maintenance purposes.

The weight of the load and the increased speed resulting in the forces exerted on the rail


Industry standards contain comprehensive specifications and region-specific data for matching the desired characteristics to the available standard grades. Compatibility with existing infrastructure and ease of maintenance are essential when evaluating long-term operating costs.

About Us

HANDAN YONGYANG IMP.&EXP. CO., LTD, is the largest manufacturer and supplier of steel rails in China with an annual production capacity of 2.2 million tons of steel sections. The main products are light steel rails, heavy steel rails, crane rails, rail fasteners, etc. The products are widely used in railroad, seaport, mining, and tunnel industries. We insist on providing the best service and high-quality products at competitive prices for all customers at home and abroad. You can contact us at any time to get a free quote.


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