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Properties and Heat Treatment of Train Track Steel

Jan. 06, 2022 Share:

If you're like me, when you see a big piece of metal sitting around, you immediately wonder what you can do with it. Railroad tracks are very strong pieces of steel. So what kind of steel is railroad track made of?

Rail steel is usually 1084 or the equivalent hot rolled steel. This steel is well suited for heat treatment. It is tough, fully hardened and forgeable. Let's review the properties of this metal, some of the effective ways to use it, and some of the good applications for this grade.

Train Track Steel

One of the distinguishing characteristics of this steel is its high manganese content. This is a requirement for good reason - it allows for a deeper heat treatment.

In order for railroad tracks to function well over the long term, the steel needs to have two very important qualities: high wear resistance and fracture resistance. A deeper heat treatment gives the steel higher strength properties. Basically, surface cracks are less likely to occur over time.

That's not to say that the rails stay the same over that time - as they wear, they can be "reconditioned" - a grinding process that will repair the rounded top of the rail to restore its performance. This will eliminate any "mushrooming", wear or distortion of the metal.

Properties and Heat Treatment of Train Track Steel

                            YONGYANG Crane Rail

Tips for using rail steel

Obviously, this is a very difficult thing to do. You won't get very far with a hacksaw. So here are some tips for cutting and using rails.

1. Use a cutting torch (ideal) or a cutting wheel (much slower) to cut a length.

2. If you are going to use heat to cut off a piece, make sure you leave a lot of excess stock so you can remove the heat affected zone later. This can really mess up your heat treatment - the metal will soften at those ends.

3. If you need to machine it, try annealing it first. Otherwise, this stuff can be nasty. Unless you can control the oven, annealing can be a bit tricky.

4. Again, for machining: don't bother with HSS tools. Technically, you can do it, but it will be ugly and you will spend too much time tinkering with your tool. Go with carbide inserts that have a solid geometry for tough steels.

5. Grind very well. If the track is annealed, you can even use a powerful flap wheel on an angle grinder and remove a fair amount of material. If it hardens, it will become very slow.

What do you use these for?

This is actually a very popular metal among toolmakers. It's great for forging and heat treating.

It may take some effort to get the knives made into good shape, but once you do, it's a great carbon steel for shredders and will certainly hold an edge. Many people go to town and sharpen these into small anvils as well. The steel does hold up well to hammer blows and these little anvils can do fine work very well.

Properties and Heat Treatment of Train Track Steel

                                   Flat steel

Heat Treatment Information

So, if the steel is indeed 1084, then how can you treat it.

Bring the steel up to 1450 F. After reaching that temperature, "soak" the metal for 15 to 20 minutes. Basically, just keep it at that temperature. Quench it in warm oil and then temper it to restore hardness. This will help to relieve stresses and prevent cracking.

To temper the steel, let it sit in the oven at 375 degrees for 2 hours. It is best to temper the steel before it gets cold - try tempering it while it is still a little hot from the heat treatment. Test to make sure it has been properly reinforced.

If you plan to do some heat treating, it would be good to use an infrared thermometer to confirm the temperature. Hardening metal can be a capricious process, especially if you get the hang of it.

Finally, YONGYANG is a professional rail manufacturer, we also have railroad fasteners and other accessories for sale, welcome your inquiry.

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